15 people, including two Americans, murdered by Killer-Turned-TV Star Ahlam Tamimi
On this day 15 years ago, a Hamas terror gang based in the West Bank executed a bombing attack on a busy restaurant in the center of Jerusalem. In the horrific act of savagery 15 people were killed, including 7 children.
Two U.S. citizens were among those murdered. Four additional Americans were wounded — one severely.
In total, some 130 were injured with varying degrees of severity by the “human bomb” and his team of accomplices.
The mastermind was Ahlam Tamimi, relative of Bassem Tamimi, and a hero to this day in her home village of Nabi Saleh where international activists still protest the security barrier constructed in response to the Sbarro and dozens of other suicide bombings.
In this post, I revisit the 2001 Sbarro suicide bombing.
I’ll describe the attack, its victims, and the team of terrorists involved in order to underscore the disgraceful fact that for over two decades the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has not prosecuted a single Palestinian terrorist who has killed Americans in Israel or the disputed territories, even though U.S. law requires it to do so.
Included at the end of the post is a statement exclusive for Legal Insurrection by Frimet and Arnold Roth—the parents of Malka (Malki) Roth, a 15-year-old American girl who was murdered in the Sbarro atrocity.
August 9, 2001: The Sbarro Bombing
At 2:00pm on a hot summer day, a Palestinian terrorist entered the Sbarro Pizzeria and detonated a bomb.
Situated at the corner of King George Street and Jaffa Road in Jerusalem, probably one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in Israel, the bomb blast completely gutted the restaurant.
I ate at this Sbarro a number of times when I lived in and visited Israel. It was a popular kosher eatery, conveniently located, and a good place to bring the kids.
On August 9, 2001 the restaurant was filled with lunch-time diners—many of them children and their mothers. The street was also crowded with pedestrian traffic.
At the time, like most public spaces in Israel the pizzeria wasn’t guarded, something which enabled the human bomber to enter the place unimpeded.
According to media reports, documentation by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and accounts piece together by those who lost loved ones in the horrific attack, the terrorist and his 10 kilogram bomb was transported by taxi to the site by a woman named Ahlam ‘Aref Ahmad al-Tamimi, also known as Ahlam Tamimi, and another Palestinian, Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri.
They reportedly concealed the explosives inside a guitar case. The case was also packed with nails, screws, and bolts to ensure maximum damage.
The terrorist al-Masri was killed in the blast. Tamimi escaped but was arrested a few weeks later. Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the bombing.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Jerusalem municipality police closed down the PLO’s east Jerusalem headquarters (known as the Orient House) and the IDF took control of Palestinian military and political buildings at Abu Dis, just outside of Jerusalem. The IDF also attacked the PA’s West Bank police headquarters in Ramallah.
Although perpetrated by a Hamas terror cell, Israeli officials at the time held the Palestinian Authority and the late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat complicit in the carnage. Then Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, the architect of the Oslo peace accords, reportedly said on the day of the attack:
If the Palestinian Authority had acted with the necessary determination and carried out preventive detentions of Hamas terrorists and their operators, the murders today in Jerusalem would have been prevented”.
Six weeks after the bombing an exhibit at Al Najah University in the West Bank, which included a mock-up of the Sbarro pizzeria complete with bloody plastic body parts and partially-chewed pizza crusts, glorified the attack and the bombers:
The Sbarro attack was coordinated and planned by Hamas’ branch in the West Bank.
Shuheil al-Masri, the human bomb of the Sbarro restaurant massacre, was a 22-year-old resident of the West Bank village of Aqaba, north of Tulkarm. He was single and came from a relatively well-off family.
The explosive charge was manufactured by Abdallah Jamal Barghouti, a Kuwaiti national who moved to the West Bank in the late 1990s and became Hamas’ chief engineer.
For his involvement in the Sbarro bombing and in a number of other horrific terrorist attacks during the second intifada, he was sentenced to 67 life sentences. As I noted in a prior post, he’s one of the highest paid Palestinian mass-murderers now serving time in an Israeli prison.
Marwan Barghouti was also implicated in the terror plot. The former leader of Fatah’s armed militia (the Tanzim) and a still-prominent Palestinian political figure, he’s now also serving five consecutive life sentences for orchestrating the murder of a Greek Orthodox monk outside of Jerusalem in June 2001 and carrying out hundreds of deadly attacks against Israeli civilians during the second intifada.
He reportedly paid Abdallah Barghouti $500 to build the bomb. He also reportedly armed and sheltered Billal Barghouti—another Hamas terrorist who was also captured and admitted his participation in the Sbarro attack—when he was on the run from Israeli authorities.
