Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
It’s your last chance to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch in 2017. Help us gear up to fight the status-quo in 2018! Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

On Leaving the United States

by

After 40 years, my time in the U.S. has come to an end. Like many immigrants of my generation, I came to the U.S. in 1975 to seek a higher education and greater opportunities. I also wanted to live in a free society where freedom of speech, association and religion are not only tolerated but guaranteed and protected under the law. That’s why I decided to stay and raise my family here, after earning my doctorate in 1986. Simply put, to me, freedom of speech and thought represented the cornerstone of a dignified life.

Today, freedom of expression has become a defining feature in the struggle to realize our humanity and liberty. The forces of intolerance, hegemony, and exclusionary politics tend to favor the stifling of free speech and the suppression of dissent. But nothing is more dangerous than when such suppression is perpetrated and sanctioned by government. As one early American once observed, “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” Because government has enormous power and authority over its people, such control must be checked, and people, especially those advocating unpopular opinions, must have absolute protections from governmental overreach and abuse of power.

A case in point of course is the issue of Palestinian self-determination. In the United States, as well as in many other western countries, those who support the Palestinian struggle for justice, and criticize Israel’s occupation and brutal policies, have often experienced an assault on their freedom of speech in academia, media, politics and society at large.

After the tragic events of September 11th, such actions by the government intensified, in the name of security. Far too many people have been targeted and punished because of their unpopular opinions or beliefs.

During their opening statement in my trial in June 2005, my lawyers showed the jury two poster-sized photographs of items that government agents took during searches of my home many years earlier. In one photo, there were several stacks of books taken from my home library. The other photo showed a small gun I owned at the time. The attorney looked the jury in the eyes and said: “This is what this case is about. When the government raided my client’s house, this is what they seized,” he said, pointing to the books, “and this is what they left,” he added, pointing to the gun in the other picture. “This case is not about terrorism but about my client’s right to freedom of speech,” he continued.

Indeed, much of the evidence the government presented to the jury during the six-month trial were speeches I delivered, lectures I presented, articles I wrote, magazines I edited, books I owned, conferences I convened, rallies I attended, interviews I gave, news I heard, and websites I never even accessed.

But the most disturbing part of the trial was not that the government offered my speeches, opinions, books, writings, and dreams into evidence, but that an intimidated judicial system allowed them to be admitted into evidence.

That’s why we applauded the jury’s verdict. Our jurors represented the best society had to offer. Despite all of the fear-mongering and scare tactics used by the authorities, the jury acted as free people, people of conscience, able to see through Big Brother’s tactics.  One hard lesson that must be learned from the trial is that political cases should have no place in a free and democratic society.

But despite the long and arduous ordeal and hardships suffered by my family, I leave with no bitterness or resentment in my heart whatsoever. In fact, I’m very grateful for the opportunities and experiences afforded to me and my family in this country, and for the friendships we’ve cultivated over the decades. These are lifelong connections that could never be affected by distance.

I would like to thank God for all the blessings in my life. My faith sustained me during my many months in solitary confinement and gave me comfort that justice would ultimately prevail.

Our deep thanks go to the friends and supporters across the U.S., from university professors to grassroots activists, individuals and organizations, who have stood alongside us in the struggle for justice.

My trial attorneys, Linda Moreno and the late Bill Moffitt, were the best advocates anyone could ask for, both inside and outside of the courtroom. Their spirit, intelligence, passion and principle were inspirational to so many.

I am also grateful to Jonathan Turley and his legal team, whose tireless efforts saw the case to its conclusion. Jonathan’s commitment to justice and brilliant legal representation resulted in the government finally dropping the case.

Our gratitude also goes to my immigration lawyers, Ira Kurzban and John Pratt, for the tremendous work they did in smoothing the way for this next phase of our lives.

Thanks also to my children for their patience, perseverance and support during the challenges of the last decade. I am so proud of them.

Finally, my wife Nahla h​as been a pillar of love, strength and resilience. She kept our family together during the most difficult times. There are no words to convey the extent of my gratitude.

We look forward to the journey ahead and take with us the countless happy memories we formed during our life in the United States.

Sami Amin Al-Arian is a Palestinian-American civil rights activist who was a computer engineering professor at University of South Florida. 

 

More articles by:
December 12, 2017
Cesar Chelala
Living in New York. Missing Home
December 11, 2017
Oscar Oliver-Didier 
The Invisibility of Poverty in Puerto Rico
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Jerusalem Decision Risks Uniting the Entire Arab World Against the US
Uri Avnery
From Barak to Trump
Robert Hunziker
Dying Ecosystems
Paul Tritschler
The Year Without Summer
Ramzy Baroud
What Trump Has Done: The Entire US-Middle East Political Framework Just Collapsed
Francis Thicke
What Does “Organic” Mean?
Franklin Lamb
Foreign Proxies Prematurely Boast “Mission Accomplished” in Syria
Mike Whitney
Petty, Backstabbing Washington Sinks Russia’s Olympic Dreams
Mel Gurtov
The Calculated Destruction of America’s Government
David Underhill
Roy Moore Runs to Seat Protestant Pope in Senate
Sheldon Richman
The FBI is Not Your Friend
Weekend Edition
December 08, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
We the Sheeple: the Blind Reading the Blind
Ted Nace
State of Fear: How History’s Deadliest Bombing Campaign Created Today’s Crisis in Korea
Paul Street
The Burning Earth Bears Witness in California
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Operation Paperclip: Nazi Science Heads West
John W. Whitehead
John Lennon’s Most Radical Message
Patrick Cockburn
Jerusalem Explained
Gary Leupp
Jared, Jerusalem, and Possible Jail Time
Oren Ben-Dor
Jerusalem, Partition, Justice and Peace 
CJ Hopkins
The Year of the Headless Liberal Chicken
Felicia Kornbluh
Why Not a Women’s Party? 
Andrew Levine
As the “Me Too” Movement Develops, the Duopoly Divides, and Vestiges of Incoherence Remain
Pepe Escobar
The New Great Game Moves from Asia-Pacific to Indo-Pacific
Howard Lisnoff
The Rearguard Battles We Have Fought and Continue to Fight
Ishmael Reed
What Did Corporate Media Feminists Know and When Did They Know It?
Charles R. Larson
Endpaper: The Decline of Reading for Pleasure
Brian Cloughley
Bombing to Victory?
Nick Pemberton
Reason, Nuclear Weapons, and Donald Trump
Robert Fantina
Trump, Netanyahu and Israel’s Capital
Morgan Strong
Armageddon: Pence, Israel and the Evangelicals
Lee Hall
The Professor and the Poverty Tour
Julian Vigo
Opioid and Heroin Addiction in the US: the Perfect Storm of Greed and Medical Malpractice
Jill Richardson
Our Social Structure is Rigged
John Chuckman
What Trump is Doing in Jerusalem and Why He is Doing It
 Ann Garrison – Bénédicte Kumbi Ndjoko
Trafficking Desperate Black Africans from Israel to Rwanda to Libya
Sarah Anderson
The GOP Tax Plan is Igniting a Movement for a Moral Economy
Philip Doe
Colorado Politics Redux: The Great Treachery to be Found in Little Things
José Madero
Beware the Green Corporate Scam: the 100% Renewable Façade
Patrick Bobilin
Don’t Cry For Franken; Cry For This Broken System
Phil Rockstroh
Capitalism’s Failure of the Flesh: the Rise of the Robots
George Wuerthner
Time to Create a Cascade Siskiyou National Park
Jonas Ecke
A Leftist Case for Foreign Aid
Ted Rall
Will President Trump Last Another Year?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail