Thursday, November 23, 2023

23-Nov-23: Not war in the conventional sense

Source: YouTube
Like all wars, this war, the one in which the savages of Hamas launched an all-out slaughter of innocents, and the armed forces of Israel struck back in unusually powerful fashion, has public dimensions - mostly arguing with or trying to understand the politicians and the media. 

And private ones: looking after family members, worrying about loved ones who are serving in the standing army and in the reserves; keeping children and grandchildren calm. 

To state the obvious, a time of immense stress. Our apologies for being silent for much longer than usual. 

We continu to be active on our three Twitter  channels (it's hard to the point of offensive to call it X): Frimet's, Arnold's and the one we work on jointly, This Ongoing War.

But sitting down to write something longer continues to call for juggling skills and balancing capabilities that are beyond us most of the time right now. 

And stress being what it is, we're both battling colds or something like it.

Negatives notwithstanding, it's been a time when we have wanted to be heard. The dramatic events that started October 7 raise issues - Hamas, terrorism, war, idiotic media among others - on which we have first-hand experience and things we want people to know.

On October 10, just three days after the horrific events of Black Shabbat, Arnold Roth was interviewed on NEWSX, an Indian TV news platform ("India's leading English News Channel and the #1 choice of the young, aspiring and urbane") and a brief intro on its Twitter stream). 

He emphasized that this was not war in the conventional sense, a war waged overwhelmingly against civilians. And that Israel was experiencing the calm before the storm, after the first storm.

We have more to share. Just not yet.

Monday, August 14, 2023

14-Aug-23: Getting Tamimi to US justice: A modest positive step

The admitted Sbarro bomber hosted a made-in-Jordan weekly TV
show from Amman between February 2012 and September 2016.
Taking a robustly pro-terror line, it went to air globally via the
Al Quds TV satellite channel with a generous
from YouTube.
A small but meaningful step forward by America's organized Jewish communities in addressing a subject they have avoided confronting for years happened, to our surprise and appreciation, a month ago. 

But first some background.

The woman who brought a suicidal/murderous human bomb to the door of a pizzeria in the center of Jerusalem 22 years ago this week lives in Jordan today. 

A fugitive with a $5 million reward on her head from the Rewards for Justice unit of the US State Department, she's free but not only that. 

She's also a media celebrity. A 21 year old TV news reader when she spearheaded the Sbarro massacre, she went on to host a television program aimed at a global Arabic-speaking audience that was produced in Amman, Jordan's capital, and beamed from there throughout the world weekly from February 2012 for the next almost-five years. 

If she wasn't already famous, the terror-focused show called "Breezes of the Free" turned her into a pan-Arab public figure. If anyone has a claim to being an icon of Islamist terror, a person who more than anyone else embodies murderous lust for dead Jews and Israelis, it is Ahlam Ahmad Aref Al-Tamimi

But this isn't about her. 

What's disturbed us more than any other single factor through the years that we have striven to see her arrested in Jordan, put on a plane and brought in chains to Washington where federal US charges have faced her since July 15, 2013, is the incomprehensible passivity of so many parts of American society.

And none more incomprehensible than America's Jewish organizational leadership. 

The still-thwarted US prosecution of Tamimi ought to have been embraced as an American-Jewish issue par excellence. The woman is open about having targeted Jews, and in particular Jewish children, in the massacre she engineered at Jerusalem's Sbarro pizzeria on August 9, 2001. And in this, she succeeded on a shattering scale: a death toll of sixteen, half of them children, most of the rest women, and three US nationals among them. 

She is on the record saying that nothing she did left her feeling any moral or other doubt: 

I have no regrets, and no Palestinian prisoner regrets what he or she has done. We were defending ourselves. What are we supposed to regret? Should we regret defending ourselves? Should we regret that the Israelis killed one of us so we killed a different one of them? We have no regrets. [Palestinian Media Watch]

And not only no regrets but redemptive theological conviction:

This is the path. I dedicated myself to Jihad for the sake of Allah, and Allah granted me success. You know how many casualties there were [in the 2001 attack on the Sbarro pizzeria]. This was made possible by Allah. Do you want me to denounce what I did? That's out of the question. I would do it again today, and in the same manner (Source; Tamimi interviewed in Jordan in October 2011 - translated by MEMRI).

Referring to two separate Jerusalem bombng attacks which she spearheaded, she brags (to a Turkish audience in October 2021) that 

Allah let me have a membership in the ‘Izz ad-Deen al-Qassam battalions and [allowed me to] participate in two jihad operations that produced, by the Lord’s virtue, the deaths of fifteen zionists with 122 zionists wounded in two Jihad operations. We ask Allah to accept this. These two jihad operations are a crown on my head. By Allah’s virtue, I entered history by doing the finest of deeds, the finest operations, in the finest of ways, which are the ways of jihad. Praise Allah, He has prescribed me this fate.

With years of detailed, recorded and filmed interviews, speeches and public rallies behind her, there is absilutely no reason to doubt Tamimi's deep belief in the righteousness of the crimes that have made her one of the FBI's twenty-four Most Wanted Terrorists

* * *

Jordan's supremely shabby role in keeping this appalling woman free and out of reach of America's law enforcement agencies is a matter of record. 

The Hashemite Kingdom entered into an extradition treaty with the United States in 1995. But in March 2017, just six days after the Justice Department in Washington unsealed its long-secret 2013 charges against Tamimi, it repudiated the bilateral agreement ["20-Mar-17: The Hashemite Kingdom's courts have spoken: The murdering FBI fugitive will not be handed over"]

There is no legal validity to Jordan's judicial assertions, whatever the Jordanians may claim. 

The United States has made a variety of official statements - some relatively forceful, some whispered, and none of them directed at Jordan in any public way - confirming that it views the treaty as in force. We summarize them here: "29-Mar-23: The Sbarro bomber's thwarted extradition from Jordan: Where does the State Department actually stand?

It's a troubling chronology.

Treaties and legal obligations are. of course, only as effective as the people who enforce them. In the Tamimi case, no one answers to that description with the exception, as we know from our own experience, of the prosecutors and investigators of the Department of Justice and of the FBI. Almost all the obstacles we know about, and to a large extent have experienced, emanate from the Department of State.

How do State Department officials justify stepping into the path of US law enforcement? How can they explain taking measures to ensure Tamimi isn't handed over to US marshals? Why would they align their interests and those of the US government with a monstrous terrorist responsible for he deaths of sixteen innocents including three Americans?

They don't. 

In fact, in an unclassified October 2022 fax to the parents of Malki Roth, one of Tamimi's many victims, they assert that Tamimi

must be held accountable for her role in the terrorist attack that claimed the life of your daughter and 14 others [that became 15 in March 2023 with the death of an American woman who had been left in a coma in the pizzeria atrocity]... The U.S. government remains fully committed to bringing Tamimi to the united States to face federal terrorism-related charges in U.S. courts. The U.S. government is pursuing all viable options to hold Tamimi accountable, including ongoing engagements with the Government of Jordan. I can sure you that pursuing justice for American victims of terrorism, including Malki, is a formost priority for the United States...

and so on.

Nothing substantive has happened to bring this loathsome woman to US justice in more than a decade. Nontheless some of the most senior officials at the pinnacle of US power continue to say how much they want her, how hard they're working to get her, that their thoughts and prayers go out to the families of her victims. 

It's not a terribly complex picture. Most people can figure out the truth of what's actually going on.

* * *

But in the midst of this remarkable saga where America's lawmakers, senior government officials and - to a surprising extent - America's mainstream media all show a striking passivity, there has been a long-overdue positive development

One of American Jewish life's leading advocacy organisations made an announcement a month ago that marks one of the very few positive moments in the years-long struggle to prosecute the Sbarro bomber. They addressed the US government with a request that efforts be made to get this extradition done. This is good news.

Here's how Jewish Insider reported it on July 13, 2023.

Sunday, July 02, 2023

02-Jul-23: A festival, a funeral and failed leaders

Tamimi is a featured interviewee on Al-Aqsa TV (and Facebook) June 30, 2023

America's most wanted female fugitive made a featured appearance on global TV again this past Friday. 

Ahlam Tamimi, a designated FBI Most Wanted terrorist since March 2017, looked jubilant as the centerpiece of a 25 minute interview on the Al-Aqsa TV network. It's been beaming programs daily from Gaza to Arabic-speaking audiences in every part of the world since 2006. 

The background is worth knowing. In 2010, the US Department of the Treasury, calling it "a television station financed and controlled by Hamas", designated Al-Aqsa TV as 

a primary Hamas media outlet [that] airs programs and music videos designed to recruit children to become Hamas armed fighters and suicide bombers upon reaching adulthood. Treasury will not distinguish between a business financed and controlled by a terrorist group, such as Al-Aqsa Television, and the terrorist group itself... [link]

Treasury designations like this one are intended to freeze assets held by the station and to

prohibit U.S. persons from engaging in any transactions with these parties. Executive Order 13224 targets terrorists, terrorist organizations, persons owned or controlled by or acting for or on behalf of designated terrorists or terrorist organizations, and those providing financial, material, or technological support to designated terrorists or terrorist organizations, or for acts of terrorism [Source]

Sounds fearsome. 

But for years, video programming that originates with Al-Aqsa TV has gotten a considerable part of its global distribution and exposure from Facebook. Could this amount to giving "financial, material, or technological support to designated terrorists"? It's a question that was posed in the past.

Ahlam Tamimi, who has long called her central role in the massacre of Jewish children in Jerusalem's Sbarro pizzeria in 2001 "a crown on my head", was interviewed live on Friday June 30, 2023 in a program marking the festival of Eid al Adha

The adulatory interview, entirely devoid of criticism and long on compliments and adulation, ran for 25 minutes on Al-Aqsa TV that day. It remains viewable now on Facebook [here].

Rambling and unfocused, with lengthy elements of theology, it calls for understanding of the greatness of what jihadists like Tamimi see themselves personifying. When Tamimi has the media's attention, it's generally about her dedication, her determination, her victimhood. And sometimes about her skillful cooking:

...I mean, I am a professional in making Jordanian mansaf [lamb cooked in fermented dried yogurt, served with rice or bulgur - considered the national dish of Jordan]... I mean, I make mansaf and feed everyone, God willing. I want to talk. Mansaf is also one of the dishes that Nizar and I love. Most Palestinian prisoners and editors also love this dish. On the other hand, I mean, if I want to compare to you, we used to make Mansaf in prison. No one asked me this question honestly. The method of making it in prison is completely different from the way it is made in. In freedom, God willing, in future episodes. If you want to talk about this talk, it is necessary, we would love it very much.

This, remember, is an interview with a confessed mass murderer.

* * *

Until a month ago, the death toll that resulted from Tamimi's August 9, 2001 execution of an act of violent savagery on behalf of Hamas was 15. 

Two of those killed were Americans. Our daughter Malka Chana Roth, 15, was one. And a young American Jewish tourist (and her parents' only child) visiting Jerusalem briefly while pregnant for the first time, was the other. Sveeral American nationals were injured.  

The number of murdered rose to 16 on May 30, 2023. Chana Tova Nachenberg had been profoundly injured in the Sbarro bombing when a splinter of shrapnel penetrated her skull, rendering her comatose - but sparing her toddler daughter. A month ago, she died in a Tel Aviv hospice, having never recovered consciousness throughout the nearly twenty-two years that ensued. 

Chana Finer Nachenberg's grave

Her closest family - parents, husband, only child - visited her for years, praying, hoping, weaping, wishing for a miracle that never came. 

Then the vigil came to an end.

We hope none of them ever hears Tamimi wail, as she did on Al-Aqsa this past Friday, about how

I am trying to be happy and get joy. But I mean, the family entity has been shaken because of this forced distance, because of constant demands, constant pursuit. However there is no listening ear to our cause as if [it were we who] committed the massacres of the whole world. They want to put the blame on my back and Nizar's back. [Source]

Her family entity has been shaken, says Tamimi, the proud murderer? It's a reference to how Nizar Tamimi, her husband and cousin, an unrepentant convicted murderer imprisoned for life and freed, like Ahlam Tamimi, in the notorious Shalit Deal in 2011, now lives free in Qatar after Jordan declared him persona non grata in 2020 ["Jordan deports Sbarro bomber’s husband, also a convicted terrorist, to Qatar", Times of Israel, October 13, 2020]

But the presenter, like every presenter of every interview Tamimi has done in all her years of obscene celebrity, doesn't once mention the children this barbarian blew to pieces. 

In the Arabic-language media, there is zero interest in addressing the humanity of Tamimi's murdered victims. Tamimi herself has said repeatedly she has no regrets. She would do it again if she could. 

In a startlingly large number of Arab media outlets, our beautiful fifteen year old daughter is repeatedly called "zionist rapist". So are all the other Sbarro pizzeria victims, some of whom never reached their teens. 

The horror is not limited to Tamimi.

* * *

The dedication ceremony at the fresh graveside of Chana Tova Nachenberg this past Friday included no references to more violence. No calls for revenge. No bitterness or anger. But much heartbreaking wistfulness, deep longing, love.

The FBI issued a Most Wanted Terrorist poster for Ahlam Tamimi in March 2017. It says she's dangerous and likely armed. You can see the English and Arabic versions here.

In the past week, evidently triggered by the increase after so many years of the number of dead, and of the Americans among them, the FBI with no fanfare has just issued an updated version which shows Tamimi looking 43 years old. It also updates the death toll.

King Hussein and President Clinton

What it doesn't say, at least not in the way we think should be said, is that Ahlam Tamimi remains free, a celebrity, safe under the illicit protection of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. 

Why illicit? 

Because a 1995 extradition treaty made between the William J. Clinton administration and the late King Hussein of Jordan, the father of today's Jordanian ruler, gives Jordan no discretion in the matter. 

If pursuant to the treaty America asks for the handover of a fugitive wanted by the US justice system which Tamimi certainly is, Jordan can really only ask "Which flight?

