Thursday, February 01, 2024

01-Feb-24: Jordan, Tamimi and a long-awaited public call for US moral integrity and justice

Image Source: The FBI
Getting Jordanian fugitive terrorist Ahlam Tamimi into a Washington courthouse to face trial on charges that were signed off more than a decade ago has been orders-of-magnitude more difficult than we originally thought possible. 

And she's still free. This is despite

  • Jordan being a treaty partner of the US and the recipient of well over a billion and a half dollars annually in aid funded by American taxpayers - more than any other country (and we don't mean per capita). 
  • Tamimi being an FBI Most Wanted Terrorist of whom only 24 are currently alive and only two of them are females. 
  • Tamimi living proudly and openly in Amman, never in hiding as far as we know for even a single day since her return to her homeland in October 2011 - an arrival marked by tumultuous receptions and cheering crowds at the airport, and a long series of exuberant public rallies in downtown Amman, at the University of Jordan's main campus, and at numerous other schools and universities, as well as dozens of venues in other Arab countries.

How she's perceived in Jordan is straightforward. There, she's a celebrity, widely admired for what she did (the dead Jewish children, the getting away from the scene, the getting out of Israeli prison, the outspoken and unwavering promotion and admiration of deadly terror. There's more.) We're reasonably sure that we follow Jordan's media more closely than most non-Jordanians do. If a critical word about Ahlam Tamimi has ever appeared in any newspaper or magazine article, we haven't seen it. 

We doubt it's ever happened.

But how Tamimi is viewed in the highest reaches of America's power hierarchy is considerably less simple. 

On one hand, she has faced criminal charges in Washington DC since 2013 that, if she's convicted, may see her spending the rest of her life behind bars in a federal prison. 

In January 2018, a unit of the State Department called Rewards for Justice announced a reward of "up to $5 million" "for information on Ahlam Ahmad al-Tamimi". That reward is still in effect. Referring to the Sbarro atrocity, the reward offer page says that

"in 2003, al-Tamimi pleaded guilty in an Israeli court to participating in the attack and was sentenced to 16 life terms in Israel for assisting the bomber. She was released in October 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel. On March 14, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed a criminal complaint and an arrest warrant for al-Tamimi. The FBI also added al-Tamimi to its Most Wanted Terrorists List."

In addition, we know what President Biden says about bringing her to US justice. It's the very same thing Secretary of State Antony Blinken says. There's a good reason we can say this and that is that on October 25, 2022, a senior official in the US State Department (we prefer to give no names at this stage) sent us a personal letter in their names. "Us" means Frimet and Arnold Roth - we write this blog.

Here's most of it:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Roth:

Thank you for your July 10 letter to President Biden and your September 1 letter to National Security Advisor Sullivan. On behalf of the President, Secretary Blinken, and National Security Advisor Sullivan, I want to reiterate our deepest condolences to you and your family for the unimaginable pain and suffering you have experienced over the tragic loss of your daughter, Malki. Ahlam al-Tamimi must be held accountable for her role in the terrorist attack that claimed the life of your daughter and 14 others.

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 assure you that pursuing justice for American victims of terrorism, including Malki, is a foremost priority for the United States. We will stay in contact with you regarding our ongoing efforts to ensure Tamimi is held accountable for her despicable crimes.

Sincerely yours,

As it happens, there were some questions we wanted to ask the writer of the letter. So we wrote back. And then wrote again. And again and again. 

In fact the "we will stay in contact with you" part of it has ended up being pretty puzzling for us. Not one of our dozen or so emails and messages to the writer has gotten even a single response in the nearly sixteen months since the letter was sent to us by the US Department of State. That's a serious piece of pretending not to hear us.

Has Tamimi been held accountable by the US? Not in the smallest way. Her name has never once been mentioned in any public utterance by President Biden, or by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, or by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, or by any of their media spokespersons. 

Pause and read that again; it's a serious thing. 

On the other hand, and perhaps others will be less surprised by this than we are, those very same, very important officials who haven't once managed to speak publicly about Jordan's harboring of the killer and who have never mentioned on the record the killer's name or the names of her victims have very little reluctance in publicly praising the ruler of Jordan and his country. 

Examples from among many: 

  • The American President offered some widely-reported warm appreciation: "Biden Praises Jordanian King as Strong Ally in 'Tough Neighborhood'" [VOA, July 19, 2021]
  • Secretary Blinken, speaking after a May 2021 Middle East tour, spoke highly of King Abdullah’s “crucial” leadership in helping to secure a cease-fire agreement between Israel and “Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip... Jordan’s recent contributions to help bring an end to the conflict in Israel demonstrate the kingdom's enduring role as a force for peace in the region, which is one of the reasons our relationship is so strong and so vital,” Blinken told reporters after meeting with King Abdullah in Amman.” [Source]. That's the ceasefire that so viciously ended with the Hamas mass-butchery, rape and pillage of October 7, 2023.
  • And the National Security Advisor in May 2022: Sullivan commended Jordan’s pivotal role in promoting regional security and stability, stressing the United States’ keenness on maintaining coordination and working with the Kingdom to counter threats to regional stability and their implications on international peace, in addition to ongoing efforts in the fight against terrorism and extremism.” [Jordan Times, May 14, 2022].

