Friday, August 27, 2021

27-Aug-21: What we said to Secretary of State Blinken about our child's murder and how he replied

State Department Building via Wikipedia
It has been a miserable experience trying for years to convey serious, passionately-held, respectful views to a whole array of officials and politicians in our own country and beyond it. 

The process, not a political one in our view, has involved calling them to action where that action is to fulfill a duty they clearly would have even if the call had not been made. 

Sure, this shouldn't be a miserable experience. But it most certainly has been and continues to be for us. We and our views have been demeaned and ignored through three US administrations though they are all about the doing of justice, unrelated to advancing a political agenda of any kind, and unmarred by any personal benefit to us.

In political terms, it's an ongoing bi-partisan failure. To be clear as we can - the failure is thoroughly deserved by both major parties. Neither one, and only a small handful of their law-makers, comes out of this with even the smallest amount of honor. 


Right now, our focus is on the US. 

Ahlam Tamimi, 2021: Openly admits she bombed Sbarro
We emailed the letter below to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on June 15, 2021 with courtesy copies emailed to three of his key advisers. We received two separate acknowledgements from Blinken staffers to say the letter was received. We then responded with several follow-up emails asking that a substantive response be sent to what were clearly substantive comments and requests.

We have gotten none. 

It's time we shared some of the shabby background. State Department officials up and down the seniority chain have egregiously ignored us since long-sealed US federal charges were finally unveiled on March 14, 2017 against Ahlam Tamimi. The Jordanian woman, a prominent Islamist, openly admits she bombed the Sbarro pizzeria causing the deaths of many innocents including our daughter Malki who was 15. 

Tamimi lives free today in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, a US ally that has had an active extradition treaty with the US since the Clinton era.

Jordan began brazenly refusing to honor the treaty six days after the charges were unsealed in Washington. Right up until today, it allows Tamimi to live in the kingdom as a free and unhampered citizen, embraced and honored by Jordanian society and the Arab world's media

This is a disgrace.
Frimet and Arnold Roth 
June 15, 2021

Hon. Anthony J. Blinken 
Secretary of State
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Secretary Blinken:

According to recent media reports, King Abdullah II of Jordan is coming to Washington, D.C. at the end of June for high-level meetings. We are writing to urge that Jordan’s harboring of FBI Most Wanted Terrorist, Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi, be on the agenda.

More than eight years ago, a federal judge authorized Tamimi’s arrest on federal terrorism charges. Jordan refused U.S. requests to extradite Tamimi, breaching a 1995 bilateral treaty, a matter that was subsequently kept out of State Department briefings, virtually unmentioned in the media and for all practical purposes swept under the rug of the Obama and Trump administrations.

We are in a new era. President Biden has spoken of conducting diplomacy inspired by America’s most cherished democratic values: defending freedom, upholding universal rights, respecting the rule of law, treating every person with dignity. We are inspired by this very welcome approach.

Our daughter, Malki, a 15 year old U.S. national, was murdered in a mass-casualty terror attack on a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem in 2001 that specifically targeted children. Tamimi, as we believe you are aware, boasts of her principal role in the attack. After her release by Israel in an extortionate prisoner exchange in 2011, she received a hero’s welcome in her native Jordan. In March 2017, the U.S. made public its request that Jordan extradite her. Just six days later, Jordan’s Court of Cassation ruled that the 1995 extradition treaty between the U.S. and Jordan is a nullity, applying a juridical veneer to the kingdom’s determination to stand by the fugitive bomber.

Beyond losing Malki, a talented and vivacious teenager deeply immersed in helping others and especially children with disabilities, the curse of our lives is that the admitted murderer is a hero in Jordan where she is seemingly immune from justice. For reasons better understood by politicians than by us, there appears to be support in the State Department and other parts of the U.S. government for the idea that when it comes to Tamimi, Jordan and its ruler must be protected from demands for justice.

This is more than merely a personal nightmare for a pair of grieving parents. With the active connivance of the Hashemite royal palace and the government of one of the U.S.’ most trusted and financially dependent allies, Tamimi remains a lightning rod for hateful, even genocidal, sentiments that fester in Jordan and other parts of the Arab and Muslim world. Her freedom and celebrity validate the notion that if Jordanians will only push back hard enough against U.S. pressure, the legitimacy of extreme violence in the service of the Palestinian Arab cause will prevail.

As much as we have been able, we have reached out to Washington seeking to elicit support and action. The details are rich and dismaying. We get routinely told that people sympathize with us and with Tamimi’s other American victims. High-ranking officials reassure us that efforts – real, serious efforts – are ongoing and that seeing justice done is a major priority. We have heard this for years. But in more candid, moments, we are also told that if Jordan extradites Tamimi, the king will lose his throne, Jordan will fall to unspecified dark forces, and the Middle East will erupt in worse turmoil than there is already.

