By Sharele Moody, Queensland Times, 19 January 2021
The woman who plotted the murder of Australian teenager Malka Chana Roth laughs and gloats on television about her vile actions. Journalist SHERELE MOODY follows the Roth family’s relentless fight to put the smiling assassin behind bars and to win justice for their beautiful kind-hearted daughter and sister.
ARNOLD Roth has spent more years mourning his daughter than he spent parenting her.
Australian teenager Malka Chana Roth was just three months shy of her 16th birthday when an extremist blew her to pieces in a massacre orchestrated by a woman now feted by terrorists from one side of the world to the other.
Malki – as she is fondly known by those who loved her – would turn 35 this year.
Had she lived, she’d have graduated high school and university, excelled in her career of choice and – perhaps – partnered, married and borne her own children.
Instead, her body lies six-feet under the earth as her parents and her siblings lobby governments across three continents in their desperate attempt to bring her killer to justice.
This is their story.
THE JEWISH GIRL, THE PIZZA SHOP AND THE KILLER
AS the clock ticked towards 2pm on August 9, 2001, a young clean-shaven man – guitar case slung across his shoulder – casually strolled into the Sbarro pizzeria in downtown Jerusalem.
It was a magnificently bright Israeli summer day and the branch of the iconic American restaurant chain was flat out, its busy staff serving delectable New York-style pizza to the teeming crowd of hungry tourists, young people and mums and their children.
Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri went straight to the counter, stopping close to Malki Roth and her best mate – 16-year-old Michal Raziel.
It’s not known if Malki and Michal interacted with the 22-year-old son of wealthy business owners.
Regardless, there was no way they could have known al-Masri had a deadly bomb, not a guitar, in the instrument case he carried.
The bomb was crafted by Al-Masri’s Hamas comrade Abdullah Barghouti – an efficient and expert incendiary device maker known to have killed 66 people with his horrific craft.
Jamming the weapon full of nails, shrapnel, bolts and explosives, Barghouti’s goal was to ensure the bomb would rip to shreds anyone and anything within its blast radius.
Moments after arriving in Sbarro, al-Masri detonated the weapon
Malki died at the scene.
Michal survived the blast and paramedics ferried her through the chaos to hospital. But there was nothing surgeons could do. She took her last breathe with her devastated mum by her side.
The explosion killed 13 others. Amongst the dead were a pregnant woman and eight children.
A further 130 civilians were injured.
One of those victims – Chana Nachenberg – remains in hospital some 19 years and six months later. She has spent the past two decades in a vegetative state and on life support.
Miraculously, her three-year-old daughter lived and is now a grown woman with a baby of her own.
In the hours after the explosion, witnesses and survivors told journalists about the shock of watching blood flow in the streets and bodies flying through Sbarro’s plate glass windows.
“I heard a tremendous explosion and I was thrown a metre into the air,” neighboring business owner Chaviv Avrahami said in an interview with The Guardian.
“I knew immediately that it was a bomb attack and a catastrophic one.
“There were people – babies – thrown through the window and covered with blood.
“The whole street was covered with blood and bodies – the dead and the dying.”
A FAMILY HISTORY OF PAIN AND TRIUMPH
ARNOLD Roth’s familial history is one of great pain and sacrifice. His mum and dad were Polish-born Jews who survived the Auschwitz death camps during Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945.
Abraham and Genia Roth met and fell in love in the US occupation zone of Germany after World War II ended. They married there before seeking a home in a country as far away from Poland and Germany as they could get.
The Roths arrived in Melbourne as refugees in 1949, welcoming their infant son Arnold three years later in 1952.
“My parents lost almost everything – their youth, their own parents, almost all their siblings, their health, their education,” Arnold tells me via a Zoom call from his home in Jerusalem.
“They both survived Auschwitz with an astounding pair of personal histories.
“Despite their trauma, they made a contented home with my brother and me always at its centre.
“I recall no bitterness or hatred and a tremendous focus on making a good life, getting a good education and having a family.”
Arnold’s dad never spoke about his own devastating past with his sons.
“It’s only in the last five years that I learned my father had lost a first wife and a young child to the Nazi horrors,” the 68-year-old lawyer reveals.
“He passed away in 1982 and never once mentioned what he was carrying with him.”
The Roths did not raise their sons in a strictly religious household – it wasn’t until Arnold began studying law at Monash University that he embraced his Jewish heritage.
After graduating, the 23-year-old headed to New York to further his religious studies.
The young Aussie fell in love with the iconic American city and one of its residents – 21-year-old law student Frimet Moseson.
As their relationship blossomed, Arnold hoped to make his move to the US more permanent, but fate decided otherwise.
