What we are witnessing in Gaza is not Israeli retaliation, but an act of unprovoked Zionist genocide using American-made weapons, based on a bloody lie about rocket barrages obligingly circulated by American media. The question for Americans to ask now is this: what must we do, with our American-made mouths, brains, and bodies, to stop it?
Fake Jew assessing Rocket damage after after a beloved Palestinian family member(s) have been raped and murdered by ‘IDF’
20 Jul 2018
Jerusalem (AFP) – Israel’s Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned Friday of a “much tougher” response against the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas if it fires more rockets from the Gaza Strip.
“If Hamas continues to fire rockets then Israel will respond in a much tougher way than they (the Hamas leadership) think,” Lieberman said in a statement after a spike of violence around Gaza.
PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES, GAZA, PALESTINE – 2018/07/17: A general view of the arts and handcraft village that was damaged by the Israeli air strikes in Gaza City.
Jomma Alzaem was still looking frantically for his rare antiques amid the rubble in Gaza’s Arts and Crafts Village on Wednesday, four days after it was severely damaged during Israeli air strikes.
Israel said the strikes across Gaza were against Hamas, the group that rules the isolated Palestinian territory. One strike hit an unfinished building right next to the village, where Mr Jomma owned a brass shop.
“I believe that Israel wanted to target the village, not the building. They targeted Palestinian heritage, a heritage that they don’t own,” Mr Jomma, 67, told The National.
“I spent years collecting the brass. I had items about 100 years old. My shop was considered as a tourist attraction, and now all of the brass and relics are under rubble.”
The European Union (EU) on Friday renewed its refusal to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 (includes E. Arab Jerusalem).
Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, said during a press conference Friday evening in Brussels, “We do not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied since 1967 and we do not consider them to be part of Israeli territory.”
On the diplomatic row between Israel and Ireland following a bill banning imports to the latter from Israeli settlements, Kocijancic said, “We are of course following the legislative path of this proposal,” adding that she is in no position to comment on a draft law that is pending.
The Irish Senate Wednesday voted for a bill banning the import of goods made in Israeli settlements.
The draft law will be presented to the House of Representatives for final approval. Ireland’s ruling part opposes the proposal.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday summoned the Irish ambassador in Israel to protest the bill and threatened to close the Irish Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Dozens of Israeli police officers prevented, Saturday, Palestinian academics, intellectuals and religious leaders from holding a conference at a Palestinian college in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, in occupied Jerusalem. The Israeli officers also issued an order shutting the educational facility down.
The officers, accompanied by security officials, surrounded the Arts Campus (Hind al-Husseini Campus) of Al-Quds University, in Sheikh Jarrah, and prevented the Palestinians from holding the two-day planned Fourth Academic Conference on Islamic Waqf (Endowment) in occupied Jerusalem.
The WAFA Palestinian News Agency said the conference was organized by Waqf and Heritage Reservation Society and the Islamic Supreme Committee, in Jerusalem, and was funded by the Jerusalem Waqfiya Fund headed by Palestinian businessman and philanthropist Munib al-Masri.
WAFA added that the police detained al-Masri, and took him to an interrogation facility, in occupied Jerusalem.
The attack is the latest in a series of Israeli violations targeting conference, meetings and various social, religious and political activities in the occupied city, as part of its attempt to solidify its full control over all aspects of life in Jerusalem.
Next time you touch down at Ben Gurion airport, Pad Dar, you should kiss the ground and say, “Hi Palestine, nice to see you again.” Israel has no right to it at all – it was stolen in a terror raid, just like Najd/Sderot and hundreds of other Palestinian cities, towns and villages.
Israel’s propagandists have a training manual that teaches the art of sugar-coating and downright lying so that gullible audiences will easily swallow their poison.
Notice how everything Israelis dislikes, and everything that thwarts their lust for domination, is now labeled “Iranian-backed”. They’d have us all believe we are in mortal danger from Iran and must therefore huddle together in a collective act of aggression orchestrated by Tel Aviv, Washington and London.
The 116-page instruction manual, called the 2009 Global Language Dictionary, was produced by The Israel Project (TIP), which describes itself as “non-partisan” on Twitter but elsewhere says it’s “devoted to educating the press and the public about Israel while promoting security, freedom and peace”. See here for an evaluation.
TIP provides journalists, leaders and opinion-formers with “accurate information about Israel”. Its purpose is to help the worldwide Zionist movement win the propaganda war by persuading international audiences to accept the Israeli narrative and agree that the regime’s crimes are necessary for Israel’s security and in line with “shared values” between Israel and the West.
And because God, the Great Real Estate Agent in the Sky, gave them the keys to the Holy Land their abominable behavior is deserving of our support.
The manual teaches the propaganda tricks that Israel’s scribblers and drivellers use to try and justify the slaughter, the ethnic cleansing, the land-grabbing, the cruelty and their contempt for international law and UN resolutions, and make it all smell sweet.
Here’s a sample slice of hasbara (i.e. pro-Israel propaganda) from the comments to a recent article I penned about the great American journalist Grace Halsell, who fought tirelessly for justice and did so much to expose the nonsense peddled by Christian-Zionism before she died in 2000.
When it comes to clever con artistry, Israel ranks the top with it’s control of Hollywood and special effects.
Pad Dar · Top Commenter
There is no place called p-stine. My suggestion for p-stinian sympathizers is that you should visit, find out what it is REALLY like there without anyone from either side telling you. REALLY find out what you are supporting. Me thinks this reader [commenter later edited this to ‘writer’] has *NEVER* visited the place called pstine. But, you should. Israel is all over the book of Revelation. There ARE, in fact, close to 300K Messianis and Christians in Israel.
The word of GOD does NOT change, with or without Hagee. God plainly says to ‘bless’ Israel. OF COURSE it matters if their government sticks and that should be reported. But, what this site and millions of others FAIL to do, is narrow it down TO the Israeli govt. But, you don’t, so everyone hates Israelis because of that.
Very unfortunate. VISIT P-stine. Especially near S. ISRAEL, close to Sderot and Ashkelon, and WAKE THE HELL UP. There is NO American that I know that wants rockets shot at them on a DAILY basis. But, of course, GRACE (BAD name for an UN graceful person) you don’t report THAT.
