Senate BDS Bill. By Miko Peled

Repressing free speech is undemocratic, that was established in the First Amendment a long time ago, and the right to boycott is enshrined within that amendment, including the right to boycott Israeli products. It was also established long ago that all men and women, including Palestinians, are created equal and are deserving of the same rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

For many decades now, Jews around the world, including staunch Zionist Jews like the late Dr. Nahum Goldman and Professor Yishayahu Leibovitch had opposed the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and building Jewish settlements there – as have Israeli generals, former Mossad chiefs and countless lesser known Jewish people. But over the last fifty years consecutive Israeli governments of all parties have built Jewish settlements in the West Bank and no amount of talking and negotiating has made the slightest difference.

Israel claims that it has a small Arab minority sometimes called “The Arabs of Israel” and that they enjoy full citizenship rights. However, these are Palestinian Arabs and although they hold Israeli citizenship they do not enjoy the same rights as Israeli Jewish citizens. They live in separate cities and separate communities, go to different schools are given far less opportunities and poverty levels are considerably higher among them. From laws that limit who they may marry and where they may live to laws that limit their right to commemorate the “Naqba,” the catastrophe that befell Palestinians when Israel was established, Palestinian citizens of Israel face discrimination at every stage of their lives, and still Israeli law makers continue to pass laws that discriminate against them at an alarming speed.

The Right of Return of Palestinians who were displaced in 1948 has been enshrined in article 11 of UN resolution 194. Furthermore, according to a report by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia the Law of Return, “conferring on Jews worldwide the right to enter Israel and obtain Israeli citizenship regardless of their countries of origin and whether or not they can show links to Israel-Palestine, while withholding any comparable right from Palestinians, including those with documented ancestral homes in the country.” This was correctly referred to as a policy of “demographic engineering meant to uphold Israel’s status as the Jewish state.”

BDS have arguably become the three most controversial letters in the alphabet. Representing the call by Palestinian civil society to impose boycott, to divest and to impose sanctions on the State of Israel and companies that profit from the Israeli occupation. This call seeks to remedy the three conditions described above without harming or depriving anyone of their rights. BDS is controversial mostly because the call has been widely misrepresented. But the demands of the BDS movement neither express or intend any racism or violence towards anyone, they are as follows:

  1. Ending the occupation.
  2. Equal rights to all Palestinians.
  3. Return of the Palestinian refugees.

According to a letter submitted by the ACLU to members of the US Senate, “S. 720 Israel Anti-Boycott Act is a bill that seeks to criminalize the call for BDS.” It states that it “would punish businesses and individuals based solely on their political point of view” and “Such a penalty is in direct violation of the First Amendment.” The letter ends by urging senators to oppose the bill.

In speech made by Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the co-sponsors of this bill, regarding BDS at the American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum on June 5, 2017, the Senator from New York said, “There is no greater example than this insidious effort to harm the Jewish state than through the boycotts, divestment and sanctions.” However, in reading the demands of the BDS call, it is clear that its goals are to improve the conditions which Israel has imposed on Palestinians and to repair inequities which Israeli governments are unwilling to address. There is no question that all efforts to get Israel to repair the inequities without pressure, had been exhausted.

Schumer refers to BDS as “a modern form of anti-Semitism.” Indeed, a modern form which does not incite against Jews, does not call for the killing of or discrimination against Jews but instead demands that all people who reside in Palestine/Israel enjoy the same rights and privileges.

Miko Peled is an Israeli human rights activist living in Washington DC. He is the author of “The General’s Son, Journey of an Israeli in Palestine” and the forthcoming book, “Injustice, The Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five” expected to be available in the fall on 2017. To request a lecture please go to mikopeled.com 

 

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Boim vs AMP – Using the Courts to Silence the Palestinian Voice.  By Miko Peled

 

The case of David Boim (“The Boim Case”) is a glaring example of the ongoing attempts to use the courts to suppress the Palestinian voice in America. A case that began in May 2000 and by 2008 seemed to have been put to rest, it has recently been resuscitated in a frivolous lawsuit targeting American Muslims for Palestine, AMP, and some of its officers.