As the parents of a greatly-loved murdered American child, we have fought since 2012 to see Tamimi brought to justice under US law in the US. It's a process that has been marked by rudeness and disdain over those years from a long list of officials in three consecutive US administrations. 

That's why we were so heartened by what happened just two weeks ago. 

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an influential roof-body organization based in New York, is 

"the proven and effective voice of organized American Jewry for more than half a century... (working) publicly and behind the scenes to advance the interests of the American Jewish community, sustain broad-based support for Israel and addresses the critical concerns facing world Jewry with US and world leaders, key opinion molders and the public. [It's] the preeminent forum for diverse segments of the Jewish community to come together in mutual respect to deliberate vital national and international issues, set policy and priorities, deliberate proactive strategies and take collective action.

It speaks in the names of some fifty member organizations. They include AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti Defamation League, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, the Jewish Federations of North America, the National Council of Jewish Women and some 44 more. 

This is what the COP sent to Secretary Antony Blinken on January 16, 2024 and made public shortly afterwards:

Dear Secretary Blinken,

Thank you very much for your and President Biden’s continuing support for Israel during the ongoing crisis.  Your steadfast dedication to ensuring a peaceful and secure future for the people of Israel is noted and appreciated by the American Jewish community. 

We write today to reiterate how deeply concerned we are by the fact that Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi, an FBI Most Wanted Terrorist responsible for the heinous 2001 bombing of the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem, continues to find refuge in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

The horrific attack on the Sbarro pizzeria claimed the life of sixteen innocents, three of them American nationals. These victims included a pregnant woman, a woman who remained in a coma for more than twenty years before succumbing to her injuries, and 15-year-old Malki Roth. The pain and anguish experienced by Malki’s family, Frimet and Arnold Roth, are shared by countless others in the American Jewish community and beyond.

We are heartened by President Biden’s commitment to conducting diplomacy rooted in America’s democratic values and dedication to upholding universal rights. We believe that these principles should extend to seeking justice for victims of terrorism, regardless of where the perpetrators seek shelter.

Jordan’s refusal to extradite Ahlam Tamimi represents a breach of the 1995 bilateral treaty between the United States and Jordan. Despite her confessions and incriminating statements, she has enjoyed immunity from justice, further exacerbating tensions and fostering an environment of hatred and extremism in the region.

We believe that the United States should prioritize Tamimi’s extradition in our bilateral relations with Jordan. We suggest a comprehensive review of the leverage that could be applied by the United States to signal the importance of compliance with U.S. law and principles.  We urge the State Department to engage in a robust diplomatic dialogue with Jordan’s leadership, stressing the importance of upholding international agreements and commitments to justice.

Also of concern, Jordan’s Court of Cassation denied a 2017 US request for extradition by asserting that the country never ratified the extradition treaty with the United States. However, the ruling failed to acknowledge King Hussein’s ratification of the treaty at the time of its signing in March 1995. We request that the United States make this information publicly available to counteract misconceptions and bring clarity to the matter.

We also request that you raise the issue and seek tangible progress on Tamimi’s extradition with King Abdullah II.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations stands united in our unwavering commitment to combatting terrorism and ensuring justice for victims and their families. We trust that the United States will continue to demonstrate its leadership and moral integrity by pursuing this crucial matter.



Harriet P. Schleifer                                   William C. Daroff

Chair                                                        Chief Executive Officer

The text of the letter was made public by the COP on or just after the day it was sent [here]. When we checked today with a senior source there, we were told there has been no response so far from anyone at the State Department. 

As we have said in this blog before, our experience in getting Secretary Antony Blinken's attention on the Tamimi case, or in prodding him to take concrete steps towards bringing the Jordanian fugitive to US justice, haven't gone well. Some of that quite bitter experience is laid out here: "27-Aug-21: What we said to Secretary of State Blinken about our child's murder and how he replied". 

And as we noted above, none of the people who have served him as spokesperson or deputy spokesperson in the role he has had since 2021 has ever pronounced Ahlam Tamimi's name in public. 

It's a depressing reality made far worse by the way America's mainstream media have ignored the story, and continue to ignore it today. 

What this means is the vast majority of Americans know nothing about Jordan's ongoing breach of the treaty, about its devotion to harboring and protecting a fugitive charged with being the central figure in a massacre of Jewish children and of Americans, or about the Conference of Presidents' open letter of two weeks ago. 

Little wonder that Congress - both sides of the aisle - ignore the scandal, thereby allowing Jordan to keep pocketing massive taxpayer-provided US aid and Ahlam Tamimi to avoid justice and accountability.

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