In the back of my Bible there’s a map of “Palestine at the Time of Our Saviour”. An earlier map of the same territory calls it Canaan. True, there’s also a map showing the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel which came to a sticky end in 597BC. Here you’ll see how the Jewish Virtual Library (part of The American-Israeli Co-operative Enterprise) has wiped Palestine off their modern-day map, so let’s hear no more about Hamas or Iran wanting to wipe Israel off the map.
There was even a Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem for nearly 100 years, but we don’t make a big fuss about it.
In any case, who takes the scribblings of ancient scribes – the hasbara myth-makers of their time – without a very large pinch of salt?
Pad Dar gratuitously insults Grace when she’s not here to defend herself, and seems to be saying that Grace never visited the place called “Pstine”. Grace, in one of her own articles says: “By living among Israeli Jews as well as Palestinian Christians and Muslims, I saw, heard, smelled, experienced the police state tactics Israelis use against Palestinians. My research led to a book entitled Journey to Jerusalem.”
In highly acclaimed books such as Journey to Jerusalem and Prophecy and Politics, she described her young years as a Christian and trips to the Holy Land she later took, “disguised” as a follower, with televangelist Rev. Jerry Falwell.
Swigging on beers as they tend their barbecue. They watch Gaza burn from their vantage-point. In Sderot (once the Palestinian village of Najd).
She revealed the unsavory relationship between Falwell and right-wing Israeli leaders, reporting, for example, that the evangelical Falwell had been provided by Israel with an expensive private plane. And that, despite the fact that some 15 percent of Palestinians are Christian, Falwell’s American Christian tour groups rarely saw or had the opportunity to talk to Middle East Christians.
Or was our hasbara commenter claiming I’ve never visited Palestine? If so, wrong again. The question is, has Pad Dar ever been there?
He/she talks of Sderot and rockets. The hasbara instruction manual has the following advice:
“Humanize Rockets”: Paint a vivid picture of what life is like in Israeli communities that are vulnerable to attack. Yes, cite the number of rocket attacks that have occurred. But immediately follow that up with what it is like to make the nightly trek to the bomb shelter.
Israelis claim 12,000 rockets were fired from Gaza in the 8 years up to the start of Operation Cast Lead. But they never say how many bombs, rockets and shells (including the illegal and prohibited variety) Israel’s F-16s, tanks, armed drones and navy gunboats poured into the densely-packed humanity that is Gaza in the same period.
And they are careful not to mention that the township of Sderot, targeted by Gaza’s rockets and therefore a major propaganda asset of the Israeli regime, is built on the ruins of an ethnically cleansed Palestinian village called Najd, whose inhabitants were forced to flee by Jewish terrorists in May 1948. Najd wasn’t allocated to the Jews in the 1947 UN Partition – they stole it at gun-point.
This is who replaced the Palestinians.
There is NO American that I know, or Brit, who would stand for being thrown out of his home by foreign thugs. So if anyone needs to WAKE THE HELL UP it’s you, Pad Dar! Get a grip on the facts.
Remember too that Ben Gurion airport, which serves Tel Aviv, was formerly Lydda airport. Lydda, shown on my biblical map of Palestine, was a major Arab town and communications hub during the British mandate and designated Palestinian in the 1947 UN Partition.
In July 1948 Israeli terrorist troops seized the town, shot it up and drove out the population. Donald Neff reported how, as part of the ethnic cleansing, the Israelis massacred 426 men, women, and children. 176 of them were slaughtered in the town’s main mosque. Of all the blood-baths they say this was the biggest. See also for lurid details.
Out of a population of 19,000 only 1,052 were allowed to stay. The others who survived the murderous onslaught were forced to walk into exile in the scalding July heat leaving a trail of bodies – men, women and children – along the way.
Who was responsible for this act of infamy? Israel’s great ‘hero’ Moshe Dayan, who later became defence minister and foreign minister.
Next time you touch down at Ben Gurion airport, Pad Dar, you should kiss the ground and say, “Hi Palestine, nice to see you again.” Israel has no right to it at all – it was stolen in a terror raid, just like Najd/Sderot and hundreds of other Palestinian cities, towns and villages. Is this how the Great Real Estate Agent in the Sky hands over the keys to the old kingdom?
Today I received another gem from somebody calling themselves ‘Michelle’…
Your remarks about “Israel occupying the Holy Land” reflects an embarrassingly ignorance of the facts. Israel is the Holy Land, established 3000 years ago by the Jewish People, verified by the archaeological record and Biblical and Quranic texts, in which Israel appears 2500 times. Jesus Christ is called the King of Israel in the New Testament and an entire chapter in the Quran is devoted to “Bani Israil” The Children of Israel.
Your so-called palestinians are merely illegal Arab interlopers most of whom invaded Israel in the early to mid-20th century. The most common “palestinian” surname is al-Masri, “the Egyptian” In fact, Jews are the only indigenous nation ever established in Israel over the course of the last 3,000 years.
Fact or hasbara fiction, Michelle? Are you by any chance another one of the hundreds of cyber-scribblers hired and trained by the Tel Aviv lie machine?
Meet the hasbara experts
The Israel Project among other things offers students a Media Fellowship with 9 weeks training and a stipend of $2500. One of the fellowships is in Web Advocacy and Outreach under Brandon Gray, who has former connections with the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) campaign training institute in Washington. The tasks it covers include
online pro-Israel advocacy by updating TIP’s Twitter and Facebook accounts
Posting TIP videos on Facebook and YouTube
Monitoring anti-Israel Web sites and news outlets
TIP’s ‘David Project’ is designed to “educate and prepare college students to assume leadership roles and support their efforts to deliver Israel programs and events to thousands of students on their campuses. Our ground-breaking Israel education curricula and our unique programs are present in more than 130 Jewish high schools and middle schools, laying a foundation for pro-Israel attitudes and advocacy in college and beyond.”
Sinister. Imagine the situation in, say, 5 years’ time. The Arabs and Iranians and specifically the Palestinians set their face against media training and communications long ago.
They are amateurs, and in the case of the Palestinians not even that. Lazy, shiftless, unresponsive and a closed shop. Writers like me have no access, receive no support. Why do we bother? Good question. It now has more to do with resisting the tide of Zionism that swamps our own country.
