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Embedded Terrorist By: Erick Stakelbeck
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, May 14, 2003


If the Left didn’t surrender all credibility after feverishly opposing the recent U.S. war in Iraq, its continued support of Sami Al-Arian should seal the deal. Al-Arian is the former University of South Florida professor and media darling arrested on February 20 of this year for serving as North American leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a notorious terrorist group responsible for the deaths of two Americans and over 100 Israelis. Seems that between teaching a computer engineering course at USF and leading prayers at a Tampa mosque, Al-Arian also found time to direct and fund PIJ’s United States operations.

Upon hearing of Al-Arian’s indictment, which came after years of painstaking F.B.I. surveillance and wiretaps, pundits on the Left feigned shock, wondering aloud how a "rumpled academic with a salt and pepper beard,"—as New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof so fondly described Al-Arian last year—could be guilty of such heinous crimes. In short, damage control. Because in the case of Sami-Al-Arian, just as with the Cold War, Gulf War, Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Left made a conscious decision to side with a sworn enemy of the United States. And from the New York Times to Bill Clinton, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

"There are different levels of culpability," says terrorism expert and NBC analyst Steven Emerson, whose 1994 PBS documentary, Jihad in America, was the first to call national attention to Al-Arian’s murderous activities. "There are people who got thoroughly duped by Al-Arian, and then there are people like [Georgetown professor] John Esposito who turned a blind eye because they were obsessed with an anti-Israeli dogma. They’ll use anything that can be parlayed into Israeli oppression of Palestinians, so they gave Al-Arian a free pass."

This despite a far-reaching, 50-count, 121-page indictment issued by federal authorities in Florida which charged the 45-year-old Al-Arian, along with seven other men, of operating a criminal racketeering enterprise supporting Palestinian Islamic Jihad, conspiracy to kill and maim people abroad, conspiracy to provide material support to the group, extortion, visa fraud, perjury and a litany of additional charges. The indictment describes PIJ as "an international terrorist organization with ‘cells’ or units located throughout the world," and includes this revelation about our favorite mild-mannered USF professor:

"Defendant Sami Al-Arian was Secretary of the Shura Council and the leader of the PIJ in the United States. In his capacity as a leader in the PIJ, he directed the audit of all moneys and property of the PIJ throughout the world."

Al-Arian’s financial duties included the distribution of money to the families of PIJ suicide bombers, or "martyrs." The indictment tells of a telephone conversation between Al-Arian and a fellow PIJ conspirator in which the two "agreed the PIJ could afford to pay 400 martyrs’ families $120.00 per month." That’s a lot of murders, not to mention the money needed to carry them out. But Al-Arian covered all bases in this regard, describing a fundraising event in Chicago, for example, where he raised $53,000 for PIJ suicide operations, "$25,000 in cash." In another phone exchange, federal agents recorded Al-Arian telling a PIJ associate in Syria "he would send via facsimile the names of people in the Occupied Territories who needed financial support." People like Zahera, Rokayah, and Mostafa Agbarya and Bushra Sulieman, "all of whom were spouses or other relatives of recently convicted PIJ terrorists serving sentences in Israeli jails for their participation in a terrorist attack in or around mid-February, 1992, in which they murdered three Israelis." Exercising his duties as PIJ’s worldwide secretary, Al-Arian "caused four wire transfers of $1,9440.00 each from his account" in the names of the three Agbaryas and Bushra Sulieman. With this and similar payments, Al-Arian enticed potential suicide bombers by showing that their families would be well compensated in the likely event of "martyrdom."

Members of PIJ—suspicious of wiretaps and aware of federal scrutiny—used coded speech in phone conversations, with "magazines," for instance, meaning money (15 "magazines" meant $15,000, and so on). During these phone exchanges, paranoid PIJers alluded to terrorist connections in Syria and Iran as "the guy" and discussed doing "that thing." Foremost in this mafia-esque charade was Sami Al-Arian, de facto Don of the PIJ in North America.

For over a decade, federal investigators amassed reams of phone conversations, faxes, letters, videotapes and other documents proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that Al-Arian was an indispensable part of what Attorney General John Ashcroft calls, "one of the most violent terrorist organizations in the world." In fact, as we’ll see shortly, suspicion about the nefarious PIJ-related activities of Sami Al-Arian existed well before his recent indictment. Yet the Left, driven by an anti-Semitic, "Blame America First" doctrine, willfully turned Al-Arian into a progressive icon.

