Thursday, December 16, 2010

Been to Israel/Palestine lately? The FBI may come knocking on your door

Been to Israel/Palestine lately? The FBI may come knocking on your door.


by Cecilie Surasky


MuzzleWatch - Jewish Voice for Peace


December 15, 2010


By the time she was in high school, Sarah Smith had already

been named one of the 100 most influential women in Chicago

by Chicago's business magazine, Crain's. Now Smith, who

happens to be Jewish, has been subpoenaed by the FBI to

appear before a grand jury on January 25 to explain her trip

to Israel-Palestine with two Palestinian women friends. (As

terrifying as this whole episode is for everyone involved,

it says something about Palestinian safety that only Smith

has come forward publicly.) All three young Chicago

residents have been subpoenaed, joining ranks with 14 other

peace activists from the Midwest who have been similarly

targeted in recent months.


Here is Sarah Smith's full statement from a December 6 press



    Friday morning, December 3, I received a phone call from

    an FBI agent. He asked if I had about 30 minutes to sit

    down and speak with him so he could ask me some

    questions. I asked about what and he said he "was not at

    liberty to discuss it." I then asked if I needed a

    lawyer present and he said it was up to me but that I

    was not in any trouble and that they just had a few



    I felt something suspicious about him telling me he

    wanted to ask me some questions, but he would not tell

    me what these questions were. So I said that I had to

    consult a lawyer and check my schedule and that I would

    get back to him. I reiterated that it would be easier

    for me to meet him if I knew why an FBI agent wanted to

    sit down with me. He then said that it had to deal with

    the trip I took this summer. He then emphasized, "I

    think you know which one I'm talking about."


    The trip I took last summer was to Israel and Palestine.

    I am Jewish and wanted to see first hand what life is

    like for Israelis and Palestinians. If I went on the

    standard tour to Israel, I would not be shown how

    Palestinians live. So I went on a tour that showed me

    both worlds, Israel, and the Israeli occupied

    Palestinian West Bank. I went with 2 Palestinian-

    American friends. You would think Jews and Palestinians

    going together to visit Israel and Palestine is

    something the U.S. government would encourage.


    Instead, we are now being ordered by the FBI to go

    before a Grand Jury for going on that trip. The US

    government says it supports peace between Israel and

    Palestine. It says it supports separate Israeli and

    Palestinian states.


    So why does the FBI investigate us because we went to

    see the Palestinian land? Top US government leaders meet

    with Palestinian leaders, so why does the FBI

    investigate us because we talked to average Palestinians

    on the street?


    I went there so I could make up my own mind and talk

    about what I saw. It seems to me our government wants to

    hide what Israel is doing to Palestinians. I would like

    to thank the Committee Against Political Repression for

    standing up for me and my friends. You can learn about

    case at, and please make a donation there.

    Or you can make a donation for our legal expenses: to

    NLG Foundation, memo line: FBI raids and mail it to

    Sarah Smith, 2961 S. Bonaparte, Chicago, IL 60608


Smith's father, Stan Smith,  added "I think Patrick

Fitzgerald, the US District Attorney, Robert Parker of the

FBI need to see my daughter and her friends and apologize to

them. And I think President Obama, who was elected in 2008

because he said he would stop this sort of thing, should

make a point on his next trip to Chicago to personally

apologize to my daughter and her friends for how his

government is intimidating them."


Meanwhile, there are actions across the country to protest

this crackdown on peace activists (sign the petition here).

Firedoglake's Kevin Gosztola has this report:


    The hunting down of activists began on September 24th

    when the FBI raided homes and offices of activists from

    Minneapolis and Chicago. Computers, phones, documents

    and other personal items were seized and the FBI

    officially subpoenaed 14 activists to appear before a

    Grand Jury. The FBI began to contact members of the

    "peace community" and ask them what they knew about the

    subpoenaed activists' "material support for terrorism."


    The attorneys representing the activists have noted "the

    current definition of "material support' can cover just

    about anything, like providing humanitarian aid that

    ends up in the hands of a group tagged as `terrorist' by

    the US government, or posting a link to an informational

    website. The implications of this law, as it is being

    used, are troubling to anyone who does community

    organizing, or anyone who does journalistic reporting or

    academic research on wars, conflicts or controversial



    Months later, the activists in Minneapolis and Chicago

    have not been charged with a crime, but they continue to

    face possible jail time if they refuse to go before a

    Grand Jury and participate in this "witch hunt." They

    have yet to have their belongings, which were seized by

    the FBI, returned.


Democracy anyone?


Cecilie Surasky, Deputy Director of Jewish Voice for Peace,

joined JVP in 2003 as part of a Ford Foundation human rights

fellowship, and brings extensive experience in social

justice communications and advocacy. She is the granddaughter

of Zionist Socialist activists, and her analyses of Israel-

Palestine politics have appeared in numerous media outlets

around the world. Cecilie graduated from Brown University

with a BA in Religious Studies with special honors for her

work in Modern Culture and Media. She is the founder of

Muzzlewatch, JVP's acclaimed blog documenting efforts to

silence open debate about Israel-Palestine policy.




FBI Continues to Target Activists


At the time of this posting, 19 activists have been targeted

by the FBI.




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