TIP’s executive director, Marcus Sheff, served in the IDF for 25 years – “the world’s most moral army”. Did he dream that one up, by any chance? He was a prominent spokesperson for the IDF during the second Intifada and the Lebanon War. Today, he trains senior IDF officers in media skills.
Josh Block is CEO and president of TIP, and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. He’s dead against the Palestinians gaining statehood and wrote in Politico.
that the Obama administration and Congress were right to stand against unilateral recognition of a Palestinian State and must vigorously lobby other countries, large and small, to join in pressuring the PA to call it off. If Palestinians go ahead it would undermine the quest for peace and risk anti-Israel terrorism.
Block says another reason for opposing the Palestinian move is that “recognition of this Palestinian government would be the recognition of a terrorist state — given the Hamas-Fatah unity pact…”
There are the legal reasons too, he says. “These underscore that the fictional Palestinian state conjured up for the United Nations doesn’t meet international law standards…”
Screamingly funny, that, considering that Israeli law falls well short.
“…And it doesn’t have defined territory… Perhaps most important, it would be a terrorist ‘state’, ruled by Hamas, which the EU, the United States, Japan, Canada and other countries have designated as a terrorist organization.”
The article simply oozes hasbara. Block throws in other reasons such as economic stability and political institutions, reliance on $1 billion from donor states and another $1.5 billion in tax revenue collected [but often withheld] by the Israeli government, and how “the Palestinian Authority is in the midst of a financial crisis”.
Those things of course couldn’t have anything to do with the illegal occupation and strangulation of the West Bank and the illegal blockade of Gaza by Block’s nice friends, could it?
And isn’t Israel in receipt of billions of American tax dollars disguised as aid?
No prizes for guessing that Block is the former spokesman for AIPAC.
Azov Battalion online propaganda shows Israeli-licensed Tavor rifles in the fascist group’s hands, while Israeli human rights activists have protested arms sales to Ukraine on the basis that weapons might end up with anti-Semitic militias.
Nazi-Zionist cooperation medal offered at auction
In a letter “about licenses for Ukraine” obtained by The Electronic Intifada, the Israeli defense ministry’s arms export agency says they are “careful to grant licenses” to arms exporters “in full coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government entities.”
The 26 June letter was sent in reply to Israeli lawyer Eitay Mack who had written a detailed request demanding Israel end all military aid to the country.
Azov’s official status in the Ukrainian armed forces means it cannot be verified that “Israeli weapons and training” are not being used “by anti-Semitic or neo-Nazi soldiers,” Mack and 35 other human rights activists wrote.
They had written that Ukrainian armed forces use rifles made in Israel “and are trained by Israelis,” according to reports in the country.
The head of the Israeli arms export agency declined to deny the reports, or to even discuss cancellation of the weapons licenses, citing “security” concerns.
But Racheli Chen, the head of the agency, confirmed to Mack she had “carefully read your letter,” which detailed the fascist nature of Azov and the reports of Israeli arms and training.
Both the defense ministry letter and Mack’s original request can be read in the original Hebrew below.
Israeli rifles in Ukraine
The fact that Israeli arms are going to Ukrainian neo-Nazis is supported by Azov’s own online propaganda.
On its YouTube channel, Azov posted a video “review” of locally produced copies of two Israeli Tavor rifles – seen in this video:
Starting as a gang of fascist street thugs, the Azov Battalion is one of several far-right militias that have now been integrated as units of Ukraine’s National Guard.
Staunchly anti-Russian, Azov fought riot police during the 2013 US and EU-supported “Euromaidan” protests in the capital Kiev.
The protests and riots laid the ground for the 2014 coup which removed the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych.
This photo from Azov’s website shows an officer of the neo-Nazi militia armed with a version of Israel’s Tavor rifle. The Tavor is made under license from Israel by Ukraine’s national arms maker Fort.
When the civil war began in eastern Ukraine against Russian-backed separatists, the new western-backed government began to arm Azov. The militia soon fell under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian interior ministry, and saw some of the most intense frontline combat against the separatists.
Today, Azov is run by Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s interior minister. According to the BBC, he pays its fighters, and has appointed one of its military commanders, Vadym Troyan, as his deputy – with control over the police.
Avakov last year metwith the Israeli interior minister Aryeh Deri to discuss “fruitful cooperation.”
Avoz’s young founder and first military commander Andriy Biletsky is today a lawmaker in the Ukrainian parliament.
According to The Telegraph, Biletsky in 2014 wrote that “the historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the white races of the world in a final crusade for their survival. A crusade against the Semite-led untermenschen.”
At a military training camp for children last year, The Guardiannoticed that several Azov instructors had Nazi and other racist tattoos, including a swastika, the SS skull symbol and one that read “White Pride.”
One Azov soldier explained toThe Guardian that he fights Russia because “Putin’s a Jew.”
Speaking to The Telegraph, another praised Adolf Hitler, said homosexuality is a “mental illness” and that the scale of the Holocaust “is a big question.”
An Azov drill sergeant once told USA Today “with a laugh” that “no more than half his comrades are fellow Nazis.”
An Azov spokesperson played that down, claiming that “only 10-20 percent” of the group’s members were Nazis.
Nonetheless, the sergeant “vowed that when the war ends, his comrades will march on the capital, Kiev, to oust a government they consider corrupt.”
After Azov’s founder Andriy Biletsky entered parliament, he threatened to dissolve it. “Take my word for it,” he said, “we have gathered here to begin the fight for power.”
Those promises were made in 2014, but there are early signs of them being fulfilled today.
This year the battalion has founded a new “National Militia” to bring the war home.
Led by its military veterans, it specializes in pogroms and thuggish enforcement of its political agenda.
Earlier this month, clad in balaclavas and wielding axes and baseball bats, members of the group destroyed a Romany camp in Kiev. In a YouTube video, apparently shot by the Avoz thugs themselves, police turn up towards the end of the camp’s destruction.
They look on doing nothing, while the thugs cry, “Glory to the nation! Death to enemies!”
Israel’s military aid to Ukraine and its neo-Nazis emulates similar programs by the United States and other NATO countries including the UK and Canada.
This is also a throwback to the early Cold War, when the CIA supported fascists and Hitlerites to infiltrate from Austria into Hungary in 1956, where they began slaughtering Hungarian communist Jews and Hungarian Jews as “communists.”
