Dr. Sami Al-Arian Leaves The United States

unnamedIn the conclusion of ten years of intense litigation, Dr. Sami Al-Arian and his wife Nahla boarded a plane last night and left the United States for Turkey. He arrived in Istanbul a couple hours ago. I was Dr. Al-Arian’s lead criminal defense counsel in Virginia until all charges were eventually dropped by the United States Department of Justice against him. I have received many calls from the media over the last couple of days and I have declined to respond because Dr. Al-Arian was represented by an immigration law team after the criminal proceedings concluded. I wanted to defer to those lawyers in any media comments, as I have since handed over the case last year. Dr. Al-Arian issued the statement below this morning.


Dr. Al-Arian’s case raised troubling due process, academic freedom, and free speech issues. He is a Palestinian-American civil rights activist who was also a computer engineering professor at University of South Florida (USF). He had a successful academic career at USF and held permanent resident status since March 1989. He applied for U.S. citizenship and even campaigned for George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election.

Dr. Al-Arian was indicted in February 2003 on 17 counts under the Patriot Act, but a jury acquitted him on 8 counts and deadlocked on the remaining 9 counts. The trial was handled by Dr. Al-Arian’s Florida trial attorneys, the late Bill Moffitt and Linda Moreno, who did an incredible job.

It was later revealed that jury overwhelmingly supported acquittal. The jurors 10-2 for acquittal on the remaining counts. Tapped out of money and wanting closure, Dr. Al-Arian agreed to a plea bargain that admitted to one of the charges in exchange for a promise that after a maximum of incarceration of 57 months, he would be allowed to leave the country by April 2007. (Amnesty International would later condemn his incarceration as “gratuitously punitive” and inhumane). He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to contribute services to or for the benefit of the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a Specially Designated Terrorist organization, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. However, that contribution was described as hiring a lawyer for his brother-in-law during his immigration battle in the late 1990s; sponsoring a Palestinian historian in 1994 to conduct research in the U.S.; and withholding information from a U.S. journalist during a 1995 interview. Many noted at the time that none of those acts were clearly criminal.

Notably, many saw the deal as nothing more than the Justice Department seeking some face saving measure of punishment after its defeat in Tampa and many felt that Dr. Al-Arian should not have signed it. However, he wanted to continue with his academic career and be with his family, including young children. Yet, rather than fulfilling that commitment, the Justice Department called him to a grand jury for additional testimony in Northern Virginia. Dr. Al-Arian objected that he was assured that he would not be forced into any additional proceedings and many viewed the grand jury was a “perjury trap” where the prosecutors would charge on any statement that could be alleged to be inaccurate or untrue. He refused.

The Virginia litigation began in 2006 in Alexandria Virginia. The litigation would be intense for years as we sought to enforce his plea agreement but the federal court insisted that he would have to testify and the Justice Department secured a civil contempt order on November 16, 2006. This was appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. It was after the Fourth Circuit decision that I was brought on a lead criminal defense counsel. The Justice Department continued to call Dr. Al-Arian and effectively prolong his incarceration under civil contempt rules.

Dr. Al-Arian engaged in a series of hunger strikes, including a 60-day hunger strike on January 22, 2007 in protest to his treatment and there was an international movement in support of his release.

In addressing the proceedings in Virginia, we took the unusual step of hiring a former FBI polygraphed to ask Dr. Al-Arian every known question about the investigation into an organization called IIIT in Virginia, purportedly the reason for his being called before the grand jury (Notably, not a single indictment for IIIT would come out of the grand jury proceedings which lasted for years and was viewed by many defense lawyers as a runaway investigation and fishing expedition). We even solicited from the Justice Department. The polygraph showed that Dr. Al-Arian had little knowledge of the matters under investigation and he passed every question as answering truthfully. We submitted the results to the Justice Department. We also received additional questions from the Justice Department and submitted a sworn affidavit on those questions. It was clear that Dr. Al-Arian was not withholding information. Indeed, any information that he had was ridiculously out of date given his years of incarceration in solitary confinement and tight restrictions on communications.

Eventually, the civil contempt sanction was lifted, but the Justice Department then, on June 26, 2008, indicted him on two counts of criminal contempt, for unlawfully and willfully refusing court orders that he testify. On September 2, 2008, we were able to secure his release from jail and a court order for Dr. Al-Arian to be subject to house arrest. It was a major change in the case. We were able to later lift the restrictions of monitoring on the home confinement.

On March 9, 2010, Judge Leonie Brinkema postponed the criminal contempt trial, pending our motion to dismiss the charges in the case on the grounds of the plea agreement, flaws in the indictment, prosecutorial abuse, selective prosecution and other grounds. We also asked the Justice Department to investigate the professional misconduct in the case (which it declined to do). The litigation over the indictment continued until, on June 27, 2014, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon D. Kromberg moved to dismiss the indictment.

Dr. Al-Arian leaves behind five children and grandchildren. His children are highly successful in their own right, including multiple books and impressive academic work. The family has been a rock of support for Dr. Al-Arian throughout these incredibly trying years. Nahla and the family formed a tight, protective circle to get through these traumatic years. After the release in 2008, Dr. Al-Arian became a doting grandfather and stayed with his children in Virginia.

I met with Dr. Al-Arian and Nahla shortly before they left the country. They were already missing their children and grandchildren, but excited to start a new chapter in their life. It is not clear whether he will resume teaching in Turkey but he is likely to continue his writing and lecturing in some form. Despite being subjected to extremely cruel treatment and conditions, he is not bitter and remains committed to the principles of freedom that first drew him to the United States. Indeed, his family is an American success story with five children who have secured advanced degrees from leading universities and will remain in the United States in teaching, journalism and other fields. It has been a particular pleasure to get to know them and watch their professional advancement over the course of this litigation.

