To help secure a conviction, the prosecution retained Mr. Matthew Levitt to testify as an expert on Hezbollah and Fadlallah. Levitt’s extreme bias revealed his pro-Israeli backgrounds and his testimony at the trial demonstrated his ignorance of Hezbollah and Shi’a Muslim matters. He did not even know the correct title of a prominent Shi’a cleric, Sayyed Fadlallah. Fadlallah’s status among Shi’a Muslims in general is like that of the Pope among Catholics. Yet, Mr. Levitt testified as an expert in regards to Fadlallah and was paid an astonishing $25,000 for only two days of work!
Who is Matthew Levitt?
Before addressing this question, it is important to note that Mohamad does not harbor any ill will toward the Jewish people. In fact, he has Jewish friends, and his former attorney of ten years, Mr. Stanley Cohen is an orthodox Jew. However, to demonstrate Mr. Levitt’s bias and loyalty to Israel, and thus his animositytoward Hezbollah, it is important to bring to light Levitt’s backgrounds and political affiliations.
Matthew Levitt is an orthodox Jew. He attended a pro-Israeli university (Yeshiva University) that annually gives an honorary degree to Israel’s prime minister. He lived in Israel and worked for the Israeli government for some years, a fact he did not disclose on his curriculum vitae or in his testimony at the trial.
Mr. Levitt’s employer, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has, from its origins and through its history, intimate connections with pro-Israeli policy, including AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). It is also one of the organizations which is responsible for the spreading of Islamophobia in America. Mr. Levitt is a frequent speaker at AIPAC and other pro-Israel events. He has advocated for “theocentrism among all Jews and Israelis” with respect to politics. He has also written statements including: “We finally learned how to protect ourselves from a world who has been killing and plundering Jews for millennia.”
Levitt’s writing unequivocally reveals a consistent prejudice, in particular, one against acknowledging legitimate social services provided by Arab organizations, including Hezbollah..
At Mohamad’s trial and subsequent federal trials, Mr. Levitt’s skewed “expertise” on terrorism was exposed under cross-examination. On the stand, Levitt admitted to the following:
- He has never traveled to Lebanon, so he never conducted field study there, a fact he hid on cross-examination at Mohamad’s trial, but was compelled to admit at a later trial.
- He does not speak or read Arabic.
- He also admitted that he was not an expert on Middle East history, Islam, the Quran, or Lebanese society. Thus, he was not qualified to opine whether a person was a good Muslim, a Lebanese Nationalist, or a Hezbollah member.
At trial, Mr. Levitt’s ignorance concerning Hezbollah and Lebanon was obvious, and his bias could not be starker. He committed perjury about his credentials, Mohamad’s upbringing, and other matters. In the atmosphere of the tragedy of 9/11, he painted Mohamad as a fanatic, played on the jury’s emotions, and fabricated a character for Mohamad that fits extremists. Then, he falsely attributed the information to others.
Inconceivably, Mr. Levitt did not answer one question truthfully that dealt with facts relating to Mohamad’s background. He blatantly lied and fabricated details even though the correct information was readily available on the Internet. For example: To terrify and inflame the jury, he wrongly portrayed Mohamad as a fanatic whose upbringing was based on hatred for America and the West. To support this falsehood, he lied about the school and the mosque that Mohamad had attended in Lebanon. He misleadingly testified that Mohamad had received “a very Hezbollah education, a very religious education, but not just religious, religious of a certain kind. Very anti-Western, very anti-American, very pro-Iranian.” He attributed this information to Said Harb. However, Said testified after Levitt that he did not know anything about Mohamad’s education.
Because Mohamad had attended the Hussein Bin Ali mosque in Bourj Al-Barajneh in Lebanon, Levitt falsely testified that the mosque “was built by Sheikh Fadlallah, and in fact, I believe there might be times, certain key times, when only he can preach there.”