Jordan has issued a host of alibis and made-up rationales to conceal the truth of why it refuses to extradite Tamim to Washington where she began facing terror charges under seal in July 2013. (The charges were made public only on March 14, 2017 after years of unproiductive efforts by the United States to induce Jordanian compliance with its undoubted treaty obligation.)

From speaking with a wide selection of authorities, it's clear to us that Jordan's self-excusing acrobatics aren't taken seriously by anyone. 

It's also worth noting that in the formal ratification document signed back in 1995 (we obtained the documents by personally suing the State Department), King Hussein expressing himself in formalized language (and understandably using the Royal "We") says that Jordan pledges

to carry out its provisions and abide by its articles and... shall not allow its violation. Accordingly We have ordered that Our Seal be affixed to it and We have signed it properly 

Jordan did in fact observe the provisions and articles of the treaty appropriately and conscientiously every time the US requested an extradition, as a treaty partner of course must. That however came to an end with the Tamimi case, years after King Hussein's death.

* * *

It's hard to ignore how Tamimi's continued freedom, her encouragement of more terror, her glorification of the murders she carried out, her inciting of others to do the same, all get buried again and again by those who ought to have taken action years ago. 

Since this is about justice, there's plenty of disgrace to go around.

* * *

This post, like many others before it, has been translated into the Polish language ("Święto, pogrzeb i nieudane przywództwo") by Malgorzata Koraszewska over on the Listy z naszego sadu website. Our sincere thanks to her, and great appreciation to readers of this blog in Poland.

Thursday, May 04, 2023

04-May-23: Will the Senate press the new US ambassador to Jordan about Malki's killer?

AA/S Yael Lempert, the nominee, is speaking as we post this [Image Source]
[A version of this post appears today as a Times of Israel blog]

* * *

This morning (May 4, 2023) in Washington, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hear from President Biden’s nominee for Ambassador to Jordan.

Yael Lempert is a highly qualified and experienced nominee who deserves to be confirmed and given the chance to serve as the American people’s representative in Amman. However, it will be a missed opportunity if senators on the Committee fail to press her for greater clarity on the Biden Administration’s position on a key issue of concern not only to the US-Jordanian relationship but to the basic practice of American justice.

For more than a decade, one of the F.B.I.’s most-wanted and highest profile perpetrators of terrorism, Ahlam Tamimi, has been living freely in Jordan, loudly celebrating the murder and maiming of American citizens she spearheaded and encouraging others to do the same. Instead of extraditing her to the United States to face justice, as is required under the valid extradition treaty, Jordan has refused to hand her over – while eagerly siphoning billions of dollars in aid from American taxpayers.

On August 9, 2001, a human bomb exploded inside a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem. Tamimi selected the site as her target with great care as she has explained in numerous appearances in the Arabic-language media, and deposited the bomb-carrier at its entrance before fleeing to safety.

Fifteen innocents were murdered, eight of them children, with 130 injured.

Our daughter Malki, just fifteen years old, was one of two Americans among the dead. A third American, a young mother lunching with her toddler, remains in a coma still after all these years. We know Tamimi had the key role in the bombing on behalf of Hamas. We know she chose the pizzeria because of its popularity with young people. We know she sees this as the crowning achievement of her life.

We know these things because she has boasted publicly over and again and again of the unfathomable evil she unleashed that day.

* * *

Justice alone cannot comfort bereaved parents. But its absence aches terribly, stinging at our wounds. It’s an agony that is amplified because justice for Malki’s murder is both attainable and elusive.

Arrested soon after the attack, Tamimi was convicted and sentenced by an Israeli court in 2003 to sixteen life terms in prison. The bench of three judges recommended that no Israeli government ever contemplate paroling her. Thus, for a time, it seemed to us that justice had been done and we could get on with our lives.

But then, in 2011, Israel - to our horror and riding roughshod over Israel’s judicial system -  freed her, along with 1,026 other prisoners, in an unfathomable exchange with Hamas for a hostage IDF soldier, Gilad Shalit.

We were devastated.

Hope, however, came via America’s justice system. In Washington, US federal prosecutors filed charges against Tamimi in 2013, seeking justice for Malki and another American woman killed in the Sbarro atrocity. US law allows the Justice Department to prosecute tightly-defined terrorist acts perpetrated against Americans no matter even if they occur outside American territory.

Jordan, however, refused to cooperate, violating the extradition treaty it signed with the United States and ratified in 1995. And it has persisted in its unjustifiable refusal right up until today. Though it has extradited Jordanian citizens to the United States under that accord previously, Jordan began claiming in 2017 that a technicality two decades earlier in the treaty’s ratification process now absolved it of any obligation in the Tamimi case.

We know that’s not accurate.

We brought a legal action to shed light on Jordan’s claims. This was something the Freedom of Information Act empowers us to do. The result was that the State Department almost immediately shared with us a document written and signed by Jordan’s late King Hussein attesting unmistakably to the treaty’s valid ratification at that time. No one, as far as we knew then and know now, was aware of this other than government officials. It’s a stunning contradiction of Jordan’s official stance today.

When the current Ambassador to Jordan, Henry Wooster, faced his confirmation hearing in 2020, he was very properly pressed by some of those on the panel about the prior administration’s view of the 1995 treaty’s status.

“We continue to dispute the [Jordanian] court’s claim,” Wooster said to the Committee, “as we exchanged instruments of ratification that brought the treaty into force on July 29, 1995, and the treaty has not been terminated… The United States has multiple options and different types of leverage to secure [Tamimi’s] extradition. We will continue to engage Jordanian officials at all levels not only on this issue, but also on the extradition treaty more broadly.”

Long overdue, it is vital that the Biden Administration takes the same view. When senators have an opportunity to pose questions to Ambassador-designate Lempert, we hope they will again press for clear answers on the Tamimi case and the validity of the 1995 extradition treaty.

If the view of the US government continues to be that Jordan is violating the treaty, Congress has already offered a prescription on how to force the kingdom’s hand. Almost entirely unreported, it’s a fact that every State and Foreign Operations Appropriation title enacted since December 2019 has included a prohibition on the use of Congressionally-appropriated foreign assistance to any government that violates an extradition treaty. That certainly covers US aid to Jordan.

Last year, Congress approved a seven-year Memorandum of Understanding that will send Jordan $1.45 billion annually in US assistance. We believe those funds cannot legally be sent to Jordan until it upholds its obligation to extradite Tamimi.

American support, delivered generously for decades, remains absolutely critical to Jordan’s security, economic reforms, and growth. We know the outgoing ambassador agrees with that view. Everyone does. Yet Ambassador Wooster insisted earlier this year – reported only in Arabic as far as we know –that this generous aid comes with ‘no strings attached’.

Since 2017, we’ve repeatedly implored presidents, secretaries of state, ambassadors, and many legislators – Democrats and Republicans alike – to make clear that taxpayer funds do carry strings: that Jordan respect its treaty obligation and extradite Tamimi. Over those same years, though, we’ve been met with pressure to cease campaigning for justice by the politicians and entrenched interests promoting ever-closer U.S.-Jordanian ties.

