This exchange is published with permission. My responses are in bold.

Dear Katherine:

I have tried to follow the Dhafir story since its inception. I feel that there is much more to it than what is reported in the press, and I am interested in your views since you probably know more about it than anyone else in the community. I am not concerned, here, with the “terrorism” charge that the Justice Department is now bringing. I consider this to be absolutely ridiculous and wrong on the face of it. I am concerned with those charges for which he has been found guilty by the jury.

It is clear that Dr. Dhafir is a compassionate man who was deeply committed to helping those in his native land,- especially the children,- who were so terribly impacted by the embargo following the first Iraq war. But he is a human being, and as such he may have faults which might have impacted his activities. I am not saying that this happened, but I suppose it is possible and might have been used to suit the government’s purposes.

Katherine: I understand what you are saying, and unfortunately that is what a lot of people think. From what I saw in court, I believe that he didn’t take a penny. To the contrary, he gave away much of his own wealth. I am distraught at the fact that Dr. Dhafir is facing 20-30 years for helping starving Iraqis. But this is not a just world.

Human beings are complex and though, in our culture, we like to designate people as good or bad, most of us are a mixture of both. Dr. Dhafir may have had personal failings that caused him to commit the crimes with which he is charged. But it also seems possible to me that some, or all of the crimes for which the jury found Dr. Dhafir guilty, were committed not to enrich himself, but to circumvent laws that he considered unjust and that were impediments to the just end that he sought: sending aid to Iraq and especially to the children there. Do you think that this is what happened? If so, is it something his lawyers used, or could have used, to reduce his sentence?

Yes I do. No the lawyers have fought it completely as a criminal case and silenced a group called “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” just after they took over the case. I think they did it because they felt it would be best for Dr. Dhafir, but I think this is a great tragedy. It meant that a few lone voices and an ecumenical group that met each day before the trial were all that was left. The size of the injustice is what has propelled my action. I am beside myself. (I would like to forward your email with my answers to a journalist and lawyer who is working on an article, and also to Dr. Dhafir’s lawyers. May I do that?)

Your efforts to keep this case before the public are most commendable. In today’s climate the government is hounding Muslims. Tomorrow it could be any of us. In this context, the words attributed to the German Pastor Martin Niemoeller upon his arrest by the Nazis are appropriate: “In Germany they came first for the Communists, but I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

My website speaks to all of this. You may want to look at it. I will send you a piece that I just posted the other day.

With best wishes,


Thank you for responding to me. It is people like you that have kept me going.

Sincerely, Katherine.