The Return of Sami Al-Arian

The man who arguably decided the 2004 US Senate race here in Florida has made a spectacular return to Washington politics last month according to the conservative Washington Free Beacon. Sami Al-Arian who has been found guilty of aiding the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was a longtime professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, including the period when Betty Castor was President of the institution.

Al-Arian whose tenure as a professor at the University of South Florida was used in demagogic fashion against Castor by both Peter Deutsch in the Democratic Primary for Senate and then Mel Martinez in the General Election probably cost the Democrats that Senate seat. The irony of course was that Al-Arian had been a strong supporter of George W. Bush during the 2000 Presidential Election, meeting with the then Texas Governor and publicly attacking the Clinton/Gore administration for its military attacks and  alleged discrimination against muslims (even as Clinton against Republican opposition sent American forces to the Balkans to free Muslims in Kosovo oppressed by the ruthless ethnic cleansing of the Slobodan Milošević regime in Serbia).

In June 2001, Al-Arian was invited to the White House and met with Karl Rove. But soon thereafter 9/11 occurred and Muslims became convenient fodder for Republicans as they campaigned against terrorism and sought to link Democrats to terrorism just as they had sought to link the party in the Truman years to the Soviet Union and Communism.

Some forget that for many years Arab-Americans were among the loyalist Republican voters (Michigan in particular was a state where the Democrats could not break through with Arab-Americans until after 9/11). The theory about this from some quarters was that they simply voted against the party that had more Jewish-Americans but the reality is most Arab-Americans were prior to 9/11 cultural and economic conservatives. Islam as it is practiced by many is a deeply conservative religion and many of the same issues progressives have with Evangelical Christians pop up in discussions about Islam, the Middle East and South Asia.

Only after 9/11 did Al-Arian (who condemned the attacks) arouse  widespread suspicion despite evidence that he had been linked to terrorist groups in the 1990s. A badly botched interview on the O’Reilly Factor led to his being placed on administrative leave at USF and the rest is history. To this day Al-Arian’s ties to terrorism while apparent are no different or more extensive than the ties later-day leading anti-terrorist crusader Rep. Peter King (R-New York) had to the Irish Republican Army’s (IRA) leadership. As a youngster who often traveled to the United Kingdom and had family in London, it was the IRA that struck fear into my heart about an early demise. Yet King’s extensive ties to the IRA have continued to be ignored by large segments of the American mainstream press (However King is well-known in the UK and his role in the anti-terror efforts in the US have undermined the credibility of those efforts with many in Britain).

Whatever one’s opinion of this man and his ties to terrorist are, no question can be left that he was made into a convenient punching bag to deliver a US Senate seat to a Republican. In the case of Al-Arian, Democrats backing Deutsch and Republicans backing Martinez used fear as a motivating factor to turn donors and voters against Castor. Much like George Smathers disgraceful smears of Claude Pepper during the height of McCarthyism in  1950, many Florida voters were conned by politicos racing to the bottom and playing at the lowest common denominator in 2004.

His return to the political scene last month evokes memories of a dark, disgraceful chapter in Florida politics. Let us hope we have matured beyond this sort of gutter politics.


  1. Castor was the master of her own demise. Her unwillingness to effectively respond to these allegations cost her the election. She was seen as protecting and coddling terrorists.

    Terrorism can never be tolerated and Al-Arian should have been deported for what he was doing to the Jews and Israelis. These Palestinians are nothing less then modern-day versions of Hitler. Like Hitler and the Nazis they need to be exterminated. Israel has been a land ruled by Jews since before the birth of Christ but was forcibly taken from them by first the Romans, then the Christians and then for years the Muslims. Some Muslims were tolerant, like the Turks who ruled over Israel for years but once they were defeated in World War I and the British allowed the Arabs free reign in order to get oil contracts thinks turned bloddy. Palestinian people don’t exist. They are just a tribe of nomadic Arabs that could be easily relocated like all those Hindu Indians, maybe your family included were relocated in 1948 from Pakistan to India.

    The IRA comments are a false equivalency. The British occupy northern Ireland. They rule over and land which is not theirs. Peter King for his other faults was heroic in leading American support of the freedom fighters in Northern Ireland. I am sorry that you are such an Anglophile you can’t see through this and beyond this.

    You have some very dangerous views on foreign policy in addition to your crazy domestic views. Thankfully most Democrats don’t share your leftist, pro-England and pro-Muslim beliefs. Otherwise we would never win an election.


    1. Ramon A. Clef · ·

      You have some dangerously racist views. I’m sorry you’re such a bigot you can’t see through your hatred and recognize that your wish for the extermination of an entire ethnic group makes you sound exactly like a certain mustache-wearing dictator.


    2. I think Ian Paisley would disagree with you when you say Ireland isn’t “their land”. Might want to learn about The Troubles first before commenting on it!


    3. A few things here. The only truly accurate thing you stated was that the Ottoman Turks were very tolerant of Jews in fact gave them a special place and trading privileges in what was essentially an Islamic Caliphate especially towards the end. But the Turks were oppressive towards Christians even to the point of committing genocide against Greeks, Armenians and Serbs. So they may have been fine for the Jews, in fact they were but they hated Christians.

      As for India, I am a Dravidian. In South India we did not suffer the unrest and migrations marked by violence the North did in the 1947 to 1950 period. I do not associate with the Hindus, Muslims or Sikhs that were involved with what was an ugly chapter in human history. The Muslims wanted their own state and got it, but those Muslims left in india should not have been attacked by Hindus and Sikhs. Today it is different as Islam is more radicalized and some of the tension between religions is being perpetuated by outside forces particularly the Saudis, Gulf States and Pakistan.

      Now to the IRA. You say I am an anglophile. I do in fact support self-determination for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. I do not support terrorism and the targeting of innocent lives. I agree that the PLO was bad news but do not agree the Palestinians are an “invented people.” They deserve a homeland and probably would have one if not for the British relationship with the Jordanian Monarch and for many of the Arab states who see them as a political chip to play rather than having any genuine feeling for the plight of the Palestinians.

      Back to the IRA. Much of the world sympathized with their plight. Northern Ireland was populated with protestants from Scotland by design to lower the Catholic population. The British did everything they could to suppress any expression of Irish nationalism just as they did in India, and just as they did in India they pitted religion against religion. Bobby Sands inspired many with his hunger strike. But the IRA became more violent in the 1980s and 1990s while aligning with other terrorists across the globe. The targeting of innocent civilians many of whom were working people some of whom were catholic did not exactly fulfill the promise to “strike the ruling class.” The attempted assassination of Thatcher at the Tory Party Conference lost the IRA whatever support it had even among Labour politicians and officials.

      In time the Belfast Accord was balanced, fair and reasonable. Peter King supported it after advocating violence for years.

      The 1980s were a terrible time in Britain as the nation fell further and further behind the rest of the west economically and socially. The IRA had their part in that. Thank goodness for Tony Blair, he saved that nation.


  2. Blue Dog Dem · ·

    AIPAC bull sh*t.

    This was all b/s used by the Israel first, USA second crowd to defeat Castor.


  3. Nice piece. Remember the Bush angle now!


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