The Washington Post assigned 19 reporters to cover an April 20 pro-Palestinian demonstration in Washington, D.C. but none of them either discovered or reported a critical fact-that the main organizer of the event, Brian Becker, is a hard-core Marxist affiliated with the Workers World Party who had been in Havana, Cuba, in October 1997, getting instructions on how to conduct world revolution.
Becker reported for Workers World news service that the conference was called “Socialism Toward the 21st Century” and was hosted by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba. “Participants debated and discussed the prospects for socialism and the validity of Marxism and Leninism as the doctrine of the revolutionary struggle to overcome oppression, poverty and exploitation,” he said. Communist delegates from Vietnam, China, North Korea and Laos attended. In addition to the Workers World Party, delegates from the U.S. came from the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Action, the Freedom Socialist Party and the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a group that includes some of the old Soviet-era CPUSA veterans. There is supposed to be a ban on travel to Communist Cuba but it was relaxed by the Clinton administration to accommodate extremists like Becker and his comrades.
These Marxists, who have now made common cause with Islamic and Palestinian groups and causes, are still dedicated to the destruction of our democracy and free enterprise system. They are skillful at manipulating front groups and the media to conceal their true aims. They brought between 70,000 and 100,000 people to Washington, D.C. on April 20, many of them Arabs and Muslims, making it the largest pro-Palestinian demonstration in the U.S. ever. Becker, who appeared on C-SPAN, was described as being with a group called International ANSWER, which stands for Act Now to Stop War & Racism.
This is a new front group created for the occasion. He is also associated with the International Action Center, a group founded by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. Becker and Larry Holmes, another Workers World Party operative, have been the main spokesmen for this group for several years. Its Web site proclaims, “Activism, and Resistance to U.S. Militarism, War, and Corporate Greed, Linking with Struggles Against Racism and Oppression within the United States.” Holmes got his picture in the Washington Post as he was speaking at one of the rallies. The Post identified him only as being with International ANSWER.
The photo was reproduced on the International Action Center Web site to show their success with the media. It also showed up on the Workers World Web site. This site includes an eyewitness report from North Korea by one of its members, who claims the people of North Korea are united behind dictator Kim Jong Il, and says, “The biggest obstacle to reunification is U.S. military occupation of the south, which began in 1945 and still has not ended.” That is hard-core Communist propaganda.
On C-SPAN, Becker debated Kristinn Taylor of the D.C. chapter of the Free Republic, who had helped organize a counter-demonstration on April 20 featuring former Congressman Bob Dornan. C-SPAN presented Becker as a liberal dedicated to the First Amendment. He was asked about the impression that he was angry at times, but he was on his best behavior. He avoided the Marxist clich?s he usually employs when writing about world events. His articles show a liberal use of terms such as “imperialist” and “ruling classes” and “white supremacy” when attacking the U.S. The discussion might have taken a different turn if Becker’s record as an apologist for a philosophy that killed as many as 100 million people during the last century had been exposed. C-SPAN aired live coverage of Becker’s demonstration but ignored the rally featuring Bob Dornan. The moderator had no excuse for this, saying he didn’t make decisions on what to cover.
The media, including the networks, focused on the faces in the crowd rather than the organizers and speakers. The Post even suggested it was a good event for families. Manny Fernandez wrote, “Tens of thousands converged on downtown Washing-ton yesterday to demonstrate for a variety of causes, but it was the numbers and passion of busloads of Arab Americans and their supporters that dominated the streets. Eager to make their presence felt and their voices heard in the nation’s capital as never before, Arab and Muslim families marched and chanted for an end to U.S. military aid to Israel, overwhelming the messages of those with other causes in a peaceful day of downtown rallies and marches.” Stephen Labaton’s New York Times article about the protest began: “Tens of thousands of Arab-Americans blended with demonstrators against the military campaign in Afghanistan and those criticizing international financial institutions during protests today in Washington, with the cause of the Palestinians and criticism of Israel turning into the main message of the multifaceted crowd.”
There was a violent tone to much of the rhetoric, as support for the Intifada against Israel was voiced repeatedly and was met with cheers from the not-so-multifaceted crowd. Since September 2000, this uprising has resulted in over 1000 Palestinian and 400 Israeli deaths. There have been about 80 suicide/homicide bombings during this new phase of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal sent taped remarks from prison. He said the war on terrorism was actually designed “to make the world safe for capital exploitation and unbridled commerce.” Pleas were made on behalf of form-er Black Panther H. Rap Brown, who is now a Muslim known as Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin. He was convicted of killing a sheriff’s deputy and wounding another two years ago.
