- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2002

One way American residents used to get money into the pipeline for Islamic Jihad terrorists was to make a check out to the Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP). The ICP was once "the active arm of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine," as an imam named Fawwaz Damra put it during a 1988 fund-raising event that was captured on video and made public a while back by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). "We like to call it the Islamic Committee for Palestine here for security reasons," he explained.
Security reasons? No wink-wink, nudge-nudge necessary: The ICP, a U.S.-based "charity" affiliated with the state-funded University of Southern Florida, was a front organization for Islamic Jihad until the FBI shut it down in 1995. So, too, was the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE), another campus-affiliated group until the middle 1990s.
Both ICP and WISE popped up in a Wall Street Journal roundup of American outposts of terrorism written last year by Daniel Pipes and Steven Emerson. The two groups were described by William West of the INS as having been "fronts for the purpose of fund-raising activities for the Islamic Jihad and the Hamas terrorist organizations." Both groups, according to Mr. West, had another role: to bring terrorists into this country (including the leadership of Islamic Jihad) by helping procure entry visas. And both groups were run by a University of Southern Florida computer science professor named Sami Al-Arian.
Mr. Al-Arian, who has never been accused of a crime and denies any links to terrorists, wasn't well-known outside Southern Florida until he appeared last fall on Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor." Maybe it was because Mr. Al-Arian sounded so unconvincingly shocked, shocked that one of his institute invitees, Ramadan Abdullah Shalah, had become Islamic Jihad's top dog after returning from the university to the Middle East. Or maybe it was because of his classic response to Bill O'Reilly's query whether it was true that Mr. Al-Arian had once roared, "Jihad is our path. Victory to Islam. Death to Israel. Revolution. Revolution until victory. Rolling to Jerusalem." (Mr. Al-Arian prefaced his explanation by saying, "Let me just put it into context… .") Whatever the reason, the professor's appearance prompted hundreds of angry phone calls to the university, including some death threats, and a dip in both donor contributions and student applications. USF President Judy Genshaft was convinced to fire Mr. Al-Arian in December. Now, Mr. Al-Arian vows to get his job back.
Question: Should Mr. Al-Arian's role in two terror-linked organizations come under the protective cloak of "academic freedom"? In a word: heck no. First Amendment protections start wearing thin once the speech in question goes toward raising not eyebrows, but money for the latest in explosive-packed belts for the well-dressed suicide bomber. That is, there is little that is "academic" about activities that end up aiding and abetting those who seek political gain through the routinely grotesque slaughter of unarmed civilians.
Simple, right? Just leave it to the academics to complicate things. Rather than call for a definitive investigation into Mr. Al-Arian's activities, Ms. Genshaft fired him not for his connect-the-dots terrorist ties, but for a bogus-sounding contractual dispute something about his failure to stipulate that he wasn't representing the university when speaking publicly and safety concerns over his presence on campus. Now, the St. Petersburg Times reports that the faculty union has voted "to throw its full support" behind the fired prof, while the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has threatened to censure the university. The AAUP's chief concern: that Mr. Al-Arian have "the academic freedom as a citizen to speak out on controversial topics."
Is this case really about "academic freedom"? Is working in support of Islamic Jihad and Hamas just a "controversial topic"? Americans have learned the hard way how easily terror networks have turned our own freedoms against us. We now need to learn how to safeguard those freedoms, to understand when their abuse is not a test of our virtue, but a smokescreen for their enemies. By fudging, not facing, the facts against Mr. Al-Arian, the University of Southern Florida is hardly leading by example.


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