Wednesday, April 24, 2024

24-Apr-24: The Sbarro bomber: Betrayal, lies, politics and grief

Nuland, Biden, Blinken [Image Source]
On March 14, 2024, under the headline "Betrayal, lies, politics and grief | The world’s refusal to bring my child’s killer to justice.", the Jewish News Syndicate published a first-person opinion piece authored by Arnold Roth.

Its appearance was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the day in 2017 when federal terrorism charges, kept secret up to that point by the US government for years, were finally made public.

Since the op ed was republished by no more than a handful of JNS syndication outlets, we think it's right to repost it (with light changes and additional hyperlinks). 

What's said here is important to us - important enough that we continue to press the government of the United States to finally do what its law enforcement arms have endeavored to do since 2013 when it indicted Ahlam Aref Ahmad al-Tamimi under seal: to put her on trial in Washington and if convicted, to put her behind bars for the rest of her life.

For murky reasons which we think we understand but which have never been revealed by any news media anywhere, those US federal charges remained secret from the world, the media and the families of Tamimi's victims for four years, until March 14, 2017. 

But they were not kept secret from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan which is bound by bilateral treaty to the United States to extradite Tamimi to the US. Via a formal ruling by one of its appellate courts, just six days after the charges became public knowledge in 2017, Jordan flatly refused. It still refuses until today.

Here's the updated version of what Arnold Roth wrote for the JNS in March.

* * *

Seven years have passed since criminal charges were brought in Washington, D.C. against the woman who murdered my sunny, lovely, empathetic 15-year-old daughter Malki. The anniversary of the charges being made public is today, March 14.

As milestones go, this one is dark. The fugitive killer admits to her central role in the massacre for which she is being prosecuted. Though she brags about her atrocity, she lives the life of a celebrity and an inspiration to others. 

Yet her ongoing freedom gets negligible attention in the news industry and public discourse—even in the U.S. To the extent that the Arab media report on her, it is overwhelmingly favorable and sympathetic.

The dry details of Ahlam Aref Ahmad al-Tamimi’s long-thwarted prosecution are easy to find. The mugshots, biographical details and charges are accessible via three sites: The FBI’s list of Most Wanted Terrorists, the 2017 Department of Justice unveiling of the hitherto secret charges and the State Department’s 2018 post of a $5 million reward that is still unclaimed two full decades after it first went public.

What’s behind Tamimi’s freedom is harder to ascertain. 

Those who know don’t talk openly and those with a stake in her ongoing freedom are too often untruthful about it. Understanding this and conjecturing why it is the case is at the heart of the nightmare my wife and I endure years after our beautiful child’s life was extinguished.

* * *

Tamimi was recruited by Hamas in 2001. The first female to become one of its jihadists, she was given the mission of bombing one of Jerusalem’s few large department stores.

Hamashbir Lazarchan, located on busy King George Street, was an easy hit. On July 30, 2001, she entered its basement supermarket with an explosives-filled beer can. No security people stood at the doors in those innocent days. Tamimi placed the bomb on a shelf among other beverage containers and strolled out.

An FBI “Most Wanted Terrorist” poster for
Jordanian terrorist Ahlam Ahmad Tamimi [Source: FBI]

Still flush with excitement in a 2012 interview on an Arab TV station, she recounted what resulted:

“The supermarket completely exploded... The Israelis said that nobody had been killed or wounded... This was the beginning of the intifada, and it was normal for them to conceal the number of casualties in order to avoid panic among the Zionists” (Arabic-to-English transcript).

A calmer version from the standpoint of the bombmaker, a Kuwaiti kinsman of Tamimi by the name of Abdallah Barghouti, stated, 

“The operation was not intended to cause deaths or injuries but was intended to test the occupation’s security precautions” (source).

Both accounts are absolutely untrue. No one was injured by the bomb, though the aim was to cause a bloodbath. And when it failed, Tamimi badgered her Hamas handlers to immediately give her a better bomb for a second shot at jihadi fame.