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In May of 2000 Stanley and Joyce Boim filed a civil law suit against Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development or HLF, and several other Muslim organizations demanding damages. Their son, David Boim (17), was a student in a fundamentalist-religious Jewish-Zionist high school, or Yeshiva, in the Settlement of Beit-El, in the heart of the Palestinian West Bank.  On May 13, 1996 while he was sitting at a bus stop outside the settlement, two Palestinians, Khalil Al-Sharif and Amjad Hinawi drove by and shot him to death. In a strange confluence of events, while researching this information, I learned that Al-Sharif participated and died in a suicide attack in Jerusalem on September 4, 1997, the attack in which my niece Smadar Elhanan, 13, was killed.  Now, in the current lawsuit it is being claimed that American Muslims for Palestine, AMP and its officers are “alter-egos” of HLF and therefore should pay the Boim family the $156 million judgment which was awarded them “against individuals and organizations who financed the murder of their son.”

To place this case in context, it should be stated at the outset that to do justice to the Palestinian cause, a major paradigm shift needs to take place. We must come to terms with the fact that Palestinian resistance to Israel is legitimate and should not be mischaracterized as terrorism.  Attempts to discredit the Palestinian struggle in all its forms and conflate it with terrorism have been successful to a point that even charity to Palestinians is being labeled “material support for terrorism.”  This mischaracterization that is at the very heart of the attitudes towards Palestine and the Palestinian plight, and it is at the very heart of this case.

Perhaps the most frivolous of all the anti-Palestinian policies and actions taken by the governments of Israel, the US, the UK and other European countries are those targeting charity organizations.  New laws and practices that criminalize charity to Palestinians and conflate it with material support for terrorism are sweeping all over the world like a plague. Even though no evidence exists to support the claims of “material support to terrorist organizations,” this has not stopped banks from closing legitimate accounts, governments imposing severe sanctions, and even the imprisonment of people involved in charity to Palestinians.  Clearly closing charities targets the weak and deprives the ones most in need of relief. The poor, orphans, former prisoners – many of whom cannot work due to permanent injuries sustained during interrogations, and the families of prisoners are left dry and without financial support.

In my soon to be published book “Injustice, The Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five,” (available for pre-order here) I describe how the Holy Land Foundation, once the largest Muslim charity organization in the US was wrongly shut down and five innocent American Muslims of Palestinian heritage known as the HLF-5 ended up serving long sentences in federal prison. The HLF-5 were accused of providing material support to a designated terrorist organization and even though the case was built on hearsay and no evidence was produced linking them to any terrorist organization they were convicted. The government won using fear, prejudice and politics not evidence.

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Allegations of material support for Hamas are a theme that connects many of the accusations against Muslim organizations that deal with Palestine. In the case of the Holy Land Foundation, the accusation was providing material support and even though no such support was provided, the allegations stuck and five innocent men were convicted. The resurgence of the David Boim case (“the Boim Case”) is one example of the intensifying witch hunt against Palestinian and particularly Muslim organizations. The case seemed to have been put to rest after HLF was closed down and the HLF-5 were convicted and imprisoned in 2008, but it has recently been resuscitated in the following frivolous lawsuit:

Plaintiffs Stanley Boim, individually and as administrator of the estate of David Boim, deceased, and Joyce Boim (together, “Plaintiffs”), for their claim against defendants American Muslims for Palestine (“AMP”), Americans for Justice in Palestine Educational Foundation (“AJP”), Rafeeq Jaber, Abdelbasset Hamayel, and Osama Abu Irshaid (collectively, “Defendants”), allege and state as follows:

INTRODUCTION

  1. In 1996, Stanley and Joyce Boim’s son David was murdered by two agents of the international terrorist organization Hamas. The Boims initiated a lawsuit in this Court four years later, in 2000 (the “Boim Action”). In 2004, plaintiffs were awarded a $156 million judgment against individuals and organizations who financed the murder of their son (the “Boim Judgment”), and that judgment was affirmed in 2008.

