Thursday, September 18, 2008

Is this Eccentric?

“There’s a bullet out there for each one of us. But you can always die. At least his [the speaker’s son’s] death here would sanctify God’s name. . . [they] will never understand.”

Judging from the prosecution's insistence on beginning the retrial of the Holy Land Foundation within the week after the anniversary of 9/11, and judging from questions the government asked prospective jurors, one can surmise that the government plans to make “terrorism,” and especially the specter of “Palestinian Suicide Bombers” the central ploy of their case. The suicide bombers who believe, or so the American mythology asserts, that their deaths would somehow sanctify God’s name.

In her article “Experts in Terror,” Petra Bartosiewicz reports on a “post-9/11 phenomenon in which self-styled experts service the government’s need for assistance in terrorism cases. These experts furnish law-enforcement agencies, the media and the public with their insights on Muslim extremism, and they have emerged to significantly affect the way the ‘war on terror’ is framed, investigated and prosecuted. . . . these new experts are frequently unabashedly ideological.” (1)

Ms. Bartosiewicz describes a congressional briefing she attended in Washington last December. One of the panelists was Jeffrey Breinholt, the Justice Department official who managed cases in the Counterterrorism Section that prosecutes “material support crimes” (under which the HLF case falls). Breinholt said, “Don’t be mistaken about what happens when Sharia law establishes a foothold in this country… [Muslims] don’t want any part of American law.”

Is this the official position of the prosecutors? That American Muslims “don’t want any part of American law?” Is this what the prosecution is determined to prove to the jury? Is this the kind of unprincipled, unsubstantiated, vicious accusation that will be, if not spoken, at least in the background of the case against five American citizens?

Can there be any hope of a fair trial for the Holy Land Foundation, for Ghassan, Shukri, Abdulrahman, Mohammad, and Mufid?

It might be noted that Mr. Breinholt’s disparagement of civil liberties and his venom is not reserved only for Muslims. He recently wrote an article referring to those who value privacy and civil liberties as “eccentric.” He said, “In thinking about personal security, we should not be bound by Luddite [one who opposes technical or technological change] beliefs. Over time, history exposes them for what they are: eccentric cranks.” (2)

It is, of course, an easy—but absurd—step from Jeffrey Breinholt’s assertion that Muslims “don’t want any part of American law” to the all-out assertion that all Muslims are “terrorists.” The Prosecution will undoubtedly waste no time associating the Holy Land Foundation with the dreaded “suicide bombers” of Hamas—as they tried to do last summer. And that bizarre and nonsensical association will make it easy for them to step over the line of sanity and declare that American citizens “don’t want any part of American law,” and, therefore, the Holy Land Foundation supported terrorism.

If it were not so tragic, if it were not such a plague on our nation, if it were not evil, it might be comic.

The real tragedy, however, is that the prosecutors depend on the likes of Mr. Breinholt to provide them with their ammunition. At least Mr. Breinholt is a college graduate (yes from George W. Bush’s alma mater). Most of the “Experts in Terror” have no credentials except their ability to surf the internet and find every possible mention (documented or not) of any kind of “terrorist” act or any defamation of Islam or any absurd translation from MEMRI or any article by Matthew Levitt that Steve Emerson quotes as proof for some foolish, racist, and xenophobic idea.

Michael Fechter was another of the leaders of the briefing Ms. Bartosiewicz attended. Michael Fechter is perhaps the most outrageous of all of the “experts in terror.” He works for Steve Emerson, who can find a terrorist and a potential suicide bomber behind every tree in Dallas, to say nothing of the West Bank. Ms. Bartosiewicz’s description of the end of that briefing is worth quoting here in full:

After the briefing members of the Holy Land Foundation prosecution team filed up to the podium to greet Michael Fechter… The prosecutors wanted Fechter’s advice on how they might do better next time. Fechter obligingly launched into a quick critique.
“You know Kristina [one of the jurors]—she’s still haunted by the videos,” Fechter told prosecutor Barry Jonas, referring to a series of videos that depicted Palestinian children chanting anti-Israeli slogans and calling for jihad. “OK, that’s good to know,” Jonas said.
The two men chatted about possible jury room malfeasance during the trial, the subject of a story Fechter had just published. Jonas passed along a tip about another juror in the case and urged Fechter to investigate. “We could look into it ourselves, but you can probably do it faster,” Jonas said. “Bureaucracy, you know.”

And so we have a prosecutorial team dedicated to the proposition that American citizens “don’t want any part of American law,” while they, at the same time, are asking for advice about how to “uphold” the law from an “expert” whose qualifications are the ability to surf the internet and the ability to write scurrilous pieces about his fellow American citizens, pieces that often have no basis in fact.

The purpose of the entire charade is to prove that somehow, in some mysterious and malicious way, American citizens are responsible for suicide bombers. And in the process, 99% of the truth about the “terrorism” of which such bombings are a part will be covered over. And, if this fall is a repeat of last summer, agents of the Israeli government will testify for the prosecution to prove that American citizens support suicide bombers—the very government of the woman from the Israeli settlement in the center of the Palestinian city of Hebron who thinks that her son’s dying there would “sanctify God’s name.” (4) Who, one might ask, is the terrorist?

(1) Bartosiewicz, Petra. "Experts in Terror." The Nation. February 4, 2008
(2) Breinholt, Jeffrey A. (US Department of Justice) "Getting Real About Privacy: Eccentric Expectations in the Post-9/11 World." bepress Legal Series, paper 770, 2005
(3) Bartosiewicz.
(4) Israeli settler in Hebron/Khalil quoted by Jeffrey Goldberg, “Among the Settlers: Will they destroy Israel?” The New Yorker (31 May 2004), 48.