That came just a week later on Aug. 9, 2001. An exploding guitar case fabricated by Barghouti was handed to Tamimi by a Hamas handler who paired her up with a religious zealot willing to sling it across his shoulder and carry it inside the target she had selected: central Jerusalem’s bustling Sbarro pizzeria.

From Ramallah, she accompanied the suicidal human bomb by bus and cab to Jerusalem. Then on foot through its downtown streets where, unknown to Tamimi or the young man by her side, the Israel Police had been put on alert following an intelligence tip that a terrorist attack was about to take place. 

Tragically, the general public was never told.

Sbarro, central Jerusalem, the afternoon of August 9, 2001
[Image credit: Avi Ohayon, Israel Govt Press Office]

The massive explosion gutted Sbarro at two o’clock on a hot school vacation afternoon, erasing 16 lives and injuring 130 other innocents. Three Americans were murdered, one of them Malki.

Tamimi was arrested weeks later. Tried in Jerusalem, she was convicted and sentenced to 16 terms of life imprisonment. The three-judge panel, horrified by the smiling accused who admitted all the charges against her, recommended from the bench to the Israeli authorities that Tamimi should never be set free—not in any political deal, not on bail, not for any reason.

Their advice was ignored.

Tamimi walked free in a 2011 deal between Hamas and Israel for the release of a young IDF soldier held hostage for five years. Israel paid heavily, conditionally commuting the sentences of 1,027 convicted Palestinian Arab and other Arab terrorists and setting them loose. More than half had blood on their hands.

Tamimi was bused to Cairo on the day of the release. Following a high-profile media event there in which Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal blessed her arrival, she left on a VIP flight to Jordan and a tumultuous welcome at its main airport and instant, noisy stardom. 

In the years that followed, she hosted her own made-in-Amman terror-friendly Hamas show that was beamed globally via satellite TV. She settled into a jihad-centric talk circuit that got her in front of television cameras, on public event panels and before live audiences throughout the Middle East, as well as opinion pieces in influential Arabic mainstream and social media outlets. Tamimi’s position as one of Islamist terror’s most influential icons is beyond doubt.

* * *

Meanwhile, starting in 2012, just weeks after she left her Israeli cell, Tamimi became a person of interest to the U.S. Department of Justice. A core factor was that two of her victims were U.S. citizens, one of them Malki. (A third, who suffered profound injuries in the atrocity, died in May 2023, having never regained consciousness.)

Those charges were signed off by a U.S. federal judge in July 2013. But they became public only much later on March 14, 2017 via a Department of Justice announcement

As this was happening, we were quietly told that Jordan, which is obligated by a 1995 treaty with the Clinton administration to extradite Tamimi, had flatly refused to comply. “You’re now in the court of public opinion,” one of the officials told me. “Good luck.”

The court of public opinion doesn’t have a single address but many. As Malki’s parents, we have tried to reach all of them. We have gone to Congress, assailed the mainstream Western media, written privately to the Biden administration and to the two that came before it, turned to a herd of America’s Jewish organizational insiders, sought help from the government of Israel, and engaged with numerous respected commentators and analysts with expertise in the field.

One or two have said getting Tamimi prosecuted is a bad idea if it offends Jordan. The vast majority either fail to respond or acrobatically avoid dealing directly with the issue even as they sit in the room with my wife and me. The result is mostly the same: We come away frustrated and dismayed by the miles-wide gap between the values they profess and their inaction or actual obstruction.