The ADL argued that “the focus should be on Russia,” while the Wiesenthal Center pointed to the fact that other far-right leaders had met at the Israeli embassy in Ukraine – as if that somehow absolved their anti-Semitic views.
Attempts by some in Congress to bar US military aid to Nazis in Ukraine may explain military aid from Israel.
Israel has historically acted as a useful route through which US presidents and the CIA can circumvent congressional restrictions on aid to various unsavory groups and governments around the world.
In 1980s Latin America, these included the Contras, who were fighting a war against the left-wing revolutionary government of Nicaragua, as well as a host of other Latin American fascist death squads and military dictatorships.
It also included the South African apartheid regime, which Israeli governments of both the “Zionist left” and Likudnik right armed for decades.
As quoted in Andrew and Leslie Cockburn’s book Dangerous Liaison, one former member of the Israeli parliament, General Mattityahu Peled, put it succinctly: “In Central America, Israel is the ‘dirty work’ contractor for the US administration. Israel is acting as an accomplice and an arm of the United States.”
Amid an alarming rise in anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism, Israel now appears to be reprising this role in eastern Europe.
The United Nations says a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in need of food aid, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger. The Saudi regime in its 16-month aggression on Yemen has proved that it follows the same war patterns and conducts that the Israeli regime has been adopting in its assaults against Gaza within the course of past decade, particularly 51-day war in 2014 on Gaza strip that since 2007 is suffering from an all-out besiege by the regime.
TEHRAN (FNA)– A captured commander of Saudi-sponsored militiamen loyal to resigned Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi revealed that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has hatched plots aimed at the assassination of the high-profile figures of Ansarullah and the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, frequently called al-Islah, in a bid to advance its policies in the Arab country.
Ali al-Azani, in confessions broadcast on Al-Masirah television network, said the UAE has set up numerous terror cells in conflict-plagued Yemen, which are led by a militant called Ammar Afash.
Azani added that all activities of the outfits are being organized at the al-Safwah Hotel in the Western Yemeni coastal city of Hudaydah.
“I was initially on a committee run by Anwar al-Amiri in the southern city of Aden, and then forged an alliance with top-brass militants, including Ayman Hajar and Adnan al-Zuqri, in Hudaydah,” he pointed out.
Azani further noted that Zuqri was the head of assassination squads in Sana’a and the Southwestern province of Ta’izz.
“He has recruited a large number of people and tasked them with gunning down leaders of al-Islah and Ansarullah movements. All these would-be assassins have to obey commands being issued by Afash,” the captured militia commander disclosed.
I read this comment to the article: ” Approximately equal number of Jews were expelled from Arab countries as Palestinians from Israel.” My answer: Zionism came in and seduced the Jews in Arab countries, when not able to seduce it terrorized them into fleeing to Israel, pretending this was a safe zone, when it was Israel who terrorized them in the first place. Once the Arab Jews ‘escaped’ terror or made their willing journey to “Israel” the European white Jewish rulers gave them low status, sterilized the women, stole babies and experimented on them- The Jews of Libya and When Israeli Doctors Killed Tens of Thousands of Arab Jewish Children
After Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel, Netanyahu has set his sights on another strategic prize – the end of the refugee issue means the end of the Palestinian right of return.
In January, Netanyahu declared that UNRWA aims to perpetuate “the narrative of the so-called ‘right of return’, with the aim of eliminating the State of Israel, and therefore, UNRWA must pass from this world.” Netanyahu declared his strategic objective was to put the Palestinian right of return “to bed”.
In Trump and his national security adviser, John Bolton, the Israeli prime minister believes he has the perfect opportunity to do so.
No refugees, no problem
Standing in his way is UNWRA, a UN agency set up specifically to deal with Palestinian refugees. It is a target not merely because it provides Palestinians with a high standard of education, but because, in Israel’s eyes, it allows the descendants of first-generation refugees to maintain their refugee status in their host countries. It wants UNWRA to hand over its responsibility the UNHCR.
These statements have shot the plight of five million Palestinians refugees that lay dormant for decades, to the forefront of the Palestinian campaign. Four years ago, Land Day, when Palestinians revive their right of return by staging symbolic marches towards their former villages, was a one-day affair.
Thousands gathered in Arraba, Northern Israel; Sawawil, a Bedouin village in the Negev; and a few dozen in Jabaliya in Gaza. There were all of 70 demonstrators outside the Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem, and by evening it was all over.
The two demonstrations so far this month have involved tens of thousands. Thirty one Palestinians have been killed and hundreds injured by snipers stationed on the border fence with Gaza to enforce the no-go zone. Protest camps have sprung up 700 metres from the border fence. There is no sign of the protest dying down, and we are still weeks away from the anniversary of the Nakba in May.
The Israeli Army was at first blindsided by the sight of 30,000 unarmed protesters marching towards the border fence. In a tweet captured by B’Tselem before being deleted, the Israeli army said they knew “where every bullet landed”. 773 Palestinians were shot that day with live fire.
A history of war crimes
The history of this conflict is littered with war crimes. The difference this time is that senior Israeli ministers not only feel that they have nothing to apologise for, they actively rejoiced in the killings.
Israel’s defence minister Avigdor Lieberman summed up his government’s attitude to the Palestinians of Gaza – and one suspects Palestinians in general – when he said: “There are no innocent people in Gaza. Everyone’s connected to Hamas, everyone gets a salary from Hamas and all the activists trying to challenge us and breach the border are Hamas military wing activists.”
When a video shot on 22 December by a sniper was screened on Channel 10, it evinced the same response. The video recorded one of the soldiers whooping in excitement as the Palestinian is shot : “Wow, what a video!… YES! That son of the bitch.”
Naftali Bennett, minister of education, told Ynet: “Since when do we judge a soldier according to the elegance of his speech? I prefer a cheerful soldier to a grieving father.”
The public security minister, Gilad Erdan, from Netanyahu’s Likud party, told Ynet: “I believe in the purity of the soldiers’ weapons and the ethics of combat. Hence, my principle is always to defend, indeed, soldiers who are on the battlefield.”
New form of protest
On the Palestinian side, there are new elements to this form of protest. Unlike the second or even the first intifadas, it has been so far wholly peaceful. No Israeli soldiers have been fired at, or indeed injured. Gaza’s arsenal of home-made weapons has been left at home.