While incarcerated, Marwan Barghouti has become something of a folk hero. He was recently recommended for the Nobel Peace Prize by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. Several local councils in France are also seeking to name him an honorary citizen.
Based on the information that I could find while researching this post, at least two of the human bomber’s accomplices are no longer locked up in jail.
Mohammad Daghlas, a university student who delivered the bomb that was used in the Sbarro massacre, served time in Israel, but was released to freedom in October 2011 as part of the Shalit prisoner exchange.
That’s what also happened to Ahlam Tamimi, the human bomber’s guide.
Ahlam Tamimi: Massacre Mastermind
Then a 20-year-old Jordanian national living in Ramallah, Tamimi was studying at Bir Zeit University and was working as a part-time journalist when she was recruited by Hamas’ Izzadine el-Qassam terror organization.
Tamimi was reportedly involved in gathering intelligence for the attack and in selecting the venue. She was also instrumental in assisting al-Masri in getting there. She reportedly carried a camera to look like a tourist and spoke in English with the suicide bomber so that he would look less conspicuous.
For her role in the Sbarro massacre, she was sentenced to 16 life terms (320 years).
In 2011, just a few months prior to her release from prison, official PA TV honored her and her family (at the same time, Daghlas was also honored):
The PA’s official daily also published an article on the day before Tamimi’s release glorifying her as a “spirited fighter”.
Tamimi was deported to Jordan.
There, she’s become a celebrity and a media starlet in the Arab world—a “Palestinian Oprah” who hosts her own weekly talk show on the Hamas satellite TV channel, Al Quds. The show is broadcast to her adoring fans across the Middle East and the world.
Last year, on the 14th anniversary of the Sbarro bombing, websites and Facebook pages across the Arab world and in the West Bank paid tribute to Tamimi.
In between extolling the virtues of “martyrdom attacks”, this depraved woman routinely celebrates her own monstrous achievement. Her Twitter account is full of the glory of the killing. Here is a recent tweet where she pays poetic homage to the Sbarro attack’s human bomber:
Living in total freedom in Amman, Tamimi married another convicted terrorist a few years ago—a cousin who was also released in the Shalit prisoner deal. Despite the protests of the Roths and other victims of Palestinian terrorism, he was reportedly allowed by Israeli authorities to leave the West Bank on account of it “being easier” to have hardcore terrorists living in places other than Israel or the West Bank.
The joyous nuptials were covered live on TV.
Tamimi has said on repeated occasions that she carefully selected the Sbarro restaurant in order to maximize civilian casualties—especially children and religious Jews.
In multiple publicly-aired TV interviews, she has never expressed remorse of any kind. In fact, she is proud of the deaths that she helped to cause. During an interview in 2012, she recounted how happy she was to hear of the rising Sbarro attack body count. She had been under the impression that fewer Jews had been killed.
Back in 2006, while still in an Israeli jail cell, she reportedly said: “I’m not sorry for what I did”.
It’s a sentiment she’s repeated ever since.
Ahlam Tamimi and the Tamimi Clan
Ahlam Tamimi is a member of the extended Tamimi family. Based in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, they’ve become heroes in the West—particularly among journalists who frequently feature them as prominent civil society leaders of “non-violent resistance” against Israeli occupation.
The reality, as we’ve noted in prior posts, is that the Tamimis are a bunch of terrorism-promoting and blood-libeling Palestinian activists who have the nasty habit of spending much of their time exploiting their and other village children for anti-Israel publicity stunts.
In an important essay published yesterday in Tablet the German-Israeli researcher and historian Petra Marquardt-Bigman critiques journalist Ben Ehrenreich’s sympathetic treatment of the Tamimis in his new highly-acclaimed book. Marquardt-Bigman marshals considerable evidence from publicly available social media sources (primarily in Arabic) to show how the Tamimi clan openly trade in antisemitic tropes and support terrorism against Israeli civilians (see also her earlier LI post here).
Ehrenreich and other Western mainstream media outlets paint a glowing picture of the Tamimis—especially the matriarch Nariman, who is extoled as a paragon of virtue, an admirable activist, and devoted mother and wife.
In fact, as Marquardt-Bigman meticulously documents, this woman routinely praises and promotes the online material of Ahlam Tamimi, which incites to violence and glorifies terror attacks.
Nariman’s promoted posts on social media—including those of the notorious Sbarro murderess—put the lie to Ehrenreich’s glowing depiction of a family committed to nonviolence and justice.
Here’s a new video produced by Marquardt-Bigman and the blogger Elder of Zion which offers a glimpse into the intense Jew-hatred and support for terrorism that drives Ben Ehrenreich’s favorite people:
Here are the names and selected photos of the victims in the August 9, 2001 terrorist bombing at the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem which were released by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
The majority of those killed were children.