We have written or spoken about some of those beating-our-head-against-the-wall encounters, but not all. I present a small sample:

  • Jordan signed an extradition treaty with the U.S. in 1995 and complied with it for years. There’s no doubt that it remains valid and enforceable. But a Jordanian court, suspiciously ruling just a week after the charges against Tamimi were unsealed in Washington seven years ago, said the treaty needed to be ratified by the parliament but never was and thus was invalid.
  • No reporter whom I have contacted has ever pressed the Jordanians about the patent falseness of this claim. If it’s true, Jordan created the problem and Jordan can fix it by simply ratifying the treaty tomorrow morning. But as we discovered by suing the State Department in 2021 under the Freedom of Information Act, King Hussein—the father of Jordan’s present King Abdullah—personally ratified the treaty and swore not to allow its violation. That should have ended the controversy but, of course, it hasn’t.
  • Years of appeals to senior American Jewish leaders have been brushed off. 
  • But two significant breakthroughs came this past year: The American Jewish Committee (AJC) wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland in July 2023 and the Conference of Presidents wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken in January 2024. Each asked the U.S. to press Jordan harder so Tamimi is handed over for trial in Washington. Both requests have failed to get a response of any kind.
  • My wife Frimet is a registered voter in Queens, New York, where she lived for 20-some years. Our requests to the lawmakers who represent her to take up the Tamimi issue with the State Department have gone unanswered or gone nowhere. Both parties in Congress have shown the same unwillingness to tackle the issue.
  • All our encounters with Washington’s ambassadors to Israel have been, putting it respectfully, a disappointment.
That’s also true of the things we have done to get reactions from the top of the pyramid. I have avoided publicizing this but I feel justified in sharing how our polite, cogent personal appeals to various presidents, secretaries of state ["27-Aug-21: What we said to Secretary of State Blinken about our child's murder and how he replied"] and current National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan have been brushed aside as if the Tamimi case were not worth addressing.

* * *

Out of the blue, months after we decided to stop wasting further time on them, a letter dated October 25, 2022 arrived from Victoria Nuland, at the time the Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs and Deputy Secretary of State. She has just retired.

She opened with some startling words: 

“On behalf of the President, Secretary Blinken and National Security Advisor Sullivan I want to reiterate…”

She then listed things no government figure has until now: Tamimi must be held accountable; the U.S. is fully committed to getting her into a U.S. court; it’s pursuing “all viable options” with Jordan; and getting justice for Malki and others “is a foremost priority for the United States.”

The most distressing part of Nuland’s letter was its final sentence: 

“We will stay in contact with you regarding our ongoing efforts to ensure Tamimi is held accountable for her despicable crimes.” 

She hasn’t stayed in contact at all. And now she's left her job as America's third-highest ranking diplomat.

On one level, the ongoing pain of our bitter experience stems from the failures of U.S. justice, Congress and the executive branch, reinforced by a depressing propensity for clear-cut issues to fall victim to politics both domestic and global. 

On another level, especially painful for us, there are the lessons about American Jewish life and its leadership’s failure to lead. 

On yet another level, ours is simply a human story of parents fighting so that the killer of our teenage daughter is brought in chains to a U.S. court to face prosecution. 

Tamimi hosted an Arabic language TV series,
"Breezes of the Free", beamed from Amman to the entire
Arabic-speaking world for five years.
The U.S. and the world want to see the Israel-Hamas war wrapped up. In some ways, there’s a mood of “whatever it takes” in the air, and therefore a realistic prospect that Israel will free Palestinian Arab terrorists, including senior Hamas figures. (We’re totally opposed.) 

Some of them might go to Jordan.

So what would it mean if the incomprehensibly generous grant of impunity that Jordan, one of the world’s most antisemitic entities, has enjoyed while illicitly holding tight to Tamimi were extended to cloak those terrorists? 

The Tamimi case is a red light for what may lie ahead.

* * *

Our battle for justice and against the terrorists has been personal from the outset; not because it’s important for us alone (it’s more important than that) but because it’s driven by pain and grief. Those feelings grew even more intense a few weeks ago when our son-in-law, the beloved husband of one of Malki’s sisters and adored father of two of our toddler granddaughters, was killed fighting Hamas in Gaza.

It’s time to change how America views the war against the terrorists and those who stand with them. Everything dear to us depends on getting that right.