The Al-Arian case will remain a chilling chapter in our history. The treatment of Dr. Al-Arian after his acquittal on most of the charges was widely viewed as a shocking abuse of the system and a flagrant violation of agreement reached with the Justice Department. The Justice Department put unprecedented effort into the Florida prosecution and suffered one of its greatest trial defeats in an area where convictions were taken for granted. The later proceedings were viewed as retaliatory and abusive by prosecutors. It also showed how the civil and contempt laws can be used to abuse individuals and leave them with little recourse or rights. Justice ultimately prevailed but the cost to Dr. Al-Arian and his family was prohibitively high. The Virginia litigation was not about Dr. Al-Arian’s views or associations. It was about due process and how we handle criminal trials and plea agreements in this country. The United States reached a deal with this man that committed his country to allowing him to leave following his jail stint. No matter how one feels about Dr. Al-Arian’s writings or beliefs, we should honor our agreements as a nation. Instead, the Justice Department broke that deal and then daisy-chained contempt citations to prolong his incarceration. It was abusive and it was wrong. It is now over.

Dr. Al-Arian and his wife will start anew in Turkey. He told me in our final meeting how very grateful he was to his many friends and supporters for what they gave to him. He remained optimistic about the future and spoke of his continued faith in the fundamental civil liberties that define our country. We spoke of how long this process proved since we first met in a holding cell in Virginia. At the time, he was weak from his hunger strike and we knew little about each other. Over the years, our respective families grew and the world has changed in so many different ways. It felt like a 1000 years ago when Sami was brought in from solitary confinement for our first meeting. I wish him and Nahla all the best in the next chapter of their life together. They clearly leave these shores with a heavy heart despite the pain of the prosecution. This country took much but also gave much to their family. They are now again fully in control of their future together.

Here is Dr. Al-Arian’s final statement:

February 4, 2015

A Statement by Dr. Sami A. Al-Arian

To my dear friends and supporters,

After 40 years, my time in the U.S. has come to an end. Like many immigrants of my generation, I came to the U.S. in 1975 to seek a higher education and greater opportunities. But I also wanted to live in a free society where freedom of speech, association and religion are not only tolerated but guaranteed and protected under the law. That’s why I decided to stay and raise my family here, after earning my doctorate in 1986. Simply put, to me, freedom of speech and thought represented the cornerstone of a dignified life.

Today, freedom of expression has become a defining feature in the struggle to realize our humanity and liberty. The forces of intolerance, hegemony, and exclusionary politics tend to favor the stifling of free speech and the suppression of dissent. But nothing is more dangerous than when such suppression is perpetrated and sanctioned by government. As one early American once observed, “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” Because government has enormous power and authority over its people, such control must be checked, and people, especially those advocating unpopular opinions, must have absolute protections from governmental overreach and abuse of power. A case in point of course is the issue of Palestinian self-determination. In the United States, as well as in many other western countries, those who support the Palestinian struggle for justice, and criticize Israel’s occupation and brutal policies, have often experienced an assault on their freedom of speech in academia, media, politics and society at large. After the tragic events of September 11th, such actions by the government intensified, in the name of security. Far too many people have been targeted and punished because of their unpopular opinions or beliefs.

During their opening statement in my trial in June 2005, my lawyers showed the jury two poster-sized photographs of items that government agents took during searches of my home many years earlier. In one photo, there were several stacks of books taken from my home library. The other photo showed a small gun I owned at the time. The attorney looked the jury in the eyes and said: “This is what this case is about. When the government raided my client’s house, this is what they seized,” he said, pointing to the books, “and this is what they left,” he added, pointing to the gun in the other picture. “This case is not about terrorism but about my client’s right to freedom of speech,” he continued. Indeed, much of the evidence the government presented to the jury during the six-month trial were speeches I delivered, lectures I presented, articles I wrote, magazines I edited, books I owned, conferences I convened, rallies I attended, interviews I gave, news I heard, and websites I never even accessed. But the most disturbing part of the trial was not that the government offered my speeches, opinions, books, writings, and dreams into evidence, but that an intimidated judicial system allowed them to be admitted into evidence. That’s why we applauded the jury’s verdict. Our jurors represented the best society had to offer. Despite all of the fear-mongering and scare tactics used by the authorities, the jury acted as free people, people of conscience, able to see through Big Brother’s tactics. One hard lesson that must be learned from the trial is that political cases should have no place in a free and democratic society.

But despite the long and arduous ordeal and hardships suffered by my family, I leave with no bitterness or resentment in my heart whatsoever. In fact, I’m very grateful for the opportunities and experiences afforded to me and my family in this country, and for the friendships we’ve cultivated over the decades. These are lifelong connections that could never be affected by distance.

I would like to thank God for all the blessings in my life. My faith sustained me during my many months in solitary confinement and gave me comfort that justice would ultimately prevail.

Our deep thanks go to the friends and supporters across the U.S., from university professors to grassroots activists, individuals and organizations, who have stood alongside us in the struggle for justice.

My trial attorneys, Linda Moreno and the late Bill Moffitt, were the best advocates anyone could ask for, both inside and outside of the courtroom. Their spirit, intelligence, passion and principle were inspirational to so many.

I am also grateful to Jonathan Turley and his legal team, whose tireless efforts saw the case to its conclusion. Jonathan’s commitment to justice and brilliant legal representation resulted in the government finally dropping the case.

Our gratitude also goes to my immigration lawyers, Ira Kurzban and John Pratt, for the tremendous work they did in smoothing the way for this next phase of our lives.

Thanks also to my children for their patience, perseverance and support during the challenges of the last decade. I am so proud of them.

