Wednesday, July 21, 2021

21-Jul-21: In welcoming Jordan's king to Washington, we wanted him to be reminded of the ongoing Tamimi extradition scandal

From the Wall Street Journal website - details in the post
On Monday morning of this week, Jordan's ruler King Abdullah II, began the Washington chapter of his strikingly long current state visit to the US. 

According to the Jordanian media and his own official government press office, it's a journey that began at the start of the month with his departure from the royal palace in Jordan to the Sun Valley Economic Forum [You can see it reported here: "Jordan’s King Abdullah begins journey to US ahead of Sun Valley’s Economic Forum", Arab News, July 2, 2021]. 

And not just there. Reports of King Abdullah heading to the States so he could play an active role in the Idaho forum as he has done in the past were repeated widely in Jordan's Arabic media

Once the forum got underway, the authoritative Jordan Times which is close to the royal palace even disclosed that His Majesty 

"held a number of meetings with the chief executives of major US and international companies in the sectors of communications, information technology, tourism, transportation and insurance, according to a Royal Court statement. The meetings covered investment incentives in Jordan, its strategic location and free trade agreements with several countries, and the potential of tapping into the Kingdom’s qualified human resources."

Meetings? Investment? Chief executives? 

No details and no photos have been published of any of these anywhere as far as we can tell. And we do look. Perhaps it's all due to technical reasons.

But hold on a moment. 

One of the other details the Arab media have failed to share with their consumers is a real show-stopper: this year's Sun Valley Economic Forum in fact did not happen

You read that right. The fact is the forum that the king "attended" and where he held all those "meetings" never happened. It was cancelled - at least according to the organizers who probably know. The forum was discontinued some time ago but there's no sign the Arab media know this. Or that they told their readers and viewers. Or that anyone in Jordan from the king down cares.

But this post is not about the Arab media or the king's spinmeisters.

What it actually is about is how, coinciding with King Abdullah's arrival in the US capital, we wrote an op ed and we are proud that it was published in the same morning's Wall Street Journal Opinion section. It appears there now under the heading "Jordan Harbors Our Daughter’s Killer | Biden should demand the extradition of Ahlam Tamimi.

It also appeared online which means for a change that our views got some very welcome American attention.

In case you're not aware - and very unlike the journalism in certain Middle East countries - the WSJ's editors have a reputation for being firm and tough on opinion writers. But also thorough and careful, often asking for documentary proof of what's claimed, for detail of the background and for drastic brevity.

That's not a complaint. It simply explains that they work hard there to produce a readable high-quality product. We feel honored to have the privilege of addressing their global readership.

As happens often, our op-ed started out longer than the version that was published. We're obviously more relaxed here on our own blog about the number of words it takes us to communicate our message. So here below is a fuller version of the op ed that the Wall Street Journal published.

Biden can show dignity and decency by pressuring Jordan’s Abdullah

Tell the king to extradite our daughter’s murderer.

Frimet and Arnold Roth

Jordan’s King Abdullah II will visit the White House on Monday. We are urging President Biden to ask the visitor why our daughter’s murderer is safeguarded by his kingdom. And to press for her extradition to Washington.

Ahlam Tamimi is an FBI Most Wanted Terrorist charged with participating in a 2001 bombing that killed 15 people, including our daughter Malki, 15, and a second U.S. national. Tamimi, an unabashed advocate for terrorist attacks on Israelis, is living free in Jordan despite the kingdom’s extradition treaty with the United States.

Malki and her best friend Michal, 16, were en route to a planning meet for their youth group’s summer camp when they stopped for lunch at a Sbarro pizzeria in central Jerusalem. They were happily texting at the counter when a Hamas bomber, dressed like a tourist but with an explosive-and-shrapnel-filled guitar case slung over his shoulder, entered. Tamimi, the first female admitted to the terrorist ranks of Hamas, selected the site for the large number of children it attracted. She fled the scene minutes before he exploded.

Tamimi, arrested some weeks later, confessed in court to all the charges and in 2003 was sentenced to 16 life terms. But in 2011, she was among 1,027 convicted terrorists exchanged by Israel for an IDF soldier held hostage for five years by Hamas. We watched, stunned, as Tamimi arrived in Jordan, greeted with wildly celebratory receptions at Amman’s airport, in a court-house of Jordan’s legal system, at the kingdom’s most important university and in Jordan’s trade union headquarters. There followed a torrent of exultant media interviews. Tamimi emphasized her utter lack of regret.

Jordan notably restricts its media and closely monitors speech but has allowed social media and television to amplify her fame. For five years she hosted a made-in-Jordan global TV show promoting terror. She has made frequent appearances at public events and on Jordanian commercial TV. The students of the Arab world’s premier graduate school of journalism named her their “success model”. Just last month, she became a weekly columnist for a prominent pan-Arab news-site.

Weeks after Israel released her, we asked the Department of Justice in Washington to prosecute her. We pointed to two elements: a federal law that criminalizes acts of terror outside U.S. territory that result in American deaths, and Jordan’s extradition treaty with the U.S. A year later, in 2013, terror charges were issued but only made public in 2017 via a Justice Department announcement.

Jordan’s government moved quickly. Six days after the unsealing of those charges, and without a single public word from any Jordanian leader, the kingdom’s highest court ruled the 1995 Jordan/US extradition treaty invalid. The U.S. rejects that ruling and still considers it a Treaty in Force.

In a 2020 FOIA lawsuit, we obtained documentary evidence that undermines Jordan’s argument and its basis for shielding Tamimi. Now we want President Biden to explain to America’s Jordanian ally that the U.S. will not abide a treaty partner violating its obligations.

Widely seen as moderate and reasonable, King Abdullah II has never commented publicly on Tamimi’s freedom, fame or depravity. We find this appalling.

It’s said the prospect of Tamimi in chains being put on a Washington-bound flight worries the king because this could upset his country’s fraught political balance – and her Muslim Brotherhood supporters. Does that mean Jordan, massively dependent on US aid and support in multiple ways, can walk away from its bilateral obligations scot-free? Do the mass-murderer’s followers have that kind of sway?

We don’t presume to remind President Biden of the leverage in his hands. But the fact is Congress imposed powerful sanctions in 2019 and again in 2020, clearly aimed at Jordan and its treaty default - and which the Trump administration failed to enforce. We know that milder sanctions have been suggested but also never implemented.

No less disturbing to us than Jordan’s recalcitrance is the de facto acceptance it appears to have gotten from the two most recent administrations. In all the years of our pursuing justice, no one has said anything explicit to us or, publicly at least, to the Jordanians about Tamimi. Our questions have been deflected and not always elegantly. We only too familiar with getting the silent treatment.

We hope President Biden — a grieving parent himself — can reverse that pattern. He has pledged to write “an American story of decency and dignity.” Is any dignity greater than the one that comes from doing justice? Where’s decency when an ally demeans an established treaty to appease popular bigotry of the most murderous kind?

Allies shouldn’t have to be arm-twisted into compliance with bilateral obligations. Tamimi, who has never denied her role in orchestrating the massacre that stole our child’s life, should be tried in Washington on the pending charges.

Any other outcome, any further delay, empowers and encourages the dark and dangerous forces at work in this complex region.


Frimet and Arnold Roth live in Jerusalem. With friends they established a non-sectarian charity, The Malki Foundation, in 2001 to support families raising a child with extreme special needs.
The royal visit to Washington continues with a string of high-level meetings today in the Congress after the warm personal reception extended by President Biden, by Secretary of State Blinken, by Vice President Harris and by the strangely quiescent White House Press Corps which could have asked - but strikingly did not - some important questions during question time on Monday. 

The editors at Mediaite, noticing this, gave them a backhanded acknowledgment in the Tuesday edition of their widely-watched Media Winners & Losers page:


White House Press Corps

The White House press corps had multiple opportunities on Monday to ask President Joe Biden if he would raise the issue of a terrorist wanted by the United States that Jordan is harboring.

Ahead of Jordanian King Abdullah II’s meeting on Monday at the White House, the press failed to ask Biden, following his remarks about the current state of the economy, about Ahlam Tamimi, who was behind the 2001 Sbarro pizzeria bombing in Jerusalem that killed 15 civilians, including two Americans, and injured approximately 122 others, including four Americans.

Tamimi was serving 16 life sentences in Israel when she was released as part of a deal Israel made with Hamas in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Now living in Jordan, Tamimi is treated like a celebrity.

The White House press corps failed to even ask White House press secretary Jen Psaki ahead of the meeting whether Biden would press the king to extradite Tamimi, whose indictment by the United States was unsealed in 2017.

No one even shouted a question following-up about Tamimi.

Again, it's important for the press to hold those with power to account.
Thanks, ladies and gentlemen of Mediaite. We certainly agree.

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