New York Times reporter Stephen Labaton appears to be unfamiliar with the tactics and strategies of Communists and their front organizations. The Post’s Fernandez fumbled coverage of an April 17 news conference where some other protest organizers had announced their plans for the weekend. One of the speakers was Emad Fraitekh of the Committee in Solidarity with the Palestinian People, whose biography said he was “in contact” with officials of the Palestinian Authority of Yasser Arafat. Fraitekh, who demanded halting all aid to Israel, was said to be a journalist from the West Bank. However, he has been in the U.S. since the early 1990s writing for publications such as the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
Eric LeCompte, head of “School of the Americas Watch,” said his group would march on the Capitol to protest U.S. support for the war against terrorism in Colombia. LeCompte charged that the U.S. government is training “assassins, dictators and death squad leaders” at the School of the Americas, which is now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. It trains Latin American military personnel, and it has long been a leftist target. LeCompte spoke as one who had been arrested many times in previous demonstrations. President Bush was frequently attacked and given no credit at all for directing a successful war on terrorism. Until a journalist asked about the events of September 11, no speaker at the news conference bothered to denounce that terrorist act.
Fernandez’s story in the Post did not include a key revelation at this news conference. Protest leader Terra Lawson-Remer was asked to explain or justify the involvement of the Communist Party USA as an “endorser” of the demonstration. “I can’t speak to that,” she said, but she continued to insist that the demonstrators believed in freedom and democracy. The CPUSA was only one of several Marxist, Communist and Socialist groups officially endorsing the protest and listed on the organizers’ Web site. Two different umbrella groups, Becker’s International ANSWER and Lawson-Remer’s April 20th Mobilization, combined forces for the demonstration and the follow-up march to the Capitol.
On Saturday, April 21, several hundred demonstrators broke away to attempt to disrupt the weekend meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. These were organized by the Mobilization for Global Justice, led by Robert Weissman. Saying former Vice President Al Gore had given the go-ahead to attack the Bush administration on issues other than the war, Weissman, who is also co-director of Essential Action, a Ralph Nader-founded group, appeared with Lawson-Remer at the April 17 news conference. Lawson-Remer, a Yale University student, had herself been arrested during the riots against the World Trade Organization in Seattle in 1999.
The AFL-CIO, headed by John Sweeney, has participated in and funded Weissman’s Mobilization for Global Justice demonstrations in the past. This time, the AFL-CIO kept its distance from the controversial protests. However, the Democratic Socialists of America, to which Sweeney belongs, was one of the backers.
The Washington Post, like the New York Times and many other media, not only overlooked the involvement of Communists in the demonstrations, but it also ignored the role played by many radical Muslims, some of them allegedly linked to terrorist groups and causes. Several groups fielding speakers, including the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the American Muslim Society, figure prominently in Steven Emerson’s new book, American Jihad, as examples of “terrorist support networks” in the U.S. It was Steven Emerson who was behind a documentary called “Jihad in America” that aired on the Public Broadcasting Service years before the U.S. Government officially acknowledged an Islamic terrorist threat within this country. This is one reason why the video has been released again. It features an endorsement from former FBI official Oliver Buck Revell, who says Emerson knows more than the bureau itself about the terrorist threat.
Mahdi Bray, the emcee of the April 20 rally at the Washington monument, is the political adviser for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, an organization whose officials have supported the Hamas and Hizballah terrorist groups. Hizballah bombed the American Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983, killing 241 U.S. military personnel. But the Post and most of the media mentioned none of this. Another speaker, veteran leftist Helen Caldicott, delivered a speech that bordered on the hysterical, calling Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld “wicked,” and saying that the U.S. and Israel were the real “rogue states” in the world today. She then described the Washington monument as a “phallus,” and suggested that American missiles represented male genitalia. The U.S., she claimed, suffered from “missile envy.”
