Sami Al-Arian and the Defining Moral and Political Challenge of Our Time

Earlier this week, the U.S. government deported our friend and colleague, Dr. Sami Al-Arian, from the United States.  Turkey has granted him sanctuary.

Since we first met Dr. Al-Arian a few years ago, he and his family have set standards for faithfulness, moral steadfastness, and commitment to truth to which we can only aspire.  More broadly, the U.S. government’s treatment of Dr. al Arian underscores an urgent reality: how the West treats Muslims—in the Middle East, where they are the overwhelming majority, and in diaspora communities in the West itself—is the defining moral and political challenge of our time.  The U.S. government’s actions against Sami Al-Arian and his family should remind all of us how badly the United States is failing that challenge.

Sami Al-Arian was targeted by the U.S. government because, during the 1990s, he emerged as one of the most prominent and effective advocates for Palestinian rights that U.S. officials had ever faced.  To offer some insight into his case and what it means, we highlight here two pieces.  One, by Glenn Greenwald and his colleague at The Intercept, Murtaza Hussain, see here, assesses the U.S. government’s case against Dr. Al-Arian as a glaring example of post-9/11 “America’s eroding democratic values.”  This article explains how, as “part of a broader post-9/11 campaign by the U.S. government to criminalize aid and support to Palestinians,” Dr. Al-Arian was “indicated on multiple counts of providing ‘material support’ to [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] and fundraising on their behalf in the United States.”  As the article recounts,

“For most of the three years after his arrest, Al-Arian was kept in solitary confinement awaiting trial.  During this time, he was regularly subjected to strip-searches, denied normal visitation rights with his family, and allegedly abused by prison staff…When Al-Arian’s case did finally reach trail after years of harsh imprisonment, prosecutors failed to convict Al-Arian on even one charge brought against him.  Jurors voted to acquit him on the most serious counts he faced and deadlocked on the remainder of the indictments.

The outcome was hugely embarrassing for the U.S. government.  Despite having amassed over 20,000 hours of phone conversations and hundreds of fax messages from over a decade of surveilling Al-Arian, the [Justice Department]—even with all the advantages they enjoyed in terrorism cases in 2003 (and continue to enjoy today)—was unable to convince a jury Al-Arian was the arch-terrorist they had very publicly proclaimed him to be.

Indeed, instead of producing evidence that Al-Arian was involved in actual ‘terrorism,’ the government attempted to use as evidence copies of books and magazines Al-Arian had owned in a failed effort to convince the jury to convict him of apparent thought crimes.  This effort failed and a jury ruled to acquit Al-Arian on 8 out of 17 charges while failing to come to a verdict on the remainder.”

The article goes on to describe how, after his trial, “Al-Arian agreed to a plea bargain on the remaining charges by pleading guilty to one count of providing ‘contributions, goods or services’ to [Palestinian Islamic Jihad], a decision he says he undertook out of a desire to end the government’s ongoing persecution of him and win his release from prison.  Still, “despite this plea, Al-Arian was not released from prison”; instead, the U.S. government plunged him into a legally Kafkaesque series of additional imprisonments on “civil contempt” charges.  Finally, in 2014—after years of relentlessly persecuting Dr. Al-Arian, “the Federal government quietly and unceremoniously dropped all of their charges against [him].”

The second piece we want to highlight is a statement by Sami Al-Arian, released after his departure from the United States.  We append it below.

“To my dear friends and supporters,

After 40 years, my time in the U.S. has come to an end.  Like many immigrants of my generation, I came to the U.S. in 1975 to seek a higher education and greater opportunities.  But I also wanted to live in a free society where freedom of speech, association and religion are not only tolerated but guaranteed and protected under the law.  That’s why I decided to stay and raise my family here, after earning my doctorate in 1986.  Simply put, to me, freedom of speech and thought represented the cornerstone of a dignified life.