The fact is we are not politicians. What we are is parents.

So long as the perpetrator of our daughter’s murder walks free in Jordan, we will continue urging America’s leaders to pursue justice for Malki and the other Americans targeted in Tamimi’s heinous attack.

That’s why we beseech the senators sitting in today’s Committee to – at minimum –ask Ambassador-designate Lempert the same questions that were posed to her predecessor. Americans ought to know whether their hard-earned dollars are being handed over to a foreign kingdom harboring an unrepentant, fugitive mass-murderer with ‘no strings attached’. Or whether Congress and the Administration will truly do everything in their power to ensure that American justice is served.

* * *

Frimet and Arnold Roth, who jointly authored this post, are founders of the Malki Foundation which they established in their murdered daughter’s memory. Since 2001, it has given broad-ranging support to families of special-needs children - both Jewish and Arab - in Israel.

* * *

UPDATE: The video of the Senate hearing is here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

29-Mar-23: The Sbarro bomber's thwarted extradition from Jordan: Where does the State Department actually stand?

Al Arabiya News, April 5, 2021 [Image Source]

One of the useful indicators of how Washington views terror and terrorists comes in an annual publication, "Country Reports on Terrorism". Though mandated by Congress and issued by the State Department's Bureau of Counterterrorism, it gets surprisingly little public attention.

The State Department itself gives this background:

U.S. law requires the Secretary of State to provide Congress, by April 30 of each year, a full and complete report on terrorism with regard to those countries and groups meeting criteria set forth in the legislation. This annual report is entitled Country Reports on Terrorism. Beginning with the report for 2004, it replaced the previously published Patterns of Global Terrorism.

The report covers developments in countries in which acts of terrorism occurred, countries that are state sponsors of terrorism, and countries determined by the Secretary to be of particular interest in the global war on terror. As provided in the legislation, the report reviews major developments in bilateral and multilateral counterterrorism cooperation as well. The report also provides information on terrorist groups responsible for the death, kidnapping, or injury of Americans...

If you're reading this on the This Ongoing War blog site, you probably know our interest isn't academic or theoretical. We want our child's killer, an admitted bomber, a zealous terrorist and for more than a decade a media celebrity in Jordan, brought to Washington to face trial for her central role in the 2001 Sbarro pizzeria massacre atrocity. 

Her name is Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi. She has so far evaded American justice thanks to a dubious and highly problematic claim made by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in March 2017 that the Jordan/US extradition treaty is invalid.

The problematic part of this stems from how the US has demonstrated incredible and almost totally-unreported deference towards its Jordanian ally by deflecting attention and commentary away from the embarrassment of America's most lavishly funded foreign-aid beneficiary sticking a finger in Washngton's eye.

At the same time, in one of the exceedingly rare communications we have gotten from any State Department officials, a senior figure in Washington sent us a letter dated October 25, 2022 which makes some bold and serious-sounding claims about what the sender calls "a foremost priority for the United States" when refrring to bringing Tamimi to US justice.

In the five months since that letter was sent to us, we have responded to that official in writing on seven occasions. Number of responses received by us: nil.

The last photo taken of our daughter Malki
the evening before her murder

Country reports

You get a sense of that by looking at the Jordan section of State's Country Reports on Terrorism over the past several years. 

But first this.

The Justice Department filed a criminal complaint against Tamimi almost a decade ago on July 15, 2013: see "US -v- Ahlam Al-Tamimi - Criminal Complaint (Sbarro Pizzeria Bombing)". She's been free the entire time. And not only free but influential in the worst way. She's a poster child for terrorism with access for most of the past decade to high-powered media channels. Now read on.

At the request of DOJ prosecutors, the crminal complaint (essentially the same as an indictment) was then immediately sealed, meaning it remained undisclosed and unknown to us and to the general public for the next four more years. 

We wrote about the eventual announcement here: "14-Mar-17: Sbarro massacre mastermind is now formally charged and her extradition is requested".

What we were quietly told by people familiar with the details is that between the summer of 2013 and the spring of 2017, the US made repeated but unsuccessful efforts to persuade the Jordanians to extradite Tamimi to Washington. They were doing their best to get a strategic US ally to respect and comply with their bilateral treaty. And they failed.

It's likely those efforts continued after the charges were made public. But no details have ever been made public. However there's little doubt about the bottom line: the Jordanians were not willing and remain unwilling today to do what their solemn bilateral treaty demands they do. What the US position is in all of this is worth trying to decipher.

What the reports reveal

If you look at the annual State Department Country Reports on Terrorism for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, there's a consistent and unmissable emphasis on how true Jordan is to the mission of defeating the terrorists. The praise flows without interruption down through the years.

The 2014 report, issued a couple of months after the deadline in June 2015 [PDF] says in its Overview to the Jordan section starting at page 182, that in the year under review - 

Jordan remained a key ally and a model partner in combating terrorism and extremist ideology. Jordan’s geographic location leaves it vulnerable to a variety of regional threats, while also facilitating its regional leadership in confronting them... Jordan demonstrated regional leadership in the fight against ISIL, joined the Global Coalition from the outset, and participated fully on the diplomatic, political, financial, and military fronts...

There's no mention here of Tamimi. She had been received as a hero in Jordan in October 2011 and hosted a weekly made-in-Jordan global TV show starting in early 2012 and continuing for the next five years. This Hamas-aligned program, beamed throughout the world and garnering an international audience of Arabic speakers, had a singular focus of encouraging support for terror. That show, "Breezes of the Free", was still thrilling its worldwide audience weekly at the time the report was published. 

The 2015 report, issued in June 2016 a little more delayed than the previous year's edition and adopting similar but not identical language, says at page 191 that -
Jordan remained a key U.S. ally in countering terrorism and violent extremist ideology in 2015. Jordan’s location in a tumultuous region made it vulnerable to a variety of threats, yet also facilitated its regional leadership in confronting them. Jordan continued to take part in all key aspects of the Global Coalition to Counter Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)...
Once again, no mention of Tamimi. Nor of the 1995 treaty or its breach or her weekly terror-promoting TV show.

The 2016 report came out on July 19, 2017, later than in the past. By then, the US criminal charges against Tamimi had been unsealed in Washington (that was done on March 14, 2017). And Jordan's Court of Cassation had ruled on March 20, 2017 that Jordan was free to ignore the 1995 Extradition Treaty with the United States because it was flawed and for that reason invalid. [See "Jordan court blocks extradition of bombing suspect to US", Associated Press]
The court's ruling makes clear the flaw, if there is any flaw at all, is a Jordanian flaw - a failure by Jordan to comply with its own rules

Using similar phrasing, this 2016 report says 
Jordan remained a committed partner on counterterrorism and countering violent extremism in 2016. As a regional leader in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Jordan played an important role in Coalition successes in degrading the terrorist group’s territorial control and operational reach. Jordan faced a marked increase in terrorist threats, both domestically and along its borders...  

Tamimi once again isn't mentioned at all.