“My father got really sick and my mother told me she needed me to come home,” he says.
“Three days later I was saying goodbye to Frimet and coming back to Melbourne.”
In the 1970s, maintaining a relationship between cities 16,600km apart was no mean feat – especially as there was no email, phone calls cost a small fortune and letters arrived at a snail’s pace.
“We communicated using the email of the day, which was called aerogrammes,” Arnold explains, recalling how he proposed to Frimet in writing.
Married in 1976, the couple’s greatest desire was to move to Israel, but practicalities meant they would live in Australia for the first years of their lives together.
Here, they built their respective careers while creating a solid financial, social and religious foundation for their family.
They had three sons and – nine years after they wed – their daughter Malki was born on November 27, 1985.
Malki was three years old when Arnold and Frimet moved their family to Jerusalem.
“Frimet asked me on our very first date what my plans were for Aliyah,” Arnold says, telling me that the word means ‘going up’ in Hebrew and refers to ‘moving one’s self and one’s life to Israel’.
“At the time, I said it was in my plans and then at a later stage in our relationship I committed to moving our family – within a short number of years – from Melbourne to Jerusalem.
“It took a few years longer than I thought it would but we arrived here in 1988 with our four young children.”
The move to Judaism’s global heart was vital for Arnold and his family and their connection to their history, culture, religion and God.
“Wanting to raise children and live our lives as a family in Israel was an expression of the central role being Jewish had in our identities,” he says.
“There’s a strong sense of Jewish history in the values that have been at its heart for many generations.”
Already the little sibling to three older brothers, Malki soon became the ‘the meat in the sandwich of the Roth family’ with the birth of her sisters.
The youngest child – Haya Elisheva – arrived in 1995.
“At the age of three months we learned that Haya was blind,” Arnold says.
“We though at that stage that this was to be the greatest catastrophe of our lives – but it wasn’t.”
Haya was one when – shortly after receiving a vaccination – she became extremely ill and was rushed to hospital.
“We believe that along the way the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) inoculation had a catastrophic effect on her,” Arnold says.
“She started to have seizures – but taking her to hospital was also a disaster.
“She was treated by a senior doctor who made what we now see as panic moves.”
Haya was seizing heavily, in a condition known as status epilepticus.
“They were non-stop devastating convulsions lasting some six weeks,” Arnold says.
“By the time we realized how out of his depth the doctor was, and insisted on an immediate change of management, permanent damage had set in.”
Haya was left severely disabled and totally dependent on her family.
“She has never communicated, never spoken, she never smiles – none of us have ever been able to have any real interaction with her because she cannot communicate with us,” Arnold says.
Malki was 10 when Haya was born. In the five years between Haya’s birth and Malki’s murder, the siblings forged an extremely tight bond.
“Malki adored her little sister even though Haya’s disabilities prevented her giving anything back. It was all one-way,” Arnold says.
“Malki poured love into her sister – she would do things like pick up Haya off the sofa at the end of the day and carry her into her bed, just for the closeness.
“Malki would let Haya know that there were people here who loved her.
“Haya spent long periods in hospital with Frimet at her bedside. Malki almost always came along to help.
“As Malki got older and started to develop her own personality and to become a young woman, she began to realise that there were things that she could do for children with special needs that would make their lives a lot better.”
‘THE GLUE THAT HELD THE FAMILY TOGETHER’
IT’S simply impossible to encapsulate here the vibrancy of Malki Chana Roth.
She was, Arnold tells me with great thought and sadness, “caring, sweet-natured, talented and vivacious. She was the glue that held the family together.”
Malki forged deep and abiding friendships with adults and children alike.
While not overly academic, the teenager was a gifted flautist and a committed humanitarian who dreamt of making a difference.
“As she got older and started to develop the personality of a young woman, she began to realise that there were things that every one of us could do to help children with special needs live life a little better,” Arnold says.
In the summer of 2000 – one year before she was killed – 14-year-old Malki set out to find herself a summer holiday role as a ‘mother’s helper’.
She learned of a single mum cruelly abandoned by her husband after their child was found to be dying from a crippling genetic disease.
“Malki knocked on that woman’s door and told her, ‘I’d like to help you’,” Arnold says.
Every day, the teenager went to the mother’s home, helping to bathe and feed the child, play with him and to be around to give support during some of the mother’s darkest moments.
“She just threw herself into it – Malki just loved being with this very challenging little boy even though she knew his life expectancy was terribly short,” her father recalls.
“Malki made herself very appreciated by the mum, but my daughter did not see herself as special or a hero.”
