Prosecuting Palestinian terrorists
Fifteen people were murdered, including two American citizens; another four Americans were wounded in a massive explosion.
Osama bin Laden Internet video [file] Photo: REUTERS
The story recently broke that the US had captured and extradited Osama bin- Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith. While initial reports may be unreliable, it would appear the former al-Qaida spokesman was picked up as he traveled from Turkey to Amman, Jordan. The US acted very quickly to prosecute bin-Laden’s son-in-law.
Interestingly, in Amman, there lives a woman who was far more active than Abu Ghaith in killing and maiming American citizens.
Ahlam Tamimi, described as a university student and part-time journalist, planned the Sbarro massacre of August 2001 in Jerusalem and personally led the guitar-case carrying bomber to the crowded destination.
Fifteen people were murdered, including two American citizens; another four Americans were wounded in the massive explosion.
Tamimi was arrested, tried, and sentenced to 16 life sentences. In October 2011, she went free as part of the deal Israel made to release its captured soldier, Gilad Schalit.
Today, Tamimi lives in Amman, where she has her own talk show. As to her role in the bombing, one can hear it in her own words.
Tamimi’s is the story of the failure of US law enforcement. After the murder of Leon Klinghoffer on the Achille Lauro in 1985, the US passed a set of laws to make a terror act against a US citizen anywhere in the world an offense prosecutable in US federal court. These laws form the legal basis for extradition of terrorists and pirates, but to date, the US has never applied them to a Palestinian terrorist involved in the death or injury of an American citizen.
This state of affairs is not due to a lack of such incidents: from the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords to 2006, the tail end of the “second intifada,” Palestinian terrorists murdered 54 American citizens and wounded another 84 – including this author and his son – in a total of 72 separate terror attacks. The FBI dutifully opened files on every attack and a new office was opened in the Department of Justice to “monitor” such cases: the Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism (OJVOT).
If anything should be abolished during the present “sequester,” it is this office: as many Palestinians have been tried since this office came into existence in 2005 as before then, zero.
WHILE NO Palestinian terrorist has ever been extradited by the US, the Department of Justice has been busy coordinating with Israel the transfer to the US of accused drug dealers and wanted criminals. Since 2004, two years after my son and I were the recipients of Palestinian shrapnel from a suicide bombing, I have badgered, begged and pleaded with US officials to actually prosecute Palestinian terrorists.
While their responses have uniformly sounded sincerely full of concern and determination (“The United States is committed to seeking justice for our citizens victimized by terrorism whether at home or abroad” – Attorney-General Eric Holder to this author), no Palestinian terrorist has ever been prosecuted. When Israel was set to release hundreds of convicted terrorists in the aforementioned Schalit deal, I frantically contacted officials in the US government: the two women who brought “our” bomber to downtown Jerusalem were on the launch pad for release.
The US belatedly passed along to the Israeli government that no terrorist with American blood on his or her hands should be released.
This note was given the day before the prisoner exchange. Needless to say, Israel ignored the request and not a word was said in Washington about the matter.
The reason is simple: Washington never expected Israel to comply because our cases are irrelevant for the FBI and the Justice Department. When the terrorists were released for the Israeli soldier, the FBI could not even figure out who got out: they could not translate the names, while identity numbers were missing digits. It took an American lawyer who has worked harder for US terror victims than all of the various US governmental agencies combined to tell the FBI who got sprung: 15 terrorists directly involved in the murder and maiming of US civilians walked free. And at the top of the list: Ahlam Tamimi.
THE LACK of prosecution of Palestinian terrorists has been a bipartisan failure spanning five attorneys-general. A year ago, 52 members of Congress asked Holder how it was that no Palestinian terrorists had been prosecuted in over 70 attacks on American citizens. The attorney-general answered that they are trying.
Yet, the stories of Osama’s son-in-law, the Somali pirate and others who have been whisked into New York court in handcuffs show that the US can extradite and prosecute terrorists when its feels the situation merits such efforts.
In our cases, we have been outright abandoned by our government, even to the point where the US State Department planned in 2008 to file a brief in Federal court in favor of the PLO and against an American woman whose husband was gunned down by a PLO terrorist.
Just over a month ago, the Palestinian Authority inadvertently provided terror victims in a Federal civil suit a detailed account of the terrorists behind an attack that left two American girls dead. The FBI and Justice Department were alerted to the existence of this document; neither showed any interest in receiving a copy of the same; the State Department thought it irrelevant to ask the Palestinians to provide the document produced by one of their own senior intelligence officers.
President Barack Obama is planning to visit Israel and the PA. He could do a great service in the fight against terrorism by publicly committing his administration to the active prosecution of Palestinians who willfully murdered and wounded American citizens. US terror victims are not asking for favors; we are asking our government to bring justice to those who have been devastated by wanton Palestinian terror funded by US tax dollars.
The author is a biochemist living in Jerusalem.