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.]

Monday, February 13, 2023

13-Feb-23: Three thousand five hundred days of thwarted US justice

Jordan's refusal to extradite Ahlam Tamimi to the United States, despite her being responsible for the horrific 2001 bombing of a Jerusalem pizzeria that killed 15 people, including two Americans (one of them our daughter Malka Chana Roth), is a clear breach of the 1995 extradition treaty signed - and in effect since that time right up until today - between the two countries. 

The US Department of Justice brought charges against Tamimi in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on July 15, 2013. That's 3,500 days ago as of today. 

At the US government's request, those charges were immnediately sealed by the court once they were signed off. This meant they were kpt secret.  

They remained secret - even from the families of the victims of the atrocity, which includes Frimet and Arnold Roth who co-write this blog - for the following four years. 

They were eventually unsealed on March 14, 2017, in a Washington media announcement that featured tough and principled language by determined American law enforcement officials. 

But just six days later in Amman's Court of Cassation, a Jordanian judge handed down a decision declaring the long-active 1995 Jordan/US extradition treaty invalid

As Aljazeera reported, the decision meant Tamimi's extradition to face charges in Washington for her role in the Sbarro bombing was permanently blocked under Jordanian law. This was a contentious finding and one plainly contradicted by facts that we ourselves later discovered by suing the State Department of the United States in a 2012 suit pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act. (Two requests made by us under FOIA had earlier gone unanswered.)

The basis on which Jordan's Court of Cassation - the kingdom's most senior appellate court - relied is not some inherent flaw in the treaty. It pointed instead to a flaw created by Jordan itself. It's a flaw that relates to the ratification of the treaty, an essential step in the treaty-making process for both sides. 

The United States has been clear at all stages that the treaty was ratified by Jordan and that Jordan communicated that ratification to Jordan. But even if that's wrong (and the evidence plainly shows that it's not wrong), Jordan has had more than a quarter century to fix the alleged flaw. In fact, it's a flaw only Jordan can fix but has chosen not to fix. That said, it's not too late: everything that needed to be done to render the 1995 treaty valid and binding under Jordanian law could be done this afternoon. Or tomorrow.

For obvious reasons, that isn't going to happen. 

Jordan's leaders needed the long-standing treaty to be non-biding on them once the hot-potato Tamimi case landed on their desks. The court ruling gives them an easy way out of a difficult bind. Tamimi is hugely popular in Jordan ["24-Nov-18: How Jordan's mainstream media showcase a couple of role-model jihadist murderers"] and the idea of Jordan handing her over to US law enforcement officials, which is what they have done time and again when facing previous American extradition requests, is hard to do.

We said the court ruling made things easy for Jordan's leadership. But that's only true because the US has shown incomprehensible patience with its Jordanian ally. In the years since the charges were handed down in 2013 by a US Federal court, there is not a single instance of any US official publicly calling on the Jordanians to honor their treaty obligation. This is unprecedented.

Given the importance of the US-Jordan relationship and the heinous nature of the crime for which Tamimi faces charges, the US Congress should years ago have insisted that the Administrations (first Obama, then Trump, then Biden) remind Jordan of its treaty obligation to extradict Tamimi. The fugitive terrorist, murderer of innocent Americans, must be sent to American justice. Congress and the White House should do it today. But they haven't and they don't.

For its part, Jordan has failed to take any steps to rectify this situation, despite the obvious harm it causes to the victims and their families. Jordan continues to flout its obligations with impunity right up until today.

As the parents of one of the American children murdered there that day, we have repeatedly - and fruitlessly - called on US politicians, diplomats and officials to act. It's been an agonizing process.

By failing to act as it has since 2017 when the charges and Jordan's disgraceful recalcitrance became part of the public record, the US Congress has been derelict in conveying a vital message: that the lives of American citizens are precious and neither treaty obligations nor justice are matters for cheap political posturing by the Jordanians. 

If there is another way of looking at this, no senior American public figure has stated it. The United States must take action to ensure justice is served for the victims of this heinous crime. The Jordanian government, which receives more foreign aid than any other country, must be held to account for its shameful breach of the 1995 treaty. 

It is already years late. But not too late for members of the US Congress to finally stand up for US justice. Nothing can justify allowing Jordan to dishonor its legal and treaty obligations in the Tamimi case and for there to be no US push-back. The dishonor and the disgrace have gotten a blind US eye for far too long.


Please consider expressing your support for justice in this searing case by signing the petition at

Thursday, February 09, 2023

09-Feb-23: Do America's Jewish communities have the leaders they deserve?

