Longtime FrontPage readers will remember Sami Al-Arian, the former University of South Florida professor who for years was a darling of the Leftist intelligentsia. IPT News reported Monday that he has resurfaced, but that the stalwart old Jew-hater hasn’t changed: while he has reined in his rhetoric a bit and speaks in a more civilized manner, he is still calling for Israel’s destruction, which would result in the murder of millions of Jews.
Back in 1991, during a speech in Chicago, al-Arian screamed: “The Quran is our constitution,” he bellowed. “Jihad is our path … Victory to Islam… Death to Israel… Revolution… revolution till the victory.”
Showing he hasn’t changed, in mid-December 2020, al-Arian spoke via Zoom at the Fourth International Conference on the Muslim Ummah, which was co-sponsored by his present employer, Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University’s Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). In the course of his remarks, he called for “defeating and dismantling the Zionist project,” adding: “We cannot pursue an ummah project without actually attaining our real independence. We cannot attain our real independence without dealing with the problem of Israel….As long as Israel exists, the ummah will stay weak and fragmented, and disunited and divided and dependent and under control.”
This was not an obscure conference in a little-known university. According to IPT, “prominent Muslim Brotherhood-tied individuals such as Amr Darrag, Louay Safi, and Sabri Samirah addressed the week-long conference. Several American academics and Islamists also participated in the conference, including Georgetown University’s John Esposito and Jonathan Brown.”
That was not all that surprising. Esposito and numerous other American academics, as well as other Leftists, have counted al-Arian as a friend for years, and were anxious to portray him as a victim of “Islamophobia.” In a letter to the President of the University of South Florida after she fired Al-Arian, Esposito reminded her that “the University did a thorough independent review several years ago which found no merit in accusations made at that time” and worried that Al-Arian was merely falling victim to “anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry.”
Al-Arian himself pushed all the right buttons: “I’m a minority. I’m an Arab, I’m Palestinian. I’m a Muslim. That’s not a popular thing to be these days. Do I have rights, or don’t I have rights?” Professor Roy Weatherford of the USF faculty union filed a grievance on Al-Arian’s behalf, complaining that his dismissal was discriminatory and violated the professor’s academic freedom. The American Association of University Professors piled on, intoning that “Professor Al-Arian’s statements fell well within the ambit of academic freedom.” The Chronicle of Higher Education published a cover story called “Blaming the Victim?” and featuring a photo of Al-Arian. The irrepressible Congressman David Bonior (D-MI), who accepted at least $3,000 in contributions from Al-Arian and his wife, in January 2002 joined the crowd in opining that Al-Arian was a victim of anti-Arab bigotry.
In March 2002 Nicholas Kristof went to bat for the professor in the New York Times: “The point is not whether one agrees with Professor Al-Arian, a rumpled academic with a salt-and-pepper beard who is harshly critical of Israel (and also of repressive Arab countries) — but who also denounces terrorism, promotes inter-faith services with Jews and Christians, and led students at his Islamic school to a memorial service after 9/11 where they all sang ‘God Bless America.’ No, the larger point is that a university, even a country, becomes sterile when people are too intimidated to say things out of the mainstream.”
Phil Donahue fawned over Al-Arian on his show. “So, one more time, sir,” he said to the professor, “and I know that you’re probably getting tired of these same questions — ‘death to Israel’ did not mean you wanted to kill Jews, do I understand your position?” After Al-Arian assured him of his pacifistic intentions, Phil went on to allege that “the law of innocent until proven guilty doesn’t seem to exist for Professor Sami Al-Arian.” He worried for Al-Arian’s safety: “You are swimming upstream, professor, and this must be quite a shock to you. I know that your life has been threatened. I assume you have security.”
Eric Boehlert of Salon magazine published an article on January 19, 2002 entitled “The prime-time smearing of Sami Al-Arian,” carrying this subhead: “By pandering to anti-Arab hysteria, NBC, Fox News, Media General and Clear Channel radio disgraced themselves — and ruined an innocent professor’s life.”
Unfortunately for Kristof, Esposito, Donahue, Boehlert and all the rest, the Rumpled Academic eventually pled guilty to being a leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. He pleaded guilty to a charge of “conspiracy to make or receive contributions of funds to or for the benefit of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a Specially Designated Terrorist” organization. He agreed to accept deportation.
In his 2002 defense of Al-Arian, Eric Boehlert wrote: “The al-Arian story reveals what happens when journalists, abandoning their role as unbiased observers, lead an ignorant, alarmist crusade against suspicious foreigners who in a time of war don’t have the power of the press or public sympathy to fight back.” Reality is just the opposite. The al-Arian story reveals what happens when journalists and Leftist academics, abandoning their role as unbiased observers, lead an ignorant, alarmist crusade against Americans who in a time of war try to defend our country from those whose politics make them the darlings of the Leftist media and academic establishment.
And now, with his latest remarks, Sami al-Arian has confirmed that anew.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.