Which brings us to:

THE MEDIA

Al-Arian’s emergence as the Left’s poster boy for academic freedom began with his now infamous appearance on the September 26, 2001, edition of Fox News Channel’s O’Reilly Factor. In the segment, host Bill O’ Reilly hammered Al-Arian, who was under federal investigation at the time but still teaching at USF, for his connections to terrorism. Chief among O’ Reilly’s concerns was a videotaped 1988 speech made before a Muslim group in Cleveland in which Al-Arian shouted,

"The Koran is our constitution! Jihad is our path! Victory to Islam! Death to Israel and victory to Islam! Revolution! Revolution until victory! Rolling, rolling to Jerusalem!"

Pressed by O’Reilly to explain these violent statements, Al-Arian stammered,

"Let me just put it into context…we have to understand the context. When you say ‘Death to Israel,’ you mean death to occupation, death to apartheid, death to oppression, death to…"

Jews?

The interview concluded with O’Reilly telling a visibly rattled Al-Arian, "Well, Doctor, you know, with all due respect—I appreciate you coming on the program, but if I was the CIA, I'd follow you wherever you went… I'd go to Denny's [restaurant] with you, and I'd go everywhere you went."

The day after the segment aired, scores of angry e-mail and phone messages flooded USF’s administrative offices, most demanding Al-Arian’s immediate ouster. Some, however, contained death threats, which led USF president Judy Genshaft to put Al-Arian on paid leave, banning him from campus until further notice. Al-Arian served a similar suspension from 1995 until 1997 as a result of a federal investigation into his dealings with PIJ, but USF hired him back in 1998, ostensibly to uphold "academic freedom." Would Al-Arian have been rehired if he were white, preaching violence against blacks and Mexicans? It’s highly doubtful, but in December 2001, thanks in large part to public pressure, USF corrected a longstanding wrong when its university's board of trustees voted 12-1 to fire Al-Arian. Contrary to the opinions of Leftist hypocrites, USF deserves condemnation, not praise, for its continued quiet tolerance (before his dismissal, Al-Arian had been at USF since 1986) of an openly anti-Semitic, America-hating agitator.

"I respect, I value academic freedom, and I know this is an exceptional and unique case," Genshaft told the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2002. "The dean and campus police have said that there’s no way to bring [Al-Arian] back...This man brings harm's way with him when he comes onto campus... I don't want to wait for somebody to be killed or to be harmed to take action."

She added:

"He violated the collective-bargaining agreement: His outside activities adversely affected the university. The community has reacted so emotionally and so strongly to September 11 that the consequences of his actions were experienced by the university…It is repeated behavior [by Al-Arian] that's been problematic."

In a statement released the day after Al-Arian’s firing was announced, Florida governor Jeb Bush agreed with Genshaft, saying, "The taxpayers have no obligation to continue paying a teacher whose own actions have made it impossible for him to teach."

Add to this the potential losses in funding, alumni support and national reputation caused by retaining a pariah like Al-Arian on the USF payroll, and Genshaft had little choice but to dismiss him. Or so she thought. Because to see a Muslim man of Middle Eastern descent being castigated so shortly after 9/11 was far too much for the national media to bear.

"The Prime-Time Smearing of Sami Al-Arian" screamed the headline in the January 19, 2002 edition of the Left-wing on-line journal Salon.com. "By pandering to anti-Arab hysteria," read the subheading. "NBC, Fox News, Media General and Clear Channel radio disgraced themselves—and ruined an innocent professor's life." The ensuing article by writer Eric Boehlert, who was perhaps Al-Arian’s most strident media supporter up until the nutty professor’s arrest (oddly enough, he’s barely written a word about Al-Arian since), included statements such as,

"The Al-Arian episode raises disturbing questions about free speech, academic freedom and the future of tenured status…The University of South Florida is ultimately responsible for firing Al-Arian. But equally culpable are Fox News Channel, NBC, Media General (specifically its Tampa newspaper) and the giant radio conglomerate Clear Channel Communications. In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, all four media giants, eagerly tapping into the country's mood of vengeance and fear, latched onto the Al-Arian story, fudging the facts and ignoring the most rudimentary tenets of journalism in their haste to better tell a sinister story about lurking Middle Eastern dangers here at home."

To Boehlert’s sensitive liberal mind, Al-Arian was a persecuted minority whose good name was dragged through the mud by nasty right-wingers simply for opposing Israel. Born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents, Al-Arian arrived in America in 1975 and maintained a comfortable middle-class existence until his role with PIJ was finally revealed. Although not a U.S. citizen, Al-Arian, who is married with five children, earned $66,000 per year as a tenured professor and even won awards for outstanding teaching from the USF School of Engineering in 1993 and 1994. To see a heartwarming Third World success story like this be given such a downer of an ending was unacceptable to Boehlert, who wrote,

"Not even his harshest critics suggest Al-Arian has done anything in the last five years that could be even remotely construed as aiding terrorist organizations. The entire controversy sprang from the fact that viewers became enraged after old allegations were re-aired, albeit often in mangled form, by O'Reilly. O'Reilly's accusatory and hectoring interrogation of Al-Arian, filled with false statements and McCarthy-like smears, climaxed in a chilling parting shot in which the host repeatedly told his stammering guest that if he were with the CIA, ‘I'd follow you wherever you went’—clearly implying that he believed Al-Arian was a terrorist."