The 2017 report emerged on September 19, 2018, nearly five months after Congress' statutory deadline. By that time Tamimi, who continued to be harbored by Jordan in breach of the 1995 treaty but was never in hiding and lived an unusually high profile public life, had already been an FBI Most Wanted for a year and a half. Her TV show had meanwhile run its course and had come to an end. 

The report again says 

Jordan remained a committed partner on counterterrorism and countering violent extremism in 2017. As a regional leader in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Jordan played an important role in Coalition successes in degrading the terrorist group’s territorial control and operational reach. Although Jordan experienced a decrease in terrorist activity in 2017 compared to the previous year, the country faced a continued threat posed by terrorist groups, both domestically and along its borders...

This time, however, the Tamimi case is a key part of the discussion:

A U.S. criminal complaint was unsealed in March charging Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi, a Jordanian national in her mid-30s, with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. nationals outside the United States resulting in death. The charge is related to her participation in an August 9, 2001, suicide bomb attack at a restaurant in Jerusalem that killed 15 people, including two U.S. nationals. Four other U.S. nationals were among the approximately 122 others injured in the attack. Also unsealed was a warrant for Al-Tamimi’s arrest and an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint and arrest warrant. Jordan’s courts have ruled that their constitution forbids the extradition of Jordanian nationals.

We were gratified to note that the State Department narrative explicitly mentions Tamimi's victims in addition to the fugitive zealot herself. At the same tine, it raised some troubling concerns:

  • The validity of the 1995 US/Jordan treaty isn’t discussed here at all. 
  • What does get mentioned is the Jordanian view that their constitution forbids the extradition of Jordanian nationals. Whatever the compleixities of Jordan's stand, this claim is plainly untrue. There's abundant evidence that Jordan has - and is very public about - the multiple extradition treaties it has negotiated with numerous countries. 
  • What's more - and this too goes unmentioned - Jordan has extradited to the US multiple times in the past.
  • Does the United States regard the extradition of Tamimi as being within the power of Jordan to do? There's no examination here of that question.
The 2018 report was published on November 1, 2019 - later than those that came before. Its Jordan chapter this time is explicit about the Tamimi case:
A U.S. criminal complaint was unsealed in 2017 charging Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi, a Jordanian national in her mid-30s, with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. nationals outside the United States resulting in death. The charge is related to her participation in the August 9, 2001 suicide bomb attack at a restaurant in Jerusalem that killed 15 people, including two U.S. nationals. Four other U.S. nationals were among the approximately 122 others injured in the attack. Also unsealed was a warrant for Al-Tamimi’s arrest and an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint and arrest warrant. In 2018, Jordan continued to cite a court ruling that its constitution forbids the extradition of Jordanian nationals.  The United States regards the extradition treaty as valid.
We were glad to see these aspects covered: 
  • The extradition treaty is mentioned.
  • For the first time, the US calls it valid. That should never gave been a contentious issue but it's good to see it there in black and white.

The 2019 report was published on June 24, 2020. It covers terrain similar to that of the previous edition but significantly more than in earlier years.

In 2019, Jordan did not extradite Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi, a Jordanian national in her mid-30s, who has been charged in the United States with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. nationals outside the United States resulting in death. The charge is related to her participation in the August 9, 2001, suicide bomb attack at a pizzeria in Jerusalem that killed 15 people, including two U.S. nationals. Four other U.S. nationals were among the approximately 122 others injured in the attack. Following publication of the 2018 Country Reports on Terrorism, Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi confirmed that U.S. authorities asked Jordan to extradite Tamimi, and he expressed the view that Jordan’s constitution does not allow the extradition of a Jordanian citizen to a third country. The United States regards the extradition treaty with Jordan as valid and in force.

Notably it adds the view of Jordan's foreign minister (who has also been the kingdom's deputy prime minister since 2021) that Jordan had indeed been asked by its American ally and benefactor to comply with the extradition request made under the treaty. And that in US government eyes the treaty is not only valid (as the 2018 report says it is) but also "in force". 

In this battle of contending claims, every word counts and the implied assertions about Jordan being in breach encouraged us.

Then the 2020 report appeared (on December 16, 2021, later than ever) and the mood changed. Throughout that year, the US was under a Trump administration. But the report itself was published after almost a year of a Biden presidency.

Jordan remained a committed partner on counterterrorism and countering violent extremism.  As a regional leader in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Jordan played an important role in Defeat-ISIS successes by preventing the terrorist group from regaining any territorial control and restricting its operational reach…

But then this:
The United States continued to press Jordan to extradite Jordanian citizen Ahlam al-Tamimi for her role in a 2001 suicide bomb attack at a pizzeria in Jerusalem that killed 15, including 2 U.S. citizens.
And that's all they say. 

We were alarmed by how

  • While the word “extradition” does appear...
  • the 1995 treaty is not mentioned at all.
  • The legal duty to comply with a treaty obligation is translated to an absurdly, misleadingly bland formulation in which the US continues to press. Pressing for a decade? Is that even called a press?
  • No statement that Jordan breaches the treaty 
  • No mention of the fact that the US views the treaty as being valid and in full force. 
  • And this: The State Department's authoritative Treaties in Force, an on-line compendium whose name describes its contents and function well, lists the Clinton-era Jordan/US extradition treaty at page 245 of the downloadable PDF in these words: "LAW ENFORCEMENT - Extradition treaty. - Signed at Washington March 28, 1995 - Entered into force July 29, 1995."
And finally the 2021 report. It's the last one to have appeared so far and was published just a month ago on February 27, 2023. The mandated deadline was April 30, 2022, but the 10 month delay for an annual report doesn't seem to have troubled anyone. Its full text is downloadable herethe Jordan chapter is here

It opens with the now-customary formulation that

Jordan remained a committed partner on counterterrorism and countering violent extremism in 2021. As a regional leader etc.

and then goes on to say this about Tamimi and her scandalous freedom:

The United States has emphasized to the Jordanian government the importance of holding Ahlam al-Tamimi accountable in a U.S. court for her admitted role in a 2001 bombing in Jerusalem that included two Americans among the 15 victims. She had been serving a prison sentence in Israel for a terrorism conviction related to the bombing before she was released by Israel as part of a prisoner exchange.

It's fair to say the cold disdain to which we, the parents of one of Tamimi's victims, have been treated at the hands of State Department officials in all the years since Tamimi's indictment, ought to have prepared us for this. 