It’s also leaderless. Hamas was initially reluctant to become involved, although it acknowledged that some of its members had been killed. Far from supporting the Gaza demonstrations, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president who faces isolation from Washington over his opposition to the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, has continued to refuse to pay the salaries of public workers in Gaza.
Palestinian school girls sit behind a flag of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) as they attend the Life and Hope festival at an UNRWA school in the southern Gaza Strip refugee camp of Rafah, near the border with Egypt (AFP)
Put another way, as tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza are attempting, symbolically, to break the siege, Abbas is still reinforcing it. Neither Hamas nor Fatah have any bearing on what will happen next. This protest is genuinely popular.
The third element of the tactic at protesting is that it is infectious. If it continues, there will be a reaction in the West Bank. There are also talks in the Palestinian diaspora in Jordan about staging demonstrations at Israel’s border there.
By May, Israel could find itself in the situation in which it faces demonstrations on all its borders, which is why it wants to literally kill off this form of protest now.
The fourth element is that this action is a slap in the face for Israel’s Arab allies. Two months before Israel’s offensive, Abbas had been told in Riyadh by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that Palestinians would not get East Jerusalem as their capital and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees or their descendants.
The further Saudi Arabia, the Emiratis and Egypt attempt to bolster Israel and America’s plans for what Trump has called “the deal of the century”, the more they undermine the Palestinian cause and distance themselves from the very raw feelings of the Arab street.
One way or another, the unintended consequence of all of these stratagems to “put the refugees to bed” is that the refugee issue has regained its place centre stage of the conflict.
Kazim Ayesh spent 27 years as an UNWRA teacher in Jordan. He told me: “UNWRA is an international witness to the crimes against the Palestinian people. That is why they want to kill this witness and why they want to teach the next generation of Palestinians that Jerusalem is not the capital of Palestine and occupied Palestine is not your country.
“All Palestinians encourage their children to learn. They know it’s the only way to continue their lives and they go to the Gulf countries in their thousands. But for me as a teacher in UNWRA it is not about motivation.
“They have to learn to take back their rights. Their motivation is high. The camps will remain as a symbol of the refugee issue, whether or not you try to force the refugees out. We make sure they do not lose their Palestinian identity and that it is possible for them to plan to go back to their homeland.”
With Israel now facing the consequences of its mistreatment of the land and its resources, the historical revisionism once used to sell the disparity between Israeli and Palestinian agricultural prowess has become ineffective. For that reason, Israel must now use other tactics — chemical warfare through toxic agrochemicals, the physical destruction of Palestinian agricultural infrastructure, and illegal blockades – in order to keep the artificial narrative alive, creating the illusion of primitivism and scarcity where none exists.
Though the official narrative of the state of Israel claims that it has turned the land it occupies from an empty desert into a lush, agricultural wonder, the actual fate of the land following Israel’s establishment in 1948 tells a very different story.
It has often been said that Israel, since its establishment in 1948, has presided over the “miracle” of making the country’s “desert bloom.” That heavily promoted narrative — which asserts that the Palestinians have long lacked the capacity, knowledge or desire to properly develop agriculture in the region — has often been used as a legitimizing factor in Israel’s establishment. As former Israel Prime Minister Shimon Peres once said, “The country [Palestine] was mostly an empty desert, with only a few islands of Arab settlement; and Israel’s [cultivated] land today was indeed redeemed from swamp and wilderness.”
Were it not for Israel, the desert would have remained unproductive and fallow – or so the story goes.
There is, however, another side to this story, one that shows that the “blooming desert” of Israel is a convenient disguise for the degradation and destruction of Palestine’s natural resources, a means of obfuscating the worst of occupation by wrapping it in the cloak of Zionist mythology.
While a central theme of Zionist mythology has long been the need for the Jewish Diaspora community to re-establish itself by returning to agricultural labor, the truth of Israel’s agricultural “success” involves the unsustainable use of occupied resources and the deliberate destruction of the land and water still used by Palestinians today.
Erasing a rich history
Though the official narrative of the state of Israel claims that it has turned the land it occupies from an empty desert into a lush, agricultural wonder, the actual fate of the land following Israel’s establishment in 1948 tells a very different story. Indeed, prior to 1948, the historical record demonstrates that Palestinian farms were very productive and that both Palestinian Arabs and Jewish settlers were successful farmers.
For example, a UN report on agriculture in Palestine between 1945 and 1946 recorded that Palestinian-grown crops accounted for nearly 80 percent of Palestine’s total agricultural yield that season, with Palestinian farms producing over 244,000 tons of vegetables, 73,000 tons of fruit, 78,000 tons of olives, and 5 million liters of wine.
Two years later, when the majority of Palestinians were forced from their land during the “Nakba” that founded the state of Israel, the farms and orchards that had previously been tended by Palestinians were left abandoned, as their owners fled under the threat of death at the hands of Zionist militias.
As Israeli historian and journalist Meron Benvenisti detailed in his book Sacred Landscape: The Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948:
By April 1948 Jewish farmers had already begun harvesting the crops that had ripened in the abandoned fields and picking the citrus fruit in Arab groves. […] by mid-1949 two-thirds of all land sown with grain in Israel was abandoned Arab land.”
Thus, it was land theft that was largely responsible for Israel’s initial agricultural production, not the labor or agricultural expertise of Zionist settlers.
In addition, the claim that Israel turned an undeveloped desert into an agricultural wonder seems to be – in part – projection on the part of the Israeli state. Indeed, as Benvenisti noted, following the removal of Palestinians, the vast majority of centuries-old fruit orchards that had long been maintained by the native inhabitants of the land were untended, neglected and, in some cases, bulldozed to make room for ever-expanding settlements.
According to Benvenisti’s research, that neglect led to a situation in which “entire tracts of productive citrus trees, especially in the Tel Aviv-Jaffa area, were earmarked for the construction of housing developments,” as was the case for Palestine olive groves and pomegranate orchards that the land’s new occupants considered “an annoyance.”
Before the Holocaust, the movement’s central aims were the creation of a Jewish national home and cultural center in Palestine by facilitating Jewish migration. Thanks to the Holocaust, the great migration to Palestine manifested to achieve the Zionist goal.
Part of the reason for the destruction of the land was that it would weaken Palestinian claims to return to the land, as keeping agricultural infrastructure intact “might have made possible the absorption of the returning refugees.”