But as we’ve already seen, the indictment issued by federal authorities in Florida plainly states that Al-Arian was a terrorist. Granted, the indictment was issued after Boehlert penned his pro-Al-Arian articles, but the writer deserves no pardon. He knew perfectly well of Al-Arian’s inflammatory anti-American, anti-Semitic beliefs but chose shamefully to ignore them in hopes of preserving his own twisted notions of political correctness. A 1991 Chicago speech in which Al-Arian, clad in skullcap and robes, called Jews "monkeys and pigs" and bellowed, "Let us damn America! Let us damn Israel! Let us damn their allies until death!" was explained away by Boehlert as the words of "a fairly mainstream—that is, pro-intifada—Palestinian, who in his hot-headed youth made regrettably inflammatory comments about Israel, but who has never been tied to any terrorist groups."

Likewise, a 1988 speech in which Al-Arian proclaimed, " From butchery to butchery and from martyrdom to martyrdom, from jihad to jihad . . . this is the sweetness of Islam, and the taste of faith," was justified by Boehlert as "remarks, which [Al-Arian] now regrets having made as a 30-year-old in 1988."

Boehlert would have us believe that Al-Arian has undergone a road to Damascus-like transformation over the past fifteen years, from hate-spewing hellion to mellowed middle-aged activist. He even writes,

"[Al-Arian] suggested in a letter to a friend that anyone looking to help Palestinians should send money to Hamas, the radical Islamic resistance group…It can certainly be argued that money raised for Hamas, regardless of its intentions, could end up supporting its terrorist activities. But it was only in 1996, after anti-terrorism legislation was passed, that it became a crime to send money to foreign groups classified by the State Department as terrorist organizations, such as Hamas."

In other words, it was perfectly fine to send money to Hamas until the State Department stepped in and ruined all the fun. Although Boehlert, who wrote no less than four articles defending Al-Arian, was undeniably the leading Slammin’ Sami apologist at Salon.com, the site also featured additional pieces (one entitled "Florida Witch Hunt") that portrayed Al-Arian as the most unjustly accused individual since Harrison Ford in The Fugitive. While Salon may have been the most vocal of the print media outlets to hop on the Al-Arian bandwagon, it certainly was not alone. Fellow Left-wing publications like the New York Times, Miami Herald, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Counterpunch.org all published articles in 2002 that were either laudatory towards Al-Arian or harshly critical of his opponents. After all, how dare Judy Genshaft, Bill O’ Reilly and federal investigators question a man who, as the Washington Post’s Richard Leiby so warmly put it, "speaks in rapid, colloquial English with a Middle Eastern accent. His beard is neatly trimmed. He wears stylish glasses. He looks harmless: a bald, middle-aged academic."

Particularly disturbing was the full-throated support given Al-Arian by Leiby’s paper and the New York Times. Though both publications are widely acknowledged as virtual newsletters for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, they do retain considerable influence in many quarters. Like Salon.com, the Times and Post each took the stance that Al-Arian was the unwitting victim of post-9/11 paranoia and racial profiling, a thoughtful intellectual whose passionate criticism of Israel got him into hot water. Both papers also suggested that the widespread condemnation of Al-Arian’s anti-American and anti-Semitic outbursts, as well as his suspension from USF, were nothing more than infringements on free speech brought on by an overzealous Ashcroft Justice Department.

"The same media that brings up things Strom Thurmond said 45 years ago and has since retracted," explains terrorism expert Steven Emerson. "Gives Al-Arian a pass for things he said a decade ago—and didn’t deny. The fact is that if he had been a neo-Nazi, the L.A. Times, Washington Post and New York Times would have been all over Al-Arian. Instead, they dismissed his pro-terrorist comments as just being pro-Palestinian. They didn’t want to bring up anything that would de-legitimize the Palestinian cause."

Consider the following fluff from Leiby’s Washington Post piece, which brandishes the "oppressed Palestinian made good" theme prevalent in so many pro-Al-Arian articles:

"The supposed terrorist pauses over cheesecake in a French restaurant, politely denying the latest allegations about his alliance with Osama bin Laden. ‘It's so absurd,’ Sami Al-Arian says, shaking his head…Once, says Al-Arian, a fellow Palestinian asked him, ‘What is the best feeling in the world?’ Having a permanent home, he answered. ‘The feeling that you're secure.’ True, he is a man without a country. But compared to so many other Arabs, ‘I'm living here basically in a kingdom,’ he says. He sips a Diet Pepsi. ‘I like it here,’ he says, meaning America. "I cannot wish to be anywhere else.’ He sinks back into the gold-brocade cushions, satisfied."

