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Jewish World Review July 8, 2002 / 28 Tamuz, 5762

Diana West

Diana West
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Are you still shocked, Sami? | Two updates in the story of Sami Al-Arian. Remember him? He's the University of South Florida computer science professor who helped gain an entry visa and a USF position for Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, a man who later returned to the Middle East to head up Islamic Jihad. Al-Arian's life changed after a September appearance on the "O'Reilly Factor," possibly because of his tepid performance professing to be shocked, shocked, when told about Shallah's work with Islamic Jihad. Or maybe it was the reference to another Al-Arian performance -- this one, no doubt, more convincing -- in which he declared, "Jihad is our path! Victory to Islam! Death to Israel! Revolution! Revolution until victory! Rolling to Jerusalem!" (Or maybe it was Al-Arian's classic opener in response to the latter: "Let me just put it into context ... ")

Whatever it was, after the prime-time debut of Al-Arian -- who, not incidentally, used to run a pair of USF-affiliated organizations closed by the FBI in 1995 as terrorist fronts -- everything changed. As calls and threats besieged "Terrorism U," as donations and student applications fell off, Al-Arian was suspended with pay. Citing a contractual violation -- something about the professor's failure to stipulate he was not speaking for the university -- and safety concerns about his campus presence, USF President Judy Genshaft announced in December he would be fired.

Then nothing, or not much, as far as visible action. The Justice Department announced in February that Al-Arian was continuing to be investigated for links to terrorism, and the investigation continues. He remains suspended from the university, continues to draw a paycheck and still hasn't been fired. However, the American Association of University Professors has just called for Al-Arian to be reinstated. Concluding that Al-Arian's statements fell "well within" the boundaries of academic freedom, the AAUP urged Genshaft not to fire him -- or else face censure, an action best described as academia's equivalent of cooties.

Well worth pondering is the function of academic freedom's boundaries if even calls for "jihad" and "death to Israel" (and fundraising for both) are considered vital to the unfettered pursuit of excellence in computer science. But there's more. Citing "current and former senior Israeli intelligence officials," the Tampa Tribune reported last week that Al-Arian didn't just hang with people who -- voila -- turned into terrorists, or raise cash for groups linked to terrorism. He also "helped found the governing council of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and then served on it."

No more guilt-by-association -- or even checkbook. The guy was reportedly on the "Jihad board of directors." So where do the bounds of academic freedom lie in this scenario? Mary Burgan, AAUP General Secretary, told me that since the government hasn't brought charges against Al-Arian, AAUP's stance is unchanged by a news report. "You don't fire people because they're suspects," she added. Which sounds fair enough. But should a person suspected of being a booster, banker and director of terrorism be invited to hide out in the Ivory Tower as an exercise of "academic" freedom?

Speaking more generally about the AAUP, Burgan said, "Obviously, we don't agree that academic freedom includes incitement to riot, or incitement to terror," but she begged ignorance when reminded that the Al-Arian statements reported on the "O'Reilly Factor" were incitement. On hearing a reprise of the "jihad" soliloquy -- "Jihad is our path! Victory to Islam! Death to Israel!" etc., etc., etc. -- Burgan said she "would have to see the context. I'm not willing to make a generalization until I see the context."

The context? According to the Tampa paper, authorities are focusing on whether money Al-Arian raised in the United States went to finance Islamic Jihad terrorism in Israel -- "in particular," the paper reports, "an April 1995 bombing attack on a bus that killed eight people in the Gaza Strip," including Alisa Flatow, a 20-year-old American student. Stephen Flatow, Alisa's father, testified about his daughter's murder before a federal grand jury in Tampa in December.

Maybe "context" is close at hand.

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JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.


