[Ppnews] Palestinian Solidarity Activist's Bank Accounts Frozen by US Government
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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.
TRANSCRIPT -- BEGIN
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
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
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
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
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.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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