Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Malki Roth, 15, was murdered for eating pizza while Jewish in Jerusalem. That she was with her best friend, also murdered for eating pizza while Jewish in Jerusalem, is of little comfort, though the two are buried next to each other, together in death as they were in life. But what grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let you go is that the mastermind of the Sbarro Restaurant Massacre, Ahlam Tamimi, lives free and clear in Jordan, a celebrity to her people.
Why a celebrity? It’s simple. Ahlam Tamimi is celebrated in Jordan for causing Jewish blood to be spilled. In particular, the blood of Jewish children, which apparently brought her great (and very public) delight.

Now if you are an American, you should care about this because Malki Roth was an American citizen. The United States has an extradition treaty with Jordan. But the United States has done next to nothing to seek justice for one of her own. Which is shameful.

Jordan gets a lot of money from the United States, so it would seem to be the easiest and most sensible thing in the world to accomplish the extradition of Tamimi, a wanted terrorist. Cut the money pipeline and they, Jordan, will hand Tamimi over quick enough.
But that hasn’t happened.
Why not? And how do Malki’s parents, Arnold and Frimet Roth, live with that reality and betrayal, even as their daughter’s blood cries out from the ground for justice?

Arnold and Frimet Roth gaze at a photo of their daughter Malki, HY"D.
Arnold Roth was interviewed in this space one year ago in an effort to raise awareness of this story, this travesty of justice. But twelve months on, the extradition has still not occurred. Tamimi has not been put on trial. She is still free, still celebrated as a hero in Jordan. And Malki Roth’s blood still cries out from the ground.
It seems appropriate, one year on, to take stock and ask: What has changed in the course of one year? Is there any hope, any progress at all? I spoke to Arnold to learn more:
Varda Epstein: In our interview of a year ago, you mentioned some concrete achievements in your efforts to persuade the US to increase the pressure on Jordan to extradite your daughter’s murderer, Ahlam Tamimi. Tamimi had been charged and a reward for her capture issued. But there were unnamed officials who seemed to be blocking this process. Can you tell us more about this? Has anything changed, at least on this score?
Arnold Roth: A terrific question. Let’s look first at what hasn’t changed.
A major news organization recently called fugitive bomber Ahlam Tamimi “the most wanted woman in the world”. It wasn’t meant as a compliment. But it’s also not clear what it really does mean. There are 28 people on the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list as of today. Of these terrorists, 26 are men. Tamimi is one of the only two female terrorists on this list.
But it would be a stretch to say she’s living the life of someone on the run. Tamimi lives with her husband/cousin in a fancy apartment in Jordan’s capital. That’s where she was when you and I spoke about her last June. And that’s where she is now. She’s still free as a bird, unrestricted in her movements, frequently quoted and published in the Arabic media. Tamimi, above all, continues to be a figure of malignant influence, a devotee of Islamism in the most violent sense, a woman who uses every accessible part of the media to keep pumping out lethal hatred often, widely, and to a hugely appreciative audience.

Tamimi Has Never Been in Hiding

And contrary to its own carefully manicured public relations, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, an ally of Western governments that has one of the world’s most restricted and tightly controlled media strategies, continues to be perfectly fine with all of this.
Tamimi was not in hiding when we spoke last time and she’s not in hiding today. She has, in fact, never been in hiding—not even for a single day since she returned home to Jordan in 2011 after several years in an Israeli prison cell. Jordan is where she was born and educated, and Jordan is where Tamimi still lives today, out in the open, though she was supposed to spend the rest of her life behind bars.
Sentenced by a judicial panel to 16 terms of life imprisonment after confessing to her role in the Jerusalem Sbarro pizzeria massacre, Tamimi got her freedom back by way of the Shalit Deal. In this “exchange,” Israel released 1,027 terrorists—more than half of them killers—for a soldier held hostage for more than five years by Hamas terrorists in conditions that, according to lawyers, constitute a war crime.