Today, freedom of expression has become a defining feature in the struggle to realize our humanity and liberty.  The forces of intolerance, hegemony, and exclusionary politics tend to favor the stifling of free speech and the suppression of dissent.  But nothing is more dangerous than when such suppression is perpetrated and sanctioned by government.  As one early American once observed, “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”  Because government has enormous power and authority over its people, such control must be checked, and people, especially those advocating unpopular opinions, must have absolute protections from governmental overreach and abuse of power.  A case in point of course is the issue of Palestinian self-determination.  In the United States, as well as in many other western countries, those who support the Palestinian struggle for justice, and criticize Israel’s occupation and brutal policies, have often experienced an assault on their freedom of speech in academia, media, politics and society at large.  After the tragic events of September 11th, such actions by the government intensified, in the name of security.  Far too many people have been targeted and punished because of their unpopular opinions or beliefs.

During their opening statement in my trial in June 2005, my lawyers showed the jury two poster-sized photographs of items that government agents took during searches of my home many years earlier.  In one photo, there were several stacks of books taken from my home library.  The other photo showed a small gun I owned at the time.  The attorney looked the jury in the eyes and said:  “This is what this case is about.  When the government raided my client’s house, this is what they seized,” he said, pointing to the books, “and this is what they left,” he added, pointing to the gun in the other picture.  “This case is not about terrorism but about my client’s right to freedom of speech,” he continued.  Indeed, much of the evidence the government presented to the jury during the six-month trial were speeches I delivered, lectures I presented, articles I wrote, magazines I edited, books I owned, conferences I convened, rallies I attended, interviews I gave, news I heard, and websites I never even accessed.  But the most disturbing part of the trial was not that the government offered my speeches, opinions, books, writings, and dreams into evidence, but that an intimidated judicial system allowed them to be admitted into evidence.  That’s why we applauded the jury’s verdict.  Our jurors represented the best society had to offer.  Despite all of the fear-mongering and scare tactics used by the authorities, the jury acted as free people, people of conscience, able to see through Big Brother’s tactics.   One hard lesson that must be learned from the trial is that political cases should have no place in a free and democratic society.

But despite the long and arduous ordeal and hardships suffered by my family, I leave with no bitterness or resentment in my heart whatsoever.  In fact, I’m very grateful for the opportunities and experiences afforded to me and my family in this country, and for the friendships we’ve cultivated over the decades.  These are lifelong connections that could never be affected by distance.

I would like to thank God for all the blessings in my life.  My faith sustained me during my many months in solitary confinement and gave me comfort that justice would ultimately prevail.

Our deep thanks go to the friends and supporters across the U.S., from university professors to grassroots activists, individuals and organizations, who have stood alongside us in the struggle for justice.

My trial attorneys, Linda Moreno and the late Bill Moffitt, were the best advocates anyone could ask for, both inside and outside of the courtroom.  Their spirit, intelligence, passion and principle were inspirational to so many.

I am also grateful to Jonathan Turley and his legal team, whose tireless efforts saw the case to its conclusion.  Jonathan’s commitment to justice and brilliant legal representation resulted in the government finally dropping the case.

Our gratitude also goes to my immigration lawyers, Ira Kurzban and John Pratt, for the tremendous work they did in smoothing the way for this next phase of our lives.

Thanks also to my children for their patience, perseverance and support during the challenges of the last decade.  I am so proud of them.

Finally, my wife Nahla h​as been a pillar of love, strength and resilience.  She kept our family together during the most difficult times.  There are no words to convey the extent of my gratitude.

We look forward to the journey ahead and take with us the countless happy memories we formed during our life in the United States.”

 

15 Responses to “Sami Al-Arian and the Defining Moral and Political Challenge of Our Time”

  1. kooshy says:

    قاسم سلیمانی به روایت صادق خرازی:ذهنی قدرتمند ومعرفتی بی پایان/قاسم اهل خط و خط بازی نیست

    شاید این روزها صادق خرازی را به عنوان یک سیاستمدار یا یک دیپلمات بشناسند اما او به واسطه حضورش در جنگ تحمیلی با بسیاری از سرداران دفاع مقدس دوستی نزدیکی دارد.

