Thursday, August 16, 2007


Yesterday morning as we were waiting outside the courtroom, Mohammad El-Mezain said to me, “Only one judgment concerns me; that is the judgment of my God. I have done nothing wrong.” And he added that the truth will prevail, this in answer to my asking how he was holding up under the stress of the trial.

[Please note: Most people know of the Christian "beatitudes" recorded in the book of Matthew in the New Testament. Christians give them at least "lip service," although living by them is perhaps not the goal of most Christians. The word “beatitude” comes from the Latin beatus, meaning “supreme blessedness or happiness.” Matthew says this blessedness comes from such character traits as depending on God, understanding sorrow, having a gentle spirit, thirsting to see the right prevail, and having a pure heart.]

If you know Mohammed El-Mezain, I do not need to tell you of the remarkable blessing it is simply to be in this good man’s presence. His peace and gentleness are contagious. He is self-composed in a way that has nothing to do with smugness. He is charming in a way that has nothing to do with guile. He is confident in a way that has nothing to do with ego. He is, in short, one of those people whom Jesus might have called “blessed.”

Am I using hyperbole? I doubt it even though I do not know him in any context other than this dreadful trial. I know a great deal about him: his life is an open book, of course. I rely on what others who know him well have said about him.

Roland Lanoue of the National Conference for the Community and Justice, formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews said of him, “In countless meetings, meals and car trips together, Mr. El-Mezain never said anything or acted uncharitable when he, as a Palestinian and Jordanian, and I as an American Jew, discussed Israel and Palestine. I know him to be a man of compassion.”

Of Mohammed El-Mezain, Rev. Art Cribbs of Christian Fellowship United Church of Christ in Emerald Hills, California, said, “We have prayed together on these very steps [of the San Diego courthouse where Mr. El-Mezain was arraigned], we have been in mosques, in churches and cathedrals! He is a deeply loving, a deeply scholarly, a deeply generous person.”

[These testimonies and more are at:,150&values%5B0%5D=3&values%5B1%5D=1785]

I had determined not to write about Mohammed El-Mezain until I had opportunity to sit with him and learn about him directly. However, I was reflecting on the difference between my going into the trial yesterday and my leaving, and decided I must at least thank him for helping me put the day in perspective. Having felt very much as if I had received a blessing from Mohammed El-Mezain as we entered the courtroom together, I was shocked to realize that I left the court that afternoon in a kind of fury that I hope bore some resemblance to righteous indignation.

The difference between Mohammed El-Mezain’s serenity and Judge Joe Fish’s coldness and anger is almost palpable. Judge Joe Fish (at least in his public persona from the bench) is neither fair nor gracious (should a judge be those things? I don’t know). He ended yesterday’s proceedings with what could hardly be described as anything other than an attack on Nancy Hollander, Shukri Abu-Baker’s attorney. Most of us in the courtroom have no idea if the kind of nasty exchange that he precipitated is a normal part of the theater of trials, but if the case for the government depends on the judge’s showing personal bias and unreasonableness, then we have reason to fear for the safety of our republic.

Judge Joe Fish once again showed himself to be on the side of fear—apparently even attempting to make the defense attorneys cower before him. That is, however, emblematic of this trial, which is based on fear mongering. The foreign government of Israel maintains that somehow persons who perform charitable work for a people living in total subjugation under Israel are a danger to our society, and the US government does the work of the Israeli government in promulgating that fear.

In contrast to that is the faithful serenity of Mohammed El-Mezain. After the cacaphony of Judge Joe Fish's behavior, it is a comfort and a joy to return to thinking about Mohammed El-Mezain's presence in this midst of this charade. I’m pretty sure he did not allow the unpleasantness of the proceedings to upset him. The kind of sincerity and “purity of heart” he evidences are the cure for the violent fear that we have allowed our government to instill in our people. Mohammed El-Mezain’s steadfastness and faith WILL, in fact, be what survives this trial, regardless of its “legal” outcome. We can only hope that the people of this country come to our senses soon enough to understand that and save ourselves from the hatred that breeds the fear we live under.