This Ongoing War: Thank You, Mr Foreign Minister


Photo Credit: Twitter

Jordanian FM Ayman Safadi

{Originally posted to the authors’ blog}

This is an open letter.

Minister HE Dr Ayman Hussein Abdullah Al-Safadi,


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Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,
Ministry of Foreign Affairs,

Thank you. In a rare announcement as Jordan’s foreign minister, you spoke publicly and for the record yesterday about how the kingdom views the US extradition request it received officially in March 2017 [“14-Mar-17: Sbarro massacre mastermind is now formally charged and her extradition is requested“]. As you know, unofficially the US began quietly making that request four years before that, without success.

In simple terms (not using the words you used) you have just announced this: Jordan has rejected the US request for some years. We confirm that Jordan still rejects it, no matter what the Americans want.

Frankly, this is helpful to us.

That’s because you have been careful until now to avoid public mentions of the embarrassing and humiliating way your country harbors the confessed Sbarro bomber and FBI Most Wanted fugitive terrorist Ahlam Tamimi. Tamimi, as you may know, faces charges in a United States federal court for her central role in the Hamas-inspired massacre that took the lives of many people, half of them children. One of those children, Your Excellency, was our daughter Malki who was just fifteen years old.

More than most people, and for reasons related to what we lost in the Sbarro atrocity, we are aware of how willing you are to discuss Jordan’s disavowal of its treaty obligations to the US in private meetings about which we have gotten reports. And how unwilling you are to talk about this important issue in public. It is quite a balancing act.

You surely recall how we tried to draw out your response in an article we published more than two years ago, addressed to you: “26-Jul-17: We listened carefully to Jordan’s foreign minister and we have 10 questions“.

And as you may remember, you ignored us totally. (So did and do your staff.) Special mention of your ambassador to Washington who now even blocks us on Twitter. We assume this is what feeling really embarrassed about an issue will cause even a polite and cultured person like Ambassador Dina Kawar to do.

In the last two weeks, the United States via an official announcement of its State Department has clarified in a gratifying way how it rejects the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s claims that the 1995 Extradition Treaty signed by the late King Hussein and President Bill Clinton’s administration is invalid. You are invited to read what we wrote about that US statement just yesterday: “12-Nov-19: On Jordan, the US and the children killed in a pizzeria“.

It’s also well reported in the online English-language edition of Haaretz. (You can slso click to download the printed version.)

And also yesterday, perhaps unwittingly, you spoke as Jordan’s Foreign Minister to a public event and put Jordan’s position – and presumably your own personal views as well – on the record.

We are pleased that you did – pleased enough that we want others to know. As many others as possible. And especially the small tribe of US Congressional figures making frequent pilgrimages to Jordan and to its king [“09-Nov-19: Another delegation from US Congress at Jordan’s royal court. Did extradition come up?“]

We found your blunt and deliberate words on the popular Jordanian news-site JO24. (We remember it as one of the Jordanian TV channels that lovingly provided Jordanian audiences with real-time, live video coverage of Ahlam Tamimi’s wedding to her cousin Nizar on June 16, 2012).

Safadi: We have received US requests to extradite Ahlam al-Tamimi. We confirm our commitment to the law that prevents it (JO24)

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Affairs, Ayman Safadi, said that several US authorities asked Jordan to extradite Jordanian citizen Ahlam Al-Tamimi, pointing out that Jordan respects and abides by the law “and the law does not allow it”.

Safadi said during a press conference to talk about the expiry of the annexes of the Wadi Araba agreement related to the areas of Baqoura and Ghamr, on Monday, that Jordan is a state that respects the law. Jordanian law does not allow the extradition of a citizen to a third country and there is no legal basis for the delivery of Ahlam al-Tamimi.
He pointed out that there are requests from US authorities requesting the extradition of Tamimi, “but Jordan deals in accordance with the law and the law does not allow extradition.”
In late March 2017, the Court of Cassation upheld a decision by the Amman Court of Appeal to reject Washington’s request for the extradition of Ahlam al-Tamimi, accused of involvement in an attack that killed two US citizens in 2001.
Tamimi spent 10 years in Israeli jails after being sentenced to 16 years [might be a machine translation error – see below] in prison for participating in a martyrdom operation of the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, in the Sbarro restaurant in West Jerusalem in August 2001 in which 15 people were killed and 122 others were injured.
The occupation [a reference to Israel] released Tamimi and handed over to Jordan in 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas.
[Source: “Safadi: We have received US requests to extradite Ahlam al-Tamimi. We confirm our commitment to the law that prevents it“, JO24, November 12, 2019 – the original article is in Arabic; the English text is via Google Translate]

(For background to the US extradition request, see “03-Nov-19: In Washington, a step towards bringing the Sbarro bomber to justice“)

You are the latest in a line of foreign ministers – eight of them so far – to have served Jordan since its absolute monarch King Abdullah II ascended to the throne. You are the first to have publicly expressed, to the best of our knowledge, a frank and open disdain for an entirely proper request made by the United States, your country’s most important strategic partner.

