“IT was something so unsettling and hideous that I can barely bring myself to talk about it.”
On the 19th anniversary of the suicide bombing that killed Australian-born teenager Malki Roth, her father Arnold Roth may struggle to share how he felt when he heard his daughter had been murdered.
But on one thing he is clear. Ahlam Tamimi, the terrorist who masterminded the August 9, 2001, attack on the Sbarro pizza restaurant in Jerusalem, which claimed 15 lives – seven of them children – must be brought to justice. And in an interview with The AJN, he urged members of the Australian Jewish community to help bring that about, by signing a petition calling for her extradition from Jordan to the US.
Sentenced to 16 consecutive life terms in an Israeli jail, Tamimi, who drove the bomber to the restaurant, was released in the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange. She now lives in Jordan where, according to Roth, this “beast” is “a hero”, feted as a celebrity, boasting about those she helped kill.
As Malki had American as well as Australian citizenship, under US law Tamimi can be prosecuted in the United States. But despite an extradition request, Jordan has yet to take any action.
Noting that there’s a $5 million reward from the US Department of State for information leading to her arrest, Roth said, “There are not that many people in Jordan walking around with $5 million in their pocket. And yet she’s still free. Why is this? Well, this is what I want to really convey … She’s never been in hiding for one second. You don’t need to hide if the entire hierarchy, the government and the media and all of the public institutions in Jordan are with you.”
Roth and his wife Frimet, who are calling on the US to withhold aid to exert pressure on the Jordanian regime, are also urging the Australian government to speak out.
Describing Australia as “one of Jordan’s most important non-Arab friends”, he added, “There’s an ethical, moral, legal and justice-based reason why Australia ought to be speaking out. Malki was an Australian citizen and what has been done in the case of her murderer is unspeakable, it’s unjustifiable.”
Roth also urged members of the community to rally to the cause. “What we want is for people to express to the Australian authorities, the need for Australia to be heard on this. Australia really does have an unusual position vis-a-vis the Jordanians, and unless the Jordanians hear the disgust that people all around them feel, we’re not going to get to the sort of change that we need to get.”
To that end, the family has launched an online petition demanding Tamimi’s extradition, which so far has more than 6600 signatures.
“I hope we’ll get to a much larger number,” Roth said. “Petitions are a legitimate way of people expressing a view that needs to be heard by the decision-makers in Jordan and in the United States.”
Reflecting on the impact on the family when they learnt of Malki’s murder 19 years ago this week, he shared, “What it did do for us was to enrage us around a couple of core propositions.”
The first, he said, was, “We couldn’t allow Malki to be made into a statistic. The second was that practically no one who had any sense and was speaking out was able to grasp what terrorism was doing to our society.
“And the third was a sense of absolute incapability of understanding what would enable people to do what they did. This was a pizzeria that was targeted because of its children. We now know this in excruciating detail. It’s hard to just walk past those facts, even if it’s not your own child – but if it is your own child – and maintain some equanimity. It’s just a turning point in my life. No question.”
To sign the petition, visit change.org/extraditetamimi.