Current Israeli government policy, particularly its support for the construction of illegal settlements on Palestinian land, is the continuation of this effort to erase Palestine’s history by targeting its agricultural heritage as well as its natural wonders.
Indeed, Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted back in 2011 that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s steady push for Israeli expansion into Palestinian territory had been coupled with “his insistence on seeing nature and landscape as no more than an obstacle to the realization of his settlement vision.”
Covering a crime with water-sucking pines
Another project central to the “desert bloom” mythology is Israel’s “afforestation” of the desert, which has helped “turn the desert green” through the planting of non-native pine trees. These forests, largely planted by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), have been touted as a “miracle.”
Yet, the pine stands, much like Israel’s treatment of Palestine’s agricultural legacy, have been motivated by a need to cover up the events that led to the creation of the Israeli state.
Indeed, more than two-thirds of all JNF forests and sites lie on top of the ruins of Palestinian villages demolished during and after the founding of Israel, and the group’s continuing afforestation efforts are aimed at acquiring land in the occupied West Bank to prevent “trespassing” and “conceal” Palestinian villages in order to prevent the return of Palestinian refugees.
Moreover, the effort to maintain a forest of non-native trees – regardless of whether its chief aim is to cover up the true history of Palestine or “green” a desert — has come at a great cost to the natural environment. As journalist Max Blumenthal has noted:
Most of the saplings the JNF plants at a site near Jerusalem simply do not survive, and require frequent replanting. Elsewhere, needles from the pine trees have killed native plant species and wreaked havoc on the ecosystem.”
They also become fodder for forest fires that have caused major damage and mass evacuations throughout Israel over the years.
While these forests have been presented as an ecological miracle, they are instead destroying the environment and degrading the land’s resources, suggesting that the main driver behind the long-standing project is aimed at covering up the ruins of Palestine.
Continuing the attack on Palestinian agriculture
Today, the stark difference in agricultural development in the land tended by Israelis and Palestinians derives from policies that often receive little coverage in the media and are largely absent from the “desert bloom” narrative. Indeed, much of the coverage the issue has received paints Palestinian agricultural successes as either the work of foreigners offering aid or resulting from the “theft” of Israeli-settlement agricultural infrastructure.
Palestinian water tanks vandalized by Israeli settlers in Hebron. (Photo: ISM Palestine / Flickr)
Such reports fail to acknowledge the realities of the issue, such as the illegal blockade of Gaza that has crippled its economy and agricultural sector, as well as Israel’s destruction of agricultural infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank.
Gazan agricultural infrastructure was ravaged by Israel in times of war and, in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers regularly demolish rain cisterns, pipelines and irrigation systems installed by Palestinians, citing as a reason that such structures lacked the “proper authorization” from Israel. Farmers themselves, mainly in Gaza, are often targeted directly by Israeli soldiers if they come too close to the border fence.
The Israeli government has also targeted Palestinian agriculture through chemical warfare. The use of white phosphorus as a weapon against Gaza, for example, has had major consequences for the area’s farmers.
In addition to the chemical weapon’s often deadly effects on the human body, it has destructive effects on the environment and plants, as its incendiary nature often leads to the spontaneous ignition and burning of trees, forests and farmland. It also lingers in the environment for several years.
Beyond the use of chemical weapons, Israel has also directly targeted Gazan farmland with herbicide. In 2015, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)admitted to using herbicides and germination inhibitors to kill off vegetation along the Palestinian side of the border, damaging over 420 acres of land. A year later, tactic was repeated, this time destroying around 400 acres of farmland.
The IDF has stated that it sprays the chemicals over the vaguely defined “no-go zone” it has established along the border “in order to enable optimal and continuous security operations.” However, the area accounts for a third of Gaza’s arable land and 17 percent of the entire territory.
Furthermore, the herbicides, like white phosphorus, have consequences for the environment long after they are sprayed. As Anwar Abu Assi, manager of the chemical laboratory at Gaza’s Ministry of Agriculture, told Al Jazeera in 2016:
Herbicides are sprayed in high concentrations. Thus, they remain embedded in the soil, and then find their way to the water basin. This constitutes a real hazard for the population.”
The targeting of Palestinian agriculture in the present and its treatment by the Israeli and American press suggest another and nefarious way in which Israel’s “desert bloom” mythology has manifested. In order for Israel’s agricultural “superiority” to remain unchallenged, Palestinian agriculture must also be suppressed. Were Palestinian agriculture able to develop unimpeded and flourish, it would call into question the idea that the land was barren before the Zionists, threatening the latter’s legitimacy.
The cover-story for all conquerors and colonizers
The buffalo hunters tasked with destroying the source of livelihood of Native Americans: “These men have done more in the last two years, and will do more in the next year, to settle the vexed Indian question, than the entire regular army has done in the last forty years.
The myth of Israel “making the desert bloom” has its basis in neo-colonial narratives that have long been used in other settler states such as Canada, New Zealand, the United States and Australia.
In the cases of the latter countries, the native inhabitants and their culture have also inaccurately been depicted as “primitive” and incompetent, a narrative that suggests that the land would have remained “wild” and undeveloped were it not for the “fortunate” appearance of European settlers. Such narratives cast the settlers as both superior and normal while the natives become inferior and abnormal, thus obfuscating the settler’s status as foreigner and conqueror.
Zionist mythology reinforces similar themes. For example, as in the United States Native Americans were considered as uncivilized and wild as the natural environment, Zionist mythology reinforces the idea that all Arabs are “sons of the desert” while the desert similarly represents a barbaric obstacle to “progress” and development.
Another historical analogue is the 19th century concept of “manifest destiny” — the idea that the expansion of the United States had been preordained by God himself, which led the U.S. to break many of its numerous treaties with indigenous tribes and even go to war with Mexico in order to acquire the land it coveted.
The Israeli government similarly sees its expansion and control of all of Palestine as a matter of fulfilling prophecy and “redeeming” the Holy Land. This effort of redemption continues to feed Israel’s expansion. As Netanyahu has said, Israel is “obligated to develop all parts of the country – the Galilee and the Negev [the West Bank].”
Living the myth and the lie
Yet, no matter how much evidence exists to the contrary, Israel will never tell the real story behind the “miracle” of making “the desert bloom.” It will never tell the real story precisely because it can’t – to do so would mean demolishing the neo-colonial narrative at the center of the settler state, a narrative that is the pillar of its legitimacy.