This cannot be the end of the matter. We have concrete suggestions for pressing Jordan to comply with U.S. law and policy, not to mention fundamental decency:
One: Congress adopted funding cutoffs as potential sanctions directed at Jordan in the 2020 and 2021 appropriations measures. Even as unrealized threats, they garnered serious attention in the Jordanian press and have perhaps had some salutary effect. But there are additional, less draconian steps that can adopted to send the essential message without upsetting strategic interests. We quietly shared several ideas with the previous administration to no obvious avail. We profess no special expertise or monopoly on ideas for finessing this aspect. But we will be pleased to share them with you. 
Two: In terms of how the U.S. responds to Jordan’s position, this cannot be a simple matter of “the court has spoken.” Not until Tamimi had been very briefly taken into custody in Jordan in 2017, some 25 years after the extradition treaty took effect, was its Court of Cassation called upon to find that the treaty is a dead letter on the grounds that its parliament never ratified it. Yet, in its ruling, the court failed to address the documented reality that on at least three earlier occasions Jordan complied with US requests to extradite fugitive Jordanian terrorists.
Three: Jordan explained neither before nor after the 2017 ruling why it has not solved the Tamimi problem by simply having its parliament ratify the treaty with its close ally and far-and-away most important benefactor. This failure is even more striking in view of how Jordan has entered numerous extradition treaties with other countries since 1995, including as recently as last month (Ukraine). If the parliament has not been called to fix the problem yet, that would seem to mean the king does not want the problem fixed. It is time to change that approach.
Four: The Court of Cassation’s 2017 ruling makes no mention of what we know to be true - that Jordan’s revered King Hussein did in fact ratify the treaty in 1995. Jordan formally communicated this to the United States in 1995 and we now possess the actual documents, recently obtained via FOIA. The bitter reality is Jordan abrogates King Hussein’s (literally) sacred pledge to the U.S. to abide by the treaty and pretends not to notice. What message does King Abdullah II’s government send by this? And why has the United States failed to speak out publicly? For their part, the media have failed to investigate or challenge the egregious thwarting of justice. It is time all the secrecy was ended. It is time for King Abdullah to hear the truth.
Our battle to see justice done has played out against a background where values and principles have been overwhelmed by classic realpolitik. We are compelled to ask how it can be that Jordan’s perceived weakness and vulnerability render the U.S. powerless in the face of Jordan's intransigence? Do Jordan’s perceived vulnerabilities truly mean America must stand by as Jordan educates its people to believe the murder of children because they are Jewish – and even if American - is acceptable?

There needs to be a will, and the way will follow. King Abdullah II should be made to understand that. With the greatest of respect and with utmost sincerity, we ask that these matters be raised in the upcoming meetings and pursued vigorously.

Respectfully,
Frimet and Arnold Roth

cc: Hon. Jake Sullivan
Hon. Barbara A. Leaf
Hon. Brett H. McGurk
So to reiterate, none of the recipients have so far seen fit to respond. The two brief and formal acknowledgements of receipt - and no one needs to tell us to be grateful for getting those since our emails to politicians mostly get no acknowledgement of receipt at all - came from assistants.

King Abdullah's week in Washington, which started with an official reception in the White House on Monday July 19, 2021, was packed with meetings and discussions. Was the Tamimi-Jordan-extradition-justice issue on the agenda at any of them? The answer to that simple question is absurdly complicated and requires an explanation which we are ready to give. But here is what the public record shows:
July 20, 2021 
Department Press Briefing – July 20, 2021 [Online here and archived here]
Ned Price, Department Spokesperson

QUESTION: Let me follow on that a little bit real quick. Can I ask you very quickly about Jordan, the meeting with the king this morning and the Secretary? I just want to know if the Tamimi extradition issue came up. As you’re aware, last year the then-ambassador nominee but now the ambassador told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that withholding aid or aid could be used as leverage to secure her extradition to the States to face murder charges.

MR PRICE: Well, I expect we’ll have a readout of the Secretary’s meeting with His Majesty the King later today. When it comes to Ms. al-Tamimi, she is on the FBI’s most wanted list for her role in the 2001 Hamas attack in Jerusalem. We continue to seek her extradition. We’ll continue to work to ensure that she faces justice.

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, did it come up?

MR PRICE: I’m not in a position to speak to the meeting, but we’ll have a readout —

QUESTION: Well, are you – I mean, are you – has this administration yet raised it with – raised the matter with Jordanian authorities, the King or not? Or is this something that would have just come up for the first time today?

MR PRICE: This issue has been raised with our Jordanian partners.
Clear?

We will lay out what we know in a separate blog post that we plan to post in the next few days.

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