Is­rael Wages War on Pales­tini­ans In­side the U.S.

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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.

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