Malki learned valuable life lessons caring for the little boy, lessons she would pass onto her classmates and teachers as she encouraged her school to help children with disabilities better integrate into classes.
She acted as “an agent of change” between the kids who were disabled and the able-bodied kids, getting them to open up and learn from each other.
By the time she reached 15, the tall slender young woman with the thick brown hair, pale skin and cheeky grin had become a group leader in an Israeli youth organisation.
Given the role of leading and helping recently-arrived children from the former Soviet Union settle into their new country, she embraced the new position with positivity, seriousness and joy.
“For the most part these were little girls of eight or nine, many from single-parent families and struggling at multiple levels,” Arnold says.
Malki wrote in her diary of her “heartfelt” conversations with the Soviet children.
“After she died, these children came to see us while we were in mourning and it was clear they loved her,” Arnold says.
“Malki just exerted empathy – she cared.
“She did not want anything back, she just wanted to give as much as she could to them.
“She was empathetic, practical and an agent of change.”
BEST FRIENDS IN LIFE AND IN DEATH
IN the hours leading up to the events of August 9, 2001, Israeli authorities were alerted to an unidentified terrorist making his way to downtown Jerusalem.
They decided not to issue a public warning – despite the fact that multiple terror attacks had been carried out against Israelis in the preceding weeks.
The assaults were said to be in retaliation for the Israeli government targeting Hamas senior leaders in missile bombings on parts of the West Bank.
Had the government made clear to Jerusalem’s residents that the city was at risk and unsafe, Arnold and Frimet would have forbidden their children from going into the CBD that day.
That morning, Malki’s dad was at work in a Jerusalem drug technology company where he was chief executive.
Her mum was still asleep after an exhausting night caring for Haya.
Malki popped her head into Frimet’s room and told her: “I’m going out with Michal – love you.”
Malki and Michal had been best friends and neighbours for almost all of their lives.
“The girls were both about five when they met and were in and out of each other’s homes almost every day for the next 10 years,” Arnold says.
The teenagers visited the home of a friend who was returning from an overseas holiday later in the day.
They decorated her room as a welcome back gift and then left.
They set off for a meeting of camp counsellors, planning to travel from the north-side of Jerusalem to the south-side via bus and scheduling a quick lunch stop at the uber popular Sbarro pizzeria located in the busy centre of town.
“They were standing together at the counter waiting for their pizzas when the human bomb next to them exploded,” Arnold says in his remarkably calm voice.
The toxic mix of explosives and metal shrapnel ripped the girls to pieces – they never stood a chance.
As news of the massacre reverberated across the city, Frimet phoned Arnold, yelling that a terrorist had set off a bomb and she was unable to contact their sons or Malki.
She eventually managed to reach the boys, but Malki’s phone was not answering. Frimet left a voice message, imploring the girl to call home.
Arnold too had been calling Malki’s phone over and over to no avail.
He left work early, still feeling that the the odds of Malki being in the terror attack were small.
“As I walked to the bus, I started negotiating with the Almighty,” he told himself.
“Please. Let her be in an area with poor cell coverage. Let her be only unconscious.
“I was trying to persuade Him; please Hashem, don’t let this turn out as bad as it’s starting to look.”
Desperate to find Malki and her friend, Frimet met her neighbour Avivah Raziel – Michal’s mother – and they drove together to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital.
On the way a message came in from one of Malki’s friends, saying she had lost contact just after getting a text to come and join them for a pizza at Sbarro.
At the hospital, the mothers split up.
Avivah found Michal, who was critical from the injuries caused by the blast. The teenager died in her mum’s arms a short time later.
Frimet found no trace of Malki and returned home.
Some hours later, the downstairs neighbour stood at the Roth apartment door, ashen-faced.
“Michal’s dead, she told me – that’s really when the end-game started for me,” Arnold says.
“We were tumbling into an abyss in slow motion.
“The revelations came in bursts.
“With the passing hours, and still no sign of Malki, we realised this was not going to be one of those ‘whew, that was close’ moments.”
Hours passed, the tension and fear soared. Late that night, some partial information caused Arnold to go with a neighbour, a senior doctor at another Jerusalem hospital, to see if Malki was on the operating table at that medical centre’s emergency room. It wasn’t her.
After midnight, a municipal social worker asked the two oldest Roth sons to go with her to Israel’s forensic medicine centre near Tel Aviv.
It was from the here that the young men phoned home, breaking the news to their father that the search for Malki was over.
“It was a brief and quiet call,” Arnold says.
“Shaya, who had started his compulsory army service the day before and then rushed home on Thursday afternoon with permission in view of the developments, told me he and his older brother Pinchas had identified Malki there.
“There was no more place for hope.