All that’s missing from this contrived exchange is Al-Arian breaking into a stirring rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner." Similar softball tactics were used by writer Nicholas Kristof in his March 1, 2002 New York Times story, "Putting Us to the Test." Kristof begins,

"Officials at the University of South Florida, where Mr. Al-Arian is a tenured professor of computer science, have started proceedings to fire him — essentially for being a fiery Palestinian activist who embarrasses them. The result is a case that is less about Professor Al-Arian than it is about ourselves: what kind of universities we desire, how much dissent we dare tolerate and how we treat minorities in times of national stress."

Incredibly, the publications that defended Al-Arian prior to his arrest didn’t seem the least bit bothered by his past "Damn America, Damn Israel" comments. They also weren’t alarmed by the 1995 F.B.I raid on the Tampa offices of two Al-Arian-founded organizations—The Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP) and World Islam Study Enterprise (WISE)—which seized hundreds of documents and videos connecting Al-Arian to Palestinian extremists. Foremost among this evidence was a letter written by Al-Arian in Arabic praising a Palestinian Islamic Jihad suicide bombing that caused the deaths of 19 Israeli soldiers in 1995.

"The latest operation, carried out by the two mujahidin, who were martyred for the sake of God, is the best evidence of what the believing few can do in the face of Arab and Islamic collapse before the Zionist enemy," wrote Al-Arian. "I call upon you to try to extend true support to the jihad effort so that operations such as these can continue."

As the indictment against Al-Arian explains, WISE and ICP, both supposedly charitable Muslim organizations, were little more than fronts for PIJ’s revolutionary mission.

"Operating out of the WISE and ICP offices…Sami Al-Arian…would and did communicate through telephone calls and facsimiles with other co-defendants, and other PIJ leaders including members of the PIJ Shura Council…providing extensive advice on PIJ organization, structure, personnel and financing, and the relationship between PIJ and other violent Palestinian organizations."

From 1991 until mid-1995, WISE was directed by Ramadan Abdulah Shallah, a man brought to America by Sami Al-Arian. When not helping coordinate suicide bombings through the WISE offices, Shallah worked as an economist and actually held a teaching position in USF’s department of international affairs (thanks to its employment of Shallah, Al-Arian and former USF adjunct professor Khalil Shiqaqi, who is the brother of one of PIJ’s co-founders, the school earned the much-deserved nickname, "Jihad U"). With federal authorities closing in on him, Shallah, one of eight co-defendants in the Al-Arian indictment, abruptly left the United States in 1995 and returned to the Middle East. He now serves as head of the Syrian chapter of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. According to the indictment, a typical day for Shallah includes events like his 1996 speech, "to a group which included, among others, several Iranians, representatives of Hamas and Hizbollah and several future suicide bombers," in which Shallah "mentioned past successful PIJ terrorist attacks," and promised to "make the lives of the enemy’s leaders and their allies an explosion of hell and fire."

During Al-Arian’s O’Reilly Factor appearance, the host grilled the professor about Shallah’s role as director of WISE, a title bestowed upon him by his close friend and associate, Al-Arian. True to form, Al-Arian answered, "We were shocked like everyone else in the world when [Shallah] became the leader of the jihad movement…everyone who knew him here at the University of South Florida, everyone who knew him personally was extremely surprised." Sounds exactly like the argument Al-Arian’s defenders are pedaling now that he is languishing in a prison cell.

As the indictment shows, Al-Arian and Shallah worked diligently together to maintain their North American fronts, dipping into the PIJ treasury as "a source of funds for WISE and ICP" in order to keep the organizations afloat. Al-Arian was even recorded as saying "it was possible he might be receiving $50,000 for WISE from sources in the Sudan."

Additionally:

"At the WISE and ICP offices, PIJ members would and did receive lists of names and bank account numbers of surviving family members of PIJ ‘martyrs’ and detainees, and spoke to each other about directions they had received from [PIJ Secretary General] Fathi Shiqaqi and about financial transactions. They also received and circulated facsimiles of PIJ ‘Military Reports,’ which claimed responsibility for violent attacks, threatened the State of Israel, decried the arrests of PIJ members by the Palestinian Authority, and vowed to gut the Oslo Peace Accord."

