It took until 2001 for the university to suspend al-Arian. They did so only after Bill O'Reilly interviewed al-Arian on Fox News in September 2001 and exposed his terrorist connections (which include his brother-in-law, who was deported in August 2002). Naturally, leftists complained that al-Arian's freedom of speech had been violated and that general academic freedom was in danger. Salon.com's Eric Boehlert went so far as to slander Fox News, NBC, Media General and Clear Channel Communications for "fudging the facts and ignoring the most rudimentary tenets of journalism in their haste to better tell a sinister story about lurking Middle Eastern dangers here at home." Boehlert called the accusations against al-Arian "discredited" and suggested that Bill O'Reilly was "McCarthy-like" in his interview for "clearly implying that he believed Al-Arian was a terrorist."
Al-Arian is a terrorist. He has been a terrorist-supporter since the 1980s. Federal prosecutors originally filed 17 charges against al-Arian. A jury acquitted al-Arian of eight of those charges, including "conspiracy to murder and maim persons abroad." (Of course, a jury also acquitted O.J. Simpson.) They deadlocked on the nine other charges. Finally, the prosecution and defense reached a plea agreement on a charge of aiding PIJ members in immigration and visa matters. At the sentencing hearing, both prosecutors and defense attorneys argued for a lightened sentence for al-Arian, who had already served over three years in prison.
Al-Arian made a statement before the sentencing. His tenor was somewhat different from that which he used in Cleveland. Al-Arian stated his supposed belief "that an impartial and conscientious jury, as well as principled judicial rulings that uphold the values of the Constitution, are the real vehicles that win the hearts and minds of people across the globe, especially in the Arab and Muslim world." He also maintained, "I have tried to uphold the great values of my faith and culture and the honored ideals and principles of this society."
Then Judge Moody sentenced him. "Dr. Al-Arian, as usual, you speak eloquently … I find it interesting that here in public in front of everyone you praised this country ... but that's just evidence of how you operate. ... You are a master manipulator," Moody said. "Your only connection to orphans and widows is that you create them … The evidence was clear in this case that you were a leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. You were on the board of directors and an officer, the secretary … Your children attend the finest universities this country has to offer while you raise money to blow up the children of others." The final sentence: 57 months in prison, which calculates to 18 additional months (he has already served 39 months) before his deportation from the United States.
Is it sufficient? Of course not. Palestinian Islamic Jihad has carried out numerous devastating homicide bombings in Israel and is part of the broad terrorist network threatening U.S. security. Al-Arian deserves the same treatment now being afforded Zacarias Moussaoui, and only the perversity of the roulette wheel that is our jury system prevents consistent application of anti-terrorist law. Still, it is encouraging to see that sometimes our justice system does attempt to provide justice. Thank you, Judge Moody, for recognizing that academic freedom is not freedom to murder; thank you, Judge Moody, for seeing through a sickening attempt by a terrorist to wrap himself in the American flag; thank you, Judge Moody, for imposing justice where mercy would have been an insult to the good.