Finally, my wife Nahla h​as been a pillar of love, strength and resilience. She kept our family together during the most difficult times. There are no words to convey the extent of my gratitude.

We look forward to the journey ahead and take with us the countless happy memories we formed during our life in the United States.

186 thoughts on “Dr. Sami Al-Arian Leaves The United States

  1. Davidm

    When it comes right down to it, when you take away the myths and fairytales of this god or that god, who is preferred by this god or that god, pedophile prophets, nut cases that will sacrifice their son to prove this or that; when you strip away all the bullish*t, and it is, at the end of the day it is just bullish*t, what happened is that people who had been living there for over a thousand years consecutively, were displaced by the influx of a people that had the sympathy and backing of the dominant military forces of the world.

    You can cherry pick and identify the moments in time and actions where the Palestinians didn’t do what the West and Israel wanted them to do. You can describe the subterfuge and double talk of both sides, and proof exists with no doubt that the manipulation of the situation has been performed by both sides.

    There is no difference in the results of a suicide bombing, rocket bombing, jet fighter bombing, carpet bombing, etc., dead innocents are dead innocents. This is part of war. If Israelis were blowing themselves up in attacking their enemy then they would be seen as all sacrificing and examples of the ultimate courageous actions. There is nothing courageous about pressing a button and blowing school children to pieces and then going back to the base for a scotch and soda in the officers mess.

    To say that it is the fault of the Palestinians by pointing out hopeless situations where they could have done this but did that, is nothing more than designing history to suit your argument. This is done from both perspectives.

    However, the Palestinians did not take away the lands and homes of the Jews, regardless of the infighting that has been going on there for centuries. The Jews, Zionists, Israelis, or just that dominant side did, take away, expel, and continue to expropriate lands from the Palestinians. What is going on is nothing more than another ethnic cleansing. If Israel makes it difficult enough for the Palestinians to live on equal terms or just to live in what those in power see as Israel, (all the land, including the West Bank and Gaza), then the Palestinians will either leave or submit. The big difference between the ethnic cleansing of North and South America and other parts of the world is it is being done smack dab in the middle of the enemy. With an unending stream of Europeans coming in to kick out the indigenous peoples of North and South America time and numbers was on the side of the invaders or immigrants. Time and numbers are not on the side of Israel.

    The longer Israel continues on this unholy path of ethnic cleansing, regardless of opinion it is nothing more or less than that, the more of an argument is given to the extremists that surround Israel. The solution lies in the center and Israel is the only side that has access to the center. Unfortunately there are enough religious extremists on the Israeli side to thwart any moves to honestly and equally solving the problem. That there are religious extremists on the Palestinian side goes without saying, however, the dominant side creates them and then can either continue with the situation that created them, creating more or changes the situation.

    The Israeli position has been from the beginning: We are here. We will be increasing as more and more come. Right now Israel is persuading as many of the half million French Jews to leave France and immigrate to Israel. Russia, the US, and other parts of the world are the places where Israel obtains its people. Palestinians can have what we and the West have determined, something that was ludicrous. After every argument/war/altercation the offer was reduced more and more as the number of Jewish immigrants increased and more land was needed.

    There is no viable solution for the Palestinians other than dispersal, subjugation, or death. Regarding the hundreds of millions of Muslims that surround Israel, as has been seen since 1948, they are as nations unstable, as a people in a state of flux, and economically, technologically, and politically growing in strength as time goes by. Israel may very well succeed in forcing Palestinians to leave, subjugating others, and killing many more but in doing so the ‘great experiment’ of two peoples sharing one land and operating on an equal footing through democracy and self representation will evaporate.

    The time may come when the world does get tired of supporting an apartheid nation. It happened in Rhodesia and South Africa. At the height of the ‘us versus them’ conditions of the Cold War, South African’s apartheid system was protected by Western powers. When the USSR ceased to be a threat, the stink became apparent.

    Israel, for all its positive aspects and given that it is the foundation of Christianity in both negative as well as positive ways, smells bad and will smell even worse. Only Israel has the power to solve this mess. As long as a people are racist through whatever explanation: their god’s chosen people, that they have been around longer than the others, their turning desert into gardens, etc, they will be subject to attack. Given Israel’s location smack dab in the middle of all the chaos and even crazier religious bs, their salvation doesn’t appear to come from digging their heels in.

    • issac wrote: “… what happened is that people who had been living there for over a thousand years consecutively, were displaced by the influx of a people that had the sympathy and backing of the dominant military forces of the world.”

      And what about the Jews who had been living there consecutively for thousands of years? Are you ignoring them simply because they were a minority?

      So in your perspective, if a culture is persecuted and scattered over the face of the earth, their hope to return to their land (the concept of eretz is at the very heart of Judaism) is invalid?

      issac wrote: “There is no difference in the results of a suicide bombing, rocket bombing, jet fighter bombing, carpet bombing, etc., dead innocents are dead innocents. This is part of war. If Israelis were blowing themselves up in attacking their enemy then they would be seen as all sacrificing and examples of the ultimate courageous actions. There is nothing courageous about pressing a button and blowing school children to pieces and then going back to the base for a scotch and soda in the officers mess.”

      You have a very odd way of creating a moral equivalence between the methods of fighting of Israelis and Palestinian Muslims. The next thing you will say is that the 9/11 hijackers were entirely justified in how they murdered our own citizens. You probably consider that we stepped on their necks somehow, so they had no choice, but in their hopeless desperation they were justified in stealing our planes, killing our innocent citizens (including Muslims), and destroying our planes and buildings.

      Even if you take out the suicide aspect, Israelis are not going into Palestinian territory and massacring civilians riding on the public busses, nor are they walking into restaurants and slaughtering everyone in sight. There is no moral equivalence in the way that the Palestinian Muslims fight, targeting innocent civilians, and the way Israelis fight, attempting to secure their citizens from these immoral and criminal attacks by targeting the places from which these attacks are launched.