Tamimi's Life is Public

Photos of the Tamimi apartment in Amman, even more than when we spoke last year, are still easily found on social media. The Tamimi home has been photographed from the inside, from the outside, from the terrace looking up and looking down. The trajectory of Tamimi’s life and career are public information. Her wedding got live TV coverage. She earned a master’s degree in journalism the same week your first interview with me was published, and this too, made it into the news. Everything Tamimi does is eagerly scrutinized by her adoring Jordanian public.
Should this trouble thoughtful people? Yes. Because the U.S. government announced a $5 million reward on her head in January of 2018. But it’s obvious that the Tamimi reward doesn’t work the way such rewards normally do. No one needs to be financially incentivized to hand over the details of where Tamimi is when every relevant person already knows her location.
If the reward was never intended to apply inside Jordan, why is this never stated publicly and how can U.S. officials claim relentless efforts to bring Ahlam Tamimi to U.S. justice?
High-level U.S. officials obviously know this particular reward was never intended to apply inside Jordan, leaving inquiring minds to wonder (a) how it is that this is never stated publicly, and (b) what goes through the minds of officials as they make eloquent speeches or issue media releases about Tamimi and their “relentless” efforts to bring her to U.S. justice?
At a certain point, those well-composed, emphatically-phrased official statements coupled with the refusal of a long line of U.S. diplomats and other officials to engage with me and my wife leave us—picking my words cautiously—troubled.
The regime of King Abdullah II, meanwhile, is still fully engaged in illicitly blocking U.S. law enforcement’s efforts to take Tamimi into custody. Amman’s willingness to stare down the United States, its most important ally and the source of more foreign aid that Jordan gets from anyone else, remains as it was when you and I last spoke, something deeply puzzling.

Prominent Officials Heap Praise on Abdullah

Deepening this puzzle further, there’s no shortage of U.S. institutions, politicians and prominent Jewish community figures who persist in heaping generous praise upon Abdullah’s majestic head.
Not long after your June interview with me, a major Washington think-tank [“23-Nov-19: We have some unanswered and troubling questions about honor, justice and decency”] gave King Abdullah its highest honor, praising him lavishly for his wisdom at a glittering dinner event while painstakingly avoiding our numerous calls, emails, and articles.

The Good News

So what’s changed?
First: A high-ranking official, the kingdom’s foreign minister, let himself be provoked in November 2019 to break Jordan’s protracted official silence on Tamimi. We blogged about it here: “13-Nov-19: Thank you, Mr Foreign Minister”. Our gratitude to Mr Ajman Safadi was sincere. His statement means that Jordan’s disgraceful, almost incomprehensible policy of standing firmly in solidarity with the engineer of the Sbarro pizzeria massacre is now a matter of policy that diplomatic double-talk simply cannot disguise.
Next: The United States, after a long period of avoidance and ambiguity, came out with its own brief but clear statement (as we wrote here) in November 2019:
In 2018, Jordan continued to cite a court ruling that its constitution forbids the extradition of Jordanian nationals. The United States regards the extradition treaty as valid.
Until those words in italics appeared in an official U.S. government publication, the matter was arguably unclear. Now it’s not. That’s very important.

Important Warning Letter

Another step forward: On April 30, 2020, a small group of U.S. lawmakers sent off a letter to Jordan’s ambassador to Washington. In their letter, the lawmakers politely asked highly relevant questions that go to the legal theory behind the March 2017 decision of Jordan’s Court of Cassation to invalidate the 1995 Jordan/US treaty.
The lawmakers’ letter also touched on a crucially important development that, again, has gotten almost no media attention. Here’s the short version:
In December 2019, President Trump signed into law a powerful sanction that, while it does not mention Jordan by name, applies to a beneficiary of US foreign aid (Jordan is the third largest recipient of such aid), has an extradition treaty with the US (as Jordan does, though it denies this fact), and is in breach (as Jordan surely is, and the State Department now at last agrees) of its obligations under that treaty.
The sanction, which the Secretary of State can waive, means that in such circumstances foreign aid to the beneficiary, ceases.

