In an explosive new report at The Intercept, journalist Chip Gibbons reveals that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launched multiple terrorism investigations into the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian-led movement that supports the rights of Palestinians through non-violent direct action.
Relying on documents procured via the Freedom of Information Act, Gibbons shows that the probes began in 2004 when two St. Louis activists were targeted after returning from an ISM delegation to the West Bank. During that trip, the IDF had shot at a protest and injured one of the activists. The second probe into the group (which was launched out of the FBI’s Los Angeles office) relied on sources from David Horowitz’s Islamophobic FrontPage Magazine to establish an alleged connection between the group and terrorist organizations.
The probes yielded nothing. “It seems the FBI’s investigation resulted in little more than thousands of pages of documents that did little other than to make the FBI itself perhaps the greatest threat, by spying on First Amendment-protected speech,” wrote Gibbons.
On Twitter, ACLU Human Rights Program Director Jamil Dakwar connected the report to the IDF’s 2003 murder of United States peace activist Rachel Corrie. Less than a month after Corrie was fatally run over by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to protect a house from being demolished, the IDF wounded ISM activist Brian Avery and British citizen British citizen Tom Hurndall. Hurndall later died as a result of his injuries.
“Court testimonies and documents which became available as part of a civil lawsuit brought by the Corrie family confirmed that the Israeli government unsuccessfully tried to link ISM to terrorism and smear activists as ‘illegitimate violent agitators.’,” tweeted Dakwar, “FBI must declassify and redact all relevant documents and provide a full explanation for their questionable investigative activities that are both a waste of taxpayer money and which will only further chill current and future legitimate Palestine solidarity activism.”
Dakwar also linked to 2011 Electronic Intifada article by Charlotte Silver on how an IDF smear campaign against ISM was revealed in the civil lawsuit that was brought against the Israeli government by Corrie’s family.
ISM released a statement in response to The Intercept report. “We, at the International Solidarity Movement, denounce this shameless abuse of power and misuse of public funds in an attempt to criminalize Palestinian solidarity and anti-occupation activism, as well as the current ongoing campaign in some American states to criminalize the BDS movement,” it reads, “ISM activists have been secretly spied on and targeted by various intelligence services, including British, Israeli, and U.S., for over 19 years, merely for standing up for the rights of Palestinians.” The statement also shares a quote that was provided for Gibbons’s piece by ISM activist Mark Chmiel, one of the individuals who was spied on: “In Dr. King’s time, surveillance was justified in terms of alleged Communist influence; in recent years, surveillance has been justified by alleged association with terrorists. In both cases, U.S. citizens were employing nonviolent action to confront injustice and oppression.”