Tuesday, July 28, 2020

28-Jul-20: How do Jordanians view the efforts to bring the Sbarro bomber to justice?

Triumphant Hamas terrorist Ahlam Tamimi in a May 2020 video clip published
(in Arabic) by Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, Turkey's national 
public broadcaster [Image Source]
It doesn't matter which Arab publication carried the article below. Or the identity or credentials of the person who wrote it. Or that person's religious, ideological or political alignment.

Those are among the lesser aspects that ought to be on people's minds as they consider its contents.

We have read tens of such articles emanating mostly from Jordan but also from other parts of the Arab world since May 2020. (Some of them are here: "14-May-20: In Jordan, they stand with confessed bomber Tamimi. And they're worried...")

That's when the Arab world awoke to the reality that the US government has Jordan-centric sanctions on its mind and is serious about them. (See "05-May-20: From Congress, concern about how Jordanians deal with the fugitive terrorist in their midst")

Some years ago, we started scanning online Arabic-language news media daily with the help of online translation tools like Bing and Google Translate. In all that time, we have not uncovered even a single published article dealing with the cold-blooded 2001 bombing of a Jerusalem pizzeria because of the children inside that criticizes the bomber.

And if we're wrong and such articles exist, please send us a link or a copy. Trust us, we will be glad to give it all the prominence it deserves.

Ahlam Tamimi is the central figure in the pizzeria bombing horror. A Jordanian student who was 21 when she selected the crowded fast food shop as her target for her Hamas superiors, she personally planted the bomb - a human being with an explosives-laden guitar case on his back that included a large quantity of nails for their flesh-ripping feature - at the central Jerusalem site, a pizzeria of the US-based Sbarro chain.

Today Tamimi is a fugitive from US justice. There's a $5 million State Department reward for her capture and conviction on US Federal charges. In January 2020, Fox News called her the most wanted female fugitive in the world.

Tamimi, a member of an ultra-violent, publicity-craving clan of the same name ["17-Mar-13: A little village in the hills, and the monsters it spawns"], has emerged as an Arab icon, a genuine pan-Arab celebrity who for nearly five years was the presenter of her own weekly TV show devoted to showcasing her views about terror (she's strongly in favor) and the need to stand in support of terror directed at Israelis. Her show, "Breezes of the Free", was beamed by satellite to homes throughout the world - wherever Arabic-speaking audiences could be found, which is everywhere.

The article below appeared about a month ago. Published in Arabic (and the trannslation into English is ours and far from perfect), it's not special and not so different from numerous others. In fact, it's very much like most of them and that's what's so chilling. Our comments are interspersed in the text.

What is behind American pressure on Jordan?
اقرأ المزيد من اليوم الثامن | Taj Al-Din Abdel-Haq
Al-Youm 8 | Friday 26 June 2020