Indeed, if Israel has not actually improved the land by making “the desert bloom” but instead degraded the land, the legitimacy of the state of Israel itself becomes questionable, as it suggests that its native inhabitants – the Palestinians – were better caretakers of the land than the current occupiers.
For this reason, Israel must continue to propagate the myth regardless of the facts, and continue to deny Palestine’s rich cultural history and agricultural legacy.
With Israel now facing the consequences of its mistreatment of the land and its resources, the historical revisionism once used to sell the disparity between Israeli and Palestinian agricultural prowess has become ineffective. For that reason, Israel must now use other tactics — chemical warfare through toxic agrochemicals, the physical destruction of Palestinian agricultural infrastructure, and illegal blockades – in order to keep the artificial narrative alive, creating the illusion of primitivism and scarcity where none exists.
The fat “new Israelis” enjoy having the Palestinian refugees locked away safe in the concentration camps, while they live off the Palestinian’s land.
The Department of Justice shut down the Holy Land Foundation, and in 2008 prosecuted and jailed its leaders.
AHMAD ABURAS WAS sitting in class one evening in September 2016 when a security officer at Seton Hall Law School, the New Jersey school that Aburas attends, came to get him. Gerald Lenihan, the school’s security manager, said he needed to speak to Aburas right away.
Aburas was surprised by the request, but he left his civil procedure class and followed Lenihan to his office, figuring it was about something inconsequential, like his car or school ID.
But when Aburas arrived at Lenihan’s office, it quickly became apparent that this was about something different. In the office were two law enforcement agents: Craig Mott, a New Jersey state police detective, and Ted Kolshorn, an FBI agent, both part of the New Jersey Joint Terrorism Task Force.
According to Aburas, Lenihan said, “These young men want to talk to you.” Then Lenihan left Aburas alone in his office with the two officers. For 35 minutes, they interviewed Aburas, not because they were interested in him as a criminal suspect, but because they had questions about pro-Palestinian messages he had written on Facebook.
His was one in a string of FBI inquiries into pro-Palestine activists across the country in recent years. Some of these interviews have rested on blacklists created by far-right, pro-Israel groups, and focused on alleged and unproven connections to militant groups in the Middle East. The Intercept has learned of four such interviews (though the number could be higher), two of which took place this year.
In two of the interviews, including Aburas’s, the FBI referenced Canary Mission, an anonymously run, right-wing website that compiles dossiers on activists who organize for Palestinian human rights on U.S. college campuses, claiming — without evidence — that the students have ties to terrorism in an effort to make them unemployable.
Advocates for Palestinian human rights have in recent years triggered a national conversation about the seemingly unconditional U.S. military and financial support for the Israeli government. The work of these advocates has drawn increasingly hostile tactics from far-right groups who wish to silence them, and the FBI interviews underscore the power of those groups — whose false claims are now apparently informing government action.
Civil liberties advocates are alarmed by the interviews, which they say intimidate political organizers, chill constitutionally protected speech, and are just the latest manifestation of a 50-year history of U.S. government scrutiny of pro-Palestine activists.
That the FBI is relying on information from the likes of Canary Mission creates even more cause for concern, because it signals that federal law enforcement is relying on unvetted blacklists designed to shut down criticism of Israel and smear students voicing pro-Palestinian political opinions.
“This is where Islamophobic, ‘alt-right,’ Zionist harassers in the private sphere intersect with government suppression — your worst nightmare of the government and its law enforcement apparatus, which is already in widespread violation of basic civil rights, responding to the most racist elements of society demanding a crackdown on political expression,” said Liz Jackson, a staff attorney at Palestine Legal, a group that assists students interviewed by law enforcement about Palestine.
WHEN THE FBI approached Aburas two years ago, they had concerns about two of his Facebook posts that Canary Mission had shared on its Twitter account. In the first, published during a punishing Israeli assault on Gaza in 2014 that killed 500 Palestinian children, Aburas wrote: “We are all RESISTANCE ! We are all #hamas ! We are all HUMAN !”
(Aburas told The Intercept in an interview that he is not a supporter of Hamas — the armed Palestinian political faction that has waged attacks on Israel because of its military occupation of Palestinian land — but rather, wanted to show support for Palestinians in Gaza, who were labeled as “Hamas members” in Israeli talking points to justify the killing of civilians during the war.) In an October 2015 post, he wrote in support of a Palestinian uprising against Israel. Those messages are First Amendment-protected speech.
Emails obtained by The Intercept reveal that Canary Mission alerted Seton Hall to Aburas’s words in June 2016. Patrick Linfante, associate vice president for public safety at Seton Hall University, then immediately alerted the FBI. (A Canary Mission spokesperson told The Intercept that, while the group is not surprised that the FBI is looking into “cases of vile anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry,” it does not send tips to the FBI.)
Asked why the law school contacted the FBI about the political opinions of a student, Seton Hall University spokesperson Laurie Pine said that the law school “respects the rights of its students to express their own personal opinions, political or otherwise, in the classroom, in the public square, or on social media.” However, she added, “because the safety and well-being of our students are always our paramount concern, the University has an obligation to report activity it views as a potential threat and to cooperate with the authorities.
Students have the right to refuse to meet with the authorities should they so choose.” Pine did not explain what “potential threat” Aburas posed to the school.
In a June 13, 2016, email about Aburas to other school employees, Linfante wrote: “See the attached tweet from Canary Mission to Seton Hall advising that one of our Law School students openly identifies with democratically elected Hamas terrorists…Records indicate that 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 info regarding his open support of Palestine, freedom for Palestine and his contempt for Israhell.”
Responding to that email, Lenihan, the security manager, wrote: “Pat does not feel that this is an immediate cause for concern but we should keep this student on our radar.”
The FBI and New Jersey police followed-up with Aburas on September 27, four months after Seton Hall had alerted law enforcement about the Facebook posts. Lenihan said in an email obtained by The Intercept that Aburas’s postings were being re-examined by law enforcement because of the September 2016 pressure-cooker bomb attack carried out in Manhattan by a New Jersey man.
According to Aburas, the law enforcement officers who questioned him were particularly concerned about what they saw as his support for democratically Hamas and his organizing with Students for Justice in Palestine.
