Last week, in a resounding victory for the Department of Justice, U.S. Magistrate Mark Pizzo declared Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami al-Arian ineligible for bail. Al-Arian will now likely spend the next two years in federal custody awaiting trial.
With masterful detail and simplicity, the prosecutors from the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorneys’ Office exposed the depths of al-Arian’s unconscionable immorality.
Reflecting on the government’s proffered evidence in the hearing, Pizzo affirmed that the “government’s case against Al-Arian is both substantial and convincing.” In a 29-page decision magnifying the profound significance of this case, Pizzo poignantly explained how Al-Arian’s group tried to “derail the peace process through suicide attacks within Israel and the occupied territories.”
Al-Arian has consistently maneuvered to confuse and deceive the American public, decrying that he is being persecuted for his “unpopular” views as a Palestinian activist. However, as Pizzo properly noted, “the indictment’s focus is not protected speech but murder.” With stunning clarity, Pizzo explained that Al-Arian “equate[s] support for the PIJ with support for the Palestinian dream of an autonomous state. The two are not the same (emphasis added).”
At the heart of the matter is the PIJ ideology and modus operandi established and embraced by al-Arian. Judge Pizzo reiterated that “The PIJ rejects any peaceful solution to the Palestinian question. It advocates the destruction of Israel….And it aims to achieve all this through terror — the senseless, brutal murder of innocents in public places designed to instill fear, instability and panic in the populace and the government of Israel.”
In September 1993, the Israeli and Palestinian people signed the historic Oslo Accords, taking bold diplomatic steps toward peace for the first time. The PLO accepted Israel’s right to exist and Israel affirmed the need for a Palestinian State. Both sides recognized the need to put an end to the violence that has plagued the region. For the first time in decades, there was a clear path peace.
On January 22, 1995, PIJ dispatched two suicide bombers to Beit Lid, Israel. Twenty-two Israelis were killed in these savage attacks. Al-Arian praised these attacks in a letter to a PIJ benefactor:
The latest operation carried out by the two mujahidin, who were martyred for the sake of God, is the best evidence of what the believing few can do in the face of Arab and Islamic collapse before the Zionist enemy and of the still-burning firebrand of faith, steadfastness, and challenge.
The PIJ continued its reign of terror, determined to put down any possibility for peace. Sami al-Arian supplied money, leadership and operational support towards this cause.
Putting the case in perspective, Judge Pizzo ominously reflected that “The breadth of the affected here extends to nations and world regions…a zealous commitment to a violent philosophy fuels the actors.”
In no small part, Pizzo’s decision is another significant victory in America’s war on terrorism. America has shown once again that it will fight for peace and justice, one terrorist at a time.
— Matthew Epstein is an attorney and terrorism analyst at the Investigative Project, a Washington, D.C.-based counterterrorism think tank established in 1995.