We confess to being surprised by how inaccurate your claims are, at least in the form reported by the Jordan media. Naturally, if they misquoted you (which sometimes happens to politicians), we assume you will see to it that the record is fixed.

Meanwhile, on the assumption that what we see does reflect what you said, allow us to point out some of what you got wrong. And some matters that ought to be more on your mind than they seem to be.

  • You say “Jordanian law does not allow the extradition of a citizen to a third country“. That’s not true of Jordanian law. And it’s not what Jordan’s highest court said in its March 2017 decision to prohibit Tamimi’s extradition. The court’s argument has to do with a narrow, highly technical alleged flaw in how the treaty was accepted by Jordan. And by the way, officials in the US State Department have told us the allegations of a flaw are simply untrue as a matter of fact.
  • As you surely also know, even if there was a technical flaw, it could have been fixed by Jordan’s parliament (whose members are by and large selected by the king, according to this Wikipedia entry) at any time. Including this afternoon. Somehow no one in Jordan has gotten around to even trying.
  • Leaving the dubious legal claims about the treaty aside, it’s a fact that Jordan’s still-active extradition treaty with the US went into full legal effect on July 29, 1995 and that both countries treated it as being valid and effective for the next 22 years. Jordan, as you know, has extradited several Jordanians to the US. We can give you the details of several of them who are currently serving long US prison sentences. Just ask.
  • What’s more, based on things we have learned from open source materials, Jordan has never once failed to extradite fugitives to the US when asked to do so – until the Tamimi case.
  • Is there really any doubt (as you seem to claim) about Jordan having extradition treaties with other countries? We have not found an authoritative source but the list certainly includes at least Lebanon and France. A treaty is currently been negotiated with Australia where our Malki was born.
  • Then there’s the money: Jordan, which struggles economically and has huge burdens, is monumentally dependent on US aid. The US provides far more foreign aid to Jordan than anyone else does.
  • In fact, on scanning the same Arabic media source that reports your disappointing statement about diasvowing your country’s treaty with the US, we were startled to find a report [“$1 Billion Additional Aid Will Reach Jordan Next Month“, JO24 and archived here] that underscores in a concrete way how hugely important US support and generosity is to the kingdom. Somehow this is not reflected in the tone or content of what you are quoted as saying.
  • While you are not to blame for this, we noticed what the JO24 report on your speech said about Ahlam Tamimi. It’s sadly typical of the chronically inaccurate journalism emanating from other sources in your country. Tamimi, it wrongly states, is “accused of involvement in an attack that killed two US citizens in 2001“. Accused? Tamimi proudly boasts she did it, and was convicted by a tribunal of three Israeli judges who sentenced her to sixteen terms of life imprisonment. JO24 says it was 16 years which isn’t close to the truth (but might be a translation error). But in any event, she was out of prison as a result of the catastrophic Shalit Deal after just eight years.
  • And while it’s true that she is charged by the US with killing just two US citizens – our daughter and the pregnant daughter of our dear friends the Haymans – the number of lives Tamimi extinguished, including the non-US citizens among them, is 16. One of those is a young mother who has been lying unconscious in all the years since then.
  • Thanks to very uncharacteristic and misplaced Hashemite tolerance, Tamimi had her own television program called Breezes of the Free or in Arabic “نسيم الأحرار” [background: “6-May-12: What lies behind freedom of the Palestinian Arab press?“], produced by Hamas and recorded unhindered, week after week, in the Jordanian capital between 2012 and 2016. From there it was beamed literally throughout the world, everywhere that Arabic speaking audiences were found. This turned Tamimi into a global celebrity. As you know.
  • How does Jordan’s willingness to allow Tamim’s weekly incitement to terror, her gloating over the joys of blowing Jewish children to pieces, sit with your claim that the kingdom “respects and abides by the law“? Why is she permitted to appear as a celebrity in public events in Jordan? On Jordan’s commercial television? Why was her rapturous welcome back to Jordan in October 2011 conducted in a government court-house? (Here’s the proof.) Why isn’t she in a Jordanian prison? Why isn’t she on a flight to Washington now, in handcuffs and chains.
  • And why, in the name of all that’s good and decent, do you express no concern, no discomfort, no embarrassment, no nausea over the reality that Jordan has given Tamimi, who has never denied the murders in which she was involved, a dream life? Do you have children? Do you know anyone who does? Are you aware that Tamimi has boasted repeatedly that it was children she set out to kill with her bomb?

Thank you for clarifying matters.

You have delivered a good basis for the US media to engage with you and to understand at a deeper level what your published comments mean in the context of US/Jordan relations and the billion dollars that’s coming your way in December.

Naturally, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss what we have just placed in front of you. We would also want to take the opportunity to share with you some things you might not know about the beautiful life of the child whose unbearable loss we continue to mourn.

Frimet and Arnold Roth
Jerusalem, Israel


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