Many have noted the fairly recent trend of Hamas leaders taking to the op-ed pages of major American newspapers. (Side note: Hamas is not the only terrorist group with access to the op-ed pages of American newspapers. Just this morning, the Washington Post, in its Muslims Speak Out section, has a piece from Hizballah spiritual leader Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, extolling the virtues of violent jihad).
But another equally insidious phenomenon has been occurring for much longer: American newspaper editors advocating on behalf of Hamas. One of the worst offenders is Don Wycliff, former Public Editor and Editorial Page Editor of the Chicago Tribune.
On July 11, 2007, Hamas operative Muhammad Salah was sentenced to 21 months in prison, fined $25,000 and ordered to do 100 hours of community service on charges of obstruction of justice related to his lying under oath in a lawsuit concerning his time as a money courier for the terrorist group.
Prior to sentencing, Salah's attorneys orchestrated a letter writing campaign to U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve on behalf of their client. One of the letters came from Mr. Wycliff, who wrote:
I write on behalf of Muhammad Salah, who shortly will come before you for sentencing. I cannot claim to know Mr. Salah well. However, I can tell you that what I do know of him suggests to me that he is not a danger to the community—on the contrary, he is an asset—and that if ever there was an ideal candidate for leniency, for probation, Mr. Salah is that candidate.
For Wycliff, this letter represents only the latest in a years-long advocacy campaign for Salah and his family. In 2003, on the editorial pages of the Tribune, Wycliff made a similar plea, claiming that while he could not personally "vouch" for Salah, that Salah surely was being grossly mistreated by the U.S. justice system.
In 2006, Wycliff took to his paper's editorial page yet again, writing:
Muhammad Salah has been on my conscience for the last 13 years. What has troubled me about the Salah case from the beginning was the secrecy of it all. He and a couple of colleagues were arrested by Israeli military authorities during a trip to the occupied territories back in 1993. They were held incommunicado from the beginning, and the U.S. government seemed strangely lackadaisical about the whole business.
For that effort, Wycliff was presented a community service award by the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, whose Chairman kicked off the ceremony by announcing, "Given that KindHearts, a Muslim Charity in Toledo, Ohio, has [recently] had its assets frozen without due trial or process, these awards have become even more meaningful." An ironic, yet telling statement, since KindHearts, like Salah, was the target of law enforcement because of its extensive links to the Hamas terrorist organization.
Just to remind everyone, the jury found Salah guilty, and the judge sentenced Salah, because he (see page 35):
corruptly endeavored to influence, obstruct and impede the due administration of justice by submitting to the United States District Court, through lawyers acting under the authority of the court, false and misleading verified answers to interrogatories propounded on defendant SALAH in a civil suit filed against defendant SALAH and others which answers falsely stated, among other things, that defendant SALAH had never provided or delivered funds for the purpose of supporting Hamas.
That's right, the jury found Salah was a member of Hamas and had perjured himself about handling and delivering Hamas funds. Despite this, after having publicly advocating for Salah for years from his perch at the Tribune, Wycliff was not deterred from offering more public support for Salah, continuing in his letter:
I got to know Mr. Salah and his family initially as a result of my writing about him, first as editorial page editor of the Chicago Tribune and later as public editor. Maybe I am naïve, but I was appalled to see my government going after a citizen in defiance of all the due-process principles I was taught decades ago in civics classes: a trial and conviction before punishment; presumption of innocence, the right to confront one's accusers, and so forth.
At this point, one can question Wycliff's grasp on reality. It is obvious that Salah was in fact tried and convicted before he was punished, was presumed innocent before – and throughout - his trial (in fact, he was acquitted on a greater charge, even if trial watchers and followers of Salah's career with Hamas feel he is guilty in fact, if not by the law), and, like all criminal defendants, had the opportunity to confront his accuser: the U.S. government.
How Wycliff missed these facts is a mystery, and it seems sour grapes to claim that a trial, in which Salah received an acquittal on a very serious racketeering charge, was somehow unfair to him. Perhaps Wycliff's years of ethically and morally questionable public advocacy on behalf of a Hamas operative has clouded his thought process.
At sentencing, Judge St. Eve told Salah, "Telling the truth is the bedrock of our judicial system and a slap on the wrist will not provide a deterrent." If only Mr. Wycliff, the former public editor and long time editorial page editor of one of America's major newspapers, felt the same way.