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

06-Feb-24: Obituary: Naftali Gordon

The obituary that follows was published yesterday by Times of Israel under the headline "Master Sgt. (res.) Naftali Gordon, 32: A man of ‘honesty and justice’ | Killed in combat in the Gaza Strip on December 7". 

The fallen soldier was our greatly-loved and admired son in law, the father of two of our toddler grandchildren.

* * *

Master Sgt. (res.) Naftali Yonah Gordon, 32, a soldier in the IDF's Artillery Corps Battalion 53, was killed in battle in Gaza on December 7.

Naftali, who was a physiotherapist in Jerusalem, leaves behind parents, siblings, a wife, and two daughters.

Speaking at Naftali’s funeral, his wife Pesi, who lost her sister Malki Roth in the 2001 Sbarro bombing, said that he was a perfect husband and father.

“Since you entered my life, it’s been full of light,” she said. “I wanted to grow old with you, you will always be mine and I will always be yours.”

She also promised him that she would raise their two daughters with joy.

Naftali’s mother Beaty Gordon said her son had been an excellent swimmer and loved jogging. She also said he always wanted to help people.

His sister Shira Posner echoed this, saying that he was a “man of action” and a “man of honesty and justice who was filled with joy and humor.”

A new memorial corner in the Jerusalem
medical clinic 
where Naftali practised
Naftali’s fellow soldiers said he had been like a brother to them and that he had regularly put himself at risk for them.

Over Hanukkah, Naftali’s clinic dedicated one of the holiday nights to their lost friend. They described him as having been deeply loved by his whole team.

“Naftali was everything,” they said before the candles were lit. “He had golden hands that could build and repair anything, and he was very smart, giving, kind, and modest.”

A former physiotherapist at the clinic, Effi Hileli, told Mynet that Naftali was a friend to everyone and had easily fit into the team when he first joined.

He had also been set to begin a process management and clinical training course.

The physiotherapy clinic’s manager, Joanie Meron, told Jerusalem Mynet news, “He had endless patience which stemmed from an incredible combination of him being a wonderful, caring, and hardworking person alongside his outstanding wisdom and expertise.”

Thursday, February 01, 2024

01-Feb-24: Jordan, Tamimi and a long-awaited public call for US moral integrity and justice

Image Source: The FBI
Getting Jordanian fugitive terrorist Ahlam Tamimi into a Washington courthouse to face trial on charges that were signed off more than a decade ago has been orders-of-magnitude more difficult than we originally thought possible. 

And she's still free. This is despite

  • Jordan being a treaty partner of the US and the recipient of well over a billion and a half dollars annually in aid funded by American taxpayers - more than any other country (and we don't mean per capita). 
  • Tamimi being an FBI Most Wanted Terrorist of whom only 24 are currently alive and only two of them are females. 
  • Tamimi living proudly and openly in Amman, never in hiding as far as we know for even a single day since her return to her homeland in October 2011 - an arrival marked by tumultuous receptions and cheering crowds at the airport, and a long series of exuberant public rallies in downtown Amman, at the University of Jordan's main campus, and at numerous other schools and universities, as well as dozens of venues in other Arab countries.

How she's perceived in Jordan is straightforward. There, she's a celebrity, widely admired for what she did (the dead Jewish children, the getting away from the scene, the getting out of Israeli prison, the outspoken and unwavering promotion and admiration of deadly terror. There's more.) We're reasonably sure that we follow Jordan's media more closely than most non-Jordanians do. If a critical word about Ahlam Tamimi has ever appeared in any newspaper or magazine article, we haven't seen it. 

We doubt it's ever happened.

But how Tamimi is viewed in the highest reaches of America's power hierarchy is considerably less simple. 

On one hand, she has faced criminal charges in Washington DC since 2013 that, if she's convicted, may see her spending the rest of her life behind bars in a federal prison. 

