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    FBI Using Online Pro-Palestinian Campaigner 'Blacklists' to Identify Suspects

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    The Intercept has revealed the US Federal Bureau of Investigation is relying on information provided by online ‘blacklisting’ websites, which document anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian public statements and social media posts of individuals, teachers and organizations, to identify potential troublemakers.

    The alternative news site documents a "string" of FBI inquiries into pro-Palestine activists motivated by blacklists created by "far-right, pro-Israel groups," which focus on alleged and unproven connections between individuals and militant groups in the Middle East. At least two such interviews have taken place in 2018 alone.

    One 'blacklist' site allegedly invoked by FBI investigators on several occasions is Canary Mission, a controversial anonymously run online resource "documents people and groups that promote hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on North American college campuses." Visitors can view categorized lists of individuals (including students and professionals), University professors and organizations, with extensive profiles documenting apparent histories of anti-Israeli statements and activities.

    A Palestinian activist places a sign to boycott Israeli products at a supermarket in Bethlehem, West Bank. Most West Bank shops no longer carry the products of six major Israeli food companies, as a boycott triggered by rising Israeli-Palestinian tensions is taking hold, a boycott leader said Sunday, March 1, 2015. Activists in the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced the boycott plans last month, after Israel halted transfer of vital tax revenues to Abbas' cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.
    A Palestinian activist places a sign to boycott Israeli products at a supermarket in Bethlehem, West Bank. Most West Bank shops no longer carry the products of six major Israeli food companies, as a boycott triggered by rising Israeli-Palestinian tensions is taking hold, a boycott leader said Sunday, March 1, 2015. Activists in the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced the boycott plans last month, after Israel halted transfer of vital tax revenues to Abbas' cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.

    As of June 26 2018, 1,685 individuals are listed, 505 professors and 23 organizations. While the site claims to "investigate hatred across the entire political spectrum," a seeming majority of blacklisted individuals are of a left-wing orientation.

    End the Resistance

    One victim of this FBI proclivity documented by The Intercept is Ahmad Aburas, who in September 2016 was removed from his class at Seton Hall Law School, New Jersey, by a campus security officer and taken to speak to two investigators — one a state police detective, the other an FBI agent, both part of the New Jersey Joint Terrorism Task Force. Over the next 35 minutes, the pair interviewed Aburas about pro-Palestinian postings on his Facebook account, which had been flagged by Canary Mission and duly shared on the site's Twitter account.

    In the first, published during 'Operation Protective Edge' — a 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza that killed 500 Palestinian children — Aburas wrote, "We are all RESISTANCE! We are all #hamas! We are all HUMAN!". The student alleged to The Intercept he was and is not a supporter of Hamas, the armed Palestinian political faction that has waged attacks on Israel, but instead wanted to show support for all affected Palestinians in Gaza, who were labelled "Hamas members" by Israeli government spokespeople at the time.  

     Palestinian talks on a mobile phone as he walks on the rubble of a damaged house following an overnight Israeli missile strike in Gaza City, Tuesday, July 15, 2014
    © AP Photo / Lefteris Pitarakis
    Palestinian talks on a mobile phone as he walks on the rubble of a damaged house following an overnight Israeli missile strike in Gaza City, Tuesday, July 15, 2014
    In another post October 2015, Aburas expressed support for a Palestinian uprising against Israel — this was again flagged by Canary Mission, which also alerted Seton Hall directly, and the University in turn alerted the FBI.

    "They were asking me questions about connections to terrorism, [such as] 'do you know or sponsor any organizations outside the US?'. They asked me if I would stand with the United States. As a Muslim man living in America, coming from a Palestinian background, I don't want to say I got used to it, but I did get used to it. It's normal. We're always going to be spied on," Aburas told The Intercept.

    A University of Chicago student, who asked not to be named, was also said to have been questioned in April 2018 based partly on Canary Mission documentation.

    Such behavior is apparently nothing new for the FBI — in 2014 agents sought to question Palestinian-American activist Huwaida Arraf because StoptheISM.com, a website similar to Canary Mission, claimed Arraf and the group she co-founded, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), support terrorism. The website provided no evidence to suggest ISM — a group of foreign volunteers in the occupied Palestinian territories who support Palestinian action against Israeli occupation — had direct insurrectionary connections, but FBI agents nonetheless attempted to interview her at her apartment in New York.

    Lebanese and Palestinians students, burn a picture of U S. President Donald Trump, an American flag and an Israeli flag, as they take part in a protest at the Lebanese University, in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, against U.S. President Donald Trump's decisions to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
    © AP Photo / Mohammed Zaatari
    Lebanese and Palestinians students, burn a picture of U S. President Donald Trump, an American flag and an Israeli flag, as they take part in a protest at the Lebanese University, in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, against U.S. President Donald Trump's decisions to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
    Suggestions of a connection between Students for Justice in Palestine and Hamas also prompted FBI agents in February 2018 to question a student at the University of California, Los Angeles — the student was asked whether donations received by SJP was "funneled" to organizations in the Middle East, and if they knew anyone "aligned with Hamas."

    No Arrests Yet

    While no arrests have been made on the basis of 'intelligence' provided by Canary Mission as yet, pro-Palestinian individuals in the US have been imprisoned and deported for their campaigning activities. In 2010, for instance, the FBI raided the homes of 23 individuals on the basis of providing "material support" to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

    While eventually all activists were cleared of the charges, the probe did eventually lead to the arrest in 2017 of Rasmea Odeh, a Chicago-based Palestinian activist, for lying to immigration authorities — she'd failed to disclose her conviction in an Israeli military court on terrorism charges. Odeh claims her confession — to setting off a bomb in Jerusalem in 1969 — was tortured out of her by Israeli security forces, but was nonetheless deported in 2017 to Jordan.

    Similarly, the association of pro-Palestinian causes with terrorism has led to the effective criminalization of potentially benign charities and organizations, such as the 2001 shut down of the Holy Land Foundation by the Department of Justice.

    In this courtroom sketch, Jonas M. Edmonds, left, and Hasan R. Edmonds, right, stand in front of an FBI agent as they appear at a hearing at federal court in Chicago, Thursday, March 26, 2015, following their arrests Wednesday on charges of conspiring with the Islamic State group. Hasan Edmonds, an Illinois Army National Guard soldier, and his cousin, Jonas Edmonds, are both US citizens from the Chicago suburb of Aurora.
    © AP Photo / Tom Gianni
    Terror group arrests
    In 2008, the organization's five leaders were convicted of 108 counts of materially supporting terrorism — the Bureau argued the foundation, which gave money to charities in Gaza, supported Hamas as the charities it donated to were controlled by Hamas and Palestinians helped by one of the groups had associated the aid with Hamas.

    The Bureau was supported by the anonymous testimony of two Israeli witnesses, 'Avi' and 'Major Lior'. The conviction came despite the relief organizations it donated to also receiving US government support, and prosecutors never alleging Holy Land Foundation funding was spent on militant attacks or was ever intended to support terrorism. Ever since, accusations of support for terrorism have blighted any Islamic charitable organization had ties ties to the foundation.

    Related:

    FBI Runs ‘Hundreds’ of Sting Operations to Create Homegrown Terrorists
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    activism, political activism, domestic spying, spying, war on terror, FBI, The Intercept, Palestine, Israel, United States
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