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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

February 24, 2003

Profs Duped by Sami Al-Arian.

Faculty and academic union supported this guy. Now he is under arrest. Of course he ought not be judged guilty till he has been given due process and a jury has decided, but Martin Kramer points out that this is another instance where Middle East Studies folks are basically very pro-Arab
Profs Duped by Sami Al-Arian. In recent years, Sami Al-Arian has been a celebrity among Arab-Americans and American apologists for Islamism. Yes, Al-Arian, a Palestinian professor of computer engineering at the University of South Florida (USF), was suspected of close ties to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group specializing in suicide attacks against civilians in Israel. But the smooth-talking, professiorial family man countered that he was merely exercising his first amendment rights, and he covered himself in the banner of academic freedom. When USF sought his dismissal, the American Association of University Professors rallied to his cause. So did the United Faculty of Florida. All of them cast Arian as a pitiable victim of a smear campaign, and rained sympathy on him.
[...]But the most embarrassing endorsement came from the Middle East Studies Association (MESA). Last year, its board wrote to the president of USF, dismissing accusations of Al-Arian's terrorist involvement as "old and never-proven." MESA announced that "the Al-Arian case is about academic freedom. It is also about the basic first amendment right to freedom of speech." Odd: Al-Arian, a computer engineer, has never been a member of MESA, nor has he ever taught a course in Middle Eastern studies. So the statement was just another instance of gratuitous politicization by MESA's radical busybodies, who would rather dabble in politics than attend to the degraded state of their field.

Al-Arian's case is no longer about free speech, it's about overt acts. It's no longer between professors and administrators, it's between prosecutors and attorneys. Al-Arian will have his day in court. But whatever the outcome, there's no doubt that he isn't the "consummate professional" and the "quintessential political moderate" of the "expert" testimonials. Bottom line: the Middle East scholars have failed—again. [more]