Prosecutions symbolise new American Gulag

Arab American prosecutions symbolize the new American Gulag

By Ray Hanania

Arab Media Watch, May 13, 2005

If anyone in the Arab World has any doubts about the bankruptcy of the American pledge to bring Democracy and freedom to their country, all they need do is examine the case of Sami Al-Arian.

Al-Arian is one of four political prisoners being prosecuted for criticizing Israel, supporting the liberation of Palestine and opposing the Soviet war against Muslims, issues shared by nearly every citizen of the Arab World.

Next week, American prosecutors will pick a jury to hear charges that Al-Arian, 47, a former University at South Florida professor, raised money to support Palestinian and Islamic causes, and gave speeches denouncing Israel at rallies and conferences.

His co-defendants include: Sameeh Hammoudeh, 44, a former instructor and student at USF and an administrator at the Islamic Academy of Florida; Ghassan Zayed Ballut, 43, a small business owner who lived in Tinley Park, Ill.; and Hatem Naji Fariz, 32, who was manager of a medical clinic in Spring Hill, Florida.

Both Ballut and Fariz are also Arab American journalists who I know. While they are devout Muslims with strong political views critical of Israel, they have never engaged in anti-American activities or promoted violence.

None of the four defendants danced around handing out cookies on Sept. 11 after Al-Qaeda terrorists and followers of Osama Bin Laden crashed planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon or try to hit the White House.

Yet that is exactly why they can’t get a fair trial in America. They have been targeted unfairly as a part of the emotional wave of post-Sept. 11 anti-Arab hate that is sweeping this nation.

American prosecutors charge the four Arab Americans with supporting Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian militant group that hasn’t targeted Americans nor advocates any anti-American policies. The group is blamed, however, in more than 100 deaths in Israel.

None of the four defendants are accused of being directly involved in any of those attacks.

To make matters worse, the American judge overseeing the case has ruled that none of the four Arab Americans have the right to bring into their defense any aspects of the Palestine-Israel conflict or issues involving their Muslim beliefs.

None of the defendants are anti-American. None were engaged in any terrorist activities against the United States or American citizens. More importantly, none were involved in Sept. 11.

What it really all comes down to is that Al-Arian, Ballut, Fariz and Hammoudeh are American political prisoners being punished for criticizing Israel. In today’s America, that is the “new terrorism.” That is the new crime.

To further underscore the political nature of this case, Judge James Moody Jr., has ruled that the defendants cannot discuss the political or religious aspects of the Middle East conflict.

In effect, Judge Moody has condemned every Arab American to the same eventual fate. Even though we are patriotic Americans who have defended this country against foreign threats, denounced terrorism, shared in the suffering of Sept. 11, we can all be prosecuted for the same crimes as the “Al-Arian Four.”

America today is a nation of growing human and civil rights abuses. At any time, any Arab American can be harassed, victimized and even jailed with no legal recourse under the US Patriot Act, a law adopted to prosecute Arab and Muslim Americans.

This attitude of hatred has been carried into battle by some American soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. There seems to be no end to incidents where American Marines sent to liberate Arabs have instead engaged in the torture and murder of Arabs instead.

At one time, America stood against the oppression of political dissidents, especially in the Soviet Union, where individuals where convicted in similar trials and imprisoned for years.

One of the most famous dissidents is Alexander Solzhenitsyn whose writings describe in brutal detail the horrors of the Gulag Archipelago, the prison system where political dissidents were thrown after being denied their civil and human rights and railroaded through kangaroo courts.

Sami Al-Arian, Ghassan Zayed Ballut, Hatem Naji Fariz and Sameeh Hammoudeh are all modernday Solzhenitsyns.

Prosecuted on trumped up, phony charges, brought before politically motivated kangaroo courts where they are being denied the right to a defense, all four face the same fate as Solzhenitsyn in what surely is the beginning of the new American Gulag.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning syndicated columnist and former national president of the Palestinian American Congress. He is the managing editor of )