[Ppnews] Palestinian Solidarity Activist's Bank Accounts Frozen by US Government

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Mon May 9 14:31:35 EDT 2011

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May 9, 2011

Palestinian Solidarity Activist's Bank Accounts Frozen by US Government

By Kevin Gosztola

Right before Mother's Day weekend, the US government froze the bank 
accounts of Hatem Abudayyeh, a long-time Palestinian solidarity 
activist and organizer, and his wife, Naima. Abudayyeh is one of 
twenty-three activists from the Midwest in the US, who has been the 
subject of an FBI Grand Jury investigation since September of last year.

Hatem and Naima Abudayyeh have both been charged with no crimes. 
Naima Abudayyeh has not even been subpoenaed and is not the subject 
of an investigation.

The Committee to Stop FBI Repression in 
statement on this development declare:

The persecution of the Abudayyeh family is another example of the 
criminalization of Palestinians, their supporters, and their movement 
for justice and liberation. There has been widespread criticism of 
the FBI and local law enforcement for their racial profiling and 
scapegoating of Arab and Muslim Americans. These repressive tactics 
include infiltration of community centers and mosques, entrapment of 
young men, and the prominent case of 11 students from the University 
of California campuses at Irvine and Riverside who have been 
subpoenaed to a grand jury and persecuted for disrupting a speech by 
Michael Oren, Israeli Ambassador to the US. The government's attempt 
to conflate the anti-war and human rights movements with terrorism is 
a cynical attempt to capitalize on the current political climate in 
order to silence Palestinians and other people of conscience who 
exercise their First Amendment rights in a manner which does not 
conform to the administration's foreign policy agenda in the Middle East.

I spoke with Joe Iosbaker, another one of the twenty-three who have 
been subpoenaed to appear before a Grand Jury. Iosbaker is a twenty 
year civil service employee at the University of Illionis at Chicago 
(UIC) and chief steward for the 1300 clerical workes in the Service 
Employees International Union Local 73.

To hear the interview, click on the play button on the widget below 
here . You will see an "episode" titled "Bank Accounts Frozen, 
Activists Targeted for Political Action." Either click "listen" or 
"download." You can also download this off of iTunes by searching for 
"CMN News." The file with the above mentioned title should appear.

For those who do not want to or cannot listen, here's a transcript 
covering the ongoing criminalization and suppression of activists by 
the US government.


KEVIN: Hello, my name is Kevin Gosztola and I'm a writer for 
OpEdNews.com. I'm a writer for WLCentral.org. I also am serving as an 
intern for The Nation magazine right now. And, I'd like to present to 
you an interview that I have done with Joe Iosbaker. He is a lead 
organizer in Chicago. He is one of twenty-three who have been 
targeted by the FBI, targeted because he is engaging in political 
action. And, I've been tracking this story since October when it 
began. You'll hear from Joe background on what he and twenty-two 
other people have been facing at the hands of a Grand Jury 
investigation, a fishing expedition. This might remind you of 
McCarthyism or maybe if you know your history the Palmer Raids. Joe, 
will remind you of that. But, really, I am bringing you this 
interview because over the weekend the activists were hit with 
another attack, an escalation on one of their own. Hatem Abudayyeh, a 
Palestinian solidarity activist, he had his bank accounts frozen. 
Frozen. No charges. No real apparent legal reason to have his bank 
accounts frozen. But they were frozen. And so, listen to this 
interview here. This is Joe Iosbaker from Chicago discussing cases of 
FBI repression in Chicago, Minneapolis and the greater Midwest right now.

JOE: I think the last time I talked with you we had of the original 
23 people who had been subpoenaed to the grand jury--I think the last 
time I talked to you three of them had been approached by the US 
Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald or by his office telling them that they 
were going to be called back to the Grand Jury. You know, all 
twenty-three of us have refused to testify, refused to cooperate with 
the Grand Jury. And then, those three were re-approached. And, while 
they were never given dates, there were meetings between our lawyers 
-- each one of them had a separate lawyer that each met with the US 
Attorney's office. And in those, the assistant US attorneys made it 
abundantly clear that they intended to go forward with this case. 
They had multiple indictments they were preparing to issue and that 
they intended to bring it to trial and that they are after convictions.

