The Holy Land Foundation: Where is America; where is common decency?
This trial is nonsense.
But it is not trivial nonsense. It is dangerous nonsense. It is perverse nonsense. It is symptomatic of a nonsense that has taken over our country and threatens to undo us as a society as it destroys the lives of our neighbors and friends.
John Mueller, Woody Hayes Professor of National Security Studies at Ohio State University, wrote in an article published in March of this year that,
“Politicians are the terrorism industry’s lead players….they engage in a process of outbidding, which has the effect of enhancing fears….the industry includes risk entrepreneurs, pork-barrelers, and bureaucrats, as well as most of the media. They all have an incentive to exaggerate the risk terrorism presents and to find extreme and alarmist possibilities much more appealing than discussions of broader context, much less of statistical reality.”
("Fear Not: Notes from a Naysayer." Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Mar/Apr2007, Vol. 63 Issue 2, p30-37.)
Last night many of us in Dallas were privileged to hear John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors of The Israel Lobby, speak. The thrust of their message is—and has been for some time—not that the influence of the Israel lobby is, per se, bad, but that it prevents rational debate about the US relationship with Israel.
The Holy Land Foundation Trial is the most illogical and nightmarish extension of that lack of debate.
Hamas. The very word strikes hatred and fear in the hearts of the American public. Yesterday, KERA radio, the PBS station in Dallas, began its coverage of the government’s summation by saying that the Holy Land Foundation is charged with providing support to “International Terrorism.” That is patently not true. Hamas is not an international terrorist organization. It has been designated—without debate, without evidence other than that provided by the State of Israel, without PROOF (see my post of August 31 below, or the transcript of yesterday’s summation by Attorney Nancy Hollander)—as a Specially Designated Terrorist organization solely at the government of Israel’s request.
In fact, Hamas is designated in a category of SDT created especially for it: an organization that seeks to prevent the Oslo “peace” plan (one is reminded of the words of the ancient Hebrew prophet, “They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, ‘Peace, peace’, when there is no peace”) from being implemented. This designation is not about “international terrorism,” but about a specific conflict between one nation and a group that (yes, with violence) opposes it, opposes it because of its expansionist and ethnic cleansing activities.
Yet this trial hinges on the designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization. All the President needs do is say there is “reasonable cause to believe” that a group or a person is a “terrorist,” and, without debate, without proof, that person or entity goes onto a list with no opportunity for defense or rebuttal.
No one I have heard in the HLF trial—or in my conversations with the supporters of the defendants—has said they approve of the violence perpetrated by Hamas (or any other group). I am a pacifist. I do not believe that war or violence is ever the solution to any problem. But neither do I believe that hysteria, unexamined acceptance of an untenable premise, or blaming the victim of violence is a solution to any problem.
The FBI wiretapped every conversation and shadowed every movement of Shukri Abu Baker from 1994 until 2001, not in order to discover IF he was breaking the law but in order to find something they could use to “prove” their preconception that he WAS breaking the law. And so with Ghassan Elashi, Mohammed El-Mezain, Abdulraham Odeh, and Mufid Abdulqader. And where did this preconception come from? I have my supposition: from the State of Israel.
The wiretapping and stalking and intercepting of messages ended shortly after September 11, 2001. At that point, Ariel Sharon apparently demanded that President Bush designate HLF as a Specially Designated Terrorist organization because Israel was in the midst of the second great struggle with the Palestinian people, a struggle in which Hamas was a prominent player. In order to try to curtail Hamas’ ability to struggle against the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and in order to punish the Palestinian people, Israel used every means at its disposal.
And one of the most effective means was to cut off the Palestinians from the rest of the world, to end all humanitarian aid the the State of Israel could not control. Hence the “designation” of the largest Muslim charity in America so it could be shut down and its leaders brought to trial to show the world (and especially American Muslims) that Israel can, with the concurrence of the unquestioning and uncritical United States government, punish the Palestinians and exercise complete control over the Occupied Territories.
I have no proof for any of that. I simply observe.
The timing of the “designation” is absolutely crucial. Three months after the events of September 11, 2001. Whatever truth there was about the dangers of “terrorism” before that date, American “politicians….risk entrepreneurs, pork-barrelers, and bureaucrats…[and] media” were immediately on board to keep the American people in a paranoid state of looking for (and blindly accepting the plausibility of) a terrorist behind every rock in the world. And so, the “designation” of HLF was hardly noticed (except in the vociferous, uncritical, mass media—check the Dallas Morning News for December 4, 2001). Or, rather, it was noticed as more “proof” that the fear of “terrorism” was justified.
And Shukri, Ghassan, Mohammed, Abdulrahman, and Mufid could be rounded up, arrested, and put on trial as supporters of “terrorism.” And from whence came the government’s help in the prosecution? From the State of Israel.
All of the evidence in this trial has centered on the testimony of two FBI agents whose work was guided by the presuppositions of the State of Israel and informed by “evidence” from two sources: Matthew Levitt, who has made a career for himself as one of the so-called “academic” spokesmen (his work does not hold up under real academic scrutiny—my essay on that is forthcoming), and two anonymous agents of the Israeli Security Forces whose information cannot be verified and whose sole purpose seems to be to invent “evidence” for the government of Israel to “prove” that any group that runs counter to its desire to establish Eretz Israel is supporting “terrorism.”
Seldom is an entire country held hostage to nonsense—not trivial nonsense, but dangerous nonsense, perverse nonsense. Because Americans are kept in a state of “terror” of “terrorism,” we are willing to abdicate our democratic obligation to debate and criticize, We have let our government create cases against American citizens, cases that serve the interests of a foreign nation.
But more importantly, these cases make all of us complicit in a lie, in despicable treatment of our neighbors, in tearing apart of fabric of one entire segment of our American family. And who are the losers? Not the defendants in the Holy Land Foundation trial. These are men of such deep faith and spiritual peace that they will not be destroyed by whatever verdict comes. Their families may finally be bereft, but they are part of a community that will love and support and care for them whatever happens.
The rest of us as Americans—Christians, Jews, humanists, atheists, whatever we are—stand to be the losers in this trial. No, we have already lost. We have allowed our government to act without principle. And our government is, after all, “by the people.” We are the unprincipled government.