Jerry Nadler is the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which gives him a unique opportunity to right a terrible wrong.
First, some background.
Since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993, 64 American citizens have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists in Israel — yet the United States has never prosecuted even one of the killers.
Stephen M. Flatow, whose daughter was killed in a suicide bombing attack carried out by the Islamic Jihad in 1995, describes the depth of this failure.
On February 2, 2016, Congressman Ron DeSantis, Chairman of the National Security Subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee, held a hearing on Capitol Hill. He questioned then-Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brad Wiegmann, who was in the hot seat representing the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Overseas Terrorism (DOJ/OVT)
The OVT was established in 2005 in response to complaints about the US failure to pursue the Palestinian Arab killers of Americans. Since the 1960’s, 138 American citizens have been murdered — and 64 of those deaths were since the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords. The job of the OVT is to not only update the families of the terror victims, but also to facilitate the prosecution of the terrorists. The OVT has failed on both counts. The hearing revealed it had done an inadequate job of updating the families – and had not brought about a single prosecution for attacks in Israel or the Palestinian Authority areas.
This in spite of the laws in place specifically to make that happen.
U.S. law provides American prosecutors the necessary tools to prosecute the perpetrators of these criminal acts. In 1990, the U.S. Congress passed the Anti-Terrorism Act, 18 USC Sec. 2332, which requires the prosecution and punishment, in United States courts, of individuals who murder or maim American citizens in acts of international terrorism. Since 2005, there has been an office within the Department of Justice (DOJ) – the Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism (OVT) – to pressure the DOJ to prosecute terrorists who kill or injure Americans overseas, and to assist the living victims and their families.
For his part, Wiegmann “claimed that pursuing Palestinian killers of Americans is the department’s ‘highest priority’ and that the victims and their families ‘are foremost in our thoughts,’ to which DeSantis retorted that the claim was misleading, since in fact the Department of Justice was “zero-for-64” in prosecuting Palestinian terrorists.
During that hearing, the families of some of the victims had the opportunity to speak:
- Sarri Singer, a survivor of a suicide bus bombing in Jerusalem in 2003
- Peter Schwartz, whose nephew, Ezra Schwartz, was murdered by Palestinian terrorists while studying and volunteering in Israel in November 2015
- Arnold Roth, whose daughter, Malka Roth, was murdered in the bombing of the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem in 2001
The mastermind behind the Sbarro restaurant terrorist attack, Ahlam Tamimi, was caught and imprisoned. However, she was among those released in the 2011 trade for Hamas hostage Gilad Shalit, and she ended up in Jordan — and where she continues to live as a public celebrity.
On his blog This Ongoing War, Roth writes about the TV show the terrorist Tamimi hosted in Jordan for 5 years:
For nearly five years beginning in March 2012, she was the presenter of her own produced-in-Jordan, terrorism-focused weekly TV show beamed globally from Amman to the world. Made under Hamas auspices and beamed to the world via a Hamas satellite TV channel, the toxic program suffered no evident interference from Jordan’s government. It was heavily promoted and its reach was amplified by hundreds of Internet streaming video sites.
Oh, the life of a terrorist in Jordan.
After Roth’s testimony, the obvious dissatisfaction generated by the testimonies of the victims’ families led to the following exchange between DeSantis and Wiegmann:
DeSantis: “With regard to terrorists involved in murdering these 64 Americans, how many suspects have been indicted, extradited, or prosecuted?”
Wiegmann: “I think the answer is none.”
DeSantis: “Is there any other part of the world in which killers of Americans have been extradited or prosecuted?”
Wiegmann: “Yes, in significant numbers.”
DeSantis: “Do you have a plan to finally prosecute some of the Palestinian killers?”
Wiegmann: “Bringing all the terrorists to justice is our highest priority.”
DeSantis: “You say it’s your highest priority, but your record is zero-for-64. What exactly is the Department of Justice planning to do about this terrorist who has the television show in Jordan?”
At another point, DeSantis asks if there are political considerations behind the poor record of the US Government in pursuing Palestinian terrorists as opposed to terrorist attacks by other groups:
DeSantis: It has been alleged that the reason the DOJ does not prosecute the Palestinian terrorists who harm Americans in Israel and the disputed territories is that the Department of Justice is concerned that such prosecutions will harm efforts to promote that Israeli-Palestinian peace process or that it will actually harm the Palestinian Authority. So let me ask you straight up: is that a consideration of the dept of justice?