But it didn't and we were stunned. Note what's said and what is not:

  • As with the report covering 2020, the cornerstone 1995 Jordan/US extradition treaty gets no mention here at all.
  • In fact, the word ‘extradition’ doesn't even appear.
  • The Jordanian court decision invalidating it in 2017 gets no mention either.
  • Nor do the grounds on which the invalidation was based by the Jordanian judges.
  • Nothing is said about the nature of the flaw alleged by the Jordanian court six years ago. Even if it is real and even if it has legal consequences (both very unlikely), this is a self-inflicted Jordanian flaw. 
  • And by definition - since it involves a failure by the Jordanian parliament to take a certain step - it's a flaw that could have been cured by the Jordanian parliament on any day that its members sat in session from 1995 right up until this morning. That a defective Jordanian procedure hasn't been repaired is a result of Jordan deciding to leave it that way.
  • No mention of the US government's position as articulated in previous State Department Country Reports on Terrorism. The US says the treaty is valid and in force. Why after years of asserting what is plainly true is this central issue now dropped from the State Department analysis?
  • No statement that Jordan is breaching it. 
  • But what is mentioned, and for the first time, is that Tamimi was imprisoned and then released by Israel. There's surely a good reason for the Bureau of Counterterrorism in Washington doing that. But right now we can only think of reasons that are not good.
  • Something else that could have - and perhaps should have - been included in this important survey: some mild expression of US determination that in fighting terrorism the US has its principles and red lines. Whether or not the DOJ people articulating them in the 2017 unsealing ceremony for the Tamimi charges believed what they said, they said important things about justice and US determination. Check it out: "Individual Charged in Connection With 2001 Terrorist Attack in Jerusalem That Resulted in Death of Americans" [Department of Justice Media Release, March 14, 2017].
  • Has that important moment been flushed away along with the principles and the determination? 
As we said, stunning

But also revealing about what the US government wants Americans to know about Tamimi's ongoing freedom.
The take-aways
  1. We're not giving up.
  2. But if we could tap into wider and stronger support from Americans (and not only Americans) who get the same sickening sense we do that Jordan unjustly benefits from unprincipled backing in Washington, we and our pursuit of accuntability and justice would be in a better place. 
  3. If only the State Department's annual reports got more attention.

Monday, March 13, 2023

13-Mar-23: The Sbarro bomber says she has rights and she's demanding them

In Amman on March 10, 2023, a crowd of Tamimi supporters calls on
King Abdullah II to 
return the pizzeria bomber's husband to her [Image Source]

The Sbarro bomber, FBI Most Wanted fugitive terrorist Ahlam Tamimi, has embarked on a pre-Ramadan campaign to get her husband back.

Where did he go? To Qatar, as we wrote at the time ["04-Oct-20: The Sbarro bomber's husband has been forced to leave Jordan: A snapshot of developments"].

He appears - that's what reports are saying - to be taking up residence in Qatar. But note that the government of Jordan has said precisely not one word. And no reports of him actually being in Qatar have emerged yet. There's room to be cautious in interpreting what's happened. [Source]

We noted back then, some two and a half years ago, that the abandoned wife had issued this "special statement":

The expulsion of her husband from the Hashemite Kingdom came "suddenly and without prior coordination" [the special statement of Ahlam Tamimi said] and "at a very sensitive time... in light of increasing American demands to extradite me to there... The deportation of my husband Nizar was met with much joy and pleasure in the Zionist newspapers."  The husband's deportation is, she fears, "a prelude to handing her over to the American authorities." This is very wrong since, as she puts it, "it is my right for my husband to live with me on Jordanian lands with dignity just like all other Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians." 

Ahlam Tamimi is a stunningly cold killer who boasts of her central role in two bombing atrocities in Jerusalem, one of which actually happened. 

She has never expressed a single word of remorse for the massive loss of innocent lives including that of our precious fifteen year-old daughter Malki. Those murdered by her bomb get no mention in this latest of her publicity campaigns.

For someone described in law enforcement posters as a person who "should be considered armed and dangerous", it's worth noting Tamimi's uncommon fixation with asserting her rightsShe has been doing that again these past few days:

The human life of any Jordanian woman married to a non-Jordanian is a right and a natural requirement for Jordanian women on Jordanian soil... I mean, I am asking for a reunion with my husband. At this moment, it has been two and a half years since I was removed from my husband, but I cannot go to him because there are many security agreements that govern other countries with America. Leaving Jordan puts me in danger if I leave Jordan and go to any other country. Therefore, the best solution is the return of my husband... This is our right as Jordanians and an entitlement because I am a fighter who has suffered in Zionist prisons for ten and a half years. Therefore, through you [a news interviewer], I appeal to the Jordanian tribes... I appeal to the hearts of Jordanian tribes, mothers and fathers, wives and husbands, to support and stand by me in this darkness. We are at the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, a month characterized by mercy and compassion. I hope you will sympathize with me and my cause, especially since at the end of 2022 in November, my father died. We asked the concerned authorities to allow Nizar [Ahlam Tamimi's cousin and hasband] to come - my father is Nizar's uncle - in order to attend his uncle's funeral and stand by me. This request was absolutely rejected. If such humanitarian situations arise, Nizar will not be allowed to come to Jordan. When will the family be reunited? Before Ramadan, I ask you for mercy. I ask you for sympathy. I ask you for sympathy. [Source: Video interview of Ahlam Tamimi published by Facebook]

Tamimi's appeal via Gaza's Shehab Agency
She made a push for those same rights a day earlier in another video interview, this time with a Gaza-based, Hamas-aligned news platform called Shehab Agency whose Facebook presence was shut down by Facebook in 2021:

I am exposed to great darkness [an Arabic-speaking friend who saw this says "injustice" is a better translation] in Jordanian territory... This darkness [injustice] hurts me every time because it has shaken the entity of family stability. In 2020, the decision was made to remove my husband from Jordan without knowing the reason. We received verbal reasons that he was an unwanted person on Jordanian territory and was removed from Jordanian territory... During the two and a half years, I have tried to claim my rights as Jordanians married to a Palestinian man. These are the rights of Jordanian women in Jordan. I have asked my husband more than once to return to Jordan in order to be reunited with the family, in light of the fact that I am being subjected to an American attack by [the threat of them] rearresting me in America and I cannot leave Jordan. In addition, in 2017, I obtained a Jordanian judicial decision from the highest Jordanian discrimination body to reject the American request for my arrest. Therefore, my presence in Jordan is a legal right by judicial decision... When I got out of prison... I was hosted and welcomed by the King of Jordan [but] all these privileges were systematically taken from me - and my husband was expelled. Therefore, I am not honored as a Palestinian-Jordanian activist on Jordanian soil. On the contrary, I was separated from my husband and my family life was disrupted. They do not want to return my husband to me. I do not work in the media... and have been subjected to unjustified persecution for which there is no convincing reason. Therefore, through the Shehab Agency, I want to speak and send a message and appeal to the King of Jordan to look into my grievances. So the King of Jordan: in history, when a woman appealed to the Caliph al-Mutasim... he answered her call and got her out of prison. Therefore, King of Jordan... Respond to my call to return my husband to reunite my family by directing your decision to the concerned authorities... As a helpless Jordanian woman, return my husband to me as we enter the holy month of Ramadan. I hope to receive an appeal through Al-Shehab Agency to listen and that this family will be reunited. May God bless you to send my message through this platform on International Women's Day, when I am exposed to great darkness on Jordanian soil... [Source: Video interview of Ahlam Tamimi with Shehab Agency via Twitter]
There's much Arabic social media coverage of Tamimi's cries from the "darkness" of Jordan these past few days. And of her efforts to attract synpathy for what she calls the loss of "family stability".

