Israel Wages War on Palestinians Inside the U.S.
If you oppose Israel's atrocities against Palestinians and live in the United States, you can expect to become a target of the long arm of the Mossad.
Federal law enforcement in the United States has found a new partner to keep the pro-israel and anti-Palestine forces moving in the U.S. It is through false leads by right-wing organizations fronting for the Mossad based in the U.S. who are out to discredit and silence anyone who might speak up for the cause of Palestinians and Palestine.
What is behind at least some of the harassment is Canary Mission. It is a right-wing website with no information provided about who runs it. It compiles information on activists who speak out and organize on behalf of Palestinian human rights within U.S. college campuses. It then publishes and distributes that information to school and federal authorities, often by linking via Tweet, to assert that those students involved are linked to terrorist organizations, all with the goal of driving them out of the schools and making them unemployable.
As an example of how this operates in practice, consider the case of Ahmad Aburas, a student at Seton Hall Law School in New Jersey. He had been posting on Facebook to stir up support against Israeli brutality against Palestinians there.
One post, which he wrote after an Israeli attack in Gaza in 2014 that ended up killing 500 Palestinian children. In that one, Aburas wrote, “We are all RESISTANCE! We are all #hamas! We are all HUMAN!” By that, Aburas explained later, he was not arguing for support of Hamas itself. That’s the armed Palestinian political group that has waged its own bloody attacks on Israel because of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. Abura said he was simply wanting to show his support for those Palestinians killed in Gaza, Palestinians Israel had labeled as “Hamas members” to justify their killing.
In a second post, Aburas had written a support piece commending a Palestinian uprising against Israel.
Both posts are protected by the First Amendment as free speech.
Canary Mission found Aburas’ Facebook posts in 2016 and sent emails to Seton Hall officials alerting them to Aburas’ positions, which could have been linked to terrorism. Then Patrick Linfante, associate vice president for public safety at the University, immediately contacted the FBI for help.
All this was happening in the background with Aburas knowing nothing about any of this. His first contact with what Canary Mission had done was when a security officer rousted Aburas from a class he was attending one evening. The officer said that Gerald Lenihan, the school’s security manager, needed to talk with Aburas immediately.
With no further explanation, the security officer took Aburas into the building. There he was shocked to see Craig Mott, a New Jersey state police detective and Ted Kolshorn, an FBI agent. Both were part of the New Jersey Joint Terrorism Task Force. They interviewed him for 35 minutes to understand what was behind the pro-palestinian messages he had put on Facebook. They said Canary Mission had provided some of the information which brought Aburas to their attention.
In the conversation, Aburas said, “They were asking me questions about connections to terrorism. They demanded, “Do you know or sponsor any organizations outside the U.S.?” and asked him if he “would stand with the United States” versus such organizations.
As Aburas said, since he was “a Muslim man living in America, coming from a Palestinian background”, this was not the first time he had run into some antiMuslim pushbacks. “I don’t want to say I got used to it,” he said, “but I did get used to it. It’s normal. We’re always going to be spied on.”
Aburas answered the questions but the damage was done already. Based on a tip from an unvetted pro-israeli, anti-palestinian website, Canary Mission, Aburas had been subjected to a threatening conversation with a police detective and a FBI representative. He was intimidated, far more so than from other interactions.
The message the school had received warning it about Aburas had come in a Tweet sent to Linfante by Canary Mission. Linfante then forwarded that to other school employees, saying in a June 13, 2016 email, “See the attached tweet from Canary Mission to Seton Hall advising that one of our Law School students openly identifies with Hamas terrorists… Records indicate he is currently registered this summer and the coming fall semester at the [law school]. I am sure the [law school] is aware or (they should be) of Mr. Aburas and his political positions. I googled Aburas and found plenty of information regarding his open support for Palestine, freedom for Palestine and his contempt for Israel.”
Security manager Lenihan then responded to that email and forwarded it. He said, “Pat does not feel this is an immediate cause for concern but we should keep this student on our radar.”
Note how the case has already escalated without Aburas having yet done anything beyond just exercising his First Amendment rights.
This is not the only case where distorted information provided by some of these alt-right pro-israel groups has resulted in authorities taking things out on individuals who should never have been bothered by them. At the University of Chicago in April 2018, a student was questioned with Canary Mission material being at least part of why they were brought in. In a second case going back to 2014, Stoptheism.com, another right-wing website, claimed that Palestinian-American activist Hwaida Arraf and the International Solidarity Movement that she founded support terrorism. The ISM, which is comprised of foreign volunteers in occupied Palestinian territories who support Palestinian actions fighting back against Israeli occupation. Though these claims were made without any substantiation, this resulted in FBI agents being sent to her apartment in Albany, New York. According to her lawyer, in at least two of the interviews with Arraf the FBI brought up Hamas.
In February 2018 the FBI began a series of interviews investigating an organization called Students for Justice in Palestine. One student at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was questioned and asked for anonymity in return for speaking out about what had happened, was asked by an agent if money from SJP was “funneled” to organizations in the Middle East. That’s not the way the SJP typically works. It instead often fundraises money via things like bake sales which it then uses to organize events and pay speakers to attend. When an answer like that was provided, the FBI was far from satisfied. He instead asked if the student was familiar with anyone who “aligned with Hamas”. As the student said about the experience in an interview, “I felt really scared about the entire experience. If anything, it left me with a sense of loss of privacy. It was invasive. It’s really scary to think that doing this work can result in a visit from a federal agency when all you’re really doing is exercising your right to free speech”.