Fadlallah’s mosque is well known in Lebanon. It is not in Bourj Al-Barajneh but in Hartharek district. Saying Fadlallah’s mosque is in Bourj Al-Barajneh is like saying the Vatican is in Charlotte, North Carolina. At trial, Mohamad testified to this fact. At resentencing, Mr. Baer and Dr. Deeb confirmed Mohamad’s testimony that Fadlallah’s mosque was not in Bourj Al-Barajneh. Ultimately, ten years thereafter, Mr. Levitt himself acknowledged this fact in his new book, Hezbollah, the Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God.
Because Mohamad had told agent Khouri on the day of his arrest that he had called Fadlallah in 1995, Levitt wrongly testified that leaders are the only ones who can call Fadlallah:
“I don’t think he [Fadlallah] would be any more accessible than any other senior leader or significant personality. He has a significant entourage of bodyguards. I can’t just call up a senior U.S. official. I don’t think you can just pick up the phone and call up a senior Hezbollah either … and it [Hezbollah] also has kind of a grand spiritual leader, and that is Sheikh Fadlallah.”
Mr. Levitt blatantly lied about Sayyed Fadlallah’s accessibility and status in Hezbollah. Fadlallah’s web site showed his weekly schedule that had included times for telephone calls and visitation from the public. Additionally, Levitt’s testimony that Fadlallah was a senior Hezbollah official is false and unsupported by evidence outside of Mr. Levitt’s testimony. Defense expert Robert Baer, at resentencing, testified that Fadlallah was able to be reached by phone and was not a senior Hezbollah leader. One can’t call Hezbollah senior officials. Reputable experts, who have travelled to Lebanon and speak Arabic, and who are far more knowledgeable about Hezbollah than Levitt, affirm that Fadlallah was not Hezbollah, and that Fadlallah’s relationship with Hezbollah was not good.
Again, in his book, Levitt contradicted his earlier testimony at the trial by writing that Fadlallah was not Hezbollah.
Because Mohamad had received letters from his friend Abu Adam, whom he met in Charlotte, Levitt fabricated the following: “Said Harb’s statement that Aftimos [Abu Adam] was one of the cofounders of the Thursday night meetings, and he is a known Hezbollah operative.” Said never made such a statement. Moreover, Abu Adam converted to Islam decades after the Thursday gathering was founded, and he has never lived in Lebanon before.
Because the alleged “Charlotte Hezbollah cell” consisted of family members, Levitt found it convenient to tell the jury that Hezbollah cells were typically formed of family members. Due to Levitt’s ignorance of Hezbollah’s structure, he was not aware that the brother of Hezbollah’s Secretary General was a leader in AMAL, a rival party of Hezbollah. So, obviously, this is not a family affair.
Because Mohamad in a photograph was kissing the cheek of a bearded man who was wearing a black turban (like the one Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and all Sayyeds wear) Levitt testified that the person in the picture was Nasrallah although the picture had no identifying facial features.
Even though the government did not accuse Mohamad or “the Charlotte cell” with procuring arms, Levitt testified: “People who are members of the cell were procuring arms for a senior Hezbollah procurement officer. They were clearly sending money back to people who are involved with terrorist operations.” When Mohamad’s attorney asked Levitt about the source of this information, he attributed it to Said’s statement to the FBI. Said never made such a statement to the FBI nor to any government agency.
Mr. Levitt even went so far as to misinform the jury and tell them that the reason Israel occupied Lebanon was Hezbollah! This statement was outlandishly false. It is axiomatic that Hezbollah was formed as a consequence of Israel’s invasion. The invasion, as Israel declared, was to drive out the Palestinian militias.
Mr. Kenneth Bell, the experienced prosecutor, knew exactly what he was doing when he retained Mr. Levitt and paid him $25,000 for two days of work. Mr. Levitt admitted at the trial that this amount far exceeded his monthly salary! No doubt Mr. Bell was aware of Levitt’s fabrications and biased background. He knew that a person like Levitt, who was extremely loyal to the state of Israel, would not be fair to a person like Mohamad, who was a Muslim and was being charged with material support to Hezbollah, the archenemy of Israel.