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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/9/11

US Dept of Treasury Freezes Palestinian Solidarity Activist's Bank Accounts

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The second thing to tell you is that the Grand Jury -- all twenty-three of us, there were fourteen subpoenaed in September -- All fourteen of us refused to appear at the Grand Jury. The US Attorney then subpoenaed nine more people, mostly Palestinian Americans, in December. And those nine all refused to appear at a Grand Jury because we learned that the Grand Jury can indict a ham sandwich. It is not an unbiased process. It is a prosecutor's dream. You have no right to have your lawyer present. You have no right to see the evidence being presented against you. You have no right to cross-examination of the witnesses. In fact, you have no right to see the witnesses.

We all realized it was just a witch-hunt and refused to participate in it. And there are consequences for that. All twenty-three of us for refusing could actually be imprisoned on contempt of court for refusing to participate in that grand jury. So that's the second part of this.

The third part is to say that the FBI has a long history of suppressing people's movements in this country. From the Palmer Raids in the 1920s to the McCarthyite period, COINTELPRO in the 1970s, the repression of the animal rights movement, the repression of the environmentalist movement, the repression of Puerto Rican independence movement up til today -- actually just before we were raided -- the Department of Justice released a report about the department's spying on peace organizations in the United States over the years 2001-2006. We are the latest chapter in that.

The new element is the Department of Justice has a new tool, a weapon, that was given to them in June 2010. The Supreme Court in a decision called Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project determined that some speech is no longer protected by the Constitution. Any speech that is, and this is the trickiest language, "coordinated with, directed to or directed from an organization that is on the State Department's foreign terrorist organization list can be construed to be material support for a foreign terrorist organization." As if someone who is doing solidarity for an organization, struggling against a brutal dictatorship, as if they provided guns or money to that organization or expert training on combat, something that sounds like material support for an organization.

Those are the elements for the case. We understand that is what is being used to charge us with material support.

KEVIN: What do you have to say about Hatem's case in particular? I can't get past the fact that I wouldn't know what to do if my bank account was frozen and that this is happening to Americans in this country. I think people should really find this to be a gross injustice. What can you say to bring in the human element? To let people know what the impact will be for Hatem?

JOE: The case of Hatem Abudayyeh and his wife Naima they have a five-year old daughter. This is Mother's Day weekend. Hatem's not a doctor or a businessman. He's a community activist. If I was him, I would be panicking about the loss of not being able to write checks. You know, I have all of my bills, all of them, plugged in to automatic bill pay. All of my bills will no longer be paid if I was in his situation. And, it's Mother's Day for goodness sake. It's supposed to be a weekend where families --

I just want to tell you, my wife and I, Stephanie Weiner, have known Hatem since he was a college student. We've known his family for twenty years. Hatem and his parents were founding activists in the Palestinian community organizations forty years ago. Hatem is a family man. In fact, a lot of people don't know this: Hatem and his wife, Nema, are the subject of a documentary called The New Americans" It was made by Kartemquin Films, the people who made Hoop Dreams. And it's the property of

Hatem was born and raised in the US. He went back home to his village ten or twelve years ago to take a bride and met Nema and they came back here and were married here and they've living here all these years and they hav a six year old daughter. Hatem is an upstanding leader in this community. This can happen to a public activist, a public Palestinian activist. There's nowhere to hide for any Arab American. This is such a terrible chilling acting by our government. It is the new McCarthyism. This is what the "war on terrorism," this is what it means. It means any Arab American or Muslim in the United States, you are viewed by the FBI as the enemy within.

KEVIN: Just in the past two days, we've seen two Muslim scholars actually removed from a plane. No good reason at all. It just made people uncomfortable. It seems like what you are having to face here, your entire group, is people who are uncomfortable with people. Or not even that. It's the use of the security apparatus against people because they can, basically. They don't even have to justify using the apparatus against you.

JOE: I think it goes a step further than that because all twenty-three of us are activists. In fact, the first fourteen whose homes were raided, we're lifelong activists. I'm fifty-two years old. I've been extremely active since I was eighteen years old, since I got to the university in 1977. That's how I met my wife. We were movement college students. In fact, this is one of the most ironic elements of this. This Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project decision --

Every decade there has been an antiwar movement and within the antiwar movement there have been organizations of people who have stood in solidarity with the people who are suffering under that war or under that occupation. The first movement that I was involved in that was a solidarity movement and my wife too was the movement against apartheid in South Africa. Well, in the mid-1980s, Ronald Reagan's administration put the African National Congress on the State Dept's list of foreign terrorist organizations. Do you know what year the organization came off that list?

KEVIN: It was recently.

JOE: 2008. They were on the list fifteen years after there was a government in South Africa. And think about this. In 2009, Barack Obama wrote the foreword for Nelson Mandela's autobiography. In the foreword, Obama said he was as a college in the early "80s was motivated to political activity by the example of Nelson Mandela's resistance to apartheid. If this Supreme Court decision was in place just two years earlier, he could have been accused of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization. This is nothing more than an attempt by the US government, by the FBI and the Department of Justice, to suppress antiwar and international solidarity. And no wonder they're doing it. We now have not one, not two but three wars, unpopular wars, they are fighting against Muslim countries. Anybody who is in this country working against those wars and especially if you're working to put a human face on the Muslims and the Arab peoples that are being targeted by the United States and its closest ally, Israel, then we are subject to being criminalized and in fact now they have taken it to it's logical conclusion. People who are activists can actually be imprisoned for political action.


You just heard an interview with Joe Iosbaker, who is one of the twenty-three activists subpoenaed, called upon to appear before a Grand Jury. Today is demand US Attorney Fitzgerald unfreeze the bank accounts of the Abudayyeh family. So, for your information, if any of this story would compel you to be of assistance to fellow Americans who are being targeted for exercising their rights, rights that I happen to think are protected under a Constitution or rights that I think culturally and in this society we all think people should be able to use and engage in protest, activism. This is the number if you would like to call and demand the unfreezing of these bank accounts call US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald at - here's the phone number:

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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