I think the last of those meetings was in early February. There were 
a few other visits to other activists that were related by the FBI, 
related to our case, in February and we figured we had no contact 
through the month of March. But, starting in February, our legal team 
said to us that they anticipated that the US Attorney's office would 
move on us April or shortly after.

Because we were anticipating an attack from them, we launch our 
"Pledge of Resistance" campaign. And if you go to StopFBI.net there 
are over a thousand public signatures on the "Pledge of Resistance" 
statement. And the "Pledge of Resistance" simply states that in the 
event of one or some of us are indicted or there's the possibility 
too of being jailed for refusing to cooperate with the Grand Jury 
that there would be emergency protests and the person who pledges 
pledges to show up at the emergency protest. We have more signatures 
than are on the website. We've been gathering them on paper and data 
entry is slow. We have several thousand people who've signed that pledge.

What happened last Friday, Hatem Abudayyeh is one of the 23, Hatem 
Abudayyeh, whose home was raided. He's one of the main community 
leaders among Palestinians in Chicago. His bank accounts were frozen. 
So, apparently Hatem had gone to the bank on Friday and the ATM 
didn't work. He went to the bank on Saturday morning and he learned 
that not only is his joint account with his wife, their checking 
account and saving account, not only had they been frozen but his 
wife has a bank account that is separate from his and her bank 
account has been frozen by them. I have to tell you I don't know 
under what law they could be doing that because she is not a target 
of this investigation.

KEVIN: Now, have you been able to talk to anyone like a lawyer who 
can say why this might be happening and explain if there is any legal 
justification for what is happening to Hatem and Naima right now?

JOE: I have not spoken with a lawyer. And, I'm not a lawyer. For me, 
it just seems like there's no charges against Hatem or anyone. 
There's not even an investigation of Nema. For them to freeze her 
bank account, an account that doesn't even bear his name, I just -- I 
can't believe that there's a legal statute that allows them to do 
this. And to me it just sounds like more of the racist treatment that 
the Palestinians, that the Arab and Muslim communities receive at the 
hands of the FBI.

KEVIN: When Hatem goes out and speaks in public, what is it that he 
tells people the FBI or this Grand Jury alleges he is guilty of doing?

JOE: It's the same thing that is alleged of all of us. That we have 
"conspired to provide material support for foreign terrorist 
organizations." And what we have said is when this is over there will 
be no evidence of any funds having gone to any foreign terrorist 
organization. What the US Attorney's office has said to our lawyers 
in those discussions back in January and February is that delegations 
of human rights activists and Palestine solidarity activists traveled 
to the West Bank, made small contributions to the women's committee 
of Palestine -- I think their name is the Union of Palestinian 
Women's Committee.

My wife is a member of a group called the Palestine Solidarity Group. 
Every year for a decade or more they have sponsored human rights 
delegations to the West Bank (earlier, they had also gone to Gaza but 
not in recent years) to meet with the organizations of victims -- 
Human rights organizations, political prisoners, support groups, 
student organizations, unions, women's organizations, people who 
could describe living under occupation. And, the women's committee 
had served as the host. They provide the transportation. They provide 
falafels. They provide interpretation. They provide schedule of 
events and meetings. They are an NGO registered with the Palestinian 
Authority. They are not on the State Department's foreign terrorist 
organization list. They are not illegal in Israel. US Attorney is 
really fixated on small amounts of money paid to that committee to 
host these delegations.

KEVIN: I suspect that a number of people might be hearing about this 
story for the first time. I'm wondering if you could give some people 
some background. What should people know about your case, about the 
FBI repression activists have been going on. This goes on and there's 
not a lot of media attention. So, what should people know?

JOE: Alright, there's three things that we have to tell you.

The first one is that on September 24th, seven homes in Chicago and 
Minneapolis and one office of an antiwar committee in Minneapolis 
were raided by the FBI. The warrants and the subpoenas all indicated 
that they were looking for evidence of "material support for foreign 
terrorist organizations." The fourteen people that were subpoenaed in 
that group really has one thing in common: all fourteen of them, 
including my wife and I (our home was raided by the FBI), all 
fourteen of them had been key organizers in the protest at the 
Republican National Convention September 1, 2008. The Coalition to 
March on the RNC and Stop the War, what it was called. Marches that 
were held were permitted marches.