      In regards to the number of civilian innocents killed, the Palestinians have a propaganda machine that makes sure to exaggerate those numbers. They also incorporate young children in their warfare so when the children are killed, they can use that in their propaganda about how the Israelis are killing innocent children. They continually put out doctored and fake pictures with misinformation.

      Consider this article about the propaganda of “innocent civilians” being killed in Palestine. The actual numbers are impossible to evaluate objectively because of all the subterfuge.

      http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/how-many-civilians-have-been-killed-in-gaza

      issac wrote: “The Jews, Zionists, Israelis, or just that dominant side did, take away, expel, and continue to expropriate lands from the Palestinians. What is going on is nothing more than another ethnic cleansing.”

      Now you are just spreading more misinformation. Most Palestinians left their homes to go to neighboring countries because they hate Jews. The land was not under their control at the time the Jews immigrated to Israel. The land was under the control of Great Britain. The United Nations agreed on the State of Israel, and the Muslim Arabs there did not accept that. Israel has NEVER made any comments about wanting to wipe out Palestinians. Those comments have come from the Palestinians and neighboring Muslim countries. If there is any ethnic cleansing going on, it is on the part of the Muslim Palestinians wanting to eradicate Jews the same way that Hitler did. You have no evidence whatsoever that Israel wants to wipe out Palestinians. They have ALWAYS desired and worked toward the two State solution.

      issac wrote: “There is no viable solution for the Palestinians other than dispersal, subjugation, or death.”

      This is ridiculous. I have been to the West Bank and other areas under Palestinian authority. Israel has indeed respected their jurisdiction. I’ve been through the Palestinian checkpoints. You are spreading misinformation. The solution is for Palestinians to accept their State and live in peace with their neighbors. There is no need under Israeli law for them to leave or die or even be under Israeli authority because Israel has respected their territory and authority of State.

      issac wrote: “Only Israel has the power to solve this mess.”

      That is ridiculous. If Palestinians stopped killing Israelis and stopped the rhetoric of calling others to annihilate them, if they stopped recruiting suicide bombers, if they stopped teaching them to earn their place in paradise by murdering Jews, if they simply accepted the two State solution and recognized Israel’s right to exist in their homeland, all the violence would end. Both sides have the power to end this mess by coming together in good faith to live peaceably with one another. One of the biggest problems, however, is that the Palestinian authority cannot seem to control their population of terrorists. That is not surprising because their leaders are terrorists. It is the same problem Iraq and Afghanistan has. Without a strong and powerful government intent on outlawing terrorism for the safety of its citizens, the Palestinian Muslim fanatics will just keep killing Jews to earn their place in paradise and receive the sexual strength and ability of 100 men to satisfy the many virgin women they are promised.

  2. Olly

    You touch upon the essence of the problem, both sides. However, one side has to make the first move. Israel continues to erode the previously offered West Bank, continues to divide the people into two classes, continues to extract a dozen or more Palestinians dead for every Israeli killed.

    The only side that can start the move to the center is Israel, however, they move further and further away, forcing the Palestinians to flip out more and more.

    Throughout the history of mankind this scenario has played out from feuds between families to entire nations. The paradigms exist to follow. Israel’s example is not one that can be seen as anything other than ethnic cleansing through subjugation and attrition.

    Personally I see two solutions. One to divide the entire area by creating a border across the middle, install UN troops to oversee the migration of Palestinians North and Israelis South. Allow each side to establish its own country with a UN protected corridor. The paradigm is India and Pakistan after 1948. The second is to create one land with equal voting rights for all ‘citizens’ registered at the moment of inception. This could be overseen by the UN and the new land could be called Israel-Palestine, or whatever. It would not be a country where one religion would be privileged over another, something like what is working fairly well in most of the rest of the world. Judaism and Islam could be protected by the government just as the various religions of the West are protected by their governments regardless of the extreme concepts, as long as they obey the laws that pertain to all.

  3. Ҥ 193. How war is a method of acquisition.

    IF it be lawful to carry off things belonging to an enemy, with a view of weakening him (§ 160), and sometimes of punishing him (§ 162), it is no less lawful in a just war to appropriate them to our own use, by way of compensation, which the civilians term expletio juris (§ 161). They are retained as equivalent for what is due by the enemy, for the expenses and damages which he has occasioned, and even (when there is cause to punish him) as a commutation for the punishment he has deserved. For, when I cannot obtain the individual thing which belongs or is due to me, I have a right to an equivalent, which, by the rules of expletive justice, and in moral estimation, is considered as the thing itself. Thus, according to the law of nature, which constitutes the necessary law of nations, war, founded on justice, is a lawful mode of acquisition.

    § 194. Measure of the right it gives.

    But that sacred law does not authorize even the acquisitions made in a just war, any farther than as they are approved by justice, — that is to say, no farther than is requisite to obtain complete satisfaction in the degree necessary for accomplishing the lawful ends we have just mentioned. An equitable conqueror, deaf to the suggestions of ambition and avarice, will make a just estimate of what is due to him, — that is to say, of the thing which has been the subject of the war (if the thing itself is no longer recoverable), and of the damages and expenses of the war, — and will retain no more of the enemy’s property than what is precisely sufficient to furnish the equivalent. But if he lias to do with a perfidious, restless, and dangerous enemy, he will, by way of punishment, deprive him of some of his towns or provinces, and keep them to serve as a barrier to his own dominions. Nothing is more allowable than to weaken an enemy who has rendered himself suspected and formidable. The lawful end of punishment is future security. The conditions necessary for rendering an acquisition, made by arms, just and irreproachable before God and our own conscience, are these, — justice in the cause, and equity in the measure of the satisfaction.