“At that point, I said the brief prayer that one says on getting very bad news.”
Frimet, watching, listening and then understanding what was happening as Arnold took the phone call, shrieked and ran out into the night.
Two concerned friends followed at a distance – words of comfort would come much later.
Helpless and broken, in the hours of silence that followed, Arnold sat down at the computer.
“My lovely daughter Malki was born in Melbourne 15 years ago,” he wrote in a letter to Australian media.
“I wish I could tell you more about her wonderful character and achievements.
“Today, here in Jerusalem, she was murdered by a fanatic who didn’t know a thing about her.
“My wife and I just don’t have the tools to cope with this.
“We only want to do whatever we can so she does not turn into yet another statistic.”
Authorities returned Malki’s wrecked mobile phone – gifted to her by her dad only weeks earlier – to the Roth family.
Shrapnel was embedded in the phone’s protective case.
“Nails fell from the shredded remains onto my desk as I opened it up,” Arnold says.
“It was beyond chilling.”
Near the mobile’s mouth-piece, the teenager had penned a small phrase in Hebrew. It read: אסור לדבר לשון הרע.
The symbols represent an ethical injunction that expresses a core value of the Jewish faith.
“Literally it’s ‘forbidden to speak evil’ – meaning ‘don’t speak badly of other people’,” her dad explains.
In life, Malki and Michal were inseparable.
And in death they remain so, buried side by side in a cemetery near the northern entrance to Jerusalem.
On the anniversary of their murders, Malki and Michal’s families and friends gather at their graves to hold a joint memorial service.
Exactly a month after the bombing, Malki’s family launched a charity to support children with disabilities – and to serve as a living memorial.
“Malki would certainly have lived a life of more giving than taking. She had so much to give. It’s that spirit that brought us to set up the Malki Foundation,” Arnold says.
“It embodies those values and has been doing a lot of good work.
“We decided during the seven days of mourning (after Malki’s death) to do this – we wanted people to remember her, so that she would not just become a statistic.
“People know her name today and the good work done in her honour even if they do not know the whole story.”
‘ALLAH BE PRAISED, IT WAS GREAT’
ASSASSIN Ahmad Ahlam Tamimi was just a few years older than Malki Roth when she plotted and carried out the campaign of murder and fear that would end the 15-year-old’s life.
The 20-year-old Jordanian national was coordinating the bombing while juggling studies at the Birzeit University in the West Bank and working part-time as a journalist/news presenter for a Ramallah-area TV station.
As the sun’s rays swept their warmth over Israel that bright morn, Tamimi donned a summery outfit that could have been worn by any carefree young Jewish woman visiting the Israeli capital. She removed her traditional headscarf and pocketed her press pass.
She met up with al-Masri, who had also disguised himself by shaving off his thick beard and cutting his dark hair in a trendy western style.
Together, the jihadists looked very much the young tourist couple in love.
It is believed the pair used a taxi to enter the city and that Tamimi relied on her media credentials to get through the Israeli security checkpoints.
Her entry to Jerusalem seems – on reflection – all too easy.
Tamimi’s brother later explained his sister’s ability to speak English and her Jewish disguise would have been enough to dampen any suspicions that flared in the minds of the security guards she met along the way.
Tamimi was raised in Jordan by strict and devout parents.
One year before the Sbarro bombing, the unmarried woman – according to a US journalist who interviewed Tamimi in her Israeli prison cell – fell pregnant, bringing immense shame to her family.
Her brother took the baby and she was forced to flee Jordan and settled in the West Bank. At first she became a Fatah activist with the Palestinian nationalist social democratic political party.
At university, Hamas operatives set their sights on the ambitious young woman and recruited her to their cause, making her the first female to become a member of the militant group that has waged war on Israel since the mid-1980s.
Before the bombing that killed Malki, Tamimi would often tell her comrades about the many people she had murdered, but experts believe these were most likely empty boasts.
Still, she did have form for sneaking in and out of Jerusalem, having made the trek into the city just 10 days before the Sbarro bombing to carry out an attack.
This was the assassin’s first evidenced attempt at mass destruction, but the bombing of a Jewish supermarket fell well short of her lofty killer ambitions.
She planted a beer can bomb in the vegetable section of a department store. The device went off, barely caused any damage.
The Jewish media reported on the grocery store bombing, saying there were no casualties yet Tamimi boasted that it destroyed the store and ‘killed many Jews’ and that the ‘Zionists covered up’ the bloodshed.
Tamimi made sure her second act of extremism would have very different consequences.
Terror attacks – whether carried out by religious extremists or far right and far left activist groups – are designed to strike at the emotive heart of our communities.