The “Boim Defendants” were organizations that worked in tandem to support Hamas in the United States: the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (“HLF”), the American Muslim Society (“AMS”), and AMS’s alter egos operating under the name Islamic Association for Palestine (“IAP”). When time came to pay the Boim Judgment, AMS and IAP claimed to be out of business with few assets as a result of the burden of the Boim Judgment and associated litigation costs. HLF had ceased operations, and its assets had been seized by the United States. HLF and several of its leaders were subsequently convicted of terrorist activity. Seemingly, the Boim Action brought an end to these organizations. But that was not the case.

  1. In fact, these Boim Defendants are in business today in this District through their alter egos and successors, Defendants AMP and AJP. AMP and AJP were established by the former leaders of HLF, AMS and IAP—including Defendants Rafeeq Jaber, Abdelbasset Hamayel and Osama Abu Irshaid (together, the “Individual Defendants”)—in order to continue the same enterprise and agenda, while avoiding the burden of the Boim Judgment and the ignominy of having been found liable for aiding and abetting the murder of an American teenager. AMP and AJP continue to be run by former leaders of HLF, AMS and IAP, including the Individual Defendants; until August 2016 they were headquartered on the same street, and they are now located nearby; and they continue the same enterprise, mission and activities. On information and belief, they have also received assets and funds from HLF, AMS, and IAP.
  2. AMP and AJP are alter egos and successors of HLF, AMS and IAP, and are therefore liable for the unpaid portion of the Boim Judgment. Likewise, the Individual Defendants are alter egos of HLF, AMS and IAP. They participated in the direction and control of those entities in 1996, and they continue to direct and control the successor entities, AMP and AJP, today. Having been unable to collect more than a small fraction of the Boim Judgment from the named Boim Defendants, Plaintiffs should be permitted to recover from the Boim Defendants’ alter egos and successors, i.e. the Defendants herein.
  1. The purpose of this action is to request that the Court (i) enter a declaratory judgment determining that AMP and AJP are the alter egos and/or successors of one or more of the Boim Defendants (including AMS, IAP and HLF); (ii) enter a declaratory judgment determining that the Individual Defendants are alter egos of one or more of the Boim Defendants (including AMS, IAP and HLF), and that they engaged in the conduct that gave rise to liability in the Boim Judgment; (iii) enter a declaratory judgment determining that each of Defendants is liable for the unsatisfied portion of the Boim Judgment; (iv) enter money judgments against each of the Defendants, jointly and severally, for this unpaid liability; and (v) issue a preliminary and permanent injunction preventing AMP, AJP and the Individual Defendants from dissipating funds in their possession or in the possession of unknown third parties that rightfully belong to the Boims.

The general allegation is that Stanley and Joyce Boim’s seventeen-year old son David was murdered by Hamas terrorists at a bus stop in Israel in 1996.  However three things should be pointed out:

  1. David Boim was in the settlement of Beit –El in the heart of the West Bank, an area that the US does not recognize as being part of Israel but rather part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
  2. At no point was any connection made, in a US court of law, between the shooters that killed David Boim and Hamas.
  3. No connection was ever proven between the actions of HLF and the death of David Boim.

How the Boim family lawyers were able connect HLF to the killing of their son is to most people a mystery.  In order to unfold this mystery we must follow a trail of laws that were passed to make law suits such as this one possible. In 1992 Congress passed US Code 2333, a law says that any national of the United States injured by an act of international terrorism may sue and shall recover threefold the damages he or she sustains and the cost of the suit, including attorney’s fees. It further allows US citizens to sue any person or organization that is suspected of funding a terrorist group.