Jordanian Public Opinion Ignited

Jordan’s reaction to the letter from these members of Congress is worth understanding. Impassioned lectures from outside Jordan about terrorists and Islamism, justice and core values and dead children blown up in a pizzeria were easily ignored in Amman. But when the story turned to money, public opinion was ignited. Jordan’s media was incensed by an all-too-credible threat that the U.S. might stop shoveling cash into the Jordanian treasury.
So that’s the most substantive change: that finally, via baby steps, the Jordanian leadership has been forced to think about acknowledging the cost of the Jordanian public’s adoration of a child-killing bomber living in its midst as a celebrity.
Arnold Roth with Malki
Frimet Roth and Malki
Varda Epstein: Am I correct in thinking that there has been more coverage of your efforts to have Tamimi extradited in recent months? Why is the media willing to cover this story now, when it was mostly silent until now?
Arnold Roth: Media coverage, or more importantly its absence, is a cause of considerable ongoing embitterment for us. The exceptions are, I am pleased to say, significant but they don’t change the sense we have that for the mainstream news industry, we and our cause are untouchable.
When I tell people we feel like the town lepers, I don’t feel like I am exaggerating very much.
Three exceptions:
·         Fox News, a major news industry player, did a high-profile analytical piece on us, not on television but on their website [“Most wanted female terrorist lives in freedom in Jordan despite extradition request for bombing that killed Americans,” Hollie McKay, January 29, 2020].
·         In early May, David Horovitz, the editor at Times of Israel, wrote an epic profile [“Failed by Israel, Malki Roth’s parents hope US can extradite her gloating killer” May 5, 2020], that does an outstanding job of explaining a complex narrative. This has had real impact.

·         A Hebrew translation of David Horovitz’s article appeared on the Times of Israel’s sister publication Zman Yisrael on May 23, 2020. And that, sad to say, was the first, and so far only effort to explain the Tamimi/Jordan affair in a serious, analytical way to an Israeli audience. 
Let me connect the dots. We live in Jerusalem and have a broad and varied circle of friends, contacts, and colleagues. Most of them, and even many of our Israeli family members, have little or even no idea of what we have done or of what’s been done to us since the Shalit Deal and the renewal of Tamimi’s terror career in Jordan. No one is going to persuade me that this—the media suppression of an obviously significant chain of events, is a normal situation.
Varda Epstein: What progress has been made toward having Tamimi extradited to the States?
Arnold Roth: Let’s begin with the first public notification milestone.
The extradition request to Jordan was made public by senior US Justice Department officials in 2017, invoking the 1995 treaty and pledging to do what it takes to bring Tamimi in front of a US court [“14-Mar-17: Sbarro massacre mastermind is now formally charged and her extradition is requested”].
But it was immediately clear to us that unsuccessful secret efforts had been made repeatedly to persuade Jordan to hand Tamimi over for prosecution in Washington years before that. (Tamimi had returned to her homeland, Jordan, in October 2011 as a result of her unforgivably being included in the Shalit Deal walk-free list.)
As to progress, that’s a binary thing. Either she’s being extradited or she’s not. Currently she’s not. We believe she will be.
Varda Epstein: Jordan claims it has no extradition treaty with the United States. Can you tell us about that?
Arnold Roth: On this aspect, there is a huge amount of disinformation, most of it deliberate and calculated. In large measure, that’s the outcome of a systemic news industry failure. It’s shameful that this is still happening and that, by definition, so few people know.
Jordan’s assertion that Tamimi cannot be extradited because of Jordanian law has been dismissed by I think every single expert source we have consulted.
The Jordanian judges in their brief hearing and terse judgement spoke of a constitutional problem—that the National Assembly, Jordan’s parliament, ought to have ratified the treaty which everyone, including the Jordanians agrees, was certainly signed by the two governments back in 1995.

They Found Their Hook

Non-ratification is the only ground they cited for invalidating the extradition treaty. The court relied on no other legal flaw. They found their hook and they hung the conclusion on it: Tamimi cannot be extradited. That was all they needed or intended to find.
Since then, numerous Jordanian commentators, including reporters, politicians, assorted charlatans and lawyers, have gone public with claims that what this is really, truly, honestly is about, is that Jordan never extradites Jordanians. Or alternatively that this is not an extraditable matter. Or that the doctrine of double jeopardy applies. Or that it’s a matter of Jordanian national pride. Or that anyway what she did was not a crime if she did it—but she didn’t, or so they claim.

They've Extradited Fugitives Before

In our unanswered communications with Jordanian officials (not one of whom has ever acknowledged our existence, let alone our arguments), we have rhetorically asked whether Jordan has extradited fugitives to the US before. That’s a more significant question than it appears.
And the answer is: yes, it surely has, even if the highest court in Jordan and no mainstream media anywhere want this to be known.
We have tried to draw them out on other questions. Does Jordan have extradition treaties with other countries? Is extraditing Jordanians foreign to Jordanian constitutional law or jurisprudence or political philosophy or royal decree? Is treaty ratification always done? Or never done? Or done only once a treaty takes effect?

Jordan Remains Silent

The answers are clear to us even while the Jordanians stay silent.
All the experts in extradition law and Jordan/U.S. relations we have consulted are unimpressed by the Jordanian claims of invalidity. As just one instance, I will mention a 2017 legal journal analysis which drills down specifically on the Tamimi ruling: “Refusal to extradite mastermind of deadly 2001 Sbarro suicide bombing in Jerusalem contravenes international law and agreements.”
Look at the issues dispassionately and it’s hard to avoid an irksome conclusion: that for people engaged in politics and diplomacy, what’s true about Jordan’s egregious breach of its treaty with the U.S. takes a backseat to what’s flattering and complimentary and helpful to our Hashemite allies.
Even if I weren’t the father of a child murdered by the main beneficiary of this odious fig-leafing, I would be disgusted by it. And by those who know and yet still engage in it.
Varda Epstein: What are the risks and benefits for King Abdullah in refusing to honor Jordan’s extradition treaty with the United States?
Arnold Roth: Let’s distinguish between risks/benefits that are real and those that are illusory.
Here’s how it’s often said to us. Good King Abdullah’s freedom to act is limited by the realities of a kingdom that could explode at any moment. Of course he wants to do the right thing. Of course he feels Tamimi is an embarrassment to his country’s fine name. Of course he respects and wants to do honor to his father’s values and achievements and treaties. But put yourself in his shoes, and etc.
All of this is nonsense. It’s also doubtful whether other heads of state would be spoken of in terms as condescending and contradicted-by-the-facts as these.

What Jordan Risks

So to your question, the risks Jordan faces by continuing to demean its treaty obligations come down to:
·         Potential loss of U.S. foreign aid;
·         The continued growth and normalization of overt antisemitic and violently-hostile-to-Israel sentiments at every level in Jordanian society;
·         Ditto for anti-U.S. sentiment and activity;

·         Growing instability because of unchecked forces active in Jordan that happen to be the same forces with which Tamimi is aligned.
Jordan stands to keep benefitting hugely if it chooses to stay a U.S. ally. But Americans need to ask themselves whether Jordan’s actions make that possible.
Varda Epstein: There have been some signs that Tamimi is laying low, that she is nervous about extradition. Can you tell us about that? What does this indicate?
Arnold Roth: You’re perceptive. We don’t communicate with our child’s vicious killer. But we track her statements in the conventional media as well as via the social media where she has always been happy to play. And to be clear—in the age of online translation-on-demand, I am referring to what she says in Arabic. Only the Arabic counts.
You’re right about Tamimi’s nervousness. Things are not going the way she and the Tamimi clan want. Just two weeks ago, a Tamimi clan war council was set up to push back against the new U.S. sanction and the State Department’s dismissal of Jordanian claims that the extradition treaty is invalid [“16-May-20: The friends of Jordanian fugitive Ahlam Tamimi, including her lawyers, are speaking up. But not all of them.”]
The Tamimis claim the pressure for extradition is coming from “Zionists” when it’s actually the U.S. Congress and the executive arm of the US government. They declare their trust in “Jordan's leadership, government and people.” But that’s not true either.

"Where's Abdullah?"

