In light of recent revelations in the Intercept about chilling FBI investigations into International Solidarity Movement (ISM) volunteers, Palestine Legal urges community members to know their rights, not to speak with the FBI without a lawyer, and to contact Palestine Legal for support.
The Intercept piece, written by Chip Gibbons of Defending Rights and Dissent, details investigations between 2004 and 2006 by national and local FBI offices into ISM volunteers . After violating the civil rights of activists and invading their privacy—through the use of informants, physical surveillance, and reviewing phone records—the government ultimately found no evidence of wrongdoing.
The FBI’s actions were not based on any credible suspicions of wrongdoing, but solely on right-wing smear campaigns against advocacy for Palestinian human rights.
“It’s a travesty that the FBI continues to spy on social justice and human rights activists, continuing its long history of government attempts to sabotage social justice movements,” said Palestine Legal director Dima Khalidi. “It’s even more disturbing that it did so based on false allegations by staunch anti-Palestinian groups.”
Founded in 2001, the ISM is a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, using non-violent, direct-action methods. Thousands of people from across the globe have volunteered with the ISM, including Palestine Legal senior staff attorney Radhika Sainath who worked with the group for over a year during the Second Intifada.
“The fact that ISM was under this kind of extensive investigation is ridiculous and a complete waste of taxpayer money,” said ISM co-founder Huwaida Arraf in a statement. “ISM has always been open and transparent about who we are, what we do, and what we stand for, which is purportedly what this country stands for — freedom and human rights.”
The FBI’s investigation into ISM occurred in the same time period that Israel launched a character assassination campaign to discredit ISM activists as terrorists, as Palestinian-American human rights attorney Jamil Dakwar explained on Twitter.
During this time, ISM’s activism captured the attention of the American public because the Israeli military had murdered and severely injured volunteers, including Rachel Corrie. According to Dakwar, the timing strongly suggests that the FBI investigated ISM at the behest of Israel.
The Intercept article lays bare U.S. government bias against supporters of Palestinian freedom and futile attempts by Israeli proxy organizations to deploy racism and false accusations of terrorism as a tool to silence activists.
The FBI continues to harass Palestine solidarity activists—including two agents visiting a UCLA student at home in 2018 and counterterrorism agents visiting a high school student’s home in 2019. Rightwing pro-Israel groups frequently invoke threats of FBI investigations against human rights advocates.
What the ISM and others in the movement for Palestinian rights have faced is similar to the repression of other movements for freedom and justice. From the Civil Rights Movement, Black Panther Party and American Indian Movement to Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock, the state has long sought to disrupt social movements as they have gained success in challenging state violence.
“We know the intent is to silence human rights activism,” said director Dima Khalidi. “The best defense is mutual solidarity, shedding light on government repression and demanding accountability. We know we are stronger together.”
(Source: Palestine Legal)