Then, in 1996, congress passed US Code 2339B.  This law says that, “Whoever knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and, if the death of any person results, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.” It also adds, “To violate this paragraph, a person must have knowledge that the organization is a designated terrorist organization.”

And so, even though no proof was ever found – much less provided – that HLF was funding Hamas, or that Hamas was involved in the killing of David Boim, these laws allowed the parents of David Boim to sue HLF based on hearsay.  The case ended up on appeal and attorney John Boyd argued the case for HLF. Boyd pointed out to the court that there is no evidence in the record that the death of David Boim had anything to do with anything the HLF had ever done.

One of the judges who heard the appeal was the esteemed judge Richard Posner, of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago.  During the hearing, Boyd told me Judge Posner said the following: “I think it’s pretty well-known that if you give money to the charitable arm of a terrorist organization that it frees up money to buy guns and bombs.” Boyd responded by asking Judge Posner if he would take judicial notice that for the purpose of this case, if HLF gives money to charity that there is causation for the death of Daniel Boim?”

(For those of us who are not lawyers, a judge can take “judicial notice” of something that everyone knows to be true and that doesn’t require proof.)

“Judge Posner said nothing,” Boyd told me, “he just spun in his chair and turned his back to the court.”

I pressed John Boyd on whether it was ever made clear that Hamas was responsible for David Boim’s death because I could not see anywhere that it was determined to be the case.  John Boyd replied clearly: “No! this was never determined.”  The Boims obtained judgments by default, ie., without a trial on that issue, that issue was never addressed.

It has never been proven that Hamas, HLF or AMP had anything to do with the killing of David Boim, and it has never been proven that HLF or AMP or the other organizations and individuals mentioned in this lawsuit had provided material support to Hamas – It was all hearsay.

Now we must get to the central question:  This lawsuit claims that AMP is somehow the “alter ego” of HLF which allegedly provided material support to Hamas.  But did HLF actually provide material support to Hamas? This was never proven, ever. The US government claimed that the local charity organizations in Palestine, known as Zakat committees, with which HLF was working, were somehow part of Hamas.  But this too was never proven. The international community believed they were not, the US Consul General to Jerusalem Ed Abington who testified at the trial believed they were not, and no US agency had ever listed them or any of their board members on any known terrorist list. Even USAID, a US government agency had worked with the Zakat committees but none of that was enough to save the HLF-5.

Another problematic issue that was raised in the HLF trial has to do with the way in which terrorists and terrorist organizations are designated by the US government. During the HLF trial, the prosecution called on John Robert McBrien to testify. Mr. McBrien was an associate director of OFAC, which is the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Department of the Treasury. John Cline, one of the attorneys for HLF, questioned him and determined that “The Secretary of the Treasury delegated the authority to designate persons (as terrorists, MP) under that provision to OFAC,” which again, is the Office of Foreign Assets Control.  Cline then determined and McBrien confirmed that “what is required for a designation is a reasonable belief. It is not, for example, proof beyond reasonable doubt. It is not proof by a preponderance of evidence, like you have in court.”  Mr. McBrien replied: “That is correct.”

“When OFAC is making a designation under this provision,” Cline concluded, “we don’t have to abide by any particular rules of evidence.” McBrien once again replied in the affirmative.

So there is no real burden of proof needed and it is not clear how a designation actually takes place.  Another serious question that came up in the HLF trial was the following: If indeed they are part of a terrorist financing network, why had Zakat committees never been designated as terrorist organizations? The government argued that there was no need to designate them separately because they were components of Hamas.  John Cline demonstrated that this argument does not hold water. He showed clearly that in fact “OFAC designated a whole slew of component entities.” But never the Zakat committees or their board members.