Many young children were also among the injured. Eight-year-old Haya Schijvesschuurder, who was hospitalized for her wounds, lost five members of her family, including both of her parents.
Of the 130 others maimed, many have life-long injuries.
Among those killed in the bomb blast were two American citizens: Judith L. Greenbaum (31) of New Jersey (who was pregnant at the time) and Malka (nicknamed Malki) Roth (15) who lived with her family in Jerusalem.
Four other Americans—David Danzig, Matthew Gordon, and Joanne (Chana) and Sarah Nachenberg—were also injured.
Chana Nachenberg—a mother whose only child Sarah was then two-years-old—is still in a vegetative state today, never having regained consciousness. You can read her daughter Sarah’s moving words about her Mom here.
Malki’s parents, Frimet and Arnold Roth, went on to establish an organization for special needs children—the Malki Foundation (Keren Malki)—dedicated to the memory of their daughter.
Over the last fifteen years, they have also spoken and written frequently in print media and online about their personal experience with radical Islamist terrorism and about losing their daughter Malki.
Their website and blog, This Ongoing War, is also an important resource for those who study jihadist terrorism and counter-terrorism efforts.
In November Malki would have been 30-years-old—she would have undoubtedly been married with kids, bringing her parents much naches (pride and joy). Today, in her August 9, 2016 blog post, Frimet Roth writes about her “never-ending nightmare”, the “raw grief” and the “fresh outrages”.
Mr. and Mrs. Roth are inviting well-wishers to their daughter’s gravesite for her yahrzeit at the end of the month. Here’s the recent entry on their blog:
An Exclusive Statement for LI from Frimet and Arnold Roth
Since 1993, when the U.S. established diplomatic relations with the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA), nearly 70 U.S. citizens have lost their lives and dozens more have been wounded (some severely) in attacks perpetrated by jihadist-inspired terrorists in Israel and the disputed territories.
Some of the perpetrators have been killed by Israeli security forces in the process of committing their heinous acts. Others are incarcerated in Israeli jails, where they’re earning hefty salaries and other bonuses in a deplorable PA “pay to slay” system that we documented in a previous post.
But many of the terrorists behind these attacks “continue to roam free across the Middle East”. None of them have ever been prosecuted by the United States.
The parents of Malki Roth aren’t hopeful that the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) will start a U.S. criminal prosecution of their daughter’s killer, despite a congressional mandate ordering the Justice Department to take action against such individuals and the forceful pressure that’s recently been brought to bear by lawmakers.
Arnold Roth had been among those testifying last February at a congressional subcommittee hearing where he said that his goal was to “reassert the humanity of the victims” by calling for increased action from the DoJ.
During the hearing he said that while DoJ officials always exhibited “unfailing courtesy”, the tangible results have been in short supply, noting that he learned more about his daughter’s killers from YouTube and Twitter than from the department’s updates.
Here’s a statement that the Roths emailed to me for inclusion in this post:
Recognizing that terror victims, no matter where, go through an intensely personal, often terribly lonely and isolating, process of dealing with the loss and pain and insult and sense of violation, the U.S. Congress legislated an exemplary law in 2005 that works to ensure that where Americans are injured or killed in terrorist attacks overseas, investigation and prosecution remain a high priority within the Department of Justice. The Attorney General at the time, Alberto R. Gonzales, sounded optimistic in a public statement accompanying the establishment of the Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism (OVT for short). It would ‘guarantee a voice for victims and their families’, he said, in investigations and prosecutions of terrorists where Americans overseas were the victims. ‘Our commitment to these victims is as strong as our dedication to bringing their terrorist attackers to justice.’
It has not worked that way.
As a parent of a US citizen murdered in a 2001 Hamas attack in Jerusalem, I was invited to testify before the House Oversight Committee in February 2016.We know precisely who murdered Malki, our daughter, and where they are today. All but one of the terrorist gang were freed in the catastrophic 2011 Shalit deal. We have laid out our expectations before the OVT’s people over the years, and have met with them face-to-face several times. We have been told repeatedly to wait, and that updates would come. But as I put it to the House Oversight Committee, ‘there have been no updates.’ We are as much in the dark today about the pursuit of justice for Malki’s murderers as we were when we first went to Washington to speak to the OVT in 2012”.
Possibility of Prosecuting Ahlam Tamimi in U.S.
According to Adam Turner, an expert on national security law and former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the DoJ could certainly prosecute Tamimi for her criminal murders of two Americans and the wounding of other U.S. citizens in the 2001 Sbarro terror attack (see his articles here and here).