If it is proven that American threats to impose sanctions on Jordan, against the background of demanding the extradition of the Jordanian citizen of Palestinian origin, Ahlam Al-Tamimi, accused of a bombing in Jerusalem in 2001 that caused the deaths of two Americans, turn out to be true, we will be facing a precedent in American-Jordanian relations we have not witnessed before.
Our comment: From the outset let it be clear. While the focus here is a woman who confesses publicly and repeatedly to bombing a restaurant filled with children, and who faces the likelihood of a lifetime sentence if she is ever put on trial in Washington DC, the author of this op ed is concerned with what this says about the view the United States has of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The fugitive killer and what she did raises not a single word of criticism in what follows. There is a victim in this narrative according to the pundit who write this. That victim is Jordan
Any stage of such threats, even during American preparations for the second Gulf War in 1990, and then during the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 when Jordan adopted a position contrary to that of many countries in the region, especially those traditionally allied to the US.
Our comment: The mention of Iraq and the Gulf War ought to have triggered a comment about how Iraq's late dictator Saddam Hussein Altakriti was viewed by Jordanians. Here's a taste: "If the topic of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq comes up in Jordan, Jordanians will usually describe the late leader as a "dahiyyeh" (victim). In the collective mind of the Jordanian street, Hussein was both omnipotent and tragically sympathetic—the model for Arab development and governmental beneficence, while also the tragic hero of a Western plot..." ["Saddam Hussein's "Rosy" Legacy in Jordan", The National Interest, August 2014] And years before that, this: "Jordan has carefully nurtured a reputation as the most consistently pro-Western Arab state. Thus, it came as a shock to many to find most Jordanians taking the side of President Saddam Hussein in the gulf crisis, and Western leaders are disturbed by King Hussein's reluctance to join forces against the Iraqi ruler." ["Jordan and the Gulf Crisis", Foreign Affairs, Winter 1990/1991 
The American demand from Jordan this time is greater than its capacity. It is impossible to comply with it, even if that means paying the price of the annual economic and military aid that Jordan receives from the United States directly or from countries that see the relationship between Washington and Amman as a factor that encourages the providing of other aid and grants. We mention here such countries as Japan, South Korea, some European countries that link their international aid to indirect US blessing.
Our comment: US economic and military aid to Jordan is quite a tale. A June 2020 Congressional Research Service monograph [here] says "The United States has provided economic and military aid to Jordan since 1951 and 1957, respectively. Total bilateral U.S. aid (overseen by the Departments of State and Defense) to Jordan through FY2018 amounted to approximately $22 billion... [and] has nearly quadrupled in historical terms over the last 15 years." Based on 2020 data, Jordan is the world's third-largest recipient of US aid. The US is Jordan's largest provider of aid - by far.
From the political point of view, America's request of Jordan is a car bomb request.
Our comment: What he calls a 'car bomb' is a formal request that Jordan hands over a terrorist as required under a strategically-important treaty signed into effect by Jordan's King Hussein, the father of the present king, and the Clinton Administration in 1995. Watch now as a bilateral, mutual obligation that has been in force for the past 25 years and that, according to the State Department, is still certainly in force is deformed into what he absurdly calls a 'car bomb'. 
The first element of that bombing is that it affects a Jordanian citizen. Jordanian law does not allow - as is the case with the laws of many countries of the world - extradition to another country not to mention that there is no extradition agreement between Washington and Amman.