It is not known exactly why America has been spared another terrorist attack after the events of September 11 and the delivery of anthrax letters that killed 5 people. We all hope that national security has been strengthened, and the war in Afghanistan and U.S. military operations in other countries have certainly disrupted the activities of Al Qaeda. But the detention of several thousand people, including some suspected terrorists or their associates, may be another explanation. In the U.S., about 700 immigrants have been the subject of closed Immigration and Naturalization Service hearings because the government doesn’t want to disclose the nature of the evidence against them or how it was obtained.
While the major media showed no interest in identifying the backgrounds of the speakers at the April 20 demonstration, or how they’ve managed to remain here, some news organizations have been relentless in trying to undermine the government’s case against the detainees. In Michigan, which has a large Arab community, both Detroit newspapers had filed suit to get access to papers in court hearings for Rabib Haddad, a 41-year-old Muslim activist and citizen of Lebanon who had been living in Ann Arbor. Haddad has been in government custody since December 14, accused of overstaying his visa, which expired in 1999. On the day federal agents arrested Haddad, they raided the offices of the Global Relief Foundation, which he co-founded, in Bridgeview, Illinois. The Treasury Department said the foundation and another charity raided the same day in Bridgeview were suspected of funding Al Qaeda terrorists.
To get government documents in this case, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on behalf of The Detroit News, the weekly Metro Times, and Rep. John Conyers, a far-left member of Congress, while the Detroit Free Press and The Ann Arbor News filed a separate suit. The Detroit News is owned by Gannett Co. Inc., the Free Press is owned by Knight Ridder, and The Ann Arbor News is owned by Advance Publications.
Some records from the closed immigration hearings in the case were released on April 19 to these news organizations. The files show that Haddad is alleged to have met abroad with leaders of terrorist groups associated with Al Qaeda. The papers include U.S. Immigration Judge Elizabeth Hacker’s decision explaining why she refused to free Haddad on bond. She concluded that he is a flight risk. She said he had filed a false statement to obtain a hunting license in Michigan, had lied on an application to rent a federally-subsidized apartment and had evaded questions about his means of support.
Haddad is being held in Chicago and has appeared before a federal grand jury investigating Global Relief. He refused to testify, citing his right against self-incrimination. He could face criminal charges for owning a 12-gauge shotgun after his visa expired. During his arrest, Haddad retrieved a passport from a briefcase containing four to six stacks of currency, according to testimony given by INS agent Mark Pilat. He said the stacks were two or three inches thick.
Nevertheless, hundreds of people have staged “Free Rabih Haddad” demonstrations around the country. Sami al-Arian spoke at one of them..
Associate Attorney General Jay Stephens said the release of transcripts in this case “will not cause irreparable harm to the national security or to the safety of the American people. Until now, we have been able to justify the detention of Mr. Haddad without relying upon or revealing extremely sensitive material. Although we have filed more sensitive material regarding Mr. Haddad under seal in federal court, we have not yet used that information in the immigration proceedings. The court order does not require us to release that information, and we will not do so. If it becomes necessary to use that information in the immigration proceedings, we will seek to close the hearings pursuant to regulation.”
Last November the Washington Post reported on the activities of Muqtedar Khan, a Muslim political scientist. In “A Memo to American Muslims” posted on his Web site, He said his fellow Muslims were “practicing hypocrisy on a grand scale” by protesting Israeli treatment of Palestinians but ignoring far worse human rights abuses by Muslim governments. He criticized Muslims who “love to live in the U.S. but also love to hate it.” He added, “It is time that we acknowledge that the freedoms we enjoy in the U.S. are more desirable to us than superficial solidarity with the Muslim World. If you disagree, then prove it by packing your bags and going to whichever Muslim country you identify with.” Such sentiments led to the creation of Muslims Against Terrorism USA.
Many Muslims disagreed. Altaf Husain, president of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and a featured speaker at the April 20 rally called Khan “uninformed” and said, “He’s not addressing American Muslims.” He added that “our enemies are waiting for something like this to happen.” The MSA has over 100 campus chapters and has raised money for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, Benevolence International and Haddad’s Global Relief Foundation. All three have had their assets frozen because of their alleged connections to bin Laden’s al Qaeda network or the Hamas organization. The AP quoted Altaf Husain as saying his organization had no plans to stop raising money for various groups unless federal authorities crack down. He called suspicions about terrorist links “hype,” saying it is up to the government to trace the money.