None of the above-mentioned activities took place without the explicit knowledge and participation of Sami Al-Arian, a man who for so long was the cause celebre of many media Leftists (Phil Donahue, the granddaddy of them all, had Al-Arian as a guest on his now defunct MSNBC talk show last summer. During the interview, Donahue lamented, "The law of innocent until proven guilty doesn’t seem to exist for Professor Sami Al-Arian.").

While virtually all of Al-Arian’s useful idiots in the print media ran for the hills when his indictment was announced, he still had supporters in the television realm. The February 20 broadcast of ABC’s World News Tonight opened with a clearly perturbed Peter Jennings saying,

"We’re going to begin tonight with the government’s aggressive campaign in the U.S. against people it accuses of supporting terrorism. Today the Attorney General John Ashcroft said the Bush administration is charging eight people, four of them in the U.S., with helping what the government calls a terrorist group overseas. The most prominent of the accused is a controversial professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa. ABC’s Pierre Thomas covers this story from Washington today, and it is indeed controversial."

What is "indeed controversial" is Jennings’ glaring contempt for the way the Bush administration is conducting the War on Terror. That same night, CNN’s Aaron Brown closed his network’s coverage of the Al-Arian arrest by lecturing viewers, "Allegations are one thing, evidence is another and we need to hear the evidence."

Despite Brown’s skepticism, the indictment doesn’t lie. To say that Al-Arian exercised great influence over PIJ’s affairs, both in the United States and abroad, would be an understatement. In one of many incriminating phone conversations between Al-Arian and his PIJ co-conspirators about the group’s financial woes, the professor, "expressed concern about a PIJ split because he…had many years invested in the PIJ. Sami Al-Arian said that, if needed, he could arrange for distribution of monies within the Occupied Territories." This money, presumably, would be used to fund more suicide bombings. The indictment also shows the influential role played by Al-Arian in attempts to secure PIJ funding from Iran and Syria, and states that in one conversation "Sami Al-Arian noted that the [PIJ] link with the brothers in Hamas was very good and improving, and there were serious attempts at unification and coordination." To quote the Weekly Standard’s David Tell, "In short, they have [Al-Arian] dead to rights, covered in blood"

No wonder Al-Arian’s former backers in the mainstream press have disappeared faster than an Iraqi army unit. Only a die-hard radical could ignore the mountain of evidence compiled against him by federal investigators. But the past support Al-Arian received cannot be forgotten. In a perfect world, there would be plenty of explanations forthcoming. But according to Steven Emerson, we shouldn’t hold our breath.

"On one hand are the fringe groups, which isn’t surprising," he says. "The real issue is who in the establishment Left supported him. That’s the issue. And there are some surprising people who have supported him."

Such as:

THE POLITICIANS

Al-Arian’s dubious connections to several elected officials began in 1997. That year, Al-Arian’s brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar, was detained by INS agents, presumably for overstaying his student visa. But that was only part of the reason. Al-Najaar, along with Al-Arian, helped operate the aforementioned Muslim organizations ICP and WISE, both PIJ fronts notorious for hosting Islamic radicals as guest speakers in the early 1990’s. Among the jihadists invited by Al-Arian and Al-Najaar to speak was Omar Abdul Rahman, also known as the "blind sheik." Rahman was convicted for his role as ringleader of the First World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Other invitees included PIJ founder Abdel Aziz-Odeh and leading Hamas official Mohammed Sakr. With friends like these, it’s no wonder the INS held Al-Najjar without bond and dubbed him a "threat to national security."

Al-Najjar’s three-and-a-half year detainment spurred Al-Arian into action, securing him access to people in high places (after all, no politician would dare turn away a supposed Muslim activist, even if he did have longstanding ties to terrorism). Richard Leiby wrote admiringly about this in his Washington Post article, stating,

"Sami Al-Arian threw himself into a one-man lobbying campaign to free his brother-in-law. He flew to Washington, knocked on doors on Capitol Hill and forged ties with leaders in both political parties. His goal: a legislative ban on the use of secret evidence."

Al-Najjar was eventually released in 2000 only to be deported this past August. Al-Arian may have failed in the battle to save his brother-in-law, but he was successful in a sense that he made several political connections along the way. This led, incredibly, to four White House visits, the most recent coming in June 2001 under President George W. Bush. Al-Arian was one of 160 members of the American Muslim Council (AMC)—a radical Islamic group—invited by Bush aide Karl Rove for a White House briefing on the administration’s faith-based initiatives. At the meeting, Al-Arian—who also had his picture taken with then-candidate Bush in Florida during the 2000 presidential campaign—sat in the front row, basking in his good fortune. No wonder. It isn’t every day that a sworn enemy of the United States gets to hobnob with our government’s highest-ranking officials. Vice-President Dick Cheney, who was supposed to host the briefing, cancelled after that morning’s Jerusalem Post ran a cover story condemning his involvement. In fact, there was plenty of negative buzz surrounding the AMC’s extremist bent prior to the event, which makes the White House’s careless inclusion of Al-Arian even more puzzling. But according to Steven Emerson, the Bush administration had little say in the matter thanks to a familiar culprit.