07/02/02: Can Britney win hearts of the Middle East?
06/28/02: A war on terror or Islamists?
06/25/02: Blame the murderer, and the messenger
06/21/02: Up front and personal with Atta
06/18/02: Terrorism at the United Nations
06/11/02: Who's policing the INS?
06/07/02: Spa Gitmo
06/04/02: Can rock gods save the queen?
05/31/02: Hillary's war
05/29/02: Have you forgotten we're at war?
05/24/02: An antiquated luxury of the past
05/21/02: From terrorists to tourists
05/19/02: Hate U.
05/07/02: Western self-loathing numbs us to violence
05/03/02: Pioneering television
05/01/02: Western self-loathing numbs us to violence
04/29/02: It's the misconduct, stupid
04/24/02: Medal of diss-honor
04/17/02: Holy sanctuary or terrorist shield?
04/12/02: Egyptian clerics solicit martyrs for murder
04/09/02: Defining terrorism down
04/05/02: The Wilder life
04/02/02: Acting, equality and the Academy
03/31/02: Speeding to conclusions
03/25/02: Hard to remove blood (libel) stains
03/21/02: The tale of Nixon's tapes --- again
03/19/02: The Big Lie lives on
03/15/02: The tunnel vision of '9/11'
03/13/02: The American Auschwitz?
03/08/02: Hating the indoctrination of hate
03/05/02: Clinton and Enron: Old friends
03/01/02: Pickering doesn't polarize, the process does
02/26/02: Destiny's prefabricated child
02/22/02: The White House heist
02/20/02: Making the grade
02/11/02: Studying student visas
02/06/02: Understanding arrogance
02/04/02: The professor's war
01/29/02: Disconnected dialogue
01/23/02: Anti-Indiscrimination
01/18/02: How much is enough?
01/15/02: Oh brothers, where art thou?
01/10/02: Air on the side of caution
01/04/02: Blacks seeing red at Harvard
01/02/02: Clinton's campaign continues
12/26/01: A tale of two exhibitions
12/24/01: Taliban Idyll
12/19/01: Right is right
12/17/01: Hillary strikes out
12/13/01: Lost files, lost presidency
12/10/01: Revolutionaries never grow up
12/05/01: Immigration reform talk is not just for 'haters' anymore
12/03/01: A new symbol of justice
11/30/01: Beyond morality
11/26/01: Can't keep a good man down
11/20/01: Tough talk at the United Nations
11/19/01: Hollywood's other battle
11/14/01: What's the matter with Sara Jane?
11/09/01: A beef with bin Laden's Beef Noodles
11/07/01: Facing up to the FBI's past mistakes
11/02/01: A school that teaches patriots to shutup
10/30/01: The gap between Islam and peace
10/26/01: The ties that bind (and gag)
10/24/01: This war is more than Afghanistan
10/22/01: The fatuous fatwa
10/19/01: Left out
10/16/01: Whose definition of terrorism?
10/11/01: Post-stress disorder
10/08/01: How the West has won
10/01/01: Good, bad or ... diplomacy
09/28/01: Drawing a line in stone
09/21/01: Prejudice or prudence?
09/14/01: When our dead will finally rest in hallowed ground
09/07/01: We want our #$%^&*() audience back!
08/24/01: The transformation from Green Mountain State to Green Activist State is all but complete
08/17/01: Enlightenment at Yale
08/10/01: From oppressors to victims, a metamorphosis
08/03/01: Opening the dormitory door: College romance in the New Century
08/01/01: How-To Hackdom: The dubious art of writing books about writing books
07/20/01: Hemming about Hemmings
07/13/01: Justice has not been served in the Loiuma police brutality case
06/22/01: When PC parades are too 'mainstream'
06/22/01: When "viewpoint discrimination" in our schools was not nearly so gnarly a notion
06/15/01: Lieberman flaunts mantle of perpetual aggrievement
06/07/01: Is graciousness the culprit?
06/01/01: The bright side of the Jeffords defection
05/29/01: Campus liberals should be more careful
05/18/01: 'Honest Bill' Clinton and other Ratheresian Logic
05/11/01: Dodging balls, Bugs, and 'brilliance'
05/04/01: Foot in mouth disease and little lost Tories
04/20/01:The last classic Clinton cover-up
04/20/01: D-Day, Schmee-Day
04/06/01: For heaven's sake, a little decency!
03/30/01: The sweet sound of slamming doors and clucking feminists
03/23/01: America's magazines and the 'ick-factor'
03/09/01: Felony neglect
03/02/01: Who's sorry now?
02/23/01: 'Ecumenical niceness' and other latter-day American gifts to the world
02/16/01: Elton and Eminem: Royal dirge-icist meets violent fantasist
02/12/01: If only ...

© 2001, Diana West