They are also undertaken to show supporters of extremist causes that violence is an effective tool to support their unhinged and obsessive beliefs.
Terrorism expert Arie Kruglanski says terrorists validate the “driving ideology” of the perpetrator, while “cumulatively compounding the sense that the world is chaotic and unsafe.”
“The idea that disaster can strike at any moment anywhere just at someone’s unfathomable whim increasingly insinuates itself into people’s minds,” the University of Maryland psychology professor writes in a piece for the Conversation.
“Though incomprehensible to most, these instances of seemingly rampant violence have a compelling rhyme and reason to the perpetrators.
“They carry out their carnage in full premeditation and after careful preparation.
“Theirs isn’t crime of passion or case of temporary insanity.
“It is, instead, a deliberately chosen path grounded in a confidently held worldview.”
To guarantee a broad public focus in the wake of an act of extremism, these monsters strike at the heart of communities by killing and maiming the most vulnerable – infants, children, teenagers, mothers, pregnant women, the elderly and the infirm are more likely to be fodder for terrorists than young healthy men.
When a terrorist gets their target right, not only do they gratify the need of their followers and justify their ideology, their hero status increases exponentially.
“The desire to matter in one’s own eyes and those of significant others – simply put, it is the universal yearning to have respect,” Professor Kruglanski says.
It is clear that Tamimi was driven in no small way by a personal desire for widespread adulation.
To become the Hero of Hamas, she could not afford another failure like the supermarket attack so she prepared and planned to make this bombing perfect.
Tamimi scoped out the bustling intersection of King George Street and Jaffa Road in Jerusalem’s CBD.
“On August 8, the accused went from Ramallah to Jerusalem to find an appropriate location for the attack,” Israeli prosecutors would late write in their indictment against her.
She also chose the summer holidays because she knew the city would be teeming with tourists as well as children, mums and young people, mainly of the Jewish faith.
“Are there religious Jews in the place where we are going to conduct the attack?,” al-Masri asked Tamimi before they separated at the crowded junction.
Yes, she told him.
The plan was for al-Masri to detonate the bomb in the middle of the intersection.
Instead, he decided to take his explosive-laden guitar case into Sbarro – the building that housed the restaurant overlooked a significant part of the cross-roads.
Tamimi fled the area before al-Masri pulled the trigger.
By the time she arrived at the bus that would take her back to the West Bank, Malki, Michal and 13 others were dead.
Amongst the other dead was one of Esther Shoshan’s four daughters who she had taken to the restaurant for lunch.
She lost 10-year-old Yocheved in the attack. Her 15-year-old girl – Miriam – suffered severe injuries including extensive burns. Surgeons removed some 60 nails from the teenager’s body.
“There was an enormous blast. The place went dark,” Esther said in a story co-authored by Frimet and published in the Haaretz (the Israel News).
“People started screaming ‘terror attack, terror attack’.
“At first I didn’t believe it.
“People shouted: ‘Get out! There may be another blast.’
“Finally, we ran downstairs.
“There was a terrible stench. I saw body parts everywhere – here a limb, there a head.
“The bodies were bloated. There was water everywhere; I have no idea where it came from.
“I searched for my children.”
Esther’s other daughters were in the car park when the bomb exploded.
“The older one came inside and found Miriam and Yocheved,” Esther says.
“They were on fire – she managed to put out the flames but was then rushed away by rescue workers.
“I couldn’t leave. I was torn.
“The rescue workers kept dragging me to the door. I’d start to go, then run back screaming: ‘My girls, my girls!’.
“I wanted to help them.”
Esther Shoshan’s reliving of the bombing is in stark contrast to the stories told by the woman who orchestrated the murders.
In multiple videos published online and broadcast across Islamist television, Tamimi laughs and smiles broadly.
She revels in the carnage, proudly celebrating the pizzeria bloodshed as a new mum might celebrate the birth of her first child.
“Afterwards, the Palestinians around Damascus Gate in Jerusalem were all smiling,” Tamimi smilingly explains to one reporter.
“You could sense that everybody was happy.
“When I got on the bus, nobody knew that it was me who had led (the bombing).”
Travelling from the city, the vehicle’s radio broadcast devestation. At first, the passengers heard that only three people were killed.
“I had hoped for a larger toll,” Tamimi says.
“Yet when they said ‘three dead’ I said: ‘Allah be praised’.
“Two minutes later, they said on the radio that the number had increased to five.
“I wanted to hide my smile, but I just couldn’t.
“Allah be praised, it was great.
“As the number of dead kept increasing, the passengers were applauding.”
That evening the jubilant Tamimi went straight to work, anchoring a news bulletin and reporting on the attack while keeping her involvement in the bombing to herself.
