Monday, February 22, 2021

22-Feb-21: On pursuing justice: A Merseyside perspective

Mr Cohen's article as it appears in the Jewish Telegraph
The following is an op ed by Johnny Cohen of Liverpool in the United Kingdom. Mr Cohen is a respected pillar - and veteran leader - of the city's Jewish community and currently serves as president of the Merseyside Jewish Representative Council.

His article is published under the title “Arnold’s anger over the release of woman who murdered daughter” in this past weekend’s Jewish Telegraph in the United Kingdom. 

Their online edition does not include this welcome piece. So with Mr Cohen’s permission, we are grateful to reprint it here.

* * *
In March 2014, the Liverpool Jewish Forum hosted a special visitor from Israel, Arnold Roth.

He and wife Frimet, parents of a profoundly disabled daughter Haya, had set up the Malki Foundation following the brutal murder in 2001 in the Sbarro Pizzeria massacre in Jerusalem of their older 15 year-old daughter Malki, one of two US nationals among 15 civilians, including 7 children and a pregnant woman, who were killed. 130 others were injured, many severely.

The Foundation, Keren Malki, enables families in Israel to provide quality care at home for children with disabilities, and later I spent a few years as a Trustee, until I found that time pressures did not allow me to do justice to that position.

Arnold’s talk concentrated on the foundation and on Malki herself, not on her murder. But he did express anger and disappointment that the woman who directed Malki’s murder, Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi, was one of more than 1,000 Israeli-held security prisoners who had planned/perpetrated various terror attacks against Israeli targets, but were released from prison in exchange for Gilad Shalit in 2011.
Liverpool, March 2014:
Johnny Cohen (L) and Arnold Roth (R) listen intently
as Nicole Gordon of Malki Foundation UK describes
the foundation's work

Tamimi, the first woman ever to be admitted to the ranks of Hamas terrorists, had pleaded guilty in an Israeli court in 2003, did not express remorse for her role, and had received 16 consecutive life sentences and an additional 15 years in prison.

Legislation has existed for years empowering the US to arrest, try and convict terrorists in US courts under US law if they kill a US national anywhere. Malki was a citizen of the United States and also of Australia and Israel. Another victim of Tamimi’s Sbarro bombing, a young mother who is also an American national, remains comatose 20 years after the bombing.

In 1995, an extradition treaty was signed and ratified between the US and Jordan, accepted as valid by both countries. But in 2017, a Jordanian court ruled that Tamimi could not be extradited, because the treaty was never approved by the Jordanian parliament. Yet, back in 1995, Jordan had permitted U.S. agents to enter the country to arrest Eyad Ismail, a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing.

Jordan refuses to allow Tamimi’s extradition.

* * *
In 2013, the Obama administration issued a formal criminal complaint against Tamimi for “Conspiring to use and using a weapon of mass destruction against a US national outside the US resulting in death and aiding and abetting and causing an act to be done,” but never made this public.

Only in March 2017, did the Trump administration unseal it, saying “The charges unsealed today serve as a reminder that when terrorists target Americans anywhere in the world, we will never forget – and we will continue to seek to ensure that they are held accountable.” The Justice Department formally notified Jordan of its request that she be extradited to face trial in Washington.

In 2018, the Trump administration offered a $5 million reward for the capture of the only woman on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list.

Arnold and Frimet Roth have campaigned since 2012 for the United States firmly to urge compliance by Jordan to bring Tamimi to justice. As a result, in December 2019, President Trump signed into law a powerful sanction that potentially will stop U.S. foreign aid to Jordan because of its treaty breach.
Liverpool, March 2014:
Arnold Roth describes the Malki Foundation's
work to a student assembly at the King David School

Also, in April 2020, seven Congressional lawmakers wrote to Jordan’s Ambassador in Washington, noting how the sanction reflects “the deep concern of the Congress, the Administration and the American people” and affirming that “it is of the highest importance to US/Jordan relations that an outcome is found that honours Jordanian law while ensuring this unrepentant terrorist and murderer of innocent Americans is brought to US justice.”