On February 3, 2023, Jordan's Royal Hashemite Court published
and disseminated this photo to illustrate its report under the headline
"King meets representatives of international,
US Jewish organisations"

A version of the post below originally appeared on Frimet Roth's blog "The Good, The Bad, The Ugly" under the title "Don't we deserve better than this lamentable leadership?"

Here's the full text of a February 2, 2023 Jewish Insider report about a Washington gathering of high-profile individuals day.
King Abdullah II of Jordan met with Jewish leaders in Washington, D.C., yesterday. Those in attendance included Rabbi Marc Schneier, Ted Deutch, Jeremy Ben-Ami, Jonathan Greenblatt, Susie Gelman, Hadar Susskind, Dana Gershon, Betty Ehrenberg, Jason Isaacson, John Hannah and Harriet Schleifer.
A prominent article in a Hashemite-Kingdom-controlled Jordanian newspaper covers the same event. As often happens in the Jordanian media, no Jews are named or quoted. Here's its full text:
AMMAN — His Majesty King Abdullah on Thursday met with representatives of international and US Jewish organisations in Washington, DC, and stressed the importance of these organisations supporting efforts to achieve just and comprehensive peace.

King Abdullah stressed the need to step up efforts to push towards restoring calm and de-escalation in the Palestinian Territories, while ceasing all unilateral measures that would lead to instability and undermine peace prospects, according to a Royal Court statement.

His Majesty said Jordan will continue efforts to safeguard Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, under the Hashemite Custodianship.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, Director of the Office of His Majesty Jafar Hassan, and Jordan’s Ambassador in Washington, DC, Dina Kawar attended the meeting.
It's become an annual tradition. Executives of major Jewish organizations in the US solemnly file into a meeting room in some fancy hotel or embassy hall and pay their utmost respects to the visiting ruler of Jordan. He speaks, and his words are faithfully reported in Jordan's media. 

I don't personally know most of the people in the list. And since this hasn't been reported anywhere, I don't know what they said. Or whether they spoke at all.

I do however know something about what previous groups of Jewish leaders said and didn't say when they met the Jordanian. And what they have and have not said publicly to America's top political leaders. 

My husband and I [see This Ongoing War] have been outspoken for years about the abject failures of America's Jewish leadership in the Tamimi/Jordan/justice affair.

From a quick check on the web, I see all the distinguished Jewish people meeting King Abdullah this past Thursday hold leading positions in significant organizations (listed alphabetically) that include:

I know I should have grown used to it. But the pain these encounters inflict only intensifies with time.

My Malki's photos speak to me every day when I am in their presence in our living room. Her gentle eyes, sweet smile, modesty and love radiate from them. Since she was murdered in the Sbarro terror bombing in the summer of 2001, it's the only way she communicates with me.

As I peruse them tonight, I am reminded afresh that Jewish leaders promoting themselves in the Jewish media and mailed solicitations as staunch advocates of rights of the Jews evidently care not one bit about her or us.

US Department of Justice "Most Wanted Terrorist" poster seeking the arrest of our child's killer

Malki's murderer, Ahlam Tamimi, indicted in Washington in 2013 (though this was kept secret until; 2017) is protected and shielded from justice by King Abdullah II of Jordan. And, whatever the leaders say, this clearly doesn't matter one iota to them.

The facts are so clear to me and, as far as I can tell, so irrelevant to them.

The fact that Jordan and the United States have had a valid and active extradition treaty since the days of the Clinton administration and the late King Hussein - the father of today's monarch. 

The fact that the U.S. Department of Justice has demanded that Jordan extradite her under it, and hand her over to the FBI's waiting arms so she can be brought to criminal trial in Washington.

The fact that King Abdullah has authorized the rejection of that demand since Tamimi's indictment. 

The fact that whenever he calls, they come running, as they did last week.

It is an incomprehensible exhibition of sycophancy toward a man who is brazenly using them to buttress his position as a close ally of the U.S. 

And, most important, as the world's largest recipient of U.S. financial aid - now running at some $1.5 billion a year.

Jordan's disdain for Israel is apparently not a factor for Jewish leaders when deciding whether to accept the vaunted invitation of His Majesty (as they usually refer to him).

In meetings, letters and phone calls with many of those leaders we have pleaded since 2017 for their assistance in pressuring the United States to get Jordan to comply with its treaty obligation. All produced nothing more than demeaning, dismissive responses.

What a pathetic show of spinelessness.

Remember this when these organizations next solicit your donation.