    صادق خرازي مهمان خبرآنلاين بود و گفت و گوي مبسوطي را با ما در حوزه سياست خارجي انجام داد که به زودي منتشر خواهد شد. همچنين پس از آنکه سخنانش درباره سياست خارجي و مذاکرات هسته اي تمام شد ، گفت و گوي ديگري را با وي انجام داديم که حال و هواي ديگري داشت. مشروح اين گفت و گو در ايام تعطيلات نوروز منتشر خواهد شد اما در اين گفت و گو به رابطه دوستانه اش با سردار قاسم سليماني اشاره کرد که در ادامه عينا نقل مي شود:
    قاسم سليماني روستا زاده ای خود ساخته از کرمان بود و از پايين ترين سطوح بسيج وسپاه شروع کرد و امروز به بالاترين قسمت فرماندهي نظامي رسيده است. نه ياري داشت، نه ياوري، نه رانتي و حامي اي. قاسم سليماني خود را در جنگ و حماسه دفاع مقدس نشان داد. چندبار مجروح شد. همين امروز هم بخشي از دستش مشکل دارد و جانباز است . قاسم سليماني چند ماه مجروح بود و کسی اطلاع نداشت که در کجا تخلیه شده است. بعد ها مشخص شد که در مشهد بستري بوده است. يک پزشک منافقي بود که نمي خواست او را مداوا کند. شکم او باز گذاشته بود و بحران پیدا کرده بود. در حقیقت آن از خدا بی خبر مي خواست او را بکشد. يک پرستار کرماني اين را فهميد و جاي او را عوض کرد. بعد از آن هم بچه هاي هم دوره اش مثل موحدی کرمانی و دیگران رفتند و او را نجات دادند. از دوران جنگ من خدمت قاسم سلیمانی و باقر قالیباف و برخي از دوستان ديگرمان ارادت دارم. من با قاسم سليماني ، مرحوم شهيد باقري ( حسن افشردي) ، مرحوم شهيد خرازي ، حاج همت ، شهيدان باکري ، آقاي محسن رضايي ، آقاي شمخاني ، آقا رحيم ( سردار رحيم صفوي) و دوستان ديگري که بعضي از آن ها هنوز هستند و برخي از آن ها هم شهيد شده اند، آشنايي دارم. در ميان اين ها يک دردانه اي بود به نام قاسم سليماني. همه اين ها خوبند. همه اين ها کساني هستند که حق حيات معنوي گردن ملت ايران دارند و من به تک تک این دوستان ارادت دارم.
    بعضي مي گويند که چرا اين ها در سياست دخالت مي کنند. چرا اين را زماني که همه مملکت درحال از دست رفتن بود و اين ها ايستاده بودند که اين اتفاق نيفتد، چرا در آن زمان اين را نمي گفتند؟ اگر اين ها نبودند، امروز داعش در خيابان هاي تهران رژه مي رفت. اين ها نمادهاي مقاومت ​اند، اين ها ستون هاي فقرات امنيت ملي کشور هستند. اين حرف هاي روشنفکري صد من يک غاز را بايد به دور ريخت.
    سليماني سرچشمه محبت، مهرباني و معرفت است. در دوراني که من بیمار بودم، قاسم ( شايد بلااستثنا) هفته اي يکي دوبار بالاي سر من بود. در دوراني بود که من کمتر مي توانستم تشخيص بدهم، او، باقر قاليباف و برخي از دوستان ديگرمان هميشه بالاي سر من بودند . محبت ، معرفت، بزرگي و شکوهي که در اين آدم هست با هيچ کسي قابل مقايسه نيست. اگر کسي مشکلي داشته باشد، قاسم با همه وجودش مي رود و به او خدمت مي کند. قاسم نه اهل خط است و نه اهل خط بازي. او يک انسان فداکاري است که عاشقانه مي خواهد وظيفه اش را انجام دهد. قاسم سليماني به لحاظ فکري هم انسان بسيار قوي اي است. ظرفيت و استعداد قاسم سليماني خيلي بيشتر از اين حرف هاست. ببينيد که يک تنه او در لبنان، عراق، سوريه، مصر ، يمن ، افغانستان و در سرحدات ما چه کار کرده است. سليماني يک چهره فداکار، ملي و فراملي است و استوانه مجاهدت و رشادت است. آنچه که قاسم سليماني را از ديگران متمايز مي کند در پديده ذهن قدرتمند و اخلاق و معرفت بي پايان اوست. اخلاق و گنجينه فضايل و مهرباني او پايان ندارد. اين مهمترين مولفه و مشخصه آقاي سليماني است.