    § 195. Rules of the voluntary law of nations.

    But nations cannot, in their dealings with each other, insist on this rigid justice. By the rules of the voluntary law of nations, every regular war is on both sides accounted just, as to its effects (§ 190); and no one has a right to judge a nation respecting the unreasonableness of her claims, or what she thinks necessary for her own safety (Prelim. § 23). Every acquisition, therefore, which has been made in regular warfare, is valid according to the voluntary law of nations, independently of the justice of the cause and the reasons which may have induced the conqueror to assume the property of what he has taken. Accordingly, nations have ever esteemed conquest a lawful title; and that title has seldom been disputed, unless where it was derived from a war not only unjust in itself, but even destitute of any plausible pretext.” (Vattel; Law of Nations)

  4. Paul

    Go on and say it, typically the first two words, sometimes one hyphenated word, of any rebuttal to any criticism of Israel. As far as I am concerned no, the most deserving are capable of the worst and the least deserving are capable of the best. Take away all the arguments peculiar to one side or the other and it comes down to might is right. Peculiar to this situation is the fact that it is set up backwards. The Europeans overwhelmed the indigenous peoples of North and South America with disease, superior weaponry, and vast and unstoppable numbers of immigrants. It was as pure an example of attrition as can be found in human history. This is almost the opposite, an inferior number temporarily superior in some facets of society, smack dab in the middle of, not only vastly superior numbers but growing as well, coupled with growing wealth and increasing stature in the world.

  5. Issac…I have not forgotten my promise to read/listen to the entire article, and will as soon as I finish my errands today (running a dog to the vet that is hard to handle outside of the yard) and wrapping up a report for my former office that I have the most background in…GSA keeps changing their BOMA/ANSI factors which makes precise calculation difficult for leased facility space…need to tweak it a bit.

  6. Davidm

    The Palestinians that left in 1948 left because a half million Jews from Europe were bombing the British into leaving and were massing to take back, ‘Their land’. Whether they left to avoid getting killed, due to some plan the other Arab states had, or whatever, they left because they were being invaded. Semantics aside, that is what happened.

    The Jews lived throughout North Africa and the Middle East under the protection of the Ottoman Empire since its inception and before, roughly the 8th Century. Once the altercation(s) started in 1948 the usual arguments that had once been kept in check by the Ottomans erupted into violence throughout the area and Jews left North Africa and other places in the Middle East to emigrate to their newly conquered territories. Arabs left those territories to avoid real or perceived threats or for other reasons stemming from the takeover. The question is how far do you go back for this authority of ownership. There is a big difference between, ‘My god gave this land to me, 5,000 years ago.’ and ‘That over there, that Kibutz, was in my family for twenty generations. I grew up there.’ If you believe in your religion and its authority, then discussion is moot. In fact your whole discussion is biased to the point that further objective discussion has no place. This is the typical ‘Holier than thou’ position that has plagued mankind for so long.

    You can stretch arguments as much as you wish. There are similarities between all acts of vengeance or reactions to perceived wrongs. To a terrorist, Al Quida’s actions on 9/11 may seem perfectly just. To a fighter pilot slaughtering a thousand women and children may also seem perfectly just. It depends on which side you are on. Taking another’s point of view and stretching it to the extreme as you do is the sign of a losing argument.

    What you say depends on:

    the acceptance of a god given right of Israel to the land, that takes precedence over the thousand plus years of Palestinian occupation

    a military takeover of the land, using similar terrorist tactics

    Israel’s superior ability to inflict death and destruction

    the acceptance by the Palestinians of a ‘my way or the highway’ offer,

    the reduction to negation of the basic rights as equal citizens in their own land in an apartheid social structure for the Palestinians

    the loss of the right to return to the lands from which they were driven for over two million Palestinians

    To the victors go the spoils and the authority in history. If Israel had as one of its borders a non Arab area, there might be some future for its position. As it is they are surrounded and making it worse. Nothing will come of the ghettoization of the Gaza Strip other than despair and terrorism. Israel responded with the same terrorism, (none felt as strongly so as to take their own life however), when they were contained. How do you expect the Palestinians to do anything other. The erosion of the West Bank has been already stated as inevitable by Israel and with each new group of Jews from other countries and the growth of the population more and more land will be settled making the only places for Palestinians a hodge lodge of villages with check points or the Gaza Strip ghetto.

    It is what it is but it is anything but moral and just. Israel may win out in the end and the Palestinians may dissolve into the surrounding area and/or accept a second class place in a Jewish state. From 1948, to the present day, Israel is simply taking by force the lands of others. If you are a Jew and perhaps Christian, this is ordained by your god. If not, then it is what it is, the subjugation of one people by another. Morality does not enter into it.

    • issac wrote: “The Palestinians that left in 1948 left because a half million Jews from Europe were bombing the British into leaving and were massing to take back, ‘Their land’. Whether they left to avoid getting killed, due to some plan the other Arab states had, or whatever, they left because they were being invaded. Semantics aside, that is what happened.”

      You are being incredibly simplistic. Arabs were fighting the Ottoman Empire even before this.

      issac wrote: “The Jews lived throughout North Africa and the Middle East under the protection of the Ottoman Empire since its inception and before, roughly the 8th Century. Once the altercation(s) started in 1948 the usual arguments that had once been kept in check by the Ottomans erupted into violence throughout the area and Jews left North Africa and other places in the Middle East to emigrate to their newly conquered territories.”