We didn't know this on the morning of the raid and it took some time 
to learn this fact. In fact, we learned it from the office in 
Chicago, the office of the US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, that the 
antiwar committee in the Twin Cities had been infiltrated by a law 
enforcement agent, had been infiltrated the FBI starting in April 
2008 in the months organizing for the protest for the RNC. That 
protest was the largest antiwar protest in the history of the Midwest 
of the United States. Thirty thousand marched on the RNC on September 1st.

Apparently, that police agent and professional liar didn't find 
anything that was indictable. But then, she stuck around for two more 
years as an undercover cop spying on the antiwar movement. And we 
believe that it is her lies about us that were the basis for the 
raids in September and the subpoenas for a Grand Jury.

The second thing to tell you is that the Grand Jury -- all 
twenty-three of us, there were fourteen subpoenaed in September -- 
All fourteen of us refused to appear at the Grand Jury. The US 
Attorney then subpoenaed nine more people, mostly Palestinian 
Americans, in December. And those nine all refused to appear at a 
Grand Jury because we learned that the Grand Jury can indict a ham 
sandwich. It is not an unbiased process. It is a prosecutor's dream. 
You have no right to have your lawyer present. You have no right to 
see the evidence being presented against you. You have no right to 
cross-examination of the witnesses. In fact, you have no right to see 
the witnesses.

We all realized it was just a witch-hunt and refused to participate 
in it. And there are consequences for that. All twenty-three of us 
for refusing could actually be imprisoned on contempt of court for 
refusing to participate in that grand jury. So that's the second part of this.

The third part is to say that the FBI has a long history of 
suppressing people's movements in this country. From the Palmer Raids 
in the 1920s to the McCarthyite period, COINTELPRO in the 1970s, the 
repression of the animal rights movement, the repression of the 
environmentalist movement, the repression of Puerto Rican 
independence movement up til today -- actually just before we were 
raided -- the Department of Justice released a report about the 
department's spying on peace organizations in the United States over 
the years 2001-2006. We are the latest chapter in that.

The new element is the Department of Justice has a new tool, a 
weapon, that was given to them in June 2010. The Supreme Court in a 
decision called 
<http://ccrjustice.org/holder-v-humanitarian-law-project>Holder v. 
Humanitarian Law Project determined that some speech is no longer 
protected by the Constitution. Any speech that is, and this is the 
trickiest language, "coordinated with, directed to or directed from 
an organization that is on the State Department's foreign terrorist 
organization list can be construed to be material support for a 
foreign terrorist organization." As if someone who is doing 
solidarity for an organization, struggling against a brutal 
dictatorship, as if they provided guns or money to that organization 
or expert training on combat, something that sounds like material 
support for an organization.

Those are the elements for the case. We understand that is what is 
being used to charge us with material support.

KEVIN: What do you have to say about Hatem's case in particular? I 
can't get past the fact that I wouldn't know what to do if my bank 
account was frozen and that this is happening to Americans in this 
country. I think people should really find this to be a gross 
injustice. What can you say to bring in the human element? To let 
people know what the impact will be for Hatem?

JOE: The case of Hatem Abudayyeh and his wife Naima they have a 
five-year old daughter. This is Mother's Day weekend. Hatem's not a 
doctor or a businessman. He's a community activist. If I was him, I 
would be panicking about the loss of not being able to write checks. 
You know, I have all of my bills, all of them, plugged in to 
automatic bill pay. All of my bills will no longer be paid if I was 
in his situation. And, it's Mother's Day for goodness sake. It's 
supposed to be a weekend where families --

I just want to tell you, my wife and I, Stephanie Weiner, have known 
Hatem since he was a college student. We've known his family for 
twenty years. Hatem and his parents were founding activists in the 
Palestinian community organizations forty years ago. Hatem is a 
family man. In fact, a lot of people don't know this: Hatem and his 
wife, Nema, are the subject of a documentary called The New 
Americans" It was made by Kartemquin Films, the people who made Hoop 
Dreams. And it's the property of PBS.org.