  2. nico says:

    Loss of faith of European citizens in the failed EU project…

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-02-05/elections-change-nothing-germany-admits-distrust-masses-eu-way

    “Elections Change Nothing” Germany Admits Distrust Of The Masses Is The EU Way
    “Elections change nothing,” said Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s tough-minded finance minister. He was talking about Greece, but he could have been talking about the entire EU racket. The Europhile elites have a guarded and contingent attitude towards democracy. It has its place, to be sure, but it must never be allowed to slow the process of political integration. As the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, put it in response to Syriza’s election victory, “There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties”.

    He means it.

    Distrust of the masses is in the EU’s genome. Its founders had lived through the horrors of the Second World War, and associated democracy – especially in its plebiscitary form – with the demagoguery and fascism of the 1930s. They made no bones about vesting supreme power with a group of Commissioners who were immune to public opinion. Sure enough, those Commissioners and their successors saw it as their role to step in when the voters got it wrong – as when, for example, they voted against closer integration in referendums.

    What else do the people absurdly known as “experts” have to do to convince us that they don’t have all the answers? The euro was their great endeavour, for Heaven’s sake. Yet, even now, they won’t admit that it was a mistake

  3. nico says:

    And how things needs to get much worse to better only afterward…

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-02-05/lesson-greece-only-collapse-makes-real-change-possible

    In the U.S., the top 10% are doing very well, the next 10% are getting enough to sustain the illusion that they may yet recover their former status and wealth, and the bottom 80% have been bought off with social welfare or the promise of social welfare. Some variation of these percentages are in play in Europe, China, Japan and the emerging economies that haven’t already imploded.

    When the illusion that the Status Quo can fulfill all its promises to everybody dies, the Status Quo starts the terminal slide to effective collapse.

    Unfortunately, no real change in the social order or power structure can occur until the effective collapse of the Status Quo has taken down everyone but the kleptocrats, their high-ranking apparatchiks and the piteously delusional.

  4. James Canning says:

    The Israel lobby is well known for doing its best to suppress free speech in the US, regarding Israel/Palestine problem.

  5. Nico says:

    Open question : Is the clash of civilization used as a mean or ideological weapon to keep cohesion of a NATO area geopolitical construct ? Mainly among EU nations in the first hand and EU with the US in the second hand ?

    While after the end of the cold war the main risk for the US was the implosion of the system of alliance among western nations and geopolitical reconfiguration ?

    At the very top is the clash of civilization in the interests of the so called Jewish community ? Or maybe it is an Anglo empire plot to keep the lead of the so called western world ?
    A third option could be a symbiotic marriage between the Jewish community and the Anglo empire… As it has been the case for centuries… The so called christian (protestant) Jewish civilization (truly the Anglo empire)…

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rothschild_family#The_Napoleonic_Wars

  6. fyi says:

    The Leveretts:

    Vey similar to the case of Dr. Wen-Ho Lee where Federal Prosecution was used as a tool destroy a man professionally and to cause him and family pain and suffering.

  7. Rehmat says:

    No million rally for “freedom of speech” in Washington for a Muslim victim of Zionist Lobby, as happened in Paris for the Zionist staff of Rothschild-owned Charlie Hebdo last month.

    http://rehmat1.com/2015/01/09/mossad-visits-charlie-hebdo-office-in-paris/

  8. Castellio says:

    Thank you for writing the article. Every bit helps. Memory here is critical, and i agree entirely with your analysis in bold.

    My god he is gracious, Mr. Al-Arian!

  9. A-B says:

    Putin have said in an interview with Egyptian Al-Ahram on Sunday: The crucial point is that nobody should try to derive unilateral benefit from the situation or to bargain out more than what is needed for a balanced and just resolution of this complicated issue.

