This is not a straightforward point to make, and takes a little dot connecting, but I think that Tom Campbell’s excuses for defending Sami Al-Arian are falling apart.
At the California Republican Party Convention currently under way, Tom Campbell claimed that he would not have written the 2002 letter for Al-Arian had he known that the man called for “Death to Israel,” implying it was not a widely known thing.
There’s a problem with that claim. Al-Arian himself defended the statement on FOX News. Here’s what he told Bill O’Reilly on September 26, 2001:
O’REILLY: … In — in 1988, you did a little speaking engagement in Cleveland, and you were quoted as saying, “Jihad is our path. Victory to Islam. Death to Israel. Revolution. Revolution until victory. Rolling to Jerusalem.” Did you say that?
AL-ARIAN: Let me just put it into context. When President Bush talked about crusade, we understand what he meant here. The Muslim world thought he is going to carry a cross and go invade the Muslim world and turn them into Christians. We have to understand the context. When you say “Death to Israel,” you mean death to occupation, death to apartheid, death to oppression, death to…
The whole world knew in 2001 about Al-Arian’s support for violent jihad and death in the name of Islam. But in 2002, Tom Campbell wrote “I never heard Professor Al-Arian utter a single word disloyal to the United States. Nor did I ever hear him say anything anti-Semitic, or racist, or religionist, against any group.” So Victory to Islam, Death to Israel doesn’t count as any of those? Come now.
One defense of Campbell might be that he didn’t watch Bill O’Reilly. I sure don’t. But read the letter further. “I read a transcript of the O’Relly Factor interview last autumn,” Campbell said. He knew.
Tom Campbell knew when he wrote his letter in defense of Sami Al-Arian that the man had shouted “Death to Israel,” as well as “Victory to Jihad.” He wrote anyway. Why is he saying otherwise at the convention?