May 3, 2006
Sami al-Arian, the former University of South Florida professor, has been a master manipulator for years, gaining strong and vocal support for the American Left. But his luck has now completely run out. When he pled guilty not long ago to “conspiracy to make or receive contributions of funds to or for the benefit of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a Specially Designated Terrorist” organization, the maximum sentence was set at four years, nine months. But on Monday Judge James Moody, according to the St. Petersburg Times, “shocked the courtroom when he ignored the recommendation of prosecutors and defense attorneys for a lower sentence,” and slapped al-Arian with the maximum.
Moody also didn’t hesitate to tell al-Arian what he thought of him. Referring to al-Arian’s claim that he was raising money only for Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s “charity for widows and orphans,” the judge declared: “Your only connection to orphans and widows is that you create them.”
When al-Arian tried the old manipulation games that had served him so well for so long, speaking of his “belief in the true meaning of a democratic society...and the integrity of the jury system,” Moody was having none of it. “Dr. al-Arian,” he said, “as usual, you speak eloquently. I find it interesting that here in public in front of everyone you praised this country...but that’s just evidence of how you operate...You are a master manipulator.”
That he is. For his respect for democracy and trial by jury rings rather false to those whose ears are still ringing with his calls for “Death to America” and “Death to Israel,” and such statements as this one documented by Steven Emerson in American Jihad: “Let us damn America. Let us damn Israel, let us damn their allies until death. Why do we stop?” Does he simply quarrel with current American policy but actually hold to democratic principles? Not likely. Emerson also quotes him as saying:
Muhammad is our leader. The Koran is our constitution. Jihad is our path. Victory to Islam. Death to Israel. Revolution! Revolution! Until victory! Rolling, rolling to Jerusalem.
Many on the American Left have been all too eager to be manipulated. On August 22, 2002, Phil Donahue featured al-Arian as a guest on his short-lived talk show, and apologized for asking him about his genocidal statements: “So, one more time, sir, and I know that you’re probably getting tired of these same questions – death to Israel did not mean you wanted to kill Jews, do I understand your position?”
Al-Arian agreed and suggested that his statement was comparable to Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death!” Donahue ate it up, stating: “The law of innocent until proven guilty doesn’t seem to exist for Professor Sami al-Arian…You are swimming upstream, professor, and this must be quite a shock to you. I know that your life has been threatened. I assume you have security.”
Donahue wasn’t alone, as I noted in a February 2003 FrontPage article. When the University of South Florida fired al-Arian from his job as associate professor of computer engineering, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a cover story called “Blaming the Victim?” and featuring a photo of al-Arian. Academic Islamic apologist John Esposito noted, “the University did a thorough independent review several years ago which found no merit in accusations made at that time” and worried that al-Arian was a victim of “anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry.”
Other encomiums to al-Arian appeared in the New York Times, Salon, and elsewhere – and al-Arian himself pitched in on August 26, 2002, with a self-exculpatory piece in CounterPunch entitled “Fighting for Right of Dissent & Due Process.” In it, he speaks of being “fascinated with the American system of government” as a young man and describes himself as “under the threat of being fired for controversy stemming from activism for the Palestinian cause.” Sounding all the right notes for the Left, he writes ominously that “in a number of ways my case is indicative of the status of civil liberties in post-9/11 America.”
He seems in this article to make an unequivocal renunciation of suicide terror attacks: “I have never once in my life advocated the killing of innocent civilians. I abhor terrorism at all levels, against all people. I condemn all violence against civilians – regardless of the faith of the perpetrators – whether they are in pizza parlors, bus stations or refugee camps. It’s wrong not only politically, but, more important, on religious, moral and ethical grounds.” Of course, this statement is utterly empty if al-Arian holds to the common view among jihadists that there are no civilians in Israel, much less any innocents. But the readers of CounterPunch were unlikely to know that; they were, apparently, all too happy to be manipulated.
On Monday Judge Moody was in no mood for any such manipulation. He told al-Arian, “You continue to lie to your friends and supporters, claiming to abhor violence.” He scored the former professor’s murderous activities: “Your children attend the finest universities this country has to offer,” he said to al-Arian, “while you raise money to blow up the children of others.” He noted that al-Arian used the suicide bombings in Beit Lid, Israel in January 1995 merely as an “opportunity to solicit more money to carry out more bombings,” while “anyone with even the slightest bit of human compassion would be sickened” by these murderous attacks.
But al-Arian’s supporters dug in. “The judge’s words – that al-Arian supported violence – contradict the very basis of the jury’s acquittal and the plea agreement, and raise questions about fundamental fairness,” declared David Cole of Georgetown University. One of al-Arian’s attorneys, Linda Moreno, said flatly, “there was no mention of violence in the plea agreement, which the judge approved.” Yet in fact the plea agreement stipulates that al-Arian raised money for Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and that he “was aware that the PIJ achieved its objectives by, among other means, acts of violence.”
Al-Arian, as well as Cole, Moreno, and the Florida jihadist’s other remaining supporters should come clean. The time for such deception and denial is over. The fact that Moody gave al-Arian the maximum sentence is a positive indication that perhaps henceforth Americans, Left and Right, will not be so easily fooled by the likes of Sami al-Arian, and will move resolutely to resist their efforts to foster the goals of the worldwide Islamic jihad on American soil.
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Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of five books, seven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). He is also an Adjunct Fellow with the Free Congress Foundation.