Wiegman: I can assure you that is absolutely not the case.
Despite Wiegmann’s answer that concern for the “peace process” does not enter into consideration, the possibility that the US government is hampering efforts to bring Palestinian terrorists — in particular — to justice persists.
Flatow makes a similar observation:
In other words, until the Department of Justice provides a serious, plausible explanation for the record, reasonable people will have no choice but to conclude that political considerations are involved.
But Flatow wrote this in 2016, during the last year of the Obama administration. Wouldn’t Trump, who last year cut back funding to the flawed UNRWA, be more amenable to pursuing Palestinian terrorists who have murdered Americans?
Flatow notes that the US Government really has no excuse:
- The failure of the Department of Justice and the Office for Victims of Overseas Terrorism cannot be excused by a lack of evidence, since in some of the cases, the Palestinian killers have confessed.
- There is no excuse that the killers cannot be found, because some serve openly in the Palestinian security forces or, like Ahlam Tamimi in Jordan, are in the public spotlight and living out in the open.
- The US government cannot blame their failure on there being no extradition treaty between the US and the Palestinian Authority, since many countries hand over suspects to the US even without such a treaty.
In light of this, Ahlam Tamimi would be the perfect case to finally start the process of prosecuting Palestinian terrorists:
- There is a video of her confessing to masterminding the Sbarro attack
- She lives openly in Jordan so there is no problem finding her
- There actually is an extradition treaty between the US and Jordan – one that the US has used before to extradite terrorists from Jordan.
That extradition treaty is valid, which is why it was used in 1995 to have Jordan hand over Eyad Ismoil for his part in the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing. Jordan even allowed US agents into the country, where Jordanian officials handed Ismoil over to the agents.
Like Tamimi, Ismoil was a Jordan national – a fact that did not stop Jordan from handing Ismoil over and should not be an obstacle in extraditing Tamimi either.
Two years ago the Department of Justice surprised everyone when on March 14, 2017, it unsealed a 2013 criminal complaint against Tamimi and announced it was seeking her extradition from Jordan. The Department of Justice went a step further and added Tamimi to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list:
The State Department’s Rewards For Justice program posted a $5 million reward for “information that brings to justice” Hamas terrorist Ahlam Tamimi:
Jordan responded by claiming that the extradition treaty — which they themselves had respected and complied with in the past — was suddenly no longer valid because it had not been ratified by their parliament.
But, while it disputes Jordan’s claim, the US Government has not spoken out about the issue publicly.
The government has also not explained the purpose of $5 million reward, when everyone already knows where Tamimi is and the government has all the information it needs.
Instead, the State Department has not been open to communication from the Roth family to answer their questions about the delay since the indictment was first announced.
And while it is clear that Trump is not favoring the Palestinian Arabs, his administration often touts the role it claims Jordan has in fighting terrorism.
After recent promising developments, the old frustrations have returned.
That is why the letter from New York Rabbis to Jerry Nadler is so important.
The letter asks Nadler to look into the inaction and lack of communication the Roth family has had to endure — even after the indictment and wanted posters — and ensure that the DOJ, the State Department and the Justice Department are all doing their job:
Despite being listed on the “FBI Most Wanted Terrorist” list, with a $5 million bounty on her head, Tamimi is living fearlessly, in Jordan, taking great pride in the crimes she has committed. Family members of Americans massacred with Tamimi’s help have repeatedly reached out to the DOJ and State Department officials on this matter and have yet to receive a meaningful reply.
We, the undersigned rabbis and community leaders from across the 10th District of New York, appeal to you in your role as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee to seek the enforcement of DOJ policy and demand the enforcement of the 1995 Jordan-US Extradition Treaty. We demand the DOJ stand by its word and enforce its own policies. We are asking your Committee to inquire into whether the State Department is properly coordinating with the Justice Department as well as taking appropriate action necessary to bring Tamimi to America for justice.
The letter is signed by prominent New York rabbis such as Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Rabbi Menachem Genack, Rabbi Shaul Robinson, Rabbi Jason Herman, Rabbi Dovid Zirkind and Rabbi Elchanan Poupko — among others.
Here is an opportunity for Congressman Nadler to push the Trump administration to do the right thing, to go beyond any political considerations surrounding Jordan and to start the process of bringing all Palestinian terrorists to justice.