“They were asking me questions about connections to terrorism,” said Aburas. He said they asked him, “Do you know or sponsor any organizations outside the U.S.?” He added, “They asked me if I would stand with the United States.”
The law enforcement scrutiny came as no surprise to him.
As “a Muslim man living in America, coming from a Palestinian background,” Aburas said, “I don’t want to say I got used to it, but I did get used to it. It’s normal. We’re always going to be spied on.”
The other FBI interviews of organizers for Palestinian rights have carried similar threads. A University of Chicago student, who asked not to be named, was questioned in April 2018 based in part on Canary Mission propaganda. In another instance in 2014, FBI agents wanted to question Palestinian-American activist Huwaida Arraf because StoptheISM.com, another right-wing website, claimed without evidence that Arraf and the group she co-founded, the International Solidarity Movement, support terrorism.
(The ISM is a group of foreign volunteers in the occupied Palestinian territories who support Palestinian action against the Israeli occupation. Arraf was not home when FBI agents came to her apartment in Albany, New York, but her lawyer later spoke with the FBI on her behalf.) And in two of the interviews, the FBI brought up Hamas.
FBI spokesperson Kelsey Pietranton did not directly answer questions about the questioning of activists who organize around Palestine. In a statement to The Intercept, she 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,” and that these “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.”
IF THE FBI was concerned about criminal activity among the student activists, its agents made no indication of that in the interviews. They did, however, ask questions that echoed far-right propaganda about unproven links between pro-Palestine activist groups and militant groups.
In the two interviews that touched on democratically Hamas, FBI agents asked students about how Students for Justice in Palestine fundraised. In February 2018, FBI agents questioned a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, who requested anonymity. An agent asked if money from SJP was “funneled” to organizations in the Middle East.
Before the invasion of foreign Zionism, the Palestinians did not need aid. Now they are refugees while these invaders life off their land.
(SJPs typically fundraise through activities like bake sales and give that money back to the organization to pay speakers and organize events.) The FBI agent also asked if the student knew anyone who “aligned with democratically elected Hamas.”
“I felt really scared about the entire experience. If anything, it left me with a sense of loss of privacy. It was invasive,” the UCLA student said. “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 line of questioning that the FBI pursued in California echoes a theory advanced by right-wing activists that SJP is linked to democratically elected Hamas, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization, because of SJP’s ties to American Muslims for Palestine.
The theory has its roots in post-9/11 law enforcement scrutiny of Muslim-run charities that did humanitarian work in Palestine. These investigations are usually prompted by the legal bar on “material support” to terrorism — a broad law that prohibits not only giving cash to foreign terrorist groups, but also speech that encourages militant groups to engage in peaceful activism and the provision of humanitarian aid in areas controlled by militant groups.
Civil liberties activists say the law chills free speech and political organizing and has ensnared Muslim-Americans who never gave money for or carried out a violent act.
Most notably, in 2001, the Department of Justice shut down the Holy Land Foundation, and in 2008 prosecuted and jailed its leaders. Federal attorneys convinced a jury that the foundation, which gave money to charities in Gaza, supported Hamas because the charities were allegedly controlled by Hamas and Palestinians helped by one of the groups had associated the aid with Hamas.
However, those same relief organizations received U.S. government support and prosecutors never alleged that the Holy Land Foundation money went to militant attacks or were intended to support terrorism. The specific charities in Gaza that the foundation supported have never been placed on the U.S. government terrorist list.
But the closure of the foundation, once the largest Muslim-run charity in the U.S., and the convictions on charges of support for Hamas have cast a long shadow over Muslim political life in the U.S. Accusations of support for terrorism now dog any Muslim organization with former ties to the foundation.
Right-wing activists have seized on the fact that Muslims with former ties to the Holy Land Foundation have fundraised for American Muslims for Palestine and sit on its board, and that AMP has supported SJP chapters in the U.S.
“SJP is an integral part of the Hamas terrorist network,” David Horowitz, the prominent far-right activist who has relentlessly tried to link SJP to terrorism, told The Intercept. The student group “is funded by Hamas through American Muslims for Palestine,” he added. (Horowitz said he has not been in contact with the FBI about SJP.)
But Osama Abuirshaid, AMP’s national policy director, dismissed Horowitz’s claims as baseless. He also told The Intercept that while AMP gives grants to different SJP chapters — about $10,000 a year — and organizes trainings for SJP, AMP has no influence on the student group’s internal affairs.
“It’s guilt by association,” said Abuirshaid. “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.”
The FBI’s questions to activists are just the latest example of unwarranted harassment and surveillance of Americans who believe in Palestinian human rights, said Michael Deutsch, a Chicago-based lawyer who has defended many Palestinians from criminal charges in the U.S.
“There is this continual cloud of potential repression of the Palestinian-American community,” he said. “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 of people. People are concerned about raising issues about Palestine in their community because they’re afraid they’ll be targeted.”
Deutsch has seen this surveillance, which largely focuses on alleged links between activists in the U.S. and Palestinian groups abroad, escalate into indictments of activists and, in some cases, jail time or deportation for those who are not U.S. citizens.
In 2010, for instance, the FBI raided the homes of 23 Midwest-based activists and subpoenaed them to give testimony during an investigation into any “material support” they gave to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — allegations that stemmed from the testimony of an undercover informant. No charges were ever filed against the activists.
But, according to Deutsch, the government probe into Palestine solidarity activism eventually led federal agents to Rasmea Odeh, a revered Chicago-based Palestinian activist charged with lying to immigration authorities because she did not disclose her conviction in an Israeli military court on terrorism charges. Odeh, who was deported last year to Jordan, says her confession — to setting off a bomb in Jerusalem in 1969 that killed two students — was tortured out of her by Israeli soldiers.
There is no indication the current wave of FBI interviews is part of an investigation that will lead to criminal charges. Still, civil liberties advocates warn that the questioning poses a danger to free speech in the United States.
“They knock people off their feet in their confidence and their ability to just maintain their basic activism and their willingness to speak publicly about Palestine,” said Jackson of Palestine Legal, which also tracks instances of university suppression of pro-Palestine organizing. “Most people will think right away about what they say on social media and how many people they say it to. This means they stop speaking vocally and passionately about Palestinian suffering.”