|Jerusalem’s Sbarro pizzeria, minutes after the bombing led by Tamimi
It’s an intense time for us on multiple fronts. We’ve been doing a lot of tweeting and ZOOMing and Whatsapping. But somehow not much – and not enough – blogging. Time to do some catching up.
Over at Aljazeera, an English-language piece, “‘Close the file’: Jordan king urged to deny US extradition demand
” by Ali Younes takes an inevitably sympathetic look at the efforts currently being made by a fugitive terrorist, Ahlam Tamimi, the most wanted female terrorist in the world (Fox News
) to stop certain pesky efforts by US law enforcement to call her to account. And to escape being incarcerated in a US Federal prison for a very long time.
To the writer’s credit, he offered Arnold Roth an opportunity to be heard on an issue that, it goes without saying, is at the very heart of our deepest concerns. In the end, and we’ll get to this below, the article deals far more with viewpoints we don’t like and think are lacking in accuracy and logic than with ours.
Quote: Al-Tamimi – a Jordanian citizen who was convicted in Israel and sentenced to multiple life sentences after 15 people, including two Israeli-Americans, were killed in the blast – was released to Jordan in a prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel in 2011.
We say: The “multiple” in that sentence is 16. Sixteen. Six. Teen. One for each of her victims. Think back to the last time you heard about a prison sentence anywhere as large as that. But note that the “including two Israeli-Americans” isn’t right. Two of the murdered were females with American citizenship: our daughter Malki, an Israeli citizen as well as a US citizen, who was 15 and had lived here in Jerusalem since she was two years old. And Shoshana Hayman Greenbaum, a beloved school teacher living in New Jersey, her parents’ only child and pregnant for the first time. Shoshana wasn’t an Israeli-American; she was simply an American who was visiting Israel. A tourist who is now buried a short walk away from our Malki. A third American female living in Israel, the mother of a two year-old child who was with her in the pizzeria but survived uninjured, has remained in a vegetative coma through all the years since the massacre. Tamimi doesn”t mention her. Nor do most news reports about how many people were murdered there that day. Because that young mother – whose daughter is now a mother herself – is alive. Only she’s comatose. The tragedy of the human losses inflicted by Tamimi’s evil get very little attention generally and especially in Aljazeera’s stories.
: Her family acknowledged that Jordan was under pressure by the US government to extradite her, but urged the king to work to “close the file” and “reject the US demands that are based on political considerations, not legal ones”.
: Under pressure? That’s a strange way to frame it. The US has been asking Jordan since 2013, meaning for seven years, to apprehend Tamimi and to make her available to US law enforcement. The US claim is based on the 1995 Extradition Treaty signed (but now repudiated) by the Jordanian king’s father and the US government of Bill Clinton. Are those American demands based on political considerations? No, unless you’re a Tamimi ally. Tamimi says without the slightest remorse or apology that she brought the bomb to the pizzeria and placed it there. She boasts about this and about the children she blew to pieces. She’s proud of the things she did. They made her a VIP. She says [here
] she wishes she had killed more than the mere 15 lives she extinguished that day. And this: Tamimi doesn’t make any pretence to political considerations in the atrocity she calls “my operation“
. It wasn’t about politics. Or occupied territories. Or Green Lines. What was it about? She tells it plainly here: “08-Oct-17: Why kill religious Jewish children? Because, says Hamas celebrity-jihadist, this is a religious struggle
“. Tamimi sees herself as a holy warrior. The US sees her as a fugitive from justice. And Aljazeera sees her as a victim of political trickery.
Quote: Seven members of the US Congress sent a letter to the Jordanian embassy in Washington DC last May demanding that Jordan “hand over” al-Tamimi to the US government.
: Actually, no. The letter was sent on April 30, 2020 by Representatives Greg Steube (R-Fla.); Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.); Ted Yoho (R-Fla.); Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.); Brian Mast (R-Fla.); Scott Perry (R-Penn.); and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas). It personally addresses Jordan’s ambassador in Washington, Dina Kawar. The text is reproduced here [“05-May-20: From Congress, concern about how Jordanians deal with the fugitive terrorist in their midst
“]; the whole letter is online as a PDF here
. And no, the words “hand over
” don’t appear as anyone who has read it would notice. The lawmakers refer to the treaty in their very polite and respectful letter and to those US requests of Jordan that started in 2013. And then they say this:
The Hashemite Kingdom refused. It continues to refuse until today. This is a matter of grave and growing concern to the Congress and to all Americans.
