“Man, that Ilana Mercer is a real neocon; she thinks inciting Jihad can be considered a crime. Free speech, dude. And, like, a guy gets a gig as the top dog for the American chapter of Palestinian Jihad Islami, and Mercer condemns him. What’s up with that? Free minds and markets, man.”
The above ad lib doesn’t exaggerate the responses to this column’s repeated condemnation of prominent American Muslims who have ties to barbaric gangs and goals.
“More Fatwa Fibs,” for instance, assessed an anti-terrorism religious edict issued by the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA). It concluded that the religious authority of the Fatwa signatories was as questionable as their moral authority. They lied about a Quranic quote, so as to finesse its ugly essence, thus committing the ultimate performative contradiction: perjuring themselves while preaching peace. In addition, some of these leaders had been linked to the most malignant organizations imaginable.
The FCNA, at the very least, deserves to be laughed off the lectern—and from decent company. But then the distinction between actions that warrant only opprobrium and deeds that ought to be punished by force of law can baffle the best libertarians. For example, because we condemn the war on drugs, many think we’re for drugs. Or, because we reject non-defensive, recreational wars, some presume we ought to be soft on terrorism.
However, libertarian philosophy has nothing to say about drugs per se; it simply rejects the use of force against those who ingest, inject, or inhale them. We libertarians think incarcerating people for their consumption choices has the consistency of arresting a survivor of suicide for attempted murder.
Conversely, libertarian philosophy has plenty to say about the killers of London commuters or Israeli and Iraqi civilians: they’re scum; they’ve blown a hole in the heart of libertarianism.
We should be as tough on people who indirectly abet such actions, although punishing them is predicated on demonstrating a clear, causal connection between their machinations and the resulting carnage.
This difficulty is especially pronounced in the case of former professor, Sami Al-Arian. An indubitably shady character, Al-Arian was recently acquitted of 8 of the 17 counts of terrorism against him. As the New York Times reported:
“The trial, lasting more than five months, hinged on the question of whether Mr. Arian’s years of work in the Tampa area in support of Palestinian independence crossed the threshold from protected free speech and political advocacy to illegal support for terrorists.”
American jurisprudence allows the regulation of speech only under very limited circumstances. Al-Arian may have advocated unlawful behavior, but the jury would have had to find that his speech posed a “Clear and Present Danger.” While the Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment doesn’t protect words that are likely to cause violence, the required threshold is extremely high.
And so it should be.
The evidence in question consisted of 20,000 hours of taped conversations, “in which Al-Arian was heard raising money for Palestinian causes, hailing recently completed attacks against Israel with associates overseas, calling suicide bombers ‘martyrs’ and referring to Jews as ‘monkeys and swine’ who would be ‘damned’ by Allah.” Al-Arian also discussed Islamic Jihad business with the group’s leaders. And his bank records reveal he wired blood money to families of members who attacked Israel.
Al-Arian’s attorneys could hardly deny that their client’s curriculum vita boasts an affiliation to Palestinian Islamic Jihad (which, just this week, claimed responsibility for killing five Israelis and injuring 55 in Netanya). Their defense thus rested primarily, not on Al-Arian as the embodiment of Aristotelian moral virtue, but on the fact that the taped conversations “predated the 1995 designation by the United States of Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a terrorist group, a designation that prohibited Americans from supporting it.”
Still, the role of the law is to protect peaceful, non-aggressors. We know Al-Arian is neither. A good metaphor for the odious Al-Arian is provided by Stephan Kinsella and Patrick Tinsley in “Causation and Aggression”:
“The firing squad commander who yells ‘Fire!’ is as responsible for the ensuing execution as the riflemen themselves. This is not because his spoken word was physically the cause of the victim’s death. … Instead the fire squad commander is responsible for the execution because of what the command ‘Fire!’ signifies in the context it was uttered.”
Al-Arian shouted “Fire!” over and over again, if from a safe distance. He collected cash to arm the firing squads. It’s a credit to his cunning that we can’t connect him to the crime scenes.
Indeed, although Al-Arian has wantonly wished death to those he deems no better than primates and farm animals, and has contributed considerably to this “cause,” it’s extremely hard to prove in a court of law that he midwived the murders of hundreds of Israelis.
The upshot is that decent Americans (John Esposito is excluded by definition) have to call Al-Arian and his ilk “neighbors.” Or send their kids to school with children whose parents root for Jihad Islami as they would for the Miami Dolphins.
So what’s the solution to Sami?
The man has also been implicated in what the Center for Immigration Studies terms a “web of immigration violations.” Al-Arian, who is not an American citizen, lied “on his own naturalization petition, failing to list his affiliation with two PIJ front organizations.” He has, in addition, made false statements on visa petitions for other terrorism suspects, whom he helped gain entry into the United States.
Lying is clearly in the family. Al-Arian has an equally troublesome brother-in-law, Mazen Al Najjar. During his brief stopover in the U.S., Al Najjar called for “the unification of efforts of the national and Islamic forces in the struggle, to face the new dangerous challenges to the Palestinian cause, the central cause of the Muslim Ummah.”
Al Najjar was deported because he “committed a series of immigration violations”—from overstaying on an expired student visa to fraudulently marrying an American woman for the purpose of obtaining permanent resident status.
When Al Najjar washed up on their shore, the Lebanese promptly expelled him too. What a perfect solution to the Al-Arian pox!
©2005 By Ilana Mercer