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Been to Israel/Palestine lately? The FBI may come knocking on your door.

By the time she was in high school, Sarah Smith had already been named one of

 the 100 most influential women in Chicago by Chicago’s business magazine,

 Crain’s. Now Smith, who happens to be Jewish, has been 

subpoenaed by the FBI to appear before a grand jury on January 25 to explain

her trip to Israel-Palestine with two Palestinian women friends. (As terrifying

as this whole episode is for everyone involved, it says something about Pales-

tinian safety that only Smith has come forward publicly.) All three young Chicago

residents have been subpoenaed, joining ranks with 14 other peace activists from

the Midwest who have been similarly targeted in recent months.

Here is Sarah Smith’s full statement from a December 6 press conference:

Friday morning, December 3, I received a phone call from an FBI agent.

He asked if I had about 30 minutes to sit down and speak with him so he

 could ask me some questions. I asked about what and he said he “was not

at liberty to discuss it.” I then asked if I needed a lawyer present and he

said it was up to me but that I was not in any trouble and that they just had

 a few questions.

I felt something suspicious about him telling me he wanted to ask me some

 questions, but he would not tell me what these questions were. So I said that

I had to consult a lawyer and check my schedule and that I would get back to

him. I reiterated that it would be easier for me to meet him if I knew why an

FBI agent wanted to sit down with me. He then said that it had to deal with the

 trip I took this summer. He then emphasized, “I think you know which one

I’m talking about.”

The trip I took last summer was to Israel and Palestine. I am Jewish and

wanted to see first hand what life is like for Israelis and Palestinians.

If I went on the standard tour to Israel, I would not be shown how Palesti-

nians live. So I went on a tour that showed me both worlds, Israel, and the

Israeli occupied Palestinian West Bank. I went with 2 Palestinian-American


You would think Jews and Palestinians going together to visit Israel and

Palestine is something the U.S. government would encourage.

Instead, we are now being ordered by the FBI to go before a Grand Jury for

going on that trip. The US government says it supports peace between Israel

and Palestine. It says it supports separate Israeli and Palestinian states.

So why does the FBI investigate us because we went to see the Palestinian land?

Top US government leaders meet with Palestinian leaders, so why does the FBI investigate us because we talked to average Palestinians on the street?

I went there so I could make up my own mind and talk about what I saw.

It seems to me our government wants to hide what Israel is doing to

Palestinians. I would like to thank the Committee Against Political Repre-

ssion for standing up for me and my friends. You can learn about case at

stopFBI.net, and please make a donation there. Or you can make a donation

for our legal expenses: to NLG Foundation, memo line: FBI raids and mail it

to Sarah Smith, 2961 S. Bonaparte, Chicago, IL 60608

Smith’s father, Stan Smith,  added “I think Patrick Fitzgerald, the US District Attorney,

Robert Parker of the FBI need to see my daughter and her friends and apologize to them.

And I think President Obama, who was elected in 2008 because he said he would stop

this sort of thing, should make a point on his next trip to Chicago to personally apologize

to my daughter and her friends for how his government is intimidating them.”

Meanwhile, there are actions across the country to protest this crackdown on peace

activists (sign the petition here). Firedoglake’s Kevin Gosztola has this report:

The hunting down of activists began on September 24th when the FBI raided

homes and offices of activists from Minneapolis and Chicago. Computers,

phones, documents and other personal items were seized and the FBI officially subpoenaed 14 activists to appear before a Grand Jury. The FBI began to contact members of the “peace community” and ask them what they knew about the subpoenaed activists’ “material support for terrorism.”

The attorneys representing the activists have noted “the current definition of “material support’ can cover just about anything, like providing humanitarian

aid that ends up in the hands of a group tagged as ‘terrorist’ by the US government,

or posting a link to an informational website. The implications of this law, as it is

being used, are troubling to anyone who does community organizing, or anyone

who does journalistic reporting or academic research on wars, conflicts or controversial movements.”

Months later, the activists in Minneapolis and Chicago have not been charged

with a crime, but they continue to face possible jail time if they refuse to go

before a Grand Jury and participate in this “witch hunt.” They have yet to have

their belongings, which were seized by the FBI, returned.

Democracy anyone?

December 3, 2010

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