More than just a matter of justice

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On Aug. 9, 2001, Ahlam Tamimi dropped Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri off at the Sbarro pizza restaurant on the intersection of King George Street and Jaffa Road on the western side of Jerusalem. Izz al-Din calmly ate his lunch and then detonated a bomb, killing himself and taking with him 15 innocent diners. Among them were two American citizens, the pregnant Judith Greenbaum, 31, and 15-year-old Malki Roth.

I never met Malki, but I have gotten to know her through her father, Arnold, possibly the kindest, loveliest man anyone could have the pleasure of knowing. He described Malki as an intelligent, sensitive child who loved helping others, especially children. She was a talented flutist who composed her own music, and wanted to be a special education teacher.

Malki, whose life was snuffed out well before she could actualize her dreams, was one of eight children murdered in the bombing. Years after the attack, the enormous pain is still evident in her father’s eyes when he talks about her or when he describes that dreadful night when he had to identify her horrifically disfigured body at the Jerusalem morgue.

Meanwhile, Tamimi has gone on to have quite the career as a role model for young, aspiring Islamic terrorists. She spent eight years in an Israeli jail before being released in a 2011 prisoner exchange agreement, along with 1,026 others.

Various interviews conducted while Tamimi was in prison have made the rounds on YouTube. In one, Tamimi was asked if she knew how many Israeli children she had killed. Her response was “three children were killed in the operation, I think.” When the journalist corrected her, saying “eight,” an animated smile of self-satisfaction appeared on her face and she exclaimed, “Eight? Eight!”

When Tamimi was released from prison, she was jubilantly welcomed in Jordan as a conquering hero. She and her family have continuously received payments from both the Palestinian Authority’s “Prisoners’ Fund” as well as from Hamas. When she married, her wedding was broadcast as a joyous occasion throughout the Muslim and Arab world.

Until recently, Tamimi starred in a Hamas-sponsored television program carried via Kuwaiti satellite throughout the world. It can even be seen in the United States. In this inverted, diseased society that praises the cult of death, she has become a celebrity.

I realize it is not politically correct to call a society “diseased,” but one has to look at what the word actually means. If “health” is anything that prolongs life, then “disease” is anything that hastens death. Any society that encourages the death of its young people (as well as others), is a fundamentally and tragically diseased society.

Any parent who has ever looked into the eyes of anyone who has lost a child to terrorism would feel compelled to seek justice. We are all equally vulnerable to this modern scourge, and we hold our children a little tighter every time we say goodbye.

But when it comes to someone like Tamimi, justice, though important, is not enough. In this age of globalization, Facebook and YouTube, speaking up for the victims is a matter of our own national security interests here in the United States.

My organization, EMET, has worked very hard to get us to this point. We’ve held hundreds of congressional meetings over the years about this issue. With the help of Congress, we managed to establish an office within the Justice Department to advocate for all Americans killed or injured by terrorists abroad.

We have prompted at least four separate congressional letters sent to the department, signed by scores of senators and congressmen. We successfully pushed for hearings, and had one on the Senate side in a subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee led by Sen. Ted Cruz in November 2015, and one on the House side in the National Security Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee led by Congressman Ron DeSantis in February 2016. Last week, we met with someone in the White House about this issue.

Arnold Roth emailed me after the FBI told him and Malki’s mother, Frimet, that the criminal complaint against Tamimi has been unsealed, and that an extradition request had been submitted to Jordan and a warrant issued for her arrest. We spoke on the phone the next morning, and he said that for the first time since Malki’s death, he and his wife had a tiny, fleeting moment of satisfaction.

We know that Jordan is denying the extradition request. However, we at EMET will not rest until Tamimi is found, handcuffed, extradited, convicted, sentenced and punished on American shores.

But as Arnold said to me over the phone, “Even if not, there is still some small satisfaction in knowing that she will have to look over her shoulder for the rest of her life.”

Originally published at Israel HaYom on March 21, 2017

Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of EMET, the Endowment for Middle East Truth.

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The Endowment for Middle East Truth
Founded in 2005, The Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) is a Washington, D.C. based think tank and policy center with an unabashedly pro-America and pro-Israel stance. EMET (which means truth in Hebrew) prides itself on challenging the falsehoods and misrepresentations that abound in U.S. Middle East policy.

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