    The above quote together with what Ayat. Khamenei said yesterday clearly implies that those meeting between Zarif and the vultures/pigs from the US, UK, France and Germany were about the Savages wanting to cut themselves lucrative deals!! The Western Filth create bogus crises to impose sanctions they can profit from (vitiating contracts and stealing the money; trying their best to – a la Mafia – create a corrupt [undemocratic] ‘government’ within the legal government with whom they can ‘deal’; totally devaluating Iran’s ‘credits’ by slander, defaming and creating insecurity so they can have 100 dollars for a penny) and now that Iran has survived and for a hefty price managed to establish an firm base or infrastructure these revolting Pigs want to profit even more! The only thing these scum know is to ruin lives, on individual level – as in the article above – and on grand scale, and then abuse and take advantage of the decency of the victims.

    K1-N

  10. A-B says:

    One must understand the Fascist way of thinking that makes both the average Westerner and their de facto democratic governments so arrogant:

    1) I AM exceptionally Good, thus, I arrogate all Good to Myself, including the Good in you, the Other [who can NEVER be Me];

    2) The Bad in you belongs ENTIRELY to you and your race, for which you must pay Me until you become ‘good’ IF I-say-so, then (intuitively) goto 1;

    3) The Bad in Me – that ONLY I-say-so (IF it increases My profit and power over you) – you are OBLIGATED to accept entirely, then goto 2. In fact, this is a boon I bestow on you which is GOOD for your character. You [ungrateful SOB] will realize this [My tough lovin’] on your way to item 1, and then: ‘enlightenment’!!

    Needless to say that this fascistry works equally well in ALL fields: economics, academics, historic-cultural, professional, personal, etcetera. For example: 1) Brits find oil in Iran; it is theirs; 2) they starve millions of Iranians to death – they die because they are weak (according to the Brits) and they should ‘get over it’ (according to the Winner/Loser mentality of the American ‘cowboys’), while, 3) the Holocaust is ostentatiously made into a COLLECTIVE guilt of ALL HUMANITY, to be exploited and ‘churned’ as long as possible for the benefit of the Anlgo-Americans and other European Fascists. On a personal level, I experienced this Evil among the ‘nice’ Swedes who think so highly of themselves!! And, mind you, they weren’t JOOOZ whom I could blame for their blatant ‘Chutzpah’; the supremacy is in their genes!

    This seems like a foolproof system, no? Only if you are a fool to accept its axiom; that the psycho-god of the West (be it YHWH or Aristotle) is Good. I, the FREE [Iranian] Resterner, am a nonbeliever, and say: YOUR god, per YOUR definition, is NOT mine, and might as well boil in hot excrement!!

    K1-N

  11. Karl.. says:

    A-B

    Fully agree with this, I am a bit scared when it comes to the brainwashing in the west.
    Anyone having a different view of lets say Iran is condemned, isolated.
    How will it look in lets say 15-20 years? I assume closer and closer to facism.

  12. paul says:

    With each new world crisis the gap between US/Nato/’Western’ rhetoric and reality seems to be wider. At this point I’d say the gap is really horrifying. What is more horrifying is that many in the political class in the ‘West’, even those in the supposed ‘progressive movement’ in the US, seem to buy into the rhetoric almost without question. When the ‘political class’ is so deluded, where will they lead us? Where are they leading us? Where will proposals that are better grounded in reality and in human decency come from?

  13. Karl.. says:

    paul

    If you havent, check my link at February 8, 2015 at 11:46 am, it feautre a short discussion on just that subject.

  14. Avg american says:

    Very ironic for me to read this article- as I stumbled across the Leverette’s books because of some of my experiences with a very diverse group of friends at the university of south Florida. They had given me some insight into the Middle East and the various political histories told from a middle easterners point of view showed a side of the world I would have never known. These experiences held with me -and almost 20 years later led me to their book! That was about 1995-96 around the same time of this fiasco. I’m sorry for the Leverette’s loss of a friend. I think our current president has helped move things regarding the Leverette’s cause in the right direction. Given what Obama has to deal with and his circumstances he’s doing just fine. i have rarely met an American who can tell me something other than the American side to the Iranian story only what propaganda msm feeds them. Very interesting for me to read this story!