Florida professor Sami Al-Arian - who has pleaded guilty to fund-raising and other support for the the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad - is set to be sentenced today. He should get the most severe sentence possible.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad murdered my daughter Alisa Flatow in an April 9, 1995, terror attack. No one has ever said that Sami al-Arian was in Gaza the day the bomb went off. And we have never accused him of recruiting the suicide bomber, driving the truck, or pushing the plunger on the bomb that killed Alisa that Sunday morning.
But, by pleading guilty to "conspiracy to make or receive contributions of funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad," al-Arian has at long last admitted his role in providing the material means to kill Alisa and seven others that morning. He's just as culpable as the actual bomber in her death.
The law won't allow me to make a victim-impact statement in the al-Arian case. I wish I could tell the court about Alisa and my family's experiences since her death - though my words are necessarily inadequate to describe our loss. You can't see something buried deep inside us: our broken hearts.
For the first seven years after Alisa's death, you could not say her name to her mother - the mere mention would bring tears to her mother's eyes. As for me, when a cold wind blows, I often catch myself looking down at my chest to see if the hole I feel is there.
Alisa's murder at the hands of cowards and faceless mandarins shocked us, her extended family, friends and people we don't personally know. On that Sunday, in one instant, Alisa was changed from a vibrant young lady, proud of who and what she was, to a mortally wounded casualty, her brain shredded by shrapnel.
When I saw her at the hospital the next morning, her eyes were the same beautiful brown as when she was a 2-year-old, but they stared into space. There was no recognition of my face; Alisa saw nothing. The spiritual leader of our family and good friend was gone at the age of 20.
The oldest child, the oldest sister, is now and will forever be the youngest member of our family.
After donating her organs for transplant into six very sick people, we brought her back home to New Jersey for burial. Two thousand attended her funeral, most of whom had never met Alisa. But they came because they sensed that something evil had happened and that the only way to fight evil is to stare it in its face and say, "You are not going to get me."
Alisa was not politically active. What attracted her to Israel in 1995 was what attracted her five times before - she believed that the best place to learn about yourself and your religion is to visit and live in the land where it is practiced around the clock, where the policemen, the bus drivers and the merchants share a heritage with you.
There was also something intangible. Every time that Alisa returned from one of her trips to Israel, she came back not just a better Jew but a better person, too.
We will never be able to understand what drives people to enable others to commit terrorist acts. We cannot understand why or how God allowed people like Sami al-Arian and his cohorts to carry out their plans. The only way I can combat their wickedness is to try to make myself a better person each day.
And I try each day to let the people who provide resources to terrorists such as PIJ know: You will not intimidate us, you will not scare us and you will not stop us from living our lives as fully as possible.
I want Sami al-Arian to know that we are going to continue to fight for the right to live safely in our communities and to travel safely to all corners of the world. We are not going to stand by idly while terror's supporters sitting cozily here in the United States send young men and women to their deaths in the name of God.
I want al-Arian to know that, unlike him, we are not going to use code words on the telephone and in our communications; we are not going to slink around as he did advocating murder and mayhem and praising death under the guise of free speech.
I want him to know we are going to fight him and his ilk in the open - in the courthouse, in the Congress and the courtroom of public opinion.
And we are going to win.
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