Some months ago, an Australian TV journalist contacted my wife Frimet and me about doing an interview after the Jordanians rejected a US request to extradite our daughter’s killer.
The fugitive felon, a Jordanian woman called Ahlam Tamimi, murdered 15 innocent Israeli civilians, most of them children, in the bombing of Jerusalem’s Sbarro pizzeria in the summer of 2001. She did this on behalf of Hamas as its first-ever female jihadist. Our daughter Malki, 15, was one of the people she killed.
In 2011, as part of the Shalit Deal, Tamimi was set free and returned to Jordan, where her family lives and where she was born, raised and educated.
Two of Jordan’s courts, in strange decisions several months apart (the first in September 2016; the second in March 2017) ruled that there are problems with Jordan’s 1995 extradition treaty with the United States. As a result, they decided, she doesn’t have to be extradited and the US treaty request can be refused. The US doesn’t agree:
- The State Department’s official listing of valid treaties [“United States Department of State | Treaties in Force | A List of Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States in Force on January 1, 2017” at page 240] includes the one with Jordan, stating that it “entered into force July 29, 1995”. No suggestion that the US sees any legal problems with it.
- The Department of Justice have confirmed to us personally in writing that the treaty is valid and in effect.
- The FBI are actively pursuing the Jordanian woman. (More about that later.)
The Australian guy arranged for some inquiries to be made in Jordan and then got back to us saying his producers had decided not to interview us. Why? Nothing to do with us, he said, but because
- it turned out Tamimi’s spoken English isn’t very good — somehow leading to the conclusion that if she doesn’t speak well enough, why bother hearing what the parents of one of her victims (meaning the two of us) have to say. Or more sharply: Our audience is more interested in hearing what the murderer says about the extradition story than what any of her victims think; and
- Tamimi had been told by Jordan’s government to lower her profile for a while. In simpler terms (our words), if Jordan was going to stick its finger in the eye of its American strategic ally, protector and benefactor (as it has and as it continues to do), it would be prudent not to publicly flaunt the gift of freedom that King Abdullah has given her. It’s good to know that though it likes to call itself a constitutional monarchy, Jordan operates like an absolute monarchy. If King Abdullah wanted Tamimi extradited, she would be have been shipped to Washington the same morning.
Last weekend, in response to the intense media attention on Ahed Tamimi (and for some excellent background on the “Shirley Temper” affair, see “Why Is No One Talking About Ahed Tamimi’s Call For Stabbings?” in Forward, January 4, 2018), a public event took place in Amman that got significant attention in the Jordanian media. Some prominent speakers were in the line-up, heard by an audience filled with elderly men — and some women.
What caught our eye is that one of the speakers was Ahlam Tamimi, the murderer in the flesh. She appears to have decided to bring the keep-your-head-down phase to an end in order to do the Tamimi thing. And though her extradition was blocked by a Jordanian court ruling on extremely technical grounds (we have written about this several times), no voices in Jordan that we know of have called for Jordan to take any legal steps against her. She’s a national treasure. Murderer, maybe; but she murdered Jews so where’s the problem? (The question is not rhetorical.)
If anyone has a problem with our way of telling it, let them point us to Jordanian voices calling publicly for an end to the shame and embarrassment of Jordan openly harboring a confessed murderer of children who’s on the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list. There aren’t any.
Last weekend’s event was ‘modestly’ titled “The Festival for the Support of the Jerusalem Holy Sites and the Palestinian People and Declaration of Solidarity with Ahed Tamimi”. There’s video coverage and the speeches (all in Arabic) are summarized on YouTube (Ahlam Tamimi starts speaking at about the 4 minute mark). There are multiple Arabic newspaper reports in Al-Rai, JO24, AmmanNet among others.
We haven’t found any English-language reports from any Arabic source yet. Some might see that as significant. (We archived the Al-Rai version here; that’s potentially important if someone decides to take the source articles down for some reason.)
What we know about what Tamimi said to the Jordanian crowd is predictable:
- “The Hashemite leadership stood by the holy Islamic sites, and Prince Ali supported Ahed Tamimi with his words. [Stay tuned for some revealing comments we’re preparing to publish on our blog about this. Prince Ali is the king’s half-brother.]
- “The Zionist Project wishes to remove the Hashemite supervision of the Aqsa Mosque, and the response should be to terminate all the agreements and treaties with the Zionist enemy.
- “Jordan should use its influence to confront the American-Zionist plans in all areas.”
- “Ahed Tamimi is experiencing loneliness and sorrow in the Zionist prisons, which Ahlam has experienced herself, in addition to the numerous female prisoners and children prisoners into whose cause Ahed has breathed new life.
The thing we want to emphasize is this. Very prominent Jordanians, members of the country’s political elite, have no problem sharing a public platform with a confessed killer of Israeli children. They are untroubled that she is an FBI fugitive. That there is an unsatisfied extradition request out for her apprehension, relying on a 22 year old extradition treaty between the Hashemite Kingdom and its most important ally, doesn’t faze them.
Can anyone imagine this happening anywhere else?
She’s a wanted criminal, but not in Jordan where she’s a hero. And Jordan, for those wondering, has given no sign it intends to prosecute Ahlam Tamimi in its own courts (not that we want that or are asking for it); in other places, that’s the kind of thing that occasionally does happen when an extradition request is rebuffed on narrow technical or constitutional grounds. But not Jordan, which for all practical purposes is the largest and most powerful of the three Palestinian Arab polities, the other two being the Hamas entity and the Fatah/PLO/PA entity. (Again, a talking point for another time.)
