By Daniel Pipes:
“Most Muslim immigrants are law-abiding and constructive citizens in the West. But Hamad’s case fits into a persistent pattern of immigrants who bring with them the bad habits imbued by the tyrannical politics and radical ideologies. Combining Islamic supremacism with nihilist disdain, they despise all that is non-Muslim, import a mélange of extremist ideas, and feel free of moral constraints. Consequently, they engage disproportionately in antisocial behavior, criminal activities, and terrorism. Reluctantly, I concluded almost a decade ago that “Muslim visitors and immigrants must undergo additional background checks.” I reiterate this now, lest more Riad Hamads be allowed in.”
Riad Hamad, 55, a suicide in Lady Bird Lake, Austin, Texas.
On April 14, 2008, Riad Elsolh Hamad, 55, left his family’s apartment in Austin, Texas, to get some prescription drugs. The immigrant from Lebanon and middle school computer teacher never returned home. Three days later, the police found his body, bound with tape, floating in nearby Lady Bird Lake, and concluded that “all signs indicate this may have been a suicide.”His family indicated that he had been under stress lately and even suicidal. And with good reason: the Federal Bureau of Investigationalong with the Internal Revenue Service had searched his house on February 27, 2008, when the FBI declared him a “person of interest” in a criminal investigation.
Despite this cloud around the dead man, local news outlets reported nothing but kind words and high praise for him. After Hamad’s family issued a statement describing Riad as a “peace activist who worked tirelessly on behalf of those less fortunate than him and was loved and admired by many members of the local, as well as international community,” the press duly picked up on this moniker and regularly called him a “peace activist”
Television station KVUE quoted Joshua Howell, assistant manager at the office where Hamad had a postal box, recalling him as “always in a good mood. Never upset. Never even heard him say a harsh word about anybody.” The principal at the school where he taught sent a letter to students’ parents calling Hamad “a longtime and valued” member of the faculty whose “love and passion for education touched us all.” At Hamad’s memorial service, retired Episcopal Priest Edward M Hartwell praised “his humanitarian work to help the children of Palestine [as] some of the most creative and effective work that I know of.”
Hamad himself boasted of his peaceable approach to politics: “All of our work is very transparent. We don’t work with any militant group or violent group, or anybody with a militant affiliation.”
That was the Riad Hamad praised by family, friends, admirers, and even himself. But Hamad had another side, the one that brought the FBI to search his house, that got him fired from Austin Community College for “making racist slurs and sexist jokes in the classroom,” and that made him a foul and unwelcome presence in my life. Thanks to the recent testimony by a former ally of Hamad who has turned against him, several years later, we now know something approaching his full story.
Hamad brought himself to my attention in early June 2006 by sending me, via certified mail, a summons to appear in court in Austin. The document bore a scrawled, unkempt handwriting on a form issued by the U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas, informing me that Hamad was suing me and Campus Watch for libel. (Campus Watch being a project of the Middle East Forum, he was effectively suing the Forum.)
This turned out to be the second amended complaint; I found myself in good company, as the summons also listed the Center for the Study of Popular Culture (now known as the David Horowitz Freedom Center), David Horowitz personally, the Center for Jewish Community Studies, the State of Texas, Joe Kaufman, Americans Against Hate, MilitantIslamMonitor.org, and an internet provider called CB Accounts. Hamad proceeded to file another three amended complaints and in them he tacked on yet more defendants (Freerepublic LLC, Jim Robinson, Laurence Simon, and Dotster Inc.)
His was a pro se summons, meaning that Hamad, a non-lawyer, had filled it out by himself and was representing himself – i.e., it cost him next to nothing to sue one and all.
Hamad charged each of us with 21 offences: libel and slander, malicious libel, malicious slander, defamation of character, defamation of character with intent to cause mental anguish, libeling and slandering a business name, defamation through fraud of a business name, interference with a business contract, tortious interference with a business contract, conspiracy to interfere with a business contract, interference with interstate commerce, interference with Internet commerce, conspiracy to interfere with Internet commerce, intentional infliction of mental anguish with the intent to injure, invasion of privacy, fraud, negligence, gross negligence, disparagement of a business name, disparagement of business products, and dilution of a business name.
In compensation for this long list of alleged abuses, Hamad demanded from his many defendants US$5 million in compensatory damages, $10 million for his loss of income, and $50 million in exemplary and punitive damages. Nor was that all: he sought a permanent injunction against our calling his business an “Islamic charity” or he personally a “Muslim fundamentalist.” He wanted a Department of Justice investigation into us for “criminal and racketeering work as lobbyists for a foreign country [i.e., Israel] without the proper permits and licenses.” He also insisted on public apologies by us in ten media outlets chosen by him, as well as payment for his court costs and “any and all other relief that Plaintiff might show that he is entitled to in a jury trial.”
Hamad gave insight into his mentality and his motives in the course of his lawsuit. His discovery requests of David Horowitz are particularly colorful, including:
- Document the “Religious affiliation of members of the board of CSPC, its affiliates and editors of Frontpagemag.org.”
- Provide a “Blood and urine sample of David Horowitz … to identify his ethnicity and religious affiliations.”
- “Identify any and all staff of the Israeli embassy that David Horowitz and CSPC are associated with, amounts of money paid for their services by the Israeli embassy.”
- Answer whether “David Horowitz is a devout Jews [sic] and observes the Sabbath.”
- Answer whether “David Horowitz eats pork and violates Jewish traditions.”
- Answer whether “David Horowitz is not a Semite and pretends to be Jewish to gain sympathy for his views and make money.”
This summons came as a total surprise, as a I had previously never heard of or mentioned Riad Hamad. Sleuthing revealed only the slightest and most indirect connection between us: Hamad had created and headed an organization called the Palestine Children’s Welfare Fund (PCWF) and in a January 18, 2004, weblog entry, “Lamyaa Hashim, Supporting Burqas and Suicide Bombers,” I had quoted Joe Kaufman who alluded to PCWF as follows:
The site belongs to the medical director for the Palestine Children’s Welfare Fund, Rosemary Davis
That’s it. I quoted 15 words from someone who mentioned someone who worked for Hamad’s organization. For this glancing reference, my pro-rated share of payments to Hamad would come to my share of at least $65 million, or about a million dollars per word.
What is the PCWF? NGO Monitor analyzed the organization in 2003 and found its primary mission to be “propagating the delegitimization of Israel.” As a 2007 summary by NGO Monitor put it, “Gaza-based PCWF openly exploits children’s issues for radical politicized agendas that promote the conflict. These activities are entirely inconsistent with its claims to be a humanitarian organization.” By way of example, NGO Monitor tells about PCWF’s children’s drawing contest in which
The judges rewarded, almost without exception, entries that featured fierce and violent hatred of Israel. The winning picture features a fire, in the shape of a map of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, consuming the Star of David with the word “Israel” written inside the flag. Another entry depicted a Palestinian flag dropping flames on an Israeli flag and burning Israelis standing next to it. Such activities serve only to advance a culture of violence and hatred.
In brief, PCWF is as crude and hate-mongering as its leader.
Mr. Pipes (www.DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum.