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.

AJC calls on Justice Department to pursue Ahlam Tamimi extradition

The letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland comes ahead of the 10th anniversary of Tamimi’s indictment for her role in 2001 Sbarro bombing

Israeli medics and volunteers treat the injured at the site
of a Palestinian suicide bombing August 9, 2001, in Jerusalem, Israel.

By Melissa Weiss

The American Jewish Committee is for the first time publicly calling on the Justice Department “to exert every effort” to push Jordan to extradite Ahlam Tamimi, a Palestinian terrorist convicted in an Israeli court for her role in the 2001 bombing of a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem in which 16 people, including three Americans, were killed.

Tamimi, who received 16 life sentences for escorting a suicide bomber to the restaurant, was freed in a 2011 exchange with Jordan along with more than 1,000 prisoners, most of them Palestinian. She has since become well-known in Jordan and for years hosted a program on a Hamas-affiliated television network.

In a letter addressed to Attorney General Merrick Garland, AJC CEO Ted Deutch writes that Tamimi is “unrepentant” and has “enjoyed celebrity status since returning to Jordan, glorifying and inciting terrorism and for five years hosting a program on the Hamas-affiliated Al-Quds TV, beamed throughout the Arabic-speaking world.”

The letter comes ahead of the 10th anniversary of Tamimi’s indictment — done under seal — by the Department of Justice. After the charges were made public in 2017, Jordan rejected the premise of a longstanding extradition treaty between Washington and Amman.

“There is no ambiguity regarding the U.S.-Jordan extradition treaty,” the letter says. “Legal obligations between nations cannot be set aside because they are inconvenient to enforce.”

Americans Malki Roth, 15, and Shoshana Greenbaum, 31, were killed in the blast. New York-born Chana Nachenberg was critically wounded in the attack, and remained in a vegetative state for more than two decades before dying from her injuries in May. Nachenberg’s young daughter survived the attack unharmed.

Malki Roth’s parents, Frimet and Arnold Roth, told JI that the AJC letter was “honorable and welcome.”

“In urging the DOJ to press for extradition by a valued treaty partner, the AJC is backed by justice, American law and Judaism’s profound respect for the sanctity of human life. Ahlam Tamimi calls the Sbarro atrocity ‘a crown on my head.’ The obscenity of her being free to inspire admiring crowds in Jordan and beyond with her savagery should have ended years ago in a Washington courthouse. We pray it will now,” they said in a joint comment for JI.

Yael Lempert, the Biden administration’s nominee for ambassador to Jordan, pledged in her confirmation hearing in May to “do everything in my power” to extradite Tamimi.

The full text of the AJC Ted Deutch letter to the US Attorney General mentioned above is at this link

* * *

A month has now passed since the AJC's very welcome initiative was made public. We asked the AJC for an update last week. They said there has been no response and that such things take time. 

We responded:

that the DOJ have had a decade to formulate a view. And over six years have passed since their unambiguous March 14, 2017 public statements of determination to bring Tamimi to justice. They have stayed silent, without exception, since then. On any view, it's an exceedingly long time to formulate a position...

As far as we can tell, Jewish Insider is the only Jewish publication to have reported on the Deutch letter. In our view, there's no conceivable way a letter like this one, coming after such an extraordinarily long period of general silence, isn't news. 

Call us puzzled - and disappointed.

In the past few weeks, we have launched a broader effort to elicit further American Jewish responses to the Tamimi/Jordan fiasco and hope for results in the coming days. Watch this space.

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