Back in 2014, I did not imagine that Tamimi would remain free until today in Jordan, protected from justice by King Abdullah II, a ruler who Arnold now describes as “coddled by both the United States and Israel.”

Tamimi hosted a TV programme from Amman for 5 years, shown in America and elsewhere, and has given lectures and made numerous public appearances extolling the bombing. She has boasted that two of the factors leading her to pick the pizzeria as a bombing target were the crowds that gathered there during lunch hour and that she ‘knew there was a Jewish religious school nearby.’

How ironic that “tamimi” in Hebrew means innocent or unblemished, especially given that last weekend’s Torah portion Mishpatim, dealing with civil law, clearly specifies death as the penalty for murder.

* * *
We should remember that our Rabbis said that pursuit of justice is the cornerstone of Judaism, with which the Torah begins and ends. We cannot consider ourselves pious Jews without a firm commitment to making the world a more just and righteous place. When injustice stares us in the face, when Mishpat Tzedek (Justice and Righteousness) are being abused and forsaken, as Arnold argues forcefully, we must have the courage to stand up and speak out in pursuit of the ultimate tzedek to ensure that people are judged fairly.

Furthermore, our rabbis tell us that although 'you are not required to complete the task, neither are you at liberty to abstain from it.' So Arnold’s correct first step is to seek from the United States, Israel and Jordan acknowledgement of a gross injustice.

In this, he is surely exercising his rights under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which recognised human rights to be the foundation for freedom, justice and peace. Article 3 grants everyone the right to life and to live in freedom and safety, Article 8 the right to seek justice and Article 28 the right to a social and international order where the rights in the Declaration can be fully realised

* * *
What follows is based on an online talk by Arnold Roth last week “Terrorism: Seeking Justice for Its Victims” [YouTube].

Although the US insists that the extradition treaty is valid, little evident pressure has been, or is being, exerted by the US to elicit Jordanian compliance. Nothing has materialised from the 2019 legislation which created the powerful sanction to withdraw the significant aid given annually to Jordan. Referring to the billions of dollars of both financial and military aid, Roth suggests that “if the US administration insisted, there’s no way the Jordanians could refuse a request to hand over Tamimi.” He says that his repeated requests to discuss the issue with State Department officials have been “essentially ignored.”

There has been no concrete development since Henry Wooster became the Ambassador of the United States to Jordan in August 2020, despite his statement then that “all options are on the table.” The Office for Victims of Overseas Terrorism, a Justice Department agency tasked with assisting terror victims and their families, has also declined to comment.

Although Arnold made visits to, and had considerable dealings with, Jordan pre-2001, he has never received any concrete responses from the Jordanian Embassy in Washington to justify why Jordan's regime has been honouring, sheltering and celebrating a self-confessed, proud murderer of Jews since 2011. Or why the Jordanian parliament will not ratify the valid extradition treaty. He has not been granted a single interview to examine the issues.

The media, especially in the US, have failed to address jihadist hatred and barbarism and the FBI’s “most wanted terrorist.” Indeed media outlets have glorified Tamimi’s hateful ideologies, rather than focus on peace efforts. The influential BBC showed its hand from the outset during the week of shivah, mourning, for Malki in 2001. BBC Radio 4’s Today programme wanted to interview Arnold, but only together with a parent of a Palestinian suicide bomber. The BBC equated Arnold’s loss of a child as a victim of terror with the death of a “martyr” knowingly targeting terror.

Although Roth was at one time Israel’s representative at the UN re terrorism, nobody from the Israeli Government has openly analysed the issues or engaged with him since the Shalit exchange.

An Interpol ‘Red Notice’ (a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest an individual pending extradition) was issued in 2016, but with no development.

* * *
Johnny Cohen
[Image Source: Jewish Chronicle]
So what can we do?

If we have any contacts/influence, direct or indirect, especially in the USA, Jordan or Israel, call for Tamimi to be brought to justice to face Federal terrorism charges in a Washington DC court,
We must not let the Roth family down.

In the words of the prophet (Isaiah 1:27): "Zion will be redeemed through Justice

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