"[Al-Arian’s 2001 White House visit] happened because Bill Clinton legitimized militant Islam while he was in office," says Emerson. "In 1996, Hillary [Clinton] met with a few militant Islamic groups. By ’97, CAIR [the Council for American-Islamic Relations] and the AMC were regulars at the White House. Clinton opened the door to these groups—Bush inherited this tradition. And unless there is a direct threat to people, the Secret Service has no authority to block access to the White House."

This was apparent just six days after the briefing Sami Al-Arian attended when his son Abdullah, a student at Duke University, was escorted off the White House grounds during a visit by Muslim community activists. Upon hearing the name "Al-Arian" a few alert Secret Service agents quickly ejected Abdullah from the event, an action that prompted the rest of the Muslim delegation to storm out in protest. Responding to the ensuing backlash, President Bush sent the deputy director of the U.S. Secret Service to personally apologize to the 20-year-old Abdullah and actually invite him back to the White House.

At the time, the younger Al-Arian was serving as an intern for former Rep. David Bonior, the Michigan Democrat whose failed gubernatorial run last November marked an end (hopefully) to his wretched political career. Now a teacher at Wayne State University in Detroit, "Baghdad Bonior" (as he became known after his treasonous trip to Iraq last fall with Washington Rep. Jim McDermott), was a leading opponent of anti-terrorist legislation during his tenure as Democratic House Whip. Bonior’s response to Abdullah Al-Arian’s White House dismissal was unsurprising due to his tradition of coddling Muslims (with votes in mind, no doubt, as his constituency included one of the largest Arab and Muslim populations in the country). Said Bonior,

"There have been too many instances where Muslims have been stopped, harassed or discriminated against for no apparent reason. This happens in airports, on our highways, and now we see it happens in the [George W.] Bush White House."

It was later revealed that Bonior had received a $3,200 campaign donation by none other than…Sami Al-Arian. Criticized roundly for his intimate relationships with suspected terrorists, Bonior (who also received a $1000 donation from noted Hamas sympathizer Abdurahman Alamoudi) became downright indignant, even refusing to return the $3,200 to Al-Arian. "This isn’t about money, it’s about politics," he said. ‘I stand by people and communities."

Even if they support suicide bombings.

Disturbingly enough, Bonior wasn’t the only elected official to accept money from Al-Arian. Former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, the ultra Left-wing Georgia Democrat who openly pined for the Saudi blood money that Rudy Giuliani rejected after the 9/11 attacks, received a $2000 donation from Al-Arian. Rep. Henry Hide, an Illinois Republican, received, $1,000, while his fellow GOPer, former California Rep. Tom Campbell got $1,300. Rounding out Al-Arian’s favorite politicians was Rep. Jim Davis, a Florida Democrat who accepted $200. Hide and Davis gave the money to charity as soon as the allegations against Al-Arian surfaced, but that doesn’t make their ties to him any less distressing. Much like:

THE PROFESSORS

Of all Al-Arian’s cheerleaders, this group is least surprising. It’s an oft-stated fact that American college campuses are controlled by Leftist administrators and professors. So what better way for these educational charlatans to recognize their Marxist delusions than supporting a fellow academic (and ethnic minority) that has publicly denounced the United States? A few months after Al-Arian’s suspension from USF in 2001, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), a 45,000 member-strong organization that claims to "promote academic freedom by supporting tenure, academic due process, and standards of quality in higher education," released a report vigorously defending him. It read in part,

"Dr. Al-Arian, a tenured associate professor of computer science, had for decades expressed an active extramural interest in Palestinian and Islamic developments. Allegations against him in the 1990s of ties with terrorists were investigated by the FBI and others, and there were no findings of any wrongdoing on his part…Other currently pending charges against Professor Al-Arian have been characterized by the [AAUP] investigating committee as too insubstantial to warrant serious consideration as adequate cause for dismissal."

Disregarding the factual errors of this screed ("no findings of any wrongdoing?") it is utterly frightening that the AAUP regards Al-Arian’s nihilistic behavior as merely "insubstantial to warrant serious consideration." This is an organization that fancies itself the leading voice for the rights of professors nationwide, yet its response to Al-Arian’s terroristic madness is a collective shrug of the shoulders and some tired blather about academic freedom. Even after Al-Arian’s indictment, the AAUP refused to retract its original report. The United Faculty of Florida (UFF) has been another bitter-ender in its validation of Al-Arian. Immediately following Al-Arian’s arrest, UFF presented a statement reading,

"UFF has never taken any position on Al-Arian's public activities: his politics are his business. UFF's position on the numerous allegations about his less-public life is that an accusation is not in itself proof…while the UFF membership has varying views of Professsor Al-Arian, we must, for our own safety's sake, defend his freedom of speech and his right to due process. And this is larger than just academia. This Nation fought a Revolutionary War for, among other things, freedom of speech and the right to due process."