Our comment: Does not allow extradition? Really? Jordan, according to its own data, has signed mutually binding extradition agreements with multiple Arab states as well as (among others) with Australia, Ukraine, FranceAzerbaijan and Kazakhstan as well as the United States. As for "there is no extradition agreement between Washington and Amman", that's both untrue and misleading. First and most importantly, the US State Department's authoritative Treaties in Force [online here] lists the treaty with Jordan as current and in effect. It's described on page 244 where this text appears: "Extradition treaty. Signed at Washington March 28, 1995. Entered into force July 29, 1995."] The only semi-positive thing that can be said about the invented claim that there's no US/Jordan extradition treaty is that it's consistent with something Jordan's foreign minister Ayman H. Safadi said for the record last year: "Jordanian law does not allow the extradition of a citizen to a third country and there is no legal basis for the delivery of Ahlam al-Tamimi." Easy to say, especially to a home-town crowd who want to hear it, but why does no reporter or analyst challenge the Jordanian official on this invention? It's one of many puzzles in the Tamimi Extradition saga.
Even if we accept America's characterization and consider Ahlam al-Tamimi a criminal, the United States is addressing crimes that occurred on non-American soil. In the “Tamimi” case involving a bombing in Jerusalem, it [?] issued a court ruling and she was deported to Jordan in a prisoner exchange deal with Israel.
Our comment: Tamimi being a criminal is hardly an American characterization. The woman herself openly, repeatedly, proudly confesses to the crime, as she did to an Israeli court in 2003, with a broad smile on her face. But if the writer - who plainly knows little about the laws of the United States and of Jordan - sees himself as a legal expert, someone should explain to him how that works. Under US law, the US can and must pursue a terrorist where the act of terror was executed outside the territory of the US and where a US national was killed: See 18 U.S. Code § 2332a. Making big bold statements with no factual basis certainly works in some places, and - in the form of speeches and op ed articles - they are very much part of the current Arab discourse about the Tamimi extradition. What puzzles us is - where are the many Western journalists who report from Amman? And what frightens them?   
The most dangerous thing is that the American request contains a threat to Jordanian national unity. Extraditing Al-Tamimi may be used to detonate internal disputes in Jordan, threatening its spirit of citizenship and the country's stability, re-invigorating a dormant fitna, to divide the social component on the basis of origins and principles, which is a kind of sedition that Jordan greatly strives to eradicate...
Our comment: No mention of justice, of moral repugnance, of the stain of Jordan harboring, shielding, celebrating a woman famous only because of the children she blew up. The real danger says our expert, "the most dangerous thing", is the threat to "Jordan's national unity". That's shameful. Jordan claims to be a leading player in the war against terrorism. Its ruler makes speeches about this routinely. For instance (from among many): "King Abdullah II of Jordan said Sunday that Jordan will continue the fight against terrorism... In a meeting of the national policies council, the king said Jordan will fight the outlaws without any mercy and with all resolves and strengths.. The king stressed on the need to fight radical ideology and extremism, paying tribute to the efforts of the security forces." ["Jordan's king vows to continue fighting against terrorism", August 12, 2018, Xinhuanet] So either Tamimi, who confesses gleefully to mounting a bomb attack on a pizzeria and the children inside, is not a terrorist. Or else Jordan, when it talks about fighting terrorism, is working from a definition that makes no sense. Either way, neither its king nor the writer of the self-pitying column on which we're commenting should be believed. 
American economic sanctions do not make life easy for a country that suffers from a lack of resources, debt burden, living crises, and unemployment that it has no capacity to face and to deal with their effects.