In January 2018, a unit of the State Department called Rewards for Justice announced a reward of "up to $5 million" "for information on Ahlam Ahmad al-Tamimi". That reward is still in effect. Referring to the Sbarro atrocity, the reward offer page says that

"in 2003, al-Tamimi pleaded guilty in an Israeli court to participating in the attack and was sentenced to 16 life terms in Israel for assisting the bomber. She was released in October 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel. On March 14, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed a criminal complaint and an arrest warrant for al-Tamimi. The FBI also added al-Tamimi to its Most Wanted Terrorists List."

In addition, we know what President Biden says about bringing her to US justice. It's the very same thing Secretary of State Antony Blinken says. There's a good reason we can say this and that is that on October 25, 2022, a senior official in the US State Department (we prefer to give no names at this stage) sent us a personal letter in their names. "Us" means Frimet and Arnold Roth - we write this blog.

Here's most of it:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Roth:

Thank you for your July 10 letter to President Biden and your September 1 letter to National Security Advisor Sullivan. On behalf of the President, Secretary Blinken, and National Security Advisor Sullivan, I want to reiterate our deepest condolences to you and your family for the unimaginable pain and suffering you have experienced over the tragic loss of your daughter, Malki. Ahlam al-Tamimi must be held accountable for her role in the terrorist attack that claimed the life of your daughter and 14 others.

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 assure you that pursuing justice for American victims of terrorism, including Malki, is a foremost priority for the United States. We will stay in contact with you regarding our ongoing efforts to ensure Tamimi is held accountable for her despicable crimes.

Sincerely yours,

As it happens, there were some questions we wanted to ask the writer of the letter. So we wrote back. And then wrote again. And again and again. 

In fact the "we will stay in contact with you" part of it has ended up being pretty puzzling for us. Not one of our dozen or so emails and messages to the writer has gotten even a single response in the nearly sixteen months since the letter was sent to us by the US Department of State. That's a serious piece of pretending not to hear us.

Has Tamimi been held accountable by the US? Not in the smallest way. Her name has never once been mentioned in any public utterance by President Biden, or by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, or by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, or by any of their media spokespersons. 

Pause and read that again; it's a serious thing. 

On the other hand, and perhaps others will be less surprised by this than we are, those very same, very important officials who haven't once managed to speak publicly about Jordan's harboring of the killer and who have never mentioned on the record the killer's name or the names of her victims have very little reluctance in publicly praising the ruler of Jordan and his country. 

Examples from among many: 

  • The American President offered some widely-reported warm appreciation: "Biden Praises Jordanian King as Strong Ally in 'Tough Neighborhood'" [VOA, July 19, 2021]
  • Secretary Blinken, speaking after a May 2021 Middle East tour, spoke highly of King Abdullah’s “crucial” leadership in helping to secure a cease-fire agreement between Israel and “Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip... Jordan’s recent contributions to help bring an end to the conflict in Israel demonstrate the kingdom's enduring role as a force for peace in the region, which is one of the reasons our relationship is so strong and so vital,” Blinken told reporters after meeting with King Abdullah in Amman.” [Source]. That's the ceasefire that so viciously ended with the Hamas mass-butchery, rape and pillage of October 7, 2023.
  • And the National Security Advisor in May 2022: Sullivan commended Jordan’s pivotal role in promoting regional security and stability, stressing the United States’ keenness on maintaining coordination and working with the Kingdom to counter threats to regional stability and their implications on international peace, in addition to ongoing efforts in the fight against terrorism and extremism.” [Jordan Times, May 14, 2022].

As the parents of a greatly-loved murdered American child, we have fought since 2012 to see Tamimi brought to justice under US law in the US. It's a process that has been marked by rudeness and disdain over those years from a long list of officials in three consecutive US administrations. 

That's why we were so heartened by what happened just two weeks ago. 

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an influential roof-body organization based in New York, is 

"the proven and effective voice of organized American Jewry for more than half a century... (working) publicly and behind the scenes to advance the interests of the American Jewish community, sustain broad-based support for Israel and addresses the critical concerns facing world Jewry with US and world leaders, key opinion molders and the public. [It's] the preeminent forum for diverse segments of the Jewish community to come together in mutual respect to deliberate vital national and international issues, set policy and priorities, deliberate proactive strategies and take collective action.

