Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operative Sami Al-Arian ended his hunger strike, which he began, allegedly, in protest of the Eastern District of Virginia's insistence that he testify before a grand jury investigating the terrorist connections of a Northern Virginia think tank, the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT).
Al-Arian is currently in the custody of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, awaiting deportation to an as of yet undetermined country. His lawyer, however, expects that Al-Arian may still be indicted for criminal contempt for his refusal to testify before the grand jury despite a grant of immunity.
Before Al-Arian was arrested, he was a computer science professor at the University of South Florida (USF). The current Secretary General of the PIJ, Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, was a lecturer at the same university, brought there by Al-Arian to work for Al-Arian's think tank, the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE). Shallah taught Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at USF, through a cooperative agreement between USF and WISE.
When Shallah left WISE and became the head of PIJ, Al-Arian and WISE released a statement stating that "Dr. Abdullah" left WISE to write a book and "tend to his sick father," and that:
WISE denies any knowledge of Dr. Abdullah's association or affiliation with any political group or agency in Middle East.
That was, of course, a lie. But today brings news that Al-Arian, Shallah and their USF colleagues are not the only "academics" involved with the Islamic Jihad. In a story today published by CNN, Israeli forces kill Islamic Jihad chief, sources say, the following appears:
The person killed was the deputy commander of the Islamic Jihad military wing, according to the Palestinian sources, who said he also served as a school headmaster at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency school.
Just as WISE and Al-Arian denied any knowledge of Shallah's ties to the PIJ, CNN reports:
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunnes said he could not immediately confirm that the person was employed by the United Nations, and added that staff members who bring politics into U.N. institutions are fired immediately for violating staff rules.
That is in stark contrast to former UNRWA chief Peter Hansen's position. When news broke in 2004 that Hamas operatives were on the UNRWA payroll, Hansen famously told the CBC:
"Oh I am sure that there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll and I don't see that as a crime. Hamas as a political organization does not mean that every member is a militant and we do not do political vetting and exclude people from one persuasion as against another."
It is no surprise, then, that a PIJ military commander would be doubling as a headmaster at a UNRWA school, but it should alarm and shock everyone that the current head of the PIJ taught Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at an American university, brought there by Sami Al-Arian, current self-styled martyr and erstwhile hunger striker.