Hatem was born and raised in the US. He went back home to his village 
ten or twelve years ago to take a bride and met Nema and they came 
back here and were married here and they've living here all these 
years and they hav a six year old daughter. Hatem is an upstanding 
leader in this community. This can happen to a public activist, a 
public Palestinian activist. There's nowhere to hide for any Arab 
American. This is such a terrible chilling acting by our government. 
It is the new McCarthyism. This is what the "war on terrorism," this 
is what it means. It means any Arab American or Muslim in the United 
States, you are viewed by the FBI as the enemy within.

KEVIN: Just in the past two days, we've seen two Muslim scholars 
actually removed from a plane. No good reason at all. It just made 
people uncomfortable. It seems like what you are having to face here, 
your entire group, is people who are uncomfortable with people. Or 
not even that. It's the use of the security apparatus against people 
because they can, basically. They don't even have to justify using 
the apparatus against you.

JOE: I think it goes a step further than that because all 
twenty-three of us are activists. In fact, the first fourteen whose 
homes were raided, we're lifelong activists. I'm fifty-two years old. 
I've been extremely active since I was eighteen years old, since I 
got to the university in 1977. That's how I met my wife. We were 
movement college students. In fact, this is one of the most ironic 
elements of this. This Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project decision --

Every decade there has been an antiwar movement and within the 
antiwar movement there have been organizations of people who have 
stood in solidarity with the people who are suffering under that war 
or under that occupation. The first movement that I was involved in 
that was a solidarity movement and my wife too was the movement 
against apartheid in South Africa. Well, in the mid-1980s, Ronald 
Reagan's administration put the African National Congress on the 
State Dept's list of foreign terrorist organizations. Do you know 
what year the organization came off that list?

KEVIN: It was recently.

JOE: 2008. They were on the list fifteen years after there was a 
government in South Africa. And think about this. In 2009, Barack 
Obama wrote the foreword for Nelson Mandela's autobiography. In the 
foreword, Obama said he was as a college in the early "80s was 
motivated to political activity by the example of Nelson Mandela's 
resistance to apartheid. If this Supreme Court decision was in place 
just two years earlier, he could have been accused of providing 
material support to a foreign terrorist organization. This is nothing 
more than an attempt by the US government, by the FBI and the 
Department of Justice, to suppress antiwar and international 
solidarity. And no wonder they're doing it. We now have not one, not 
two but three wars, unpopular wars, they are fighting against Muslim 
countries. Anybody who is in this country working against those wars 
and especially if you're working to put a human face on the Muslims 
and the Arab peoples that are being targeted by the United States and 
its closest ally, Israel, then we are subject to being criminalized 
and in fact now they have taken it to it's logical conclusion. People 
who are activists can actually be imprisoned for political action.


You just heard an interview with Joe Iosbaker, who is one of the 
twenty-three activists subpoenaed, called upon to appear before a 
Grand Jury. Today is demand US Attorney Fitzgerald unfreeze the bank 
accounts of the Abudayyeh family. So, for your information, if any of 
this story would compel you to be of assistance to fellow Americans 
who are being targeted for exercising their rights, rights that I 
happen to think are protected under a Constitution or rights that I 
think culturally and in this society we all think people should be 
able to use and engage in protest, activism. This is the number if 
you would like to call and demand the unfreezing of these bank 
accounts call US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald at - here's the phone number:


Dial 0 (zero) for the operator and ask to leave a message with the 
Duty Clerk. Demand Fitzgerald unfreeze the bank accounts of the 
Abudayyeh family and stop repression against Palestinian, anti-war 
and international solidarity activists.

You can find more details on this case at 
<http://www.stopfbi.net/>StopFBI.net .


Author's Bio: Kevin Gosztola is a multimedia editor for OpEdNews.com 
and a writer for WLCentral.org. He is currently serving as an intern 
for The Nation Magazine. And, he follows all things related to 
WikiLeaks, media, activism, the unfolding revolutions in the Middle 
East and North Africa and sometimes writes movie reviews for OEN. He 
is a 2009 Young People For Fellow and a documentary filmmaker who 
graduated with a Film/Video B.A. degree from Columbia College Chicago 
in the Spring 2010. In April 2010, he co-organized a major arts & 
media summit called "Art, Access & Action," which explored the 
intersection of politics, art and media and was supported by Free 
Press. Chicago. His work can be found on Open Salon, The Seminal, 
Media-ocracy.com, and a personal blog he started on Alternet called 
Moving Train Media.


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