It speaks in the names of some fifty member organizations. They include AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti Defamation League, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, the Jewish Federations of North America, the National Council of Jewish Women and some 44 more. 

This is what the COP sent to Secretary Antony Blinken on January 16, 2024 and made public shortly afterwards:

Dear Secretary Blinken,

Thank you very much for your and President Biden’s continuing support for Israel during the ongoing crisis.  Your steadfast dedication to ensuring a peaceful and secure future for the people of Israel is noted and appreciated by the American Jewish community. 

We write today to reiterate how deeply concerned we are by the fact that Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi, an FBI Most Wanted Terrorist responsible for the heinous 2001 bombing of the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem, continues to find refuge in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

The horrific attack on the Sbarro pizzeria claimed the life of sixteen innocents, three of them American nationals. These victims included a pregnant woman, a woman who remained in a coma for more than twenty years before succumbing to her injuries, and 15-year-old Malki Roth. The pain and anguish experienced by Malki’s family, Frimet and Arnold Roth, are shared by countless others in the American Jewish community and beyond.

We are heartened by President Biden’s commitment to conducting diplomacy rooted in America’s democratic values and dedication to upholding universal rights. We believe that these principles should extend to seeking justice for victims of terrorism, regardless of where the perpetrators seek shelter.

Jordan’s refusal to extradite Ahlam Tamimi represents a breach of the 1995 bilateral treaty between the United States and Jordan. Despite her confessions and incriminating statements, she has enjoyed immunity from justice, further exacerbating tensions and fostering an environment of hatred and extremism in the region.

We believe that the United States should prioritize Tamimi’s extradition in our bilateral relations with Jordan. We suggest a comprehensive review of the leverage that could be applied by the United States to signal the importance of compliance with U.S. law and principles.  We urge the State Department to engage in a robust diplomatic dialogue with Jordan’s leadership, stressing the importance of upholding international agreements and commitments to justice.

Also of concern, Jordan’s Court of Cassation denied a 2017 US request for extradition by asserting that the country never ratified the extradition treaty with the United States. However, the ruling failed to acknowledge King Hussein’s ratification of the treaty at the time of its signing in March 1995. We request that the United States make this information publicly available to counteract misconceptions and bring clarity to the matter.

We also request that you raise the issue and seek tangible progress on Tamimi’s extradition with King Abdullah II.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations stands united in our unwavering commitment to combatting terrorism and ensuring justice for victims and their families. We trust that the United States will continue to demonstrate its leadership and moral integrity by pursuing this crucial matter.



Harriet P. Schleifer                                   William C. Daroff

Chair                                                        Chief Executive Officer

The text of the letter was made public by the COP on or just after the day it was sent [here]. When we checked today with a senior source there, we were told there has been no response so far from anyone at the State Department. 

As we have said in this blog before, our experience in getting Secretary Antony Blinken's attention on the Tamimi case, or in prodding him to take concrete steps towards bringing the Jordanian fugitive to US justice, haven't gone well. Some of that quite bitter experience is laid out here: "27-Aug-21: What we said to Secretary of State Blinken about our child's murder and how he replied". 

And as we noted above, none of the people who have served him as spokesperson or deputy spokesperson in the role he has had since 2021 has ever pronounced Ahlam Tamimi's name in public. 

It's a depressing reality made far worse by the way America's mainstream media have ignored the story, and continue to ignore it today. 

What this means is the vast majority of Americans know nothing about Jordan's ongoing breach of the treaty, about its devotion to harboring and protecting a fugitive charged with being the central figure in a massacre of Jewish children and of Americans, or about the Conference of Presidents' open letter of two weeks ago. 

Little wonder that Congress - both sides of the aisle - ignore the scandal, thereby allowing Jordan to keep pocketing massive taxpayer-provided US aid and Ahlam Tamimi to avoid justice and accountability.