Weeks after the Sbarro massacre, she was arrested and charged by the Israel Defense Force
The Roths and the other families who had lost loved ones as well as the survivors were kept in the dark as Tamimi’s case made its way through Israel’s military court system.
Tamimi fully confessed and was convicted and sentenced to 16 life sentences, with the judges recommending she never be released.
“We knew almost nothing about the monster up to that point – about her values, motivations, religious bigotry,” Arnold says.
“We knew almost nothing about how she was already being groomed by outsiders as a figure of inspiration and public admiration in large parts of Arab society and especially Jordan where she came from.
“These grooming efforts were not obvious to us at conviction time, but became evident to us two or three years into her sentence, starting with when we saw to our horror that some jackass Israel Prison Service official had approved outside journalist visits with her, resulting in her smiling, boastful face gracing the front page of the New York Times Arts section in about 2006.
“It got worse from there.”
The sentence could never erase their pain and trauma but it did give the Roths some small sense of justice – a feeling that the wrong inflicted on their daughter, the other victims, their city and their faith had been in some way righted.
Sadly, politics and world affairs would intervene, resulting in the Roths having to shoulder the burden of a long, frustrating and until now unproductive quest to put right an abhorrent injustice.
In 2011, some 10 years after she was jailed, the Israel government made a deal with Hamas that would see that group release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for Israel freeing 1027 mainly Palestinian and Arab-Israeli prisoners.
Shalit was a soldier in the Israeli Defense Force when – on June 25, 2006 – he was captured by Palestinian militants.
Held captive in shocking conditions for five years, Shalit was denied access to his family and to human rights organisations like the Red Cross, causing widespread anger across the world.
Frimet and Arnold – like those around them – were appalled at the way Shalit was treated.
“Along with almost all other Israelis, we were glad that he was to walk free,” Arnold says.
Shalit’s freedom though was a double-edged sword for the Roths.
Included in the prisoner release deal signed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was their daughter’s killer.
In multiple letters to Netanyahu, the Roths begged him to preclude Tamimi from the deal.
“We feel desperate,” Frimet wrote to the PM.
“We beg Mr Netanyahu to grant us a few minutes of his time and hear us out.
“In any sane country with a fair judicial system, even paroled murderers are not released without granting the victims’ loved ones a chance to address the parole board.”
Netanyahu went ahead with Tamimi’s release, promising publicly to write to every family that lost a loved one in the Sbarro bombing but failing to deliver on that pledge.
“There is sorrow, anger; we’re having a hard time understanding and digesting it,” Frimet said in an interview with Haaretz after Tamimi was freed.
“This morning I couldn’t watch the prisoners smiling.
“It was a nightmare that I dreamed of so many times for so long.
“I don’t want to see her making a victory sign with her fingers.”
Arnold says his beautiful daughter was betrayed at every step of the process to free Tamimi.
“Our thoughts that day (of Tamimi’s release) were dominated by the notion that our child, forgotten and discarded even by our own society, a mere statistic to many, was being murdered again,” Arnold says.
“We were deeply scarred by the injustice of the deal and of the whole situation – of watching hundreds of regret-free killers being set free to the open acclaim of millions of our neighbours.
“The process of getting her set free kept moving forward.
“We weren’t passive but no one in the media or the political system paid us and our concerns much attention.”
During the 1990s, Netanyahu authored the book ‘Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorists’.
In it he writes: “A government that seeks the defeat of terrorists must refuse to release convicted terrorists from prison. Releasing imprisoned terrorists emboldens them and their colleagues. By nurturing the belief that their demands are likely to be met in the future you encourage terrorist blackmail of the very kind you want to stop – only the most unrelenting refusal to ever give in to such blackmail can prevent this.”
Arnold says he cannot understand how Netanyahu could – on one hand – advocate an “uncompromising and principled approach” to terror and on the other hand, agree to let his daughter’s killer go.
“When confronted with the challenge (of terrorism) himself in the 2011 transaction to secure the freedom of an Israeli hostage, he did the exact opposite of what he had been teaching others to do,” Arnold points out.
Tamimi was sent back to Jordan where she was welcomed as a hero and embraced by both Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Her new-found idol status meant she quickly kick-started her journalism career, becoming the host of her own weekly show promoting terror and beamed by satellite to Arabic-speaking audiences all over the world.
It ran for five years and enlarged her fame and status.
“I have no regret about what happened, definitely not,” Tamimi says in one of the many interviews she has given since her release.
“I have devoted myself to jihad on behalf of Allah and Allah gave me success.
“Do you know how many people were hurt? That was made possible because of Allah.