      You make it sound like the Ottoman Empire had control until 1948 when the Israeli zealots under Menachem Begin started fighting the civil war. The truth is that the Arabs began taking over cities, away from the Ottoman Empire, under Sharif Hussein bin Ali, who had aid from the British government. Eventually there was the Balfour agreement of Britain agreeing to an Israeli State in 1917. After WWI ended in 1918, the League of Nations drew up the new boundaries for the Middle East. Following is what their map looked like in 1920:

      http://www.npr.org/news/specials/mideast/the_west/mandates_map.html

      The Sultanate was abolished in 1922. The Republic of Turkey was established in 1923. The caliphate was abolished early in 1924. There was no Ottoman Empire in 1948 as your version of history seems to imply.

      issac wrote: “There is a big difference between, ‘My god gave this land to me, 5,000 years ago.’ and ‘That over there, that Kibutz [sic], was in my family for twenty generations. I grew up there.’”

      I agree, but both sides have similar religious mandates. For the Muslim, their sacred texts tell them that it is a sin for them to relinquish the land, and for the Israeli, the land is a promise to them from God. Both sides also have similar agricultural history in the area and heritage rights. Ultimately, they are all descendants of Abraham, the Arabs being descended from his son Ishmael, and the Israelis being descended from his son Isaac, your apparent misspelled namesake. As Anwar Sadat of Egypt said in his effort for peace before he was assassinated by a fellow Muslim, they are brothers.

      issac wrote: “To a fighter pilot slaughtering a thousand women and children may also seem perfectly just.”

      Why the hyperbole? You know this NEVER happened. Israelis have a habit of warning their impending attack to minimize or eliminate casualties.

      issac wrote: “Taking another’s point of view and stretching it to the extreme as you do is the sign of a losing argument.”

      Taking an extreme but truthful approach is an effort to swing you back to the middle. You consistently embellish your rhetoric. You do it in this very paragraph to which I respond. You imply that you have knowledge of an Israeli fighter pilot killing 1000 women and children and feeling perfectly justified about it. You know that remark is fiction, something invented to make it sound like you have proved a moral equivalency. If you have to invent something so ridiculous, it really establishes that the side you are on is so wrong that there is no moral equivalence to what these two sides are doing.

      I do know, however, of Muslim pilots who killed thousands of men, women and children in the USA on 9/11. That is not fiction.

      issac wrote: “Nothing will come of the ghettoization of the Gaza Strip other than despair and terrorism.”

      The Gaza becoming a ghetto is the LAST thing that Israel wants. That has happened because of corrupt Palestinian leadership. Billions of dollars were given to Arafat to help aid the Palestinians. It was among the highest per capita aid given, more than $300 per person. Arafat diverted the money to fund terrorism instead.

      issac wrote: “Israel responded with the same terrorism…”

      Israel does NOT engage in terrorism. When Israel gave the Palestinians full control of the Gaza strip, the Palestinians built cross-border tunnels in Gaza. They stored weapons and used them to attack Israeli civilians living across the border. If the Mexican cartel started shooting bombs from Juarez, Mexico into El Paso, Texas, killing civilians living there, do you know what we would do? The same thing Israel does for its own security. It is NOT terrorism. It is national security.

      issac wrote: “From 1948, to the present day, Israel is simply taking by force the lands of others.”

      No, not just that. They have taken land for security of its people, then they give it back for peace. Whenever they give land to the Palestinian authority, the Palestinians use it to hurl more bombs at Israel.

      issac wrote: “If you are a Jew and perhaps Christian, this is ordained by your god.”

      And if you are a Muslim, your God commands you to conquer the land and fight the infidels (non-Muslims).

      issac wrote: “If not, then it is what it is, the subjugation of one people by another. Morality does not enter into it.”

      Morality is at the very heart of this thing. Terrorism is lawlessness. Lawless people need to be subjugated or there is no peace.

  7. Whoa…my headache is getting worse and I haven’t yet watched the hour long video I promised. When I got back home today I to work on a consult with my old Army office I discovered a mess in payments to GSA…way over the space allocated to them….thanks to double billing by GSA. I’ll be at it until tomorrow midday at least. Dealing with two huge bureaucracies’ data is what gives the headache. I am sorry I’ve not contributed to this thread as I promised, at least so far.

  8. Davidm

    You sound more Zionist than a Zionist. Step back a thousand miles or so and then take a look at the situation, without cherry picking, exaggerating, and double talk. One people came in and stole the land from another; no just foundation for doing it, each side has its moral highs and lows, that is war. Might is right and the winners deal the cards. This is no different than the taming of the West except Israel is in no position to wipe out all the locals.

    It might be in the best interests of Israel to rethink their strategy in light of the numbers in the whole region and their increasing creation of settlements and apartheid.

    • issac wrote: “You sound more Zionist than a Zionist.”

      A Zionist is someone who believes that the State of Israel should exist. Yes, I believe that is reasonable, so that makes me a Zionist. Fine. But by using the term with a racist derogatory tenor as you do here, does that mean that you are against the idea of the State of Israel existing at all?

      issac wrote: “One people came in and stole the land from another; no just foundation for doing it…”

      This is not factual. This is your characterization. I should say mischaracterization. You use emotive and misleading terms like “stole” and “no just foundation.” The justification is that these people were expelled thousands of years ago from their homeland and have carried on a religion and tradition that yearns to return to their homeland. After being persecuted for their race and religion in various nations scattered all over the earth, they should have their own land where they are the majority and not subject to the evil persecution which they have had to endure. As you yourself acknowledged previously, the holocaust is sufficient justification in the minds of many that they should have their own homeland.

      issac wrote: “This is no different than the taming of the West except Israel is in no position to wipe out all the locals.”

      I tend to disagree with this assessment. I would say that they are in a position to just take all of Palestine if they so chose. They could just tell anyone who does not want to be under the Israeli government to move to Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, or Saudi Arabia. Why don’t they do that? Because they are a people under the rule of law, and their basis for being there is through agreement with Britain and the United Nations to pursue a two State solution.

