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The more terrorist sympathizers change, the more they stay the same.

At long last, the University of South Florida has fired Islamic Jihad’s U.S. chief, Professor Sami Al-Arian.

But Al-Arian’s long overdue firing is not enough. He should be deported, at the very least – and more deservedly, he should be punished with a long prison term.

And the University of South Florida should be punished along with him for waiting so long to do the right thing, and for doing so for the wrong reasons.

In my previous columns, I’ve outlined how Dr. Al-Arian operated the U.S. front group for Islamic Jihad and Hamas, how he laundered money for the 1993 World Trade Center bombers, how he advocated death to America and her allies, how he employed known bin Laden buddy Tarik Hamdi (who supplied the satellite phone which prosecutors say was instrumental to bin Laden’s blowing up of the U.S. embassies in 1998), how he openly raised money for Islamic Jihad’s terrorist operations at prominent mosques all over America, how he brought terrorists from Islamic Jihad – including current Islamic Jihad chief Ramadan Abdullah Shallah – into the United States by lying for them (just as he lied on his own citizenship application and related hearings) – all felonies.

Yet, with all of these activities, the University of South Florida somehow did not feel it was enough to get rid of this man. Years of complaints by the Tampa community and Florida taxpayers and years of negative stories about the professor who orchestrated the successful bombing of a school bus filled with Israeli children, was somehow not enough to fire this man.

What got this terrorist fired from the USF was not that he was a fundraiser and orchestrater of murder. No, it was the bad publicity of an appearance on FOX News Channel’s “O’Reilly Factor,” columns like mine on the Internet, and some angry USF parents whose kids didn’t want to go to school with the bloody professor anymore.

It certainly wasn’t spineless USF President Judy Genshaft who caused the firing of the terrorist professor. In fact, Genshaft hemmed and hawed all along the way at what should have been a no-brainer. And when she finally did it, at a hastily called, barely publicized meeting last Wednesday, the University resorted to legalese and a wimpy letter citing Al-Arian’s undue publicity, causing disruption to the university.

How sad that a university doesn’t have the guts to denounce criminal activity when it takes the form of terrorism. How sad that a university can’t just say terrorism is wrong and terrorists are unacceptable faculty members and educators.

The debate over whether to fire Al-Arian was framed as a debate over academic freedom during war.

Sorry, President Judy, but this was never about academic freedom. Academic freedom never included planning murder operations. If it did, Ted Bundy would be professor emeritus, rather than rigor mortis. Academic freedom is about the free flow of ideas, no matter how repugnant. It is not about the free commission of those ideas, no matter how repugnant. If it were, Jack Kevorkian would be a top academician. So would Charles Manson.

This wasn’t about Al-Arian’s free speech. There are plenty of Muslim and Arab college professors throughout this country who spout their hate and justification for murder of innocents by terrorists, and continue to enjoy their right to inhumane utterances. But, unlike Al-Arian, they aren’t necessarily taking part in this terror. And every year, universities fire profs for crimes, like child molestation, and unethical behavior, like affairs with students. Yet, apparently, engaging in several felonies, planning bloody terrorist operations and advocating “a river of blood that does not stop gushing, from martyrdom to martyrdom, from Jihad to Jihad” is no big deal at USF. There’s nothing unethical about it to President Genshaft and her university trustees, apparently.

I can’t totally blame the USF president, because she learned from another president, George W. Bush, that this terrorist mastermind was an acceptable guest at the American table. Somehow, Dr. Al-Arian, the terrorist, was invited to the White House on more than one occasion. (How he got invited is unclear, but when the Wall Street Journal documented Al-Arian’s terrorist activities, the New Republic reports that he copied conservative activist and influential White House adviser Grover Norquist with his complaint letter.)

But, while President Bush may not have known the specifics of Al-Arian’s acumen in terrorism, President Genshaft and her elitist USF coterie certainly did. But, they never cared about the dead Israeli children – or even the American victims of Hamas and Islamic Jihad – like Alisa Flatow. No, what they cared about was alumni membership, fundraising, student recruitment, research funding and news coverage. Lives and the immorality of murder were of no apparent concern to this university.

Since President Genshaft apparently found terrorism on her campus more palatable than bad publicity, she should be fired too. Her morality – like that of most universities, today – is located solely in her pocketbook.

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