“Do you want me to condemn what I did? It’s not a possibility. I would do it again, today, the same way.”
Professor Kruglanski is not surprised by the Jordanian reaction to the mass murderer.
“Tamimi is adulated because she managed to get so many people killed and she never looked back,” he says in our email exchanges.
“For those who believe that violence is a demonstration of power, she is a heroine because they too would like to gain significance and prestige by violence.”
The Roths have watched Tamimi’s grotesque heroism grow across the world, appalled to see her embraced and placed upon a pedestal by extremists and advocates of terror.
“We’ve seen it in Western culture, some dark corners of which seem to have grown fascinated by a young woman devoid of regret or understanding at what we would call the normal human level,” Arnold says.
“She was all about vicious murder, about actions and values that were the opposite of ours on almost every level.”
THE LONG ROAD TOWARDS JUSTICE
IN the years since Tamimi’s release, there has been unrelenting heartache, grief and lobbying as Malki’s family refuse to rest until their daughter’s killer is back behind bars.
Arnold has spoken to politicians, the heads of Jewish organisations and media outlets, hoping to build outrage and action.
Jordan authorities won’t jail Tamimi, but Arnold is placing his faith in an American law that allows for the extradition of terrorists who have maimed or killed the relatives of US citizens.
Malki was the holder of dual Australian-US citizenship so the law applies to her and her family.
In 2013, during Barack Obama’s administration, US officials began building a case against Tamimi but the matter became bogged down.
It remained static until 2016, when the government tried to get the ball rolling again.
In March of 2017, America’s Department of Justice announced a warrant had been issued for the arrest of Tamimi on the charge of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against American nationals.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation added Tamimi to its Most Wanted List, providing a $5 million reward for anyone who gives information that leads to the killer’s extradition to the US.
The US Congress also put restrictions on aid to Jordan.
Despite having an extradition treaty with America, Jordan still refuses to hand her over, with that country’s supreme court ruling the US application for extradition was ‘invalid’.
When Joe Biden’s administration takes over from that of Donald Trump, Arnold hopes the case will move forward again.
He also remains skeptical, because he knows Tamimi’s freedom – grotesque and undeserved as it may be – is likely not important enough for the US to rock the boat with Jordan.
“This is one the most dangerous people on earth, but for entirely political reasons we’ve got the leaders of several countries hiding under the pillow of their beds rather than tackle this issue because they do not want to run into political problems with this super-power called Jordan,” he says.
“It is madness.
“We ran into issues in the Obama administration, the Trump administration and now there’s the Biden administration.
“It’s not going to be easier or harder under Biden because the issues are not true political issues – it’s about justice.”
Arnold is troubled by Israel’s lack of helpfulness in his efforts to get Tamimi into a Washington court.
“If she is extradited to Washington, it’s been suggested this will embarrass Prime Minister Netanyahu. He after all presided over her release and ignored our letters and appeals,” Arnold says.
“It’s distressing to my wife and me to see how low the doing of justice ranks when the Tamimi case comes up for discussion.
“The King of Jordan is like a hypnotist. He convinces people that holding him to standards that apply to other states will, in the Tamimi case, cause him and his kingdom to fall.
“It’s better to ignore the bomber, his silence implies. To pretend her high profile incitement to more terror isn’t happening. Because if Jordan is forced to send her to US justice as the treaty demands, woe betide us all.”
Interestingly though, Jordanian authorities recently booted Tamimi’s husband – also a convicted killer – out of the country.
He is now in Qatar, the Israel Hayom publication reports.
“It appears that the move was designed to mitigate the American anger at the king and possibly prompt Tamimi to follow her husband there,” journalist Ariel Kahana writes in the IH.
“Since her husband vanished, Tamimi had lowered her profile, a positive development in itself.”
Kahana does stress though, that the killer moving to Qatar would not necessarily make it easier for authorities to bring her onto US soil.
“The opposite might be true, and the couple could drop off the public radar as it would be harder for America to get its hands on them,” he says.
DOES AUSTRALIA HAVE A PART TO PLAY?
THE Roths are fully supported in their venture by multiple Jewish and justice organisations in America and here in Australia, but it seems the more backing they get, the further Tamimi is from their reach.
Malki’s family have looked to their home country for help, believing Australia’s good standing with the US and exceptionally warm ties to Jordan give Canberra meaningful influence.
Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler agrees, but he stresses that Australia doesn’t have a “mechanism under law” to get Tamimi extradited.
However, he has recently penned a letter to Scott Morrison, asking him to “speak out publicly” on the issue and to pressure Biden’s administration to act.