      By the way, if they did forsake the two State solution because it is not working, I seriously doubt they would steal anyone’s land. The residents there would simply come under the authority of the Israeli government. People could either agree with that or sell their land and move away.

      If I was an Arab living there, I would want the Israeli government to be in charge. They provide much better security than the Palestinian government, as well as much better sanitation, housing programs and grants, etc. They believe in plural religions, unlike the Muslim Arabs there. Palestinians also would fair much better under an Israeli government than under a Palestinian government because the officials are not as corrupt. They don’t steal money meant for the people.

  9. Davidm

    You finally did it, called my argument racist. Zionism started at the turn of the 20th century and ranged from the absolutist position of taking over of the area to cohabiting with the indigenous peoples. Your position is extreme. You believe in the claims that originate from five to six thousand years ago, that came from a god peculiar to one people.

    At this time the establishment of the Jewish State of Israel is a forgone conclusion. What is on the table is the integration of the Palestinian people or the people that were and continue to be moved aside for that purpose.

    The presence of the Palestinians in the area for well over a thousand years up until 1948 is a much more just position of ownership than one god’s gift to a group of people 5 to 6 thousand years ago. That is the essence of the argument. Your taking the position of those that used this position of divine right to take away the lands of those they found living there, subject the indigenous people to apartheid conditions, with double standards, makes you more the racist than someone who sees how this is unjust, wrong, and only defensible through military might. The double standards, the apartheid structure of Israel, and the intractable position of the dominant force is only possible when that dominant force looks down upon the dominated. There has to be a racist bent there, or it couldn’t happen.

    Fabled rights stemming from thousands of years ago and anchored in a racist view of superiority over those who aren’t god’s chosen against the rights of millions of indigenous people make up the core of the argument. This blog has focused on law and the sanctity of the law, regardless of intentions. JT is leading a legal move against Obama for his alleged breaking of laws regardless of the intentions and the results. Israel has broken and continues to break the very laws that have been adopted by the West that are there to protect a people from invasion by another dominant group.

    What is most interesting is how Israel views the Russian takeover of areas of Ukraine, areas that are populated by up to 90% by Russian speaking peoples.

    I am not against Israel, for two reasons. Firstly they are there and it would be a disaster to extricate them. Secondly they did suffer for centuries and do deserve a homeland. After WW2 there was talk of creating a Jewish homeland from parts of Germany and Poland. Israel was created unilaterally by the Jews that emigrated from Europe, accompanied with the guilt of the West, and the desire to not have to take them into the Western nations. Anti Semitism was probably equal with Zionism in the creation of Israel. All that having been said, irrespective of the fact that any criticism of Israel automatically makes the person who criticizes an anti-semite, and despite the historical claims of both sides, the fact remains. The area was taken by force, continues to be taken by force, and the solution offered the indigenous peoples is unacceptable to those people. The Jews are the recent interlopers. They would not agree to be treated the way they are treating the Palestinians. Therein lies their hypocrisy and their crimes.

    Again, the only side that can fix this is the Israeli side. The step before achieving a solution is understanding the problem. Israel does not recognize the problem of the Palestinians only of Israel. Thus far their chosen manner is attrition. Given the demographics of the area, that doesn’t seem likely.

    • issac – Jews were in the Holy Land 2000 years ago, remember Jesus was a good Jewish boy. I am not sure where you get this 5000 or 6000 year thing.

      You do know that Palestine’s Arab neighbors have them fenced in, too. They do not want an open border with them.

    • issac wrote: “You finally did it, called my argument racist.”

      Pointing out racist elements in an argument is fine, but calling a person a racist is not. You wrote, “… makes you more the racist than someone who sees how this is unjust, wrong, and only defensible through military might.” That is a bit personal. It is not a very good argument to respond with, in effect, “yeah, but you are more racist than I am.” You have basically admitted you made a racist argument.

      issac wrote: “At this time the establishment of the Jewish State of Israel is a forgone conclusion. … I am not against Israel, for two reasons. Firstly they are there and it would be a disaster to extricate them. Secondly they did suffer for centuries and do deserve a homeland.”

      Good, we are in agreement on this. So you are a Zionist too, right? I hope you are comfortable with that label.

      issac wrote: “The presence of the Palestinians in the area for well over a thousand years up until 1948 is a much more just position of ownership than one god’s gift to a group of people 5 to 6 thousand years ago. That is the essence of the argument.”

      No, that has never been my argument. You have constructed a straw man. As I have said before, many Jews lived in that area right along with the Arabs. They were a minority. My “Zionist” argument is just like your Zionist argument. 1) they are there, and 2) they do deserve a homeland where they are in the majority.

      issac wrote: ” Israel has broken and continues to break the very laws that have been adopted by the West that are there to protect a people from invasion by another dominant group.”

      I don’t recognize this. Can you name the laws that they have broken? From my perspective, Israel is responding to violence against its citizens the same way the U.S. would respond if the blacks in America started to rise up in the spirit of the Blank Panthers to kill as many white civilians as they can. They are responding the same way as we would if the violence and mayhem in Juarez, Mexico crossed the border into El Paso. If that actually happened, I would favor us taking the entire city of Juarez and adding it to the U.S. territory, simply for security reasons. You might argue that such action would violate a whole slew of laws, but the laws concerning security and sovereignty are greater laws than any you might suggest would be violated.

      Olly attempted to share some of those laws from Vattel’s Law of Nations, but nobody really responded to it. What do you think of the Law of Nations? Especially, what do you think of the sections that Olly had quoted from?

      “… war, founded on justice, is a lawful mode of acquisition.”

