The Tyranny of Ignorant Authors
June 5, 2008
One of the things about the Sami Al-Arian saga that always confounds is this: It's understandable that he would have strong supporters who argue he should be released from prison and deported. But if this cause is just, why can't it be argued without lying about the fundamental issues in his case?
Al-Arian completed his 57-month prison sentence for conspiring to provide goods and services to a terrorist group in April and agreed to be deported. He faces a possible criminal contempt indictment for his refusal to testify before a federal grand jury investigating terror financing in northern Virginia. He claims the subpoena is invalid because his plea deal absolved him from any cooperation with law enforcement.
Perhaps the most ridiculous example of this ill-informed advocacy is on display at the fringe website Counterpunch. It's an excerpt from an updated book, The Tyranny of Good Intentions, co-authored by a former assistant Treasury secretary and a former adjunct law professor at Georgetown University. It is so wildly incorrect on the basic facts that it reads almost like parody.
Al-Arian is presented by authors Paul Craig Roberts and Lawrence Stratton as the unwitting victim of "the Israel lobby" which targeted him because he was so darned effective at presenting the Palestinian viewpoint in America. That's it. It has nothing to do with the fact that he served on the governing board of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a designated terrorist organization, or gave refuge to the man who has run the group for the past 13 years and lied about knowing the man's true identity. The authors either don't know this or choose not to mention it.
And why is that? Their primary source appears to be an Internet site considered inappropriate even for an English 101 undergrad class:
"According to Wikipedia, ‘in a verbal agreement that appears in court transcripts, federal prosecutors agreed [as part of the plea agreement] that Al-Arian would not have to testify in Virginia.'"
This is from a book about the American justice system with a lawyer and an economist as its authors. What does it say about the state of discourse when they can't even consult with the court record? If they had, they'd have seen the plea agreement, which contains no such language. And they would have read orders from appellate courts for the 4th Circuit and 11th Circuit, which find absolutely no reference to this anywhere. Not in the agreement, not in the transcripts from his plea hearing or sentencing. Nowhere but in the insistence of Al-Arian and his supporters.
It is stunning that these two authors with what appear to be advanced college degrees rely so heavily on Wikipedia for anything. According to his biography, Roberts, after serving in Treasury Department during the Reagan administration, became an associate editor at the Wall Street Journal's editorial page and still writes. Stratton's biography indicates he is an adjunct on Villanova University's Ethics faculty. Is there any ethical obligation to the truth here?
These two are hardly alone in offering passionate arguments about the injustice they see being perpetrated on Al-Arian while hiding the ugly truth, concocting facts or both. A web page devoted to Al-Arian's cause quickly picked up the Roberts and Stratton article.
The site's owner is listed as Al-Arian's wife, Nahla, and is run by the "Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace," which, in its latest press release, describes one of Al-Arian's local Tampa enterprises thusly:
"The organization he founded, the Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP), held annual national conferences and organized charitable activities to help needy orphans in Palestine."
Click here to see an example of one such charitable activity, recorded by the ICP and later recovered by FBI agents in a raid on Al-Arian's offices. It's a fundraiser led by Fawaz Damra, the now-denaturalized and deported former Imam of the Islamic Center of Cleveland:
Damra: …person can come forward and donate. We are offering the opportunity. Anyone who has the wish can come forward and donate. We put then on the floor, God willing. Would anyone like to donate for the Intifada? For Islamic Jihad, I say it frankly: for Islamic Jihad.
This Jihad, which is still blazing in Palestine, from village to village. I am telling you: not for the organizations or anything else, with due respect for everyone. But only for Jihad.
One of them goes out of his house with a knife to stab the Jews. Twelve Jews, after the Gulf events. O brothers, the Intifada is calling upon you. $500.00. Who is going to top the $500.00? Who is going to top the $500.00 for this medal?
And whoever wants to write a check, he can write it in the name if the Islamic Committee for Palestine, "ICP" for short. ICP, whoever likes to write a check. Is anyone going to top the $500.00 Haj Ahmad?
In short, the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace's idea of charity: raising money for the Islamic Jihad and praising a mujahid who "goes out of his house with a knife to stab the Jews." Twelve Jews.
At another ICP "charitable activity" held in Chicago, Damra stated:
The Muslim nation will forever be unable to regain its Caliphate, glory, or veneration unless all are focused on the removal of the sons of monkeys and pigs from the land of Mohammad's midnight journey to the seven heavens.
That the Jews are the "sons of monkeys and pigs" is a sentiment shared by Al-Arian himself, and he said so at yet another ICP "charitable" event:
O brothers and sisters: Have we forgotten? Have we forgotten the Jews and who they are? God, the Glorious and Sublime, warns us of the Israelites, whom he has cursed in the Quran. "Those of the Children of Israel who disbelieved were cursed by David and Jesus, son of Mary; that, on account of their disobedience and their aggression. They used not to forbid one another from committing any of the evils they were committing. Evil is what they did!"
These people - whom God, the Glorious and sublime, had made into monkeys and pigs, had become discontent and angry with, had cursed in this world and in the hereafter, and had imposed a punishment on them in this World until Judgment Day - these people today hold sway over us, our people, our nation, and our future. We want to negotiate with them, to have a dialogue with them, as if we have forgotten who the Jews are, because we have distanced ourselves from our Quran, history, and heritage, and we do not understand our reality.
So in addition to raising money to kill Jews, the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace apparently believes that referring to Jews as monkeys and pigs is normal discourse during "charitable activity." That is really all you need to know about the organization. And more importantly, it's what people need to remember about Sami al-Arian as well.
Roberts and Stratton, meanwhile, continue to create their own facts out of thin air, representing his contempt fight this way:
"The hostile judge sentenced Al-Arian to eighteen months more on a civil contempt charge for refusing to testify about a case that he knew nothing about."
Does Three Rivers Press, a part of the Crown Publishing Group, employ editors? This isn't even a claim invoked by Al-Arian or his attorneys. Al-Arian's ties, both financial and collegial, to the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), which is believed to be the grand jury's target, are overwhelming and well documented. IIIT was the single biggest donor for Al-Arian's "think tank," the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE). The president of IIIT sent Al-Arian a letter referring to WISE as an extension of IIIT.
Al-Arian has given a number of reasons to not testify, none of them having to do with a lack of knowledge relating to IIIT, one of the more novel being that Al-Arian's life would be endangered if he testified.
The question discerning readers need to ask is whether this is a case the former professor's impassioned advocates knew nothing about, as could be true with Roberts and Stratton, or if the advocates are lying outright, as is the case with the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace?