The murder of Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents has dominated foreign policy news for months. Prominent members of Congress are increasingly upset that the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia has interfered with the rigorous pursuit of justice for Khashoggi. After all, they argue, Jamal Khashoggi was a US resident, so there should be consequences for the man who, according to the CIA, planned his murder – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman – the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia. Many of these members of Congress also argue that Khashoggi’s murder is so serious that the strong, longtime, US-Saudi relationship must be re-evaluated if there is no justice.
But the Khashoggi case is hardly unique. In fact, there is a similar, but far more serious, situation that resulted in the deaths of two American citizens and the wounding of several others. This occurred on August 9, 2001, when a Sbarro Pizzeria in Jerusalem was pulverized by a suicide bomber.
On that day, Malki Roth, a 15-year-old girl; Judith Greenbaum, a pregnant 31-year-old woman; other American citizens; and many Israelis went to the Sbarro Pizzeria to enjoy some American-style pizza. The Pizzeria, on Ben Yehuda Street, was one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in Jerusalem and was a popular place, especially for families with children. At approximately 2 p.m., at the height of the lunch hour, a blast went off. A Palestinian terrorist named Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri had triggered a powerful bomb that was hidden in his guitar case, which was also packed with nails, nuts and bolts in order to cause maximum damage.
Fifteen people were killed in the blast, eight of them children, and 130 more people were wounded. Malki Roth was a teenager so thoughtful and loving that she often helped her mother care for her handicapped sibling. And Judith Greenbaum, an only child who arrived in Israel with her husband as part of her graduate studies, who was five months pregnant at the time. Another four US citizens – David Danzig, Matthew Gordon, Joanne Nachenberg and Sara Nachenberg – were wounded. To this day, Joanne Nachenberg remains in a vegetative state.
Ahlam Tamimi, a Palestinian Arab citizen of Jordan, was the terrorist planner of this operation. She was a 20-year-old student at the time and a supporter of Hamas. Tamimi had even accompanied the suicide bomber there, leaving just before the blast. We know all of this because Tamimi has brazenly bragged about it time and time again, in television and radio interviews, many of which come up in a simple Google search.
Tamimi has spoken about how she spent nine days looking for the perfect place to maximize deaths, how disappointed she initially was when it was first reported that there were only a few deaths, and how important it was to her and the bomber that religious Jews be in the blast area. In all her videos she expressed delight at her actions. In one particularly chilling video, Tamimi was asked if she knew how many children she killed. Her response was “three,” and when she was corrected with the true number – eight – a huge, self-satisfied smile crossed her face.
IN LATE 2002, Tamimi was sentenced by an Israeli court to 16 multiple sentences for her part in this massacre. However, on October 19, 2011, she, together with 1,026 other terrorists, were traded for Gilad Schalit, the Israeli soldier held by Hamas.
When Ahlam Tamimi was released she was deported to Jordan, where she received a hero’s welcome. As a terrorist, she received money from the Palestinian Authority, at least $52,681, under the “pay-for-slay” program. The Hamas television station Al-Quds gave Tamimi her own television show, which aired every Friday and, until recently, was broadcast around the world. She married her cousin, Nazir Tamimi, who also had been serving time in an Israeli prison for killing an Israeli citizen, and who also was released in exchange for Gilad Schalit. Their wedding was broadcast throughout the Arab world.
For decades, we at the Endowment for Middle East Truth have worked exhaustedly to get justice for the families of the Americans killed and wounded in Israel and the disputed territories by Palestinian terrorists like Ahlam Tamimi. We have successfully worked with Congress on multiple letters to the Department of Justice, and twice inspired hearings on the subject. At the second hearing, Arnold Roth, the father of Malki, was brought in to testify. At that hearing, for the first time ever, Brad Wiegmann, the deputy assistant attorney-general in the National Security Division, who supervises these prosecutions, was called to account for the DOJ’s lack of prosecution and was forced to provide a future report to the subcommittee.
Largely because it is so egregious, there has been some progress in the Tamimi case. In 2013, after the congressional letters, Tamimi was indicted by the Obama administration, and her extradition was requested from Jordan. In 2017, after the hearings, the indictment was made public by the Trump administration. But the Jordanian government has refused to extradite Tamimi, claiming there is no valid extradition treaty with the US. They refused, even though the US and Jordan signed an extradition treaty in 1995 that the State Department and the DOJ still recognize as valid. They refused even though in 1995, in 2006 and in 2015, Jordan extradited three criminal terrorists to the US that were wanted there. And they refused even though the Jordanian government receives more than a billion dollars a year in aid from the US
This injustice cannot be allowed to stand.
Ahlam Tamimi is a brutal terrorist murderer who has killed and wounded American citizens. She has reveled in her crimes and urged others to follow in her footsteps. Letting her live unmolested, celebrated and financially rewarded in Jordan is obscene. If the US needs to punish the man Mohammed Bin Salman who planned the murder of US resident Jamal Khashoggi, and the nation Saudi Arabia that protects him, then our nation should also punish Ahlam Tamimi who killed and wounded US citizens, and Jordan, the nation that is protecting her. Justice demands nothing less.
Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth. Adam Turner is its general counsel & legislative affairs director.
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