Not so much in English. Middle East Monitor, a news platform that uses the revealing motto "Creating New Perspectives", offers a version ["Activist: Jordan is putting pressure on freed prisoner, Ahlam Tamimi", Macrh 10, 2023] that's notable for its distortions, deletions and sloppiness with the facts.

Here's how it describes Tamimi and what got her famous:

On 9 August 2001, a Palestinian man broke into a pizza restaurant in occupied Jerusalem and blew himself up, killing 15 people including two American citizens, one of whom was Malki Roth, an Israeli-American woman. 
Tamimi was arrested for her alleged involvement in the operation weeks later and was sentenced to 16 life sentences. She was released in 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Palestinian factions. She currently lives in Jordan.
Last year, a document issued by the Interpol revealed that Tamimi's name had been removed from its wanted list.
In 1995, the United States and Jordan signed an extradition treaty, but in 2017, Jordan's high court blocked Tamimi's extradition, since the treaty was never ratified.
In 2013, the Justice Department included Tamimi on the FBI's most wanted list and charged her with "conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction against Americans outside the United States". [Source]

About their "New Perspectives" it's worth noting that:

  • the unnamed "Palestinian man" didn't break into a pizza restaurant but walked in through the unguarded front entrance. 
  • His name was Al-Masri and he was carrying an explosives-filled guitar-case on his back. He was decapitated by the explosion which killed 15 innocent patrons inside the pizzeria and left a sixteenth, a young mother, unconscious until today. About 130 other people were injured, many of them horribly. Among the victims were several US citizens. 
  • Tamimi accompanied the human bomb to the doomed pizzeria by bus and taxi from Ramallah and then fled to safety before he and the building exploded. The pizzeria was chosen as her target by Tamimi because of the large number of Jewish children it attracted at lunch-times. The children were in no sense caught up in the crossfire; their murders were the reason for the atrocity.  
  • Most of those murdered were children. The Middle East Monitor people seem not to regard that as worth reporting. Given their outlook, we understand why they would fail to mention it. A small point, really. 
  • Alleged involvement? Tamimi admitted every aspect of her "alleged involvement" to the Israeli court that heard the charges against her in 2003. She pleaded guilty. In the years since then Tamimi has repeatedly recounted - with undisguised enthusiasm and often in front of cameras - the details of the massacre she spearheaded and painstakingly plotted. 
  • This doesn't stop the editors of this not-so-classy piece of journalism from referring to Tamimi as "freed prisoner" as if that's why she's in the news. 
  • Jordan's Court of Cassation ruled on March 20, 2017, almost exactly six years ago, that the Jordan/US treaty was void because of an alleged technical flaw created exclusively by Jordan (and, assuming it exists, curable by Jordan). That court ruling is contradicted by documnts we received via a Freedom of Information Act suit we filed against the US State Department in a US federal district court. It's also challenged by the official position of the US which is that Jordan remains bound by the treaty
  • Tamimi was added to the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list in 2017, not in 2013. She is still there. 
  • That's because the United States indicted her (or to be more precise - issued a criminal complaint against her) six years ago. The Middle East Monitor report somehow overlooks that element. Their report makes no sense at all without mentioning it. 
  • Tamimi's name was never removed from Interpol's wanted list. Interpol doesn't have a wanted list. The Middle East Monitor people have made the same erroneous and misleading claim in the past. Interpol provides information to police forces. It doesn't pursue criminals or issue warrants for their arrest or prosecute them.

Tamimi's crusade for sympathy and the exercise of her rights as a Jordanian woman is getting wide and noisy support in Jordan where the Royal Hashemite Court and much of the population are engaged this weekend in a wedding celebration

We're tracking this as it continues to unfold.

[UPDATE March 21, 2023: Something's moving. Tamimi has made at least six public appearances in the past 12 day, up to and including yesterday. They have been either in person before live audiences or via media, or in some cases both. After a lengthy period of relative silence, she is now speaking publicly in strongly critical tones that veer into open disrespect for Jordan's ruler and the Hashemite Court. Her rhetoric focuses on the disrespect to her rights. Yes, the fugitive murderer wants her rights to be better respected and she is making sure public audiences know this. More details as we assemble them.]  

Sunday, March 05, 2023

05-Mar-23: Intertwined lives: A Purim reflection

From a 1997 family snapshot:
Malki dressed up for Purim as a farmer
In a few days from now, we will be marking the sixth anniversary of the day in 2017 when senior US Department of Justice officials announced the unsealing of terror charges against our child's killer, the Jordanian fugitive terrorist Ahlam Tamimi ["14-Mar-17: Sbarro massacre mastermind is now formally charged and her extradition is requested"].

But before then, the Jewish world will mark one of its happiest annual events: the festival of PurimAn emotional roller-coaster? Certainly. Jewish life is replete with such moments.

About once every five years (and most recently in 2018), we repost here on our blog a reflection written by Arnold Roth touching on the festival through the lens of three intersecting lives. In posting it below, we have adjusted the dates of Purim so that they are correct for 2023. 

Purim, for those not so familiar with the intricacies of the age-old Jewish calendar, works in a slightly unexpected way.

Throughout the world, Jewish communities will begin marking it this coming Monday night, March 6, 2023. That evening and then again the following morning, Tuesday, observant Jews will gather in whichever part of the world they are to hear the reading of the Book of Esther.

In Jerusalem where we live, we do the same - but exactly 24 hours later. The day is called Shushan Purim. (Shushan in the Purim narrative is where the Persian royal palace was located.) The first of the two readings of Esther in Israel's capital takes place Tuesday night (March 7, 2023). The second will be the following morning, Wednesday (March 8, 2023) as part of the Shacharit daily morning prayers.

Later in the day on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, Jerusalem's Jews - but not the Jews of almost every other community around the world - will celebrate what Purim stands for by means of a festive meal and appropriate beverages. 

(Note that along the way there is a traditional fast day, the Fast of Esther, actually a dawn-to-sunset fast and not a full 25 hour fast, which this year starts before dawn on Monday morning, March 6, 2023.) 

At exactly this time of year, but eighteen years ago in 2005, Arnold Roth was given an opportunity to publish a reflection about how Purim, with its family-focused joy and celebration of good triumphing over evil, feels to a family like ours that has lost a loved child to an act of hatred-based terrorist murder.

The result was a short essay published on the websiteThe themes which the article touches remain on our minds, so here is a replay.

The number that conceals G-d's name also represents the mysterious turning point for three generations of my family | Arnold Roth 

Most Jewish teenagers growing up in Australia during the 1960s were, like me, children of concentration camp survivors. Our parents were involved in owning small businesses or were employed. There was hardly a professional among them. At birth, most of us lacked even a single grandparent; almost all of us were named after family members who perished at the hands of the Nazis.

It was clear that we were everything to our parents, and no one needed to tell us why. Top of their priorities list was ensuring that we gained the best possible education. Little wonder that several of the largest and most successful Jewish schools in the world were started in Melbourne in the years right after World War II. And the community's interest in things Israeli was unlimited; the occasional Israeli film and Israeli visitor to Australia's distant shores were memorable events.