Basically, Turner claims that Tamimi’s post-imprisonment media appearances have made an “airtight case against her even tighter”.
In Jordan, she is under no duress from anyone; in fact she is celebrating her terrorist actions”.
According to Turner (see also this article by Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney whose daughter was murdered in a Palestinian terror attack in April 1995), Tamimi’s prosecution wouldn’t have any problems with the chain of custody of evidence or the admissibility of confessions, that could possibly be issues with regard to prosecuting some other Palestinian terrorists in U.S. courts.
The tapes aren’t banned hearsay under U.S. law and they would be admissible to be used by the court to convict her.
As Turner claims, “There is no credible legal reason…that would bar [the DoJ] from prosecuting Ahlam Tamimi for her 2001 terrorist crime against six Americans citizens”.
The U.S. government has “plenty of leverage” to convince Jordan to hand over Tamimi, and can secure the necessary evidence to indict. It’s just doesn’t seem all that interested in doing so.
I contacted The Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a non-partisan Washington, D.C.-based think tank which has spearheaded efforts to achieve justice for the American victims of Palestinian terrorism, about the U.S. Department of Justice’s apparent foot-dragging on prosecuting Palestinian terrorists.
I knew from media reports that back in February the congressional subcommittee had instructed the DoJ to put together a task force to examine the challenges that the department faces in prosecuting foreign terrorists. If the DoJ was being responsive, the task force should’ve been up and running right about now.
Sarah N. Stern, EMET’s Founder and President, confirmed my suspicions: it doesn’t look like the DoJ will meet the deadline. Stern emailed me the following statement to include in this post:
As someone who grew up fully believing in the American justice system, the most heartbreaking endeavor I have ever been engaged in is the pursuit of justice for the at least 67 Americans, (that I know of), who have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists, since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. After more than five years of consistent efforts working, with the help of Congress, to get the Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism opened, I am sorry to say that it has been opened for 11 years now, and they have not brought a single Palestinian suspect to justice on these shores, despite the fact that there is a prior law that says that any time an American is murdered or injured abroad by terrorism, we are entitled to do so. Worse than not doing anything at all, this office has played on the emotions of the victims’ families, by meeting with them once every five years or so, and telling them not to do anything, that they are very close to apprehending their loved ones’ murderer. I had erroneously thought that once an office was opened in the Department of Justice and “Justice” was the name on the door, as opposed to “State”, whose major role is diplomacy, we would get a pure crack at justice, uncontaminated by political or diplomatic factors. However, for the Americans unlucky enough to be killed or injured by Palestinian terrorists, they are regarded as mere pawns on a political and diplomatic chess board. This should not be. It is morally wrong. And it is not what the America I grew up believing in is all about”.
Terrorists from around the world are routinely extradited to the U.S. to stand trial for attacks on Americans abroad. But Palestinians seem to be one class of killers that’re immune from extradition.
The DoJ and the OVT are obviously failing to do their job when it comes to prosecuting those terrorists. The grieving families of Americans killed in Israel deserve better from these U.S. prosecutors.
Quite simply: their pain is being compounded by the lack of justice coming from their own government.
But there’s another good reason not to let the Palestinian killers of Americans, like Ahlam Tamimi, escape justice to enjoy fame and good fortune.
The obvious reluctance to prosecute Tamimi and other Islamist terrorists like her undermines U.S. policy and national security because it “sends the wrong message” to would-be terrorists around the globe. As EMET’s Sarah N. Stern rightly notes, it contributes to the terrorists’ sense of “impunity and invincibility”.
It also allows the Palestinian governing authorities, and even allies like Jordan, to act dismissively toward the United States and the lives of American citizens. As EMET’s staff legal counsel Adam Turner puts it:
A woman responsible for the deaths of two Americans—one only 15 years old and another one pregnant with a child—is smiling and celebrating her crimes all over the Arab world, and she and the Arab governments that celebrate and reward her have absolutely no fear or concern that the United States will take any action to punish her or them. The twisted moral code shown here, and the lack of respect for the U.S., is almost unbelievable”.
Bottom line: Ahlam Tamimi is more than just another Palestinian terrorist. She is a “symbol” of U.S. weakness and a prominent example of how unserious we are about fighting the war on terror. If she continues to escape justice, there will undoubtedly be a lot more dead Americans.
Miriam F. Elman is an associate professor of political science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She is the editor of five books and the author of over 60 journal articles, book chapters, and government reports on topics related to international and national security, religion and politics in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also frequently speaks and writes on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement. Follow her on Twitter @MiriamElman