Pressure of this kind is not an abstract economic crisis but a political crisis as well. The stressful living conditions in Jordan are a thunderbolt triggering various political and social crises. Most probably, this is the [Trojan] “horse” of the expected American pressure on Jordan, in order to force it to surrender Ahlam Al-Tamimi - making it nothing more than an excuse to achieve other goals.
Our comment: Calling on a treaty partner and beneficiary of lavish foreign aid to live up to its legal obligations might not be palatable or easy, especially when the terrorist at the heart of the request has wide Jordanian support and adoration. That doesn't make the request a Trojan horse or an attempt to bring Jordan to its knees.
Had this excuse been true, Washington could have originally objected to the prisoner exchange agreement between Jordan and Israel, according to which the Jordanian prisoner was freed and released. This would have been easier and more secure, especially since the United States has a presence [embassy?] in Tel Aviv that allows it to object to any agreements that might affect American interests.
Our comment: A prisoner exchange agreement between Israel and Jordan? He presumably means the Hamas deal with Israel for the freedom of Gilad Shalit, a hostage held illegally and in breach of the laws of war by Hamas for more than five years. Should the Americans have objected to that agreement on the basis that it affects American interests? Yes. For what it's worth, the US ambassador to Israel told us personally years after the fact that his office did object before the Shalit Deal was done, and had Tamimi in mind when they did. 
If we exclude this pretext from the reckoning, the Jordanian position regarding the American project known as the Deal of the Century about which Jordan was clear and serious in rejecting, and even threatening to confront it, remains before us.
Our comment: Does the treaty obligation to hand over Tamimi to US law enforcement have anything to do with the Arab obsession with a deal of the century? Did that deal even exist when Jordan's highest court ruled that the 1995 treaty with the US was unenforceable and had been invalid and unenforceable since the day it was signed? No and no. 
The US realizes Jordan has a central role in any political settlement it seeks to impose in the region. In addition to the special historical dimensions that linked Jordan to the Palestinian issue, the geographical dimension that links the Jordanian entity to the occupied Palestinian lands, and the demographic dimension represented by Jordan hosting millions of internally displaced and Palestinian refugees, there is a political reality that cannot be overcome and the imposition of a political settlement on it.
Our comment: It's unhelpful to see a discussion about justice get subverted by claims about "political reality". But if they're going to do that, let the Jordanians be open on the matter. Every rational person knows handing Tamimi over to American justice is a thorny political issue for them. They don't see her as a terrorist; she's one of their national icons. All the nonsense talk about Jordan never extraditing simply exposes some of Jordan's most important officials as dishonorable liars. If their view of political expediency is the reason they endanger their relations - and the indispensable aid they get from generous US taxpayers - with the US, then let that be the basis of the discussion. The issues would be a lot clearer to everyone. And so would the obvious solution. 
Any settlement imposed on Jordan by the US is actually closer to political suicide. It may end up destabilizing the Jordanian entity from the ground up because economic or political pressure - aimed at forcing it to accept the draft Deal of the Century, or silence Israel’s plans to annex the Jordan Valley and Israeli settlements, and accept Jerusalem as the capital Israel - will necessarily eliminate all elements of the Jordanian role in any settlement.
Our comment: If it's political suicide for Jordan to arrest and extradite the confessed terrorist Ahlam Tamimi, isn't that a good reason for the US Congress and Administration to critically review the basis of American financial and military support of the Jordanian government? We think it does. Let Americans decide if they want to be the backstop for the Jordanian passion for terror and loathsome bigotry.
In addition, it will empty Hashemite jurisdiction over Islamic and Christian holy sites in the Holy City from any real content. Jordan today, in the face of unprecedented pressures threatening its existence, is working to resist the threats to its central role in the region.
Our comment: Unbelievably, it may be true that Jordan's "central role in the region" and its "jurisdiction" over holy sites in Jerusalem are threatened by the notion that its government is obliged to hand the terrorist over for trial. We're glad the statement is out there for non-Jordanians to think about. In fact, we hope someone does a better job of turning this piece of his into English and getting it some real exposure - not because it's a special article but quite the opposite - because there are so many like it in the Arabic-language media. This may also be a good moment to mention how the "moderate" Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is rated by the most authoritative experts in the field as deeply antisemitic. In a country in which the number of Jewish residents making their home is and always has been zero, its population was rated as 81% antisemitic. (Among Jordanians aged 50 and up, the number was 88%. Among all Jordanian males, it was 86%.) For comparison, the average across the Middle East and North African (“MENA”) region was a shocking 74 percent. (For comparison: Eastern Europe 34%; Western Europe 24%; Sub-Saharan Africa 23%; Asia 22%; The Americas 19%) Jordan's antisemitism rating - are any reporters paying attention? - makes it one the world's top ten most antisemitic countries. This counts for something.
Although the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has faced many serious challenges in the past, this time it faces a challenge by a great power that, in the eyes of many, was the umbrella that protected Jordan, preserved its role, and secured its stability in front of the various challenges it faced or those that passed through the region.
Our comment: This self-pitying Arabic op ed, bewailing ahead of time the fate of Jordan (which despite the dramatic assessment remains intact and undamaged so far at least) at the hands of its "umbrella", is morally pathetic - and also deeply revealing. Lacking even a single word of reflection on what it means for an entire society - from the royal palace of its majestic ruler to its lowliest field worker - to be in thrall to a woman who radiates pride and happiness at the thought of the children she murdered, this article is sadly consistent with every other op ed we have seen about the thwarted Tamimi extradition in the Arabic-language media. Jordan has no moral compass worth speaking of, and the same ought to be said for those who stand with it and against the extradition of Tamimi.
And finally (this is us again, Frimet and Arnold Roth):

We're saying these things because we want to see justice done, And because we know it will only be done when the American authorities raise their voices. There's no intent on our part to channel criticism at the Jordanians for any reason other than the appalling way they stand in solidarity with a mass murdering savage and against their most important ally.

There's no politics in the usual sense involved. And frankly, we think people who stand firmly on the side of the Arabs or the Muslims or the Jordanians or the Palestinians ought to see how demeaning it is to their cause and how damaging to their own value systems that they regard Ahlam Tamimi, the most wanted female terrorist in the world, as their hero.

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