One prominent speaker at the April 20 demonstration, whose appearance was ignored by the Post and other media, was Osama “Sami” al-Arian, a Palestinian living in America who has been under investigation since 1995. Al-Arian’s status as a professor at the University of South Florida (USF) and his alleged association with terrorist organizations resulted in a guest appearance on the Fox News Channel’s O’Reilly Factor on September 26, 2001. Al-Arian, who seemed evasive about his alleged links to terrorist groups, was put on indefinite paid administrative leave after he was grilled by Bill O’Reilly.
Emerson’s chapter about al-Arian, titled “Jihad in the Academy,” says that al-Arian’s campus offices and home were searched by federal officials on November 20, 1995, six months after the Oklahoma City bombing, for evidence of perjury and immigration-related infractions. When entering the U.S., he had reportedly failed to identify his connections with the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE) and the Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP), even though he was a founding officer of both. A federal affidavit stated that he had placed phone calls to a Sudanese official later implicated in a 1993 bombing plot in New York, to the Iranian Interest Section in the U.S. (the equivalent of an embassy) and the Sudanese embassy, both of which are on the State Department list of nations supporting terrorism.
The ICP had brought terrorist leaders into the U.S., including Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman (convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing). Al-Arian himself had spoken at rallies in the U.S. urging Jihad and “Death to Israel.” Tarik Hamdi, a WISE board member, “personally delivered a satellite telephone and battery pack” to bin Laden in May 1998, Emerson reports. WISE, a non-profit organization supposedly dedicated to scholarly pursuits, had a formal affiliation with the University of South Florida. Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, who had been an adjunct professor of Middle Eastern Studies at USF, showed up in Syria in October 1995 as secretary-general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. His predecessor, Dr. Fathi Shikaki, had been assassinated, presumably by Israeli agents.
Emerson claimed that the search of al-Arian’s office and home turned up “one of the largest collections of terrorist fund-raising and propaganda material ever seized in the United States.” Federal officials found one al-Arian letter written to a Kuwaiti citizen soliciting funds for Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) for what Emerson describes as an “operation” that appears to have been suicide bombings in Israel that killed 19 people. The letter also described relations between PIJ and Hamas “making steady progress.” O’Reilly said the document was incriminating.
Eric Boehlert of Salon.com attacked O’Reilly for smearing an innocent man. He also suggested that al-Arian’s lawyers, who were pressing to get USF to let him teach, “should train their attention” on O’Reilly and other “media players,” including NBC’s Dateline, which aired an October 28 story accusing al-Arian of aiding terrorists. For a time, O’Reilly backed away from the charges. But when New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote that al-Arian had been an innocent victim of those who want to stifle free speech, O’Reilly went on the attack again, showing Kristof on his show that al-Arian had sent fund-raising letters for groups with terrorist links.
“The larger point,” Kristof had written, “is that a university, even a country, becomes sterile when people are too intimidated to say things out of the mainstream.” Kristof attacked O’Reilly’s criticism of a letter al-Arian had written. “First of all,” Kristof said, “what you referred to as a fund-raising letter wasn’t actually a fund-raising letter, it was a private communication that he sent. And I certainly agree with you that one can disagree about anything that he wrote, but he wasn’t fired for any of these things, he was fired because of the reaction that was generated when he came on the O’Reilly Factor.”
O’Reilly responded that the letter was intended for a wealthy individual “to give money to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. You don’t call that a fund-raising letter?” Kristof replied, “The Kuwaiti fellow wrote to him, he wrote back. In other words, it wasn’t a larger, some kind of a fund-raising appeal.” Kristof added, “Apparently there was no violation of the law in writing this? Now, it may indeed be completely inappropriate, he may have said very inappropriate things, but fundamentally, again, it comes back to firing somebody for what he says, and that makes us all worse off…”
Al-Arian still maintains that he doesn’t have anything to do with terrorism. And as Emerson himself concedes, he has not been charged with any crime, “much less convicted of one.” The failure of the FBI to file charges in the case is a mystery. But columnist Diana West asked, “Should al-Arian’s role in two terror-linked organizations come under the protective cloak of ‘academic freedom’? In a word: heck no. First Amendment protections start wearing pretty thin once the speech in question goes toward raising not just eyebrows, but money for the latest in explosive-packed belts for the well-dressed suicide bomber. That is, there is little that is ‘academic’ about activities that end up aiding and abetting those who seek political gain through the routinely grotesque slaughter of unarmed civilians.”
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