The Woman behind a Notorious Suicide Bombing Walks Free. Will America See That She Is Punished?

June 5, 2020 | David Horovitz
About the author:

On August 9, 2001, Ahlam Tamimi and Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri traveled from the West Bank to Jerusalem, where Masri detonated himself in a Sbarro’s pizzeria, killing seven children and eight adults, and injuring scores. When the two passed through an Israeli checkpoint earlier that day, they appeared to be a young couple; had Masri been alone, police almost certainly would have stopped him and discovered the deadly bomb in his guitar case. Tamimi was arrested shortly thereafter and sentenced to life in prison. Ten years later, she was among the 1,027 Palestinian prisoners exchanged for the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. She now resides in Jordan.

Drawing on an interview with Frimet and Arnold Roth, whose daughter Malki was among Tamimi’s victims, David Horovitz recounts their ongoing struggle for justice:

The judges put on the record their recommendation that she never be released, [but] Tamimi—the woman who scouted the location for the attack, escorted the suicide bomber to ensure the atrocity went ahead, and speaks of the bombing as “my operation”—has thrived, has been allowed to thrive. She has been able to marry [her cousin, who murdered a young Israeli in 1993], to talk of starting a family, and to become something of a celebrity on the strength of her murderous exploits, while expressing regret only that more people were not killed. She cast their lives into darkness. But hers has been bright.

She traveled widely and often within Jordan and to numerous Arab countries—including repeat visits to Algeria, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Tunisia, and Yemen—speaking to school and university groups, trade unions, and on TV—boasting of her central role in the massacre, of the high death toll and of her intention to kill Jewish children, preferably religiously observant.

Arnold would argue that governments that seek to defeat terrorism must refuse to release convicted terrorists from prisons since this emboldens them and their colleagues. By nurturing the belief that their demands are likely to be met in the future, he would argue, you encourage terrorist blackmail of the very kind that you want to stop. Only the most unrelenting refusal ever to give in to such blackmail can prevent this.

The Roths have used Malki’s American citizenship to lobby the government to bring Tamimi to the U.S.—which has an extradition treaty with Jordan—for trial. While Washington has been slow to act, last year Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania succeeded in passing legislation that would deny aid to countries like Jordan that refuse to extradite residents indicted for severe criminal offenses:

Along with the simple principle of justice, Congressman Perry . . . raised another central point when considering the balance between pushing Jordan hard for Tamimi’s extradition and preserving Jordan’s internal stability: the imperative that neither Jordan, nor any other country for that matter, be permitted to turn itself into a safe haven for terrorists.

What will come of the new law remains to be seen.

Read more on Times of Israel:

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register Already a subscriber? Sign in now