So what did those Jordanian dignitaries on the platform who had no problem sharing the limelight with the self-admitted, mass-murdering, Jew-hating fugitive from justice, say in this Tamimi fest?:
- Taher al-Masri, a Palestinian Arab who served briefly as prime minister of Jordan said Arab claims to Jerusalem and Palestine concern not only the Palestinians but every Arab, every Muslim and every free person in the world. He called on the Arabs to support “our people in Palestine” and come to “the defense of the Islamic faith that is the basis of the concepts of our societies“. Ahed Tamimi, the blonde girl from Nabi Saleh, “represents the spirit of Palestine“. It is “no longer possible for us to remain silent on what is happening to Jerusalem and the Palestinian cause.” And some anger directed at America: “The transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem is the second stage of the Zionist project, America’s recognition of Greater Jerusalem as the capital of “Israel” (quote marks are in the source text) meaning that Jerusalem is no longer part of the occupied Palestinian territories“. He gave voice to a favourite Palestinian Arab theme – a Jewish Temple is going to be be constructed over the ruins of what he called “the Al-Aqsa Mosque“.
- Saleh Armouti, a member of Jordan’s parliament (we quoted him here last year) and one of Jordan’s most prominent and noisy Islamists: “The American assistance and aid can go to hell if it will cost us our dignity.” He’s a man who’s bothered by what he calls “shameful Arab silence” in the face of attempts to divide Palestine and Jerusalem which “are one and we do not accept any division between the two”. Armouti is enraged by the “occupation” of what he called West (yes, West) Jerusalem which makes up 80 percent of Jerusalem. And another serve to America which, he said, “is a partner in the aggression against the Arab and Islamic nation. It must be boycotted and Trump should be tried before the International Criminal Court“.
- Khamis Attia, deputy speaker of Jordan’s lower house of parliament (and was the prime mover in an effort to get energy-starved Jordan to cancel its gas-importing deal with Israel in 2014): Jordanian anger over Trump’s Jerusalem decision, he said, is great and the position of His Majesty the King on Al-Aqsa Mosque and on the Trump decision is honorable.
- Rula al-Hroub, a prominent former MP and (we’re fairly sure) also a Palestinian: Praised King Abdullah “and the Hashemite leadership” on their resistance to the Trump decision. Wants the Oslo Agreements “to be brought down“. “Palestine is Arab Muslim from the river to the sea and no one has the right to relinquish it, or any part of it.”
For those new to Ahlam Tamimi’s history: She was an undergrad student of journalism at the time she carried out the 2001 Sbarro pizzeria massacre. She was a part-time news-presenter at a Palestinian Arab TV station in Ramallah. She has described for the record how she rushed from the scene of the terror attack in the center of Israel’s capital, having left the human bomb behind to explode a few minutes after her safe departure. She rode a bus back to the other side of the Green Line where, a few hours later in front of the cameras, she reported in straight-faced fashion on the massacre she herself had executed with her own two hands. She of course did not reveal her role as mastermind of that day’s killings though she has said she wishes she could have revealed all to the exultant people traveling with her:
Afterwards, when I took the bus, the Palestinians around Damascus Gate [in Jerusalem] were all smiling. You could sense that everybody was happy. When I got on the bus, nobody knew that it was me who had led [the suicide bomber to the target]… They didn’t even know one another, yet they were exchanging greetings… While I was on the bus and everybody was congratulating one another, they said on the radio that there had been a martyrdom attack at the Sbarro restaurant and that three people were killed. I admit that I was a bit disappointed because I had hoped for a larger toll. Yet when they said ‘three dead,’ I said: ‘Allah be praised.'” …Two minutes later, they said on the radio that the number had increased to five. I wanted to hide my smile, but I just couldn’t. Allah be praised, it was great. As the number of dead kept increasing, the passengers were applauding. They didn’t even know that I was among them. On the way back [to Ramallah], we passed a Palestinian police checkpoint, and the policemen were laughing. One of them stuck his head in and said: ‘Congratulations to us all.’ Everybody was happy.” [MEMRI Arabic-to-English transcript of Ahlam Tamimi interviewed on Al-Aqsa TV, July 12, 2012]
Tamimi was born and raised in Jordan. She was sent back there by our government when, despite the 16 terms of life imprisonment (“with no possibility of parole or early release” in the words of the judicial panel that sentenced her) she hit the jackpot and was freed by Israel in the catastrophic Gilad Shalit Deal of October 2011. She married soon afterwards to a cousin who is also a convicted and freed murderer and a Tamimi like her. She has been living free as a bird in Amman, Jordan, ever since.
In March 2017, the United States announced that Federal charges had been brought against her, she had been added to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list and the US had requested Jordan hand her over for prosecution under the 1995 Jordan/United States extradition treaty. Jordan refused and has continued to maintain its refusal. She lives free as a bird with no suggestion by Jordan it will prosecute her itself under Jordan’s criminal code or in any way abridge her freedom of movement.
The all-powerful king of Jordan appoints the judges, rotates the parliament at very frequent intervals and controls the media. In its 2017 report, Freedom Houserates Jordan’s media “Not Free”, ranking the country at 150 in a table of 199 countries.
Some of Jordan’s friends in the US Congress might want to reflect on the implications of that and Jordan’s derisory response to a US extradition request when they review relations between the two countries.
Also: that the murder of two Americans — one our daughter, one a young woman, the only child of her parents and pregnant with her own first child — mean nothing to the people, government and courts of America’s Jordanian ally. They’re with the loathsome Tamimi clan of Nabi Saleh and let no one have any illusions about how that works.
A slightly different version of this post appears at This Ongoing War, the blog produced by Frimet and Arnold Roth.