The Sjp-hamas link is a theory which right-wing groups have proposed. It uses SJP’S openness about ties to American Muslims for Palestine to suggest that the SJP must be in some way connected to Hamas, which is a formally U.s.-designated foreign terrorist organization. The digging has been supported by law enforcement protective actions which are governed by their being a bar on any organization or individual who might provide “material support” to terrorism. That law blocks anyone from not just from giving cash to foreign terrorist groups, but also from speaking out on behalf of militant groups who engage in peaceful activism and giving humanitarian aid in areas controlled by those militants. Activists in the area of civil liberties say the law hurts free speech and political organizing, and has ended up snapping up Muslim-americans and even non-muslims who never gave money and never committed violence of any kind.
As an example of how that has propagated, in 2001 the U.S. Department of Justice shut down an organization known as the Holy Land Foundation, arrested its leaders, and ended up putting those leaders in jail. In court Federal authorities managed to sway a jury into believing that the foundation, which did give money to charities in Gaza, was acting in support of Hamas because the charities were supposedly controlled by Hamas, and that Palestinians who had been assisted by the charities had ties to Hamas. The odd part of this is that the relief organizations in question also received U.S. government support directly. Prosecutors also never said the Holy Land Foundation money was used to foment terrorist attacks or that the funds were intended to support any terrorist activity. Further, the specific charities involved in Gaza were never placed on the U.S. government terrorism list.
Shutting down the Holy Land Foundation and jailing those in charge has had long-term effects, however. Since it was at one time the biggest Muslim-run charity in the U.S., it had ties to many in various walks of Muslim political life in the United States. The accusations of what it had done now has spread far and wide beyond the original Foundation, intimidating others.
David Horowitz, a well-known rabidly far-right Jewish activist, has been aggressive in his attempts to connect the Students for Justice in Palestine to terrorism. In an interview with The Intercept, he said bluntly that “SJP is an integral part of the Hamas terrorist network”, and that the student group is “funded by Hamas through American Muslims for Palestine”. He says he has not contacted the FBI, but the information he gathers is clearly being used by some authorities as partial justification for their investigations.
The national policy director for American Muslims for Palestine, Osama Abuirshaid, said Horowitz’s claims are unjustified. AMP does give grants to different chapters of the SJP around the country, amounting to some $10,000 a year. They also help arrange training for students. Beyond that, they have little to do with the SJP activities. Abuirshaid said that, “It’s guilt by association. They keep making like it’s a conspiracy, and there’s this connection and this hidden agenda. It’s all nonsense. There’s nothing. They’re desperate and trying to censor, instead of engage these students in a free debate.”
Michael Deutsch, a lawyer who has defended many Palestinians against falsely-based criminal charges in the United States, said this–and the FBI involvement in questioning activists–is just another in a long list of harassment and ongoing illegal surveillance of Americans who support Palestinian human rights. As he also said in a recent interview, “There is this continual cloud of potential repression of the Palestinian-american community. Anytime the FBI is visiting people’s homes or their workplaces or placing informants in the mix of people who were doing public organizing, it creates a chilling effect on people. People are concerned about raising issues about Palestine in their community because they’re afraid they’ll be targeted.”
The impact of such surveillance and intimidation can be devastating. In 2010, for example, the FBI conducted a mass raid on 23 Midwest-based activists and their homes. They were subpoenaed and pushed to testify as to any “material support” they might have provided to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Those allegations were made solely from the testimony of an undercover informant. No charges were eventually filed against any of those pulled in during this sweep.
The probe did not just stop there, however. It eventually brought federal investigators to well-loved Chicagobased Palestinian activist Rasmea Odeh. She was charged with lying to immigration officials because she had not disclosed a previous conviction on terrorism charges in an Israeli military court. She was deported in 2017 to Jordan as a result of the investigations. She says the confession that led to that conviction, one for setting off a bomb in Jerusalem in 1969 which ended up killing two students, was tortured out of her by Israeli soldiers.
In questioning about its role in running over fundamental U.S. Constitutional and human rights in doing its investigations, the FBI stood its ground that its work was well-thought-through and justified. In an interview on the matter, FBI spokeperson Kelsey Pietranton said that the agency “relies on the American people to provide tips and information regarding criminal activity and possible threats to our nation’s security.” She said that those “allegations are reviewed by the FBI for their merit, with consideration of any applicable federal laws — which does not necessarily result in the opening of an investigation. When warranted, we take all appropriate actions, including seeking further information and conducting interviews. Regardless, the FBI only investigates activity which may constitute a federal crime or pose a threat to national security. Our focus is not on membership in particular groups but on criminal activity. The FBI cannot initiate an investigation based solely on an individual’s exercise of their First Amendment rights.”
Based on the many examples listed here, Pietranton’s
statements come across as mostly disingenuous and self-serving denials. In a world where an Ahmad Aburas could be taken in for questioning just on the suggestions of a third-party right-wing pro-israel website–it appears we have moved into a new world where free speech is always suspect and no one is safe from the overreach of the law, especially if they are a target of Israel.
It is also yet another example of how Israeli has extended its tendrils into the on-the-ground shock troops who protect its interests in the United States. No other country is defended and protected so thoroughly and on so many fronts as Israel is within the United States.
Editors note: It is true that some Palestinians and those who support them support militant Islamic agendas.
A number of pro-palestian groups are fronts for the Muslim Brotherhood. The Holy Land Foundation was linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and its program of Civilization Jihad.
Being victims of Israel makes Palestinians sympathetic, but sometimes such sympathy is abused by those whose agenda is to convert the U.S. and other western countries into Islamic states.
Opposing Israel's militant Judaism should not mean supporting a militant Islamic agenda.