“We can and should take every opportunity to advise the Jordanian government that we have neither forgotten nor forgiven the murderer of an Australian child,” Leibler says.
His comments were made in the wake of the release of Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert from an Iranian prison where she was held for two years on a trumped-up espionage charge.
“Australia’s intervention would make a difference,” he says.
“It would make it easier for Jordan to comply with America’s request to extradite Tamimi, citing increased international pressure.
“It would also encourage the incoming Biden administration to maintain pressure from their end.
“Action by the Australian government to see her murderer tried and appropriately punished for what she did would bring them, and all who hear of it, a level of peace.
“And it would send a further message to regimes that encourage and protect terrorists that if our citizens are targeted, we will not rest until the perpetrators are held to account.”
In November, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee Senator Eric Abetz put a question on notice to Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne regarding any contact Australian officials might have have had with Jordan about Tamimi.
He also asked if DFAT supported the extradition and whether or not this was discussed with the US government.
“I have put the questions on notice to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade asking if they had noted their concern with Jordanian officials that Ahlam Tamimi is feted in Jordan because of her role in killing 15 people in Jerusalem, including an Australian national,” Senator Abetz said in a written response to NewsRegional’s request for comment.
“Ahlam Tamimi needs to brought to justice for her self-admitted role in the killings and I will pursue this matter further and encourage the Federal Government to raise it with the incoming Biden administration.”
Senator Payne did not respond, despite multiple attempts by NewsRegional to seek comment from her and her office.
TERRORISM: A PURE FORM OF HATRED
HAVING spent so many years publicly railing against the unfairness of Tamimi’s freedom, it’s hard not to wonder if Arnold now has a target on his back.
I broach the subject of Tamimi or her followers retaliating against him, but he’s reluctant to invest too much effort into this conversation.
“We do live in a pretty safe and solid society but this all stems from the fact that our daughter was murdered,” Arnold says.
“It does concern me – but you can’t run your life that way.
“There’s nothing in what we’re doing that’s political.
“The bomber doesn’t deny what she did. In fact, she has confessed repeatedly.
“Justice has not been done in the Tamimi case and we’re all the poorer for that.
“And unfortunately it doesn’t look like it will happen unless we, the parents of one of her victims, keep pressing.”
Regardless of the risk, Arnold continues to fight for Malki and to advocate against terrorism.
According to research by Our World in Data, terrorists kill on average 21,000 people each year, accounting for around 0.05% of all deaths globally.
While the death rate from acts of extremism is low, its impacts are devastating for victims, for their loved ones and for society.
“Terrorism is one of mankind’s purest expressions of absolute hatred,” Arnold says.
“There is no reasoning with it and no moral or other justification for seeking to understand it and aspiring to somehow come to terms with it or cure its proponents of their devotion to it.
“Terrorism has to be defeated – it doesn’t dry up and grow weak from lack of attention.
“Defeating it calls for hard political decisions, strong leaders and moral clarity.”
THE GIRL WHO WILL NEVER GROW OLD
HOW does a parent cope with the anger and hatred that follows the cold and calculated murder of their child?
“It’s the thinking back to my memories of Malki that saddens me the most – losing her to an act of explosive hatred just as this beautiful child was taking off,” Arnold says.
“She was modest and friendly, always ready to help people struggling with challenges – she approached almost every situation in life with a warm smile.
“Had she been spared, Malki would certainly be making herself helpful and well-loved in every aspect of her life.”
Arnold and Frimet are forced by circumstance to navigate life without all of the precious things other parents take for granted.
No more for them, the major milestones in their daughter’s life. No more do they hear her laughter, wipe her tears, enjoy her music, embrace her kindness or support her passions and dreams.
It’s such a sad juxtaposition, the loss of one so kind to the actions of one so cruel.
“The killer’s life and what she has done with it doesn’t weigh much on me,” Arnold says.
“That the world would have gotten along fine without her being in it is obvious – her contribution is all about profound bigotry.
“She’s a lightning rod for terrorism, a person exuding evil, whose career has focused on inciting others to do evil.”
These past 20 years have been tainted with moments of great despair and anger, but Arnold refuses to descend into an abyss of hatred.
“As a person who has a faith-based outlook on life, I look at certain specific events and individuals as being there because of the challenge they pose to the rest of us,” he explains.
“Tamimi and her obscene freedom are a test.
“She’s kept safe, toxic and influential by powerful forces – men with bombs, journalists, even monarchs.
“In Jewish classic literature, there’s a view that keeps me focused and energised: ‘It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world but you are not free to desist from it either.’
“I’m sure Malki would relate to that as we (her parents) do.
“And I’m sure those who stand with the bomber will have no idea what we’re talking about.”