Here’s their “demand”:
We believe it is of the highest importance to US/Jordan relations that an outcome is found that honors Jordanian law while ensuring this unrepentant terrorist and murderer of innocent Americans is brought to US justice. Extraditing Tamimi within the framework of a long-standing, effective treaty is a powerful statement that Jordan will not tolerate terrorism nor its promotion. We reaffirm our appreciation for His Majesty King Abdullah II and his inspirational leadership and look forward to the further flourishing of our mutually important alliance.
Some demand. Some journalism.
Quote: Jordan’s highest court ruled in 2017 that al-Tamimi cannot be extradited to the United States because a 1995 extradition treaty signed between the two countries was not ratified by Jordan’s Parliament, making it unconstitutional for Jordanian courts to approve US requests.
We say: True up to a point but lacking in essential context and consequence. A more diligent journalist might have gone on to note that (a) the US, which has solid reasons for believing this, says the treaty is fully valid today and always was; (b) Jordan’s rubber-stamp parliament could have ratified the treaty with the kingdom’s most important ally every single day since June 1995 including today. But it chooses not to; (c) the Jordanians extradited fugitive terrorists to the US repeatedly right up until the Tamimi decison in March 2017. And there’s this: if the Aljazeera reporter had asked us, we would have told him what a State Department official told us for the record last year: that the government of Jordan provided the US with instruments of ratification back in 1995 before the treaty went into effect. We wish American government officials cared a little less about hurting the feelings of the lying Jordanians and a little more about the damage that’s being done to justice.
Quote: Multiple US officials, however, told Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity, because they were not allowed to speak to the media, that Wooster’s statement [our insert: that the US would consider “all options” to press Jordan to extradite al-Tamimi, including leveraging US aid to Amman] did not veer from traditional diplomatic language used at the State Department, and did not indicate the US government will withhold US aid to Jordan.
: The vagueness of this claim is damning. Jordan’s problem isn’t the language being used by the Americans. Their problem is with US law. The reporter could have said something about the “all options” terminology because to anyone paying attention it actually means something with meaningful punch. Congress enacted a law
that President Trump signed into effect on December 20, 2019. That law, which has widely analyzed these past few weeks in Jordan’s media, provides a powerful sanction that while it doesn’t mention Jordan clearly targets it. The details are here
Quote: Extraditing her to the United States is impossible from a Jordanian legal perspective, said Laith Nasrawin, a constitutional law professor at the University of Jordan. “The 1995 extradition treaty, having not been ratified by the parliament, does not carry the weight of the law and is invalid from the court’s perspective,” Nasrawin said. “The extradition treaty may carry weight on an international level between the US and Jordan, but domestically and legally, the treaty is unconstitutional.”
We say: We don’t know Professor Nasrawin. We do however know more than most people about the legal claims being put forward to argue how and why Jordan “cannot” extradite Tamimi. None of the legal experts we have consulted thinks there’s any merit at all in Jordan’s position. As for the quote from Nasrawin, the way it’s reproduced in the article, we think it’s gibberish. What he said might even be something different from what he said. We don’t know. But it certainly doesn’t have the sound of serious legal expertise. Perhaps the reporter ought to be asked to clarify it. What for instance does “invalid from the court’s perspective” mean? Is it invalid or just sort of? What’s more, the US lawmakers’ letter to Ambassador Kawar asks questions about other current and valid Jordanian extradition treaties. There are many of them. If those questions get answered frankly, this whole charade will be over. So far, Jordan’s Ambassador Kawar has stayed silent on the letter. And when we asked her essentially the same questions in a December 2019, she never bothered to respond. Galling but it’s a strategy.
Quote: In 1995, Jordan extradited Eyad Ismail Najim, a Jordanian citizen implicated in the 1993 New York City bombing, immediately after the two countries signed the treaty. But Najim was extradited only after he signed documents agreeing to stand trial in the US, not because of a court ruling, according to Jordanian officials familiar with the case.