Ahlam Tamimi herself says that: “We are still awaiting the Jordanian official response to the latest escalation… I was amazed at the silence of the Jordanian political side and its failure to respond to the message of the seven members of the American Congress...”
Translation: “Where is King Abdullah II?
The answer may be related to something she herself published just days before the U.S. Congress adopted its Jordan-centric sanction: “15-Dec-19: The Sbarro bomber trashes the ruler who protects her from the FBI” in which Tamimi compares King Abdullah II unfavorably with his late father, King Hussein. You might wonder after reading her post, as I do, why Jordan’s proud and capable king troubles himself to keep this dangerous ingrate safe. It doesn’t make sense.
And something to note about her social media presence: Tamimi, a journalist, gets op-ed space in the Arab media on request. She’s frequently featured on the vastly influential Aljazeera platform, for instance. But she’s evidently devoted to social media.

One By One They Shut Her Down

I mention this because whenever we find them we report her accounts to the security people at Twitter, Instagram, et al, and one by one we have seen them shut her down. The most recent shut down was yesterday. She keeps coming back but each time, she has to rebuild her following.
I also want to mention something important your esteemed host, Elder of Ziyon, noted in the past couple of weeks: “Ahlam Tamimi says she’s “terrified” she will be extradited.” What onlookers ought to be asking is: Why is this happening only now? Which homicidal fugitive from the law, with the blood of at least sixteen people on her hands, is entitled to sleep peacefully in her bed at night? How did this ever happen?
Varda Epstein: What could the U.S. do to pressure Jordan, if it were to get serious about extraditing Tamimi?
Arnold Roth: So, as we have already discussed, the U.S. now has a well-focused sanction in its arsenal. But given the close and strategic ties between the leadership of the two countries of Jordan and the U.S., and given the very black-and-white nature of the criminality at the heart of this absurdly stretched-out affair, there’s really only one thing the U.S. ought to be doing and that’s to say to the powers in Jordan: We’ve been left waiting for far too long. Send Tamimi for trial in Washington now.
And the only possible answer is: Which flight?
Varda Epstein: Why would the U.S. not want to pressure Jordan on the extradition issue?
Arnold Roth: I’m an ignoramus on such matters. The more I engage with people from the U.S. Congress, or with Washington insiders, or senior-level Jewish community leaders, the more I realize how little I actually grasp about how they approach questions like the one you just asked. I wish you would ask the people in those groups. Especially those who refuse to take my calls. I will give you a list after we finish here. Good luck.
Varda Epstein: What would it mean to you and your wife Frimet, personally, to see Tamimi extradited, and hopefully sentenced: behind bars or executed?
Arnold Roth: We want justice to be done. So long as it’s not, there’s an ongoing pain deep inside us that it makes no sense to talk about because those who have it inside them already know and those who don’t are fortunately immune from empathizing.

Best friends Malki Roth, left, and Michal Raziel were enjoying a slice of pizza at Sbarro, when the busy, popular Jerusalem eatery was bombed.
Gravestones of best friends Malki Roth, left, and Michal Raziel, buried next to each other in the Holy City.
Varda Epstein: What can we, as regular people, do to help bring justice for Malki?
Arnold Roth: First, and easiest: give us the chance to share and explain the Tamimi/Jordan scandal to you and the people among whom you live. You, Varda, have earned my deep gratitude for having understood that without anyone saying it. Thank you, thank you. We’re nowhere close to achieving this and our progress is plainly impacted in a negative way as a result.
For everyone else: Frimet and I write and talk with the passion, with the credibility, and in my opinion with the clarity that comes from being at the heart of this for the worst of all possible reasons. Please try to help us reach out to people who have never heard of the Sbarro massacre, of Malki, of the ugly games politicians play in order to see that Tamimi stays safe and untouched by U.S. justice.
That might mean Zoom events; interviews or op-eds in the media that serve your community; introductions to senior politicians with the backbone to speak out in ways that the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan will hear and gradually understand. In other words, please help us create awareness because darkness and gloom—some of it generated maliciously, some of it simply the result of apathy and neglect—need to be dispelled by light.
About the less obvious and more complicated things, we don’t talk much. We share (some of) them with our activists’ mailing list. To be part of our campaign for justice, please sign on to the list by emailing your name and city and email address to
Thank you, Varda. Two final thoughts—one from Benjamin Franklin. “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” The other is from the Torah: “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” Or in Hebrew: “Tzedek tzedek tirdof” which is not so much a quotation as an actual divine precept, a commandment for life.


Read more Judean Rose interviews:

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