Eleven Minutes With Sami Al-Arian, Palestinian Activist and Former US Prisoner of Conscience, on Gaza, Hamas and Israel

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Sami Al-Arian is the director of the Center for Islam and Global Affairs and professor of public affairs at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University. During his four decades in the US (1975 to 2015), Dr. Al- Arian founded numerous civil and human rights organizations. In 2001, he was named by Newsweek as the “premiere civil rights activist” in the US for his efforts to repeal the use of secret evidence in immigration courts. He was one of only three Muslims, along with Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, out of 152 US prisoners of conscience to be profiled by historians in American Dissidents: An Encyclopedia of Activists, Subversives, and Prisoners of Conscience. (Incidentally, it’s hard to make them out but the people in the two images above Dr. Al-Arian’s left shoulder are Ali and Che Guevara, another of his hero’s, as we discussed in the interview.)

During the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations he was invited to the White House, according to this Wikipedia profile. The profile added:

After a contentious interview with Bill O’Reilly on The O’Reilly Factor following the September 11 attacks, Al-Arian’s tenure at University of South Florida came under public scrutiny. He was indicted in February 2003 on 17 counts under the Patriot Act. A jury acquitted him on 8 counts and deadlocked on the remaining 9 counts. He later struck a plea bargain and admitted to one of the remaining charges in exchange for being released and deported by April 2007. However, as his release date approached, a federal prosecutor in Virginia demanded he testify before a grand jury in a separate case, which he refused to do, claiming it would violate his plea deal. He was held under house arrest in Northern Virginia from 2008 until 2014 when federal prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss charges against him. He was deported to Turkey on February 4, 2015.

His story was featured in 2007 in the award-winning documentary US vs. Al-Arian, and in the 2016 book Being Palestinian. I recently spoke to him about his trial and ordeal in the US, but mostly about the situation in Gaza, where Israel has recently killed hundreds of people, including dozens of children. (See this New York Times story for more on Israeli war crimes in Gaza.)

Also, a warning and explanation: I went a few minutes beyond 11, as I periodically do, because Palestinian voices are generally silenced in US media. Go to a think tank event in DC or read an analysis on the situation in Gaza in a major newspaper, and you’ll hear plenty of Israeli voices and pro-Israeli US voices. Palestinian voices, on the other hand, are frequently missing. OK, here you go and I’m confident that if you listen to the interview you’ll agree it was worth giving Dr. Al-Arian additional time.

Episode 14: Sami Al-Arian
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Politically eclectic DC-based investigative journalist and CEO, Chief Sleaze Purveyor (CSP) and Creator of WashingtonBabylon.com.