: This is a bizarre piece of reportage. The 1995 treaty was signed because of the US insistence on bringing the 1993 World Trade Center bombing suspect to justice. Here’s how the LA Times reported it at the time
: “U.S. intelligence has long known where to find Najim but the FBI was unable to request extradition until a treaty was worked out with Jordan in March, the sources said. The final instruments of extradition were completed and exchanged last Saturday, allowing the FBI to proceed. The indictment had been sealed to ensure that Najim would not learn that he had been identified and try to flee again
.” The notion that he consented to being convicted in the US is homorous but absurd. And by the way, does Aljazeera know of any other Jordanians who were extradited to the US under the treaty? We certainly do. Happy to share that information with them. If they care to know.
Quote: In an interview with Al Jazeera in 2017, Ahlam al-Tamimi said she never knew American nationals were killed in the bombing and the Israeli government never mentioned that during her trial. “The first time I ever knew that Americans were killed was when the Interpol in Jordan told me about the charges filed in the US against me,” she said.
: Actually we carefully analyzed – and tore to pieces – that 2017 interiew here: “24-Mar-17: Our daughter’s grinning killer is shocked the US is pursuing her and for no obvious reason
“. It happens to be written by the same reporter as this one. But here’s the point. Does anyone care what Ahlam Tamimi says she knew about her victims and their citizenship? Why does the man from Aljazeera? The matter has no consequence and interests no one. It’s irrelevant to the law and it ought to be irrelevant to his analysis.
Quote: The article quotes Arnold Roth saying this: “None of the lawyers with whom I have discussed it thinks the Jordanian claim has any real basis. Jordan has extradited terrorists to the US again and again … As the father of one of the children she targeted for murder, I don’t need much explaining by Jordanians about what makes extraditing Tamimi so different,” he said.
We say: And that’s all. But Arnold Roth actually said much more than that in the letter he sent to Aljazeera’s Ali Younes this past week, after being invited to offer a comment. We don’t complain about Younes quoting him briefly – that’s legitimate. But for more serious-minded readers, here’s the whole Roth quotation:
Terrorism charges were filed by US Federal prosecutors against the confessed Sbarro bomber, Ahlam Tamimi, a Jordanian, in 2013, years before we knew about their existence.
They were kept sealed by law. Meaning no one, not even the US Congress, knew about them until they were announced four years later.
But from my conversations with American law enforcement officials, I believe they were not an absolute secret. That’s because Jordanian government officials certainly knew about them. Multiple rounds of futile negotiations took place secretly between the US and its close strategic ally Jordan during those four years. The US goal was to get Tamimi extradited and brought into a Federal court to answer to the very serious charges that are still facing her.
And the Jordanian response was to keep her safe and in Amman.
Less than a week after the unsealing of those charges against Tamimi, Jordan’s Court of Cassation ruled for the first time that the King Hussein/Bill Clinton 1995 treaty was constitutionally invalid and she could not be handed over to the Americans.
That area of law is not my personal field. [Roth is a lawyer.] But none of the lawyers with whom I have discussed it thinks the Jordanian claim has any real basis. Jordan has extradited terrorists to the US again and again. Tamimi is different. As the father of one of the children she targeted for murder, I don’t need much explaining by Jordanians about what makes extraditing Tamimi so different.
Jordan’s brazen refusal to comply with a treaty that undoubtedly was valid until Jordan decided it could not remain valid has gone on for years. The demand to see her handed over is not new. The $5M reward on her head is also not new.
As a technology entrepreneur, I have spent time in Jordan building commercial relations that would have benefitted both sides. I had friends there and enjoyed my visits. I will not be going there again. Today, like many others, I look on aghast at Jordan’s celebration of Tamimi as a figure of national admiration, as an inspiration to more and larger acts of terror, as a reason to deny justice and as a cause worth imperilling Jordan’s relations with the United States. It all amounts to a colossal lost opportunity for Jordan, for the US and even for Israel.
The Congress enacted a sanction targeting Jordan this past December. Like most rational people, I think it will be a terrible shame if that sanction has to be applied. But I believe in the logic of carefully applying sanctions in specific situations. The Tamimi case underscores how Jordan has lost its way. It needs to rediscover the role that justice plays in every decent society.
We look forward to seeing much more coverage on the Aljazeera site of ongoing US efforts to bring Tamimi to justice in a Washington court. And we’re ready to help them get their facts less wrong every time they ask.