If the thousands of colonialists who died in the Revolutionary War knew that they were fighting in part so that Sami Al-Arian could one day shout "Damn America!" without consequence, we’d all be singing "God Save the Queen" right now. As for the UFF’s suggestion that Al-Arian’s terrorism is "his business" and shouldn’t factor into his job evaluation, it is too ludicrous to even address. Still, to some it’s almost as if the mammoth federal indictment levied against Al-Arian never even existed. USF faculty union member Roy Weatherstone, when informed of the laundry list of charges faced by his comrade, replied, "We haven't seen this evidence before and a lot of us won't take John Ashcroft's word for it."

And here I thought professors were supposed to be, well, intelligent. But on college campuses, Leftist ideology trumps common sense every time, not to mention truth.

"You could find a tape of me in 1968 at the Democratic National Convention burning an American flag," says Gregory Paveza, the USF Faculty Senate president. "…Mr. Al-Arian has not made statements like this in a number of years. To the best of my knowledge, he's what I would consider slightly conservative. He believes the Palestinians are oppressed. Guess what? So do I."

Paveza made these comments in a 2002 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, a bastion of hard-Leftism that is considered one of the leading academic journals in the country. Paveza’s rant was part of a pro-Al-Arian story titled, "Blaming the Victim." Al-Arian was featured on the journal’s cover and had plenty of space to deliver quotes like,

"This is the United States of America…We have some very important rights, and we're not willing to give them up because of September 11— our constitutional protections, our rights, tenure…I'm standing up for academic freedom."

And there you have it. Sami Al-Arian: martyr, patriot and tireless defender of the U.S. constitution. It’s all too perfect for the Left to resist, which is why its denizens have gladly taken the "academic freedom" ball in regards to the Al-Arian case and ran with it. Ellen Schrecker, editor of the AAUP magazine Academe and an unabashed admirer of Soviet communism, opined in the above-mentioned Chronicle story that Al-Arian’s firing was "political repression." The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released a statement in 2002 saying, "If USF's justification for firing Dr. Al-Arian is deemed legitimate, both free speech and academic freedom on college campuses will be devastated." Not to be outdone, the Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA) wrote a letter to USF President Judy Genshaft stating, "The Al-Arian case is about academic freedom. It is also about the basic first amendment right to freedom of speech."

Then there are the professors of Middle Eastern Studies, most prominently Georgetown’s John Esposito. Esposito, the director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, is perhaps the leading non-Muslim apologist for Islamic fundamentalism in the United States today. He’s made statements in the past like, "contrary to what some have advised, the United States should not in principle object to implementation of Islamic law or involvement of Islamic activists in government," and that the 1990s would "be a decade of new alliances and alignments in which the Islamic movements will challenge rather than threaten their societies and the West."

In a letter to USF president Judy Genshaft following Al-Arian’s firing, Esposito wrote in part,

"In all the years I have known him and known of [Al-Arian], he has been a consummate professional…Professor Al-Arian and his family are Palestinians. They have suffered and feel deeply about Palestine and the plight of the Palestinians…I must say I was stunned, astonished and saddened by your decision to terminate Professor al-Arian… Having grown up in New York at a time when Jews and Italians were (and often still are) the subject of stereotyping and discrimination, I am deeply concerned that Professor Al-Arian not be a victim of the most recent iteration, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry."

The letter neglects to mention that Al-Arian’s daughter, a Georgetown student, has worked for Esposito as a research assistant. Taking their cue from Esposito, numerous other academics sent letters to Genshaft condemning her handling of the Al-Arian situation. Louis Cantori, a professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and self-described Middle East expert, implored Genshaft, "I urge you to reconsider your decision on the grounds that this case will not serve your own professional reputation very well and will certainly besmirch the reputation of your university." Anthony Sullivan, professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Michigan, intoned, "I consider your action to be shameful and a total capitulation to intense political pressures. You have spectacularly wronged a good man."

And as Jonathan Schanzer wrote in Front Page Magazine in February, the list of useful idiots goes on:

"John Voll at Georgetown’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding condemned USF for ‘caving in to public pressure at the expense of academic integrity,’ citing ‘McCarthyite popular pressures for [Al-Arian’s] dismissal.’ Peter Erlinder of William Mitchell College of Law in Minnesota chimed in by saying that the entire affair ‘smacks of anti-communist witch hunts of the past.’ Similarly, Professor Ali Mazrui of the State University of New York at Binghamton claimed that al-Arian was just a ‘victim of prejudice and of popular ill will.’ Charles Butterworth, a professor of politics at the University of Maryland, characterized Al-Arian as a victim of ‘tyranny of the majority.’"