      “… no one has a right to judge a nation respecting the unreasonableness of her claims, or what she thinks necessary for her own safety (Prelim. § 23).”

      “… nations have ever esteemed conquest a lawful title; and that title has seldom been disputed, unless where it was derived from a war not only unjust in itself, but even destitute of any plausible pretext.”

  10. David

    You conveniently leave out that, in my statements and that which is understood, what qualifies my meaning. Zionism, as illustrated from its inception, ranges from mild to severe, from the need for a parallel establishment of a Palestinian state and equal rights including full democracy to a state unique to the Jewish faith. The Zionism that is typically referred to carries a derogatory patina even though historically there have been advocates for an Israeli homeland that would not and do not agree with the lengths to which Israel has gone and continues to go. It is difficult to discuss this issue, using such words, and in fact typically, through the media, through common experience by enough people, and as has been included into our collective understanding, any criticism of Israel has been termed anti-semitic, just as, because of its extremes, Zionism is taken at its most extreme positions and carries with it a derogatory overtone.

    This allusion to racism is attached to any criticism of the actions of the Jews in the establishing of Israel as well as Israel’s ongoing actions. Because this back and forth has gone on sufficiently long enough to bring us to the realization that you support Israel and see it as just and god given, regardless of the actions taken and continuing to be taken, and I see Israel as, given the numbers and time, inevitable yet criminal it its actions taken and continuing to be taken, perhaps we should leave it at that. Actions and intentions are sometimes the same and sometimes not. In my opinion, from what I have seen over the past forty-five years that I have been paying attention and from what is available through historical fact, Israel’s intention is an apartheid state with a subdued Palestinian population as small as possible.

    History is there to be selectively used at the pleasure of this or that point of view. My support of Israel stems from my empathy for the Jews and all that they have endured. My opposition is not of Israel but of the iteration of Israel that is being created. It includes the crimes against humanity that Jews should know greater than most. It includes the destruction of a people that at one time was the majority and must live as second class citizens. Being ‘allowed’ to live somewhere is not the same as occupying your homeland. Palestine by virtue of over a thousand years of Palestinian dominance was until recent acts of war, Palestine, not Israel.

    Again the solution is only available from Israel and the present one being undertaken is a recipe for more wrong on both sides. Given that Israel is in control, started it, and it is based on myths and its own peculiar acceptance of superiority, Israel is the sole factor in the affair that can make any choices that might lead to a peaceful resolution.

    South Africa changed when it could no longer find support for its argument of occupation. South Africa’s arguments for apartheid were also based on pretty much the same history as that of Israel, except of course the extent of the timeline. The Dutch cultivated the land. The Dutch were superior and it was the time of the ‘White Man’s Burden’ and colonialism was seen as ‘Policing the World’. The indigenous peoples had been fighting amongst themselves for centuries. The indigenous peoples emigrated to the area from the North and were not really indigenous people, etc.

    Regarding laws and rules for war there is only one, might makes right. However, the second half of the 20th Century and ongoing has seen the world change from accepting that, but unfortunately in a selective manner. It depends on the god and the affiliation, when it should depend on the higher ideals that seem to be conveniently set aside when might makes right. Just because a people have suffered thousands of miles away doesn’t give them the right to alleviate that suffering by subjugating another less powerful people, making them sufferer. Or as that Israeli girl once explained to me, “We won, you lost, get used to it.”

  11. Issac ..okay, I finally finished the consulting work…and I watched the video. I tend to agree with what DavidM said:

    I think the majority of Israelis want the violence to stop just like Miko Peled, and they will do just about anything to have that. The primary difference involves trust. Do the Palestinians accept the Israeli State or not? Will they even accept and respect the authority of any government?

    Based upon the Israelis I know, that is what I hear from them as well. The historical relativism tires me, but that may be my fault…my myopia so to speak.

    A key question that has not been answered is simply this: Israel exists, and even if sub-divided along the 1967 Armistice lines, will the political Palestinian Arabs ever accept Israels’ right to exist? As a people or as a state? Miko Peled made several points worth consideration, but he did not really address this existential feature of the situation. If I missed it I apologize.

    Issac, I cannot begin to compete with the great discussion you and DavidM have held here in the finest tradition of this blog. You’ve both made it clear with your well chosen words why this is a continuing controversy. And done so without acrimony, which means I enjoyed reading your posts.

    Thank you both.

  12. Issac … you are very welcome. You always seem to comment in good faith and that is why I read your words and consider your opinions, although frequently different than mine…mine are flexible, as I suspect yours are as well. I really do think that the conversation between you and DavidM, whom seems, to me, to be another good faith commenter, was the best I’ve read in a long time and you both deserve credit for the effort, and without bomb tossing no less. I’m getting “up there” now but I regret not one moment of diversity in where I’ve live, and still do to some extent, or whom I engage, it is the only true course to learning, even for an “Old Dude” as my kid fondly calls me. If I have one regret is that I didn’t didn’t take enough advantage of my youth to learn more and engage more. I learned by schooling and by hard knocks, which I guess is de rigueur for an Irish descended kid. I am not “color blind” nor “ethnic blind” nor “opinion blockaded…rather I relish the worlds it opens up to me. You guys have been part of that phenomena on this thread…you made me think. Heaven forbid, eh?

  13. Let me say it it in more concise terms…I find diversity of opinion here is refreshing feature, not a bug. Those who think, or try to make it an “echo chamber” are deceiving themselves. There really are those, here, who try to make their points honestly, without acrimony. When that ceases, I am gone.

  14. DAng it…correction necessary: I said the 1967 Armistice lines when the actual date was 1948 for that armistice. In 1967 Israel re-occupied the “West Bank” and drove out the Jordanians….the line itself, remains the same.

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