Thursday, January 04, 2024

04-Jan-24: Adjusting to a new reality

Our family is about as well-adjusted, mutually supportive, loving as those around us here in Jerusalem. Maybe in some respects even a little more than many.

That's not only relevant but perhaps even core to the experience we're undergoing right now.

Those who know us - not via our writing or our social media presence but as neighbors and actual friends - will already be aware of the crushing challenge that's overtaken us in recent weeks. But for the many who pass through our blog or come into contact with articles penned by people outside our family circle, a few lines here to explain.

We were as private as most families are until the summer of 2001. And then lost some of our anonymity in the explosive horror of a bombing in the heart of the city we have called home since moving to Jerusalem in the eighties. 

The middle child of our young family, Malki, a sunny, sweet-natured, generous and talented fifteen year old, was one of many children targeted for her Jewishness in a massacre engineered by Hamas and centered on a pizzeria that's gone on to become a by-word for carnage and vicious cynicism: Sbarro Jerusalem.

Half the victims of that early afternoon atrocity, timed for a busy school-vacation afternoon in one of this city's bustling gathering points, were children. The shocking-enough death toll was fifteen, with some 130 others injured, overwhelmingly mothers and children. That, we soon learned, was the explicit plan. The list grew to 16 just a few months ago when one of the victims - a young mother out for lunch with her toddler daughter - died of her injuries decades after the bombing without ever having regained consciousness.

Accompanied by one of her very closest friends and our neigbours' daughter, Malki was standing at the counter placing her order when an exploding young man (not the terrorist as he is mistakenly called but the terrorist's human bomb) walked in off the busy intersection of King George Avenue and Jaffa Road and, after a few moments of seeming to study the overhead menu, pressed a button on his chest. The button was wired to the guitar case slung across his back. But what was inside was no guitar. 

Though this wasn't obvious to our family for a while, the massive explosion that ensued, destroying the eatery and the tranquility of dozens of families like ours, marked the end of one stage of our lives. And the start of a new and very painful and challenging one.

For us, losing Malki was traumatic in ways we won't try to articulate here. 

With time, the wounds and scars did what they usually do. Not quite healing, they remained ever-present parts of the reality of coping with loss and pain as well as the sometimes-quite-complicated background to lives-going-on.

The years that followed included family weddings, the births of grandchildren, the passing of older members of our families. And, in passing, the ongoing pursuit of the atrocity's mastermind who is safe and shielded in Jordan until today. There were private and occasionally public celebrations, along with observances that for an Orthodox Jewish family like ours give specific shape to the flow of the months and years and even lifetimes. And a myriad of shared experiences that anyone who is close to anyone will recognize. 

On December 7, 2023, just after we lit the first Hanukah candle, several sombre-looking members of a special purpose team from the Israel Defence Forces knocked on the door of our son-in-law's family. Two of our youngest grand-daughters were in the room with their Mummy enjoying a special family moment. It was a relief from the stresses and strains of living without their Abba (Daddy) who was posted to far-away Gaza - along with several hundred thousand other Israeli Abbas - as part of the largest mobilization of military reserves our country has ever known. Again, as in the Battle at Sbarro, the enemy was Hamas.

The special family moment ended as soon as that door was opened. 

The army buried our son-in-law with pomp and very respectful formality three days later. In atendance were many hundreds of people whose lives were touched by this lovely young man, along with his extended family. Though his military role as a reservist involved being inside a tank, our son in law was a physiotherapist with a burgeoing career and many apprecative clients.

But first he was a loving and adored husband, father, son and sibling.

In heart-breakingly gentle tones, our newly widowed daughter spoke at the graveside and then in a television interview during the shiva of losing a deeply admired partner who saw his responsibility, without question and without delay, as being to help defend his family and the society in which we live. 

His life, like that of our Malki 22 years earlier, was distinguished by an all-embracing love and a pureness, a fineness and a nobility of personality that is almost impossible to adequately express in words.

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.