Indeed, the only sect more fanatical in its support of Al-Arian than the professors is:

THE FRINGE

As if the mainstream acceptance of Sami Al-Arian wasn’t scandalous enough, this is where his story becomes truly surreal. Anyone with the misfortune of viewing the recent anti-war marches had to notice the seemingly incompatible alliances sprinkled throughout, as communists, feminists, gays, Greens, and hard-line Muslims put aside whatever differences may have existed between them previously in order to form one coherent, anarchistic voice. When disciples of the Taliban are marching lockstep with members of N.O.W, you know you’ve got trouble. But this is exactly what occurred during the anti-war protests, and also in the defense of Sami Al-Arian.

"The Left has thrown its lot in for years now with Islamic fundamentalists," says Emerson. "It’s such an evil alliance, and they unite under anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism."

Which makes Sami Al-Arian the perfect figure for these Wahhabi Marxists to rally around. International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), the driving force behind many large-scale anti-war protests, is an acknowledged front for the Stalinist Workers World Party. ANSWER’s Steering Committee, which includes far Left fixtures like the Mexico Solidarity Network and Korea Truth Commission, has vocally lent it’s support to Al-Arian, releasing a statement saying,

"For many years, Sami Al-Arian has been targeted by the government, media and academic establishment because he is a consistent and outspoken supporter of the right of the Palestinian people to live free from occupation, as well as a proponent of civil liberties and civil rights…The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition joins the organizations and individuals worldwide who are condemning Bush's and Ashcroft's political targeting of Dr. Al-Arian."

ANSWER was joined in its outrage by fellow communistic anti-war group Not In Our Name, whose January ad in the New York Times condemning the Iraq War was signed by Martin Sheen, Ed Asner and Al Sharpton among others. Not In Our Name has been a staunch supporter of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, donating thousands of dollars to his defense, and has enthusiastically backed Fidel Castro’s brutal Cuban regime. Not In Our Name also has close ties with the Interreligous Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO). IFCO is a long-running Leftist cabal whose offshoot, the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom, until recently had Sami Al-Arian serving as its president. It all seems too insane to believe, but let’s turn to the World Socialist Website (www.wsws.org), a Trotskyist production, for clarity.

"Al-Arian’s case is perhaps the most egregious of several examples of efforts to suppress dissent on US campuses since September 11," wrote WSWS’s Elisa Brehm last year. "The proclaimed aim of the war against terrorism—ostensibly the defense of freedom—is being conducted by implementing a brutal assault on freedom at home…the methods used against Al-Arian and countless others of Middle Eastern descent reveal the real character of the war, which has nothing to do with the defense of freedom, and everything to do with suppressing opposition to the predations of U.S. imperialism."

Socialists nationwide have been so up in arms over Al-Arian’s case that their fundamentalist Islamic allies have had to work overtime to match their vitriol. The Muslim Student Association of the U.S. and Canada (MSA), a Wahhabi Islamic organization created and funded by the Saudi government, expressed "shock" and "deep concern" over Al-Arian’s arrest, and suggested he was indicted because of his "political views." The Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) argued that there was "no evidence" against Al-Arian, and its communications director, Hussein Ibish, offered, "saying ‘Death to Israel’ doesn’t necessarily advocate violence." Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), blamed Al-Arian’s woes on "the attack dogs of the pro-Israel lobby" and the "Israelization of American policy and procedures."

Despite his vast array of defenders, Sami Al-Arian today sits in a prison cell, awaiting a trial that will surely bring out the worst of what the Left has to offer. Who knows, Eric Boehlert and Nicholas Kristof may even summon up the courage to once again beg for Al-Arian’s freedom. What possesses these supposedly sane public figures to champion the North American leader of one of the most violent terrorist groups in the world? In an article for the New York Post titled, "His Shameful Defenders," John Podhoretz wrote,

"This is madness. ‘Academic freedom’ does not include the right to plan and execute a conspiracy to murder hundreds of people, including two American citizens—not under any concept of academic freedom known to any rational being. What's really going on here? Simple. A vast segment of liberal opinion is desperate to see the war on terrorism as a new explosion of McCarthyism. And they want to sign up to fight the evil government in its evil effort to torment poor, innocent Muslims."

In signing on to defend Sami Al-Arian, the Left not only forfeited its credibility, it also sacrificed its soul.

That is, what little soul it still possessed.




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