The Six Day War happened when I was 15. The weeks of rising tension leading up to it left an indelible mark on me: the grainy television images of Egyptian and Syrian troops on the march; Nasser's strident speeches and unilateral blockade of the sea lanes to Eilat; the massing of Egyptian forces on Israel's Sinai border and of the Syrians on the Golan frontier; U Thant's disgraceful capitulation in removing UN peace-keeping forces from Sinai precisely when they were most needed.

Our daughter Malki Z"L with her
beloved grandmother 
Genia Roth Z"L
who visited us in Jerusalem, April 2000

And the blood-curdling threats of one after another of the Arab dictators and monarchs: "The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified... This is our opportunity to erase the ignominy which has been with us since 1948... Our goal is clear - to wipe Israel off the map."

Holocaust Horrors

Fifteen marked a turning point in my life. 

A few months after Israel's stunning defeat of the forces bent (once again) on the liquidation of the Jews, I enrolled for the first time in a Jewish day-school. My ideas about being a Jew in the world, about history and how it affects our lives, about the Holocaust and the chain of Jewish life, began taking grown-up shape.

My mother grew up near Łódź in a town located close enough to the Polish/German frontier to have been overrun by Nazi forces on the first day of the war. 

Among the men rounded up by the invaders on that September day was her father, the grandfather whose name I was given. As a father myself, I have to breathe deeply in calling to mind the image of my mother throwing herself at the feet of a German soldier, begging, screaming for her father's life to be spared.

On the day the Nazis marched into Poland and began the process of destroying a world, trampling a unique culture into the mud, murdering Jews by the millions, my mother had just turned 15.

My awareness of my parents' lives begins, in a certain sense, with the end of the war: their four or five years as displaced persons in post-war Germany, their long journey to Australia as a young couple with no English, no marketable skills and no roots beyond their few personal ties and their very Jewish sense of community.

An unexpected photograph changed this for me a few years ago.

I have a cousin, Chana, a kibbutznikit, the daughter of my father's oldest brother. She was brought to Tel Aviv in the 1930s as a baby by her parents who fled pre-war Galicia, and has lived her life in Israel. Returning as a tourist to her roots, she traveled to Krakow in 2000, and via a chain of circumstances ended up in possession of four photocopied pages which she shared with me. These were Nazi documents - census forms which the Germans required the Jews in the Krakow ghetto to complete prior to dispatching them to the death camps.

The first page had been completed in the distinctive handwriting of my father, of blessed memory. A small snapshot attached to the form showed him as I had never seen before: virile, handsome, young. Two other pages were the census forms of two of my father's sisters. Their names were known to me from a family tree I had put together years earlier with my father's help. But until that moment, they were nothing more than names. Now I gazed at the portraits of two vibrant young women.

My oldest daughter, Malki, had just completed a family-roots project at school and I knew she would be interested. A glance at the pages and she said exactly what I had been thinking: Malki bore a striking resemblance to my father's beautiful sister Feige.

Feige, at left, who did not survive the Holocaust. 
And the great-niece she never knew, Malki, at right.
For us, and for Malki, the resemblance between them was striking.

Unlike my parents, Feige did not survive the Nazi murder machine. Whatever promise her life contained, whatever talents she was developing, whatever gifts she was planning to give the world - all these were overturned by a massive act of violent, barbaric hatred.

Some months after we gazed on those extraordinary pictures for the first time, Malki sat down and quietly (without telling us) composed the words and music of an infectiously upbeat song: "You live, breathe and move - that's a great start!... You'd better start dancing now!"

Living in the land promised to the Jewish people was a source of deep contentment to this granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. The discovery of Feige's picture enabled Malki, I think, to gain a strengthened sense of her personal role as a link in an ancient chain.

Unbearable Questions

Arafat's intifada war against Israel's civilian population broke out around the time we received those precious pages. 

From the diary she kept, it's evident that the near-daily toll of injuries and deaths weighed heavily on Malki's mind. She writes of having to leave her classroom to weep in privacy upon learning of another terror attack… and another and another. 

We, her parents and siblings, were unaware of the depth of her empathy for the victims of the war raging in her precious land. The turmoil and pain, to Malki, were deeply personal. Though born in Australia, she had lived in Jerusalem since age two. She felt deeply connected to Jewish history.

In August 2001, my daughter and her friend Michal interrupted the activities of a busy summer vacation day to grab lunch in a crowded Jerusalem restaurant, Sbarro

If she had noticed the man with a guitar case on his back striding through the unguarded door and positioning himself next to the counter where she was engrossed in tapping out a text message on her cell phone, would Malki have recognized the hatred, the barbaric ecstasy, on his face before he exploded?

Malki and Michal were buried the next day. The closest of friends since early childhood, they lie side by side, forever, on a hill near the entrance to Jerusalem. Malki was 15.

Her diary is full of questions: How can such terrible things happen to our people? Why is our love for the Land of Israel not better understood by outsiders? What kind of Divine plan calls for teenagers to be injured and killed by people for whom we hold no hatred at all? How can such intense hatred even exist?

The unbearable question marks left behind by my daughter scream at me every day.

The Hidden Name

Jewish life, viewed from a distance, is an astonishing saga of tragedy, achievement, grandeur, destruction and greatness, played out over millennia. There is a risk we lose this perspective when we are the individuals living it.

Malki and her close friend Michal Raziel.The girls were
standing side by side at the Sbarro pizzeria's
counter when the human bomb walked in and exploded

At Purim, we feast, we drink, we ceremoniously deliver gifts, we celebrate with those we love and like. But the narrative at the heart of this festival is of a close brush with tragedy: the Jewish victory over a genocidal conspiracy by murderous Jew-haters.

Here in Jerusalem, a day later than almost everywhere else in the world, Purim is marked on the 15th day of Adar. Jewish calendar dates are written using a simple alphanumeric code: alef is one, bet is two and so on. But longstanding tradition is to avoid the straightforward way of writing the number 15. 

You would expect it to be yud-heh (lit: ten-five); however these two letters happen to form the first half of G-d's name and are accorded special treatment and respect. Accordingly, 15 is written as tet-vav: nine-six. G-d's Name, as it were, is hidden within the number 15.

Purim is odd in another way: the name of G-d is completely absent from Megillat Esther.

Does this mean the victory of the Jews over their oppressor happened without His involvement? Jewish tradition answers with a firm 'no'. G-d's role was crucial, but our ability to make sense of how and why He acts is limited, inadequate.

Those of us raised in the shadow of the Holocaust, and who have experienced the tragedy of a child's death by hatred, struggle to understand the nature of the Divine role in our lives as individuals and as a people. There are times, according to Jewish wisdom, when you need to know that G-d's hand is at work even when the evidence is difficult to see, even when there are more questions than answers.

Malka Chana Roth's memory is honored by the Malki Foundation. It supports families wanting to provide their severely disabled child with quality home care. More information at the Malki Foundation website

[A Dutch version of the article above is online here.]