On Sept. 24, 2010, the FBI raided the homes of anti-war and socialist activists, including that of Hatem Abudayyeh and his family. Soon after the raids the FBI subpoenaed Hatem and 22 other people in the Midwest to appear before a federal grand jury impaneled in Chicago. So far, all have invoked their Fifth Amendment right to not testify.
Hatem spoke in Seattle in February 2011 while on a national tour to alert people that their First Amendment rights are in danger and to organize support for this battle with the U.S. government. He is Executive Director of the Arab American Action Network in Chicago which fights discrimination against Arab Americans and Arab immigrants and teaches about the rich history and heritage of the Arab world.
The interview was conducted by Adrienne Weller (Adrienne.firstname.lastname@example.org), active in the Seattle Committee Against FBI Repression and an anti-Zionist Jewish-American who works with the Palestine solidarity community.
FS — Why is this happening and why now?
The grand jury has historically been used against the movements of Native Americans, Black Panthers, civil rights, and environmentalists — anyone who challenges lack of equality and justice in the U.S.
The U.S. government needs to put a local face on the “enemy abroad” to justify and build support for U.S. wars and occupations. By demonizing immigrants all over the country the FBI suppresses dissent.
The increasingly obvious FBI focus on the Palestinian justice movement is because the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is gaining steam and exposing Israeli crimes to the world and to the U.S. people. Winds of change are blowing and U.S. intelligence agencies are fighting this. Their method is to get people to turn on each other and create distrust. If someone talks about their contacts abroad these people can be detained, tortured or killed by repressive governments such as Israel or Colombia.
It is urgent that people refuse to talk to the FBI because anything you say can be used against you or someone else. Our refusal to talk to the grand jury has given us great strength.
Also, in June 2010 the Humanitarian Law Project challenged a new definition that says simple advocacy and political support for a group on the arbitrary U.S. terrorism list is “material support” for terrorism. The Supreme Court upheld this definition. These attacks are the test case for this decision. It is an attack on all who believe in free speech, assembly and the right to dissent.
FS — How will revolutions in the Middle East impact the U.S. social justice movements’ response to FBI attacks?
If the Middle East overthrows their dictators this will change the U.S. relationship with the Arab world, with Israel, Iraq and with U.S. occupations and wars. Social justice movements in the U.S. are certain to believe that this is good. The U.S. and Israel are threatened by the pressure of democratic leadership that addresses the needs of people and not of big business and empire.
FS — Most of those subpoenaed were women and the FBI investigation is focused on small donations by U.S. Palestine solidarity groups to the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees. Why are they targeting women?
The Palestinian community and the solidarity movements have a good proportion of women leaders. If you are a leader, you’ll be targeted by FBI repression. The targeting of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees is because they want to criminalize the Palestinian national liberation movement as a whole. Hu-manitarian aid has been called terrorist activity by the U.S. and Europe. This aid is the only thing that kept Gaza going after they were devastated by Israel’s occupation and siege of 2008. This is an example of how anything, organizing kindergartens, or teaching embroidery is smeared as a “front for terrorism.”
FS — What can readers do to help?
We’ll likely be facing a number of indictments by spring. Also, if those who have been subpoenaed by the grand jury are offered immunity, and still won’t testify, they can face federal prison. The bonds for the arrested will probably be $500,000-$750,000 and the whole amount must be paid to get people out pending trial.
Therefore we need massive fundraising and local support groups should develop emergency response plans. Be ready to send letters, faxes, and phone calls to U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald, Attorney General Holder, and President Obama; and to demonstrate. Everyone’s rights are on the line.
Our work is not criminal. It is righteous and moral. If we continue to get support from all the movements I am confident that we will win.