Sami al-Arian: terrorist or activist

elarianAs the discussion in Australia around terrorism, free speech, and the law heats up in Parliament, the media, and kitchens everywhere, it would be remiss of us not to learn from the similar journeys being undertaken by ordinary citizens throughout the developed world. There are events and proceedings in other countries from which we could surely take what are often hard-earned lessons without having to endure some of the pain those people may have gone through. Often, there are particular cases that highlight exactly the difficulties we are already facing.

Researching US independent media articles about the Israel-Palestine conflict shows up two very differing schools of thought amongst the network of leading online US investigative journalists.

On one hand, you have authors like Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett who are highly regarded for their work – Flynt Leverett served as a Middle East expert on George W. Bush’s National Security Council staff until the Iraq War and worked previously at the State Department and at the Central Intelligence Agency. Hillary Mann Leverett was the NSC expert on Iran and – from 2001 to 2003 – was one of only a few U.S. diplomats authorized to negotiate with the Iranians over Afghanistan, al-Qaeda and Iraq. They are authors of Going to Tehran.

Their article on regarding the deportation of their admitted friend and colleague Sami al-Arian takes the view that he was wrongly targeted by the US Justice Department simply for being “…one of the most prominent and effective advocates for Palestinian rights that U.S. officials had ever faced.”  They also claim that the “…defining moral and political challenge of our time” is how the West treats Muslims, and that the US is failing in this challenge.

On the other hand there is the view – apart from the stance taken by the US Department of Justice and the FBI –  of anti-fascist researchers like Dave Emory that al-Arian was not only the leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), but was actively involved in fund raising for the terrorist group through other front organisations such as the Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP) and the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT).

It would seem that the case highlights the difficulties presented to justice officials in effectively prosecuting cases involving alleged terror cells and their funding apparatus, as well as the problem of understanding and reporting on a federal case that itself deals with misinformation and propaganda in a climate of heightened sensitivities to questions of national security, terrorism and justice.

NB. This is an article stub, to be expanded.