All this shows that the entire case is built on prejudice and false information.  It has not been proven that Hamas had anything to do with the killing of David Boim, it has not been proven that HLF or AMP or the other organizations and individuals mentioned in this lawsuit had provided material support to Hamas. Clearly, neither HLF, AMP or the individuals named in this lawsuit are in any way liable or responsible for the death of David Boim. The very method by which organizations are designated as “terrorists” is flawed and, one can argue, targets Muslim organizations that deal with Palestine.

Palestinians are fighting for their freedom, their independence and for their very lives. We would all do well to support them politically and when appropriate contribute to the organizations that further their cause. We must insist that Palestinian liberation organizations, resistance and charity organizations, educational and other learning institutions not be treated as terrorists or supporters of terrorism and we must join Palestinians in their struggle for justice. We would all do well to call for the release of the HLF-5 and demand that they be exonerated and that the Boim lawsuit be thrown out of court.

Miko Peled is a human rights activist. He is the author of “The General’s Son, Journey of an Israeli in Palestine” and the forthcoming book, “Injustice, The Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five” expected to be available in the fall on 2017. To book Miko Peled for a lecture, please click here.

 

 

Ten Thousand Palestine Supporters Converge on London. By Miko Peled

In what can only be described as the world’s largest event on Palestine, ten thousand people converged on the city of London to participate in the Palestine Expo, which was held at the Queen Elizabeth II center across from Westminster in the very heart of London.  Sponsored by the Al-Aqsa Foundation, the event drew criticism from pro-Israeli Zionist groups who tried to pressure the British government to prevent them from using the QEII which is a government run venue. They used the usual excuses claiming that the Al-Aqsa Foundation has connections to terrorism and that some of the speakers expressed support for terrorism and anti-Semitism and that some had even been arrested (yours truly included).

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Two weeks prior to the event there was still concern that the British government might interfere and prevent the event from taking place.  A list of the terror supporting speakers was published as a warning.

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I was told that I was confused:

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Then I received one directed to me personally in Hebrew, again claiming that the Al-Aqsa Foundation is a Hamas supporter, and “the event will be called off.”

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Well, it did take place. The pressure failed, the event went on to be an astounding success. An incredible lineup of speakers that is to long to list but included Hatem Bazian, Ilan Pappe, John Pilger, Iyad and Emad Burnat, Ghada Karmi, Maryam Barghouti, a women’s delegation from Palestine and Scottish MP (SNP) Tommy Shepheard to name but a few.  All spoke in front of enthusiastic audiences in standing-room only halls. There was an entertainment and cultural segment to the even as well. Entertainers included Palestinian rapper and activist Shadia Mansour, Logic, comedian Amer Zahr and a troupe of young dancers and singers from Palestine. There was a good balance of culture, politics and social issues presented throughout the weekend all of which were packed with standing-room taken up completely.

My first talk was titled, “The Origins of Zionism” and I was pleasantly surprised to see what became the norm throughout the event – people pouring into a room packing it to the limit. Regrettably my co-panelist Sai Englert was not well and could not be there. The final panel in which I participated along with Scottish MP Tommy Shepheard was titled, “100 years After the Balfour Declaration, The Role of the British Parliament.” Since we were located across the street from Parliament it seemed like an excellent opportunity to express my thoughts regarding the infamous declaration, made by Lord Arthur Balfour one hundred years ago, and what I believe would be the right approach for the British Parliament to take at this point.

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The Balfour Declaration

Though the Balfour Declaration provides some lip service acknowledging the existence of other people who live in Palestine, it describes the Palestinians not by their name or identity as the natives and owners of the land but merely as “the non-Jewish community” and states that there should be no prejudice towards them. This is a a Euro-Centric and racist point of view and indeed it is indicative of how the Zionist view and refer to the Palestinians to this day.  I put together a list of demands that I suggested should be presented to the British parliament by the many constituents who were present in the room, the first being an unconditional retraction of the Balfour Declaration. These demands take into consideration the following: Palestine has been occupied since 1948. The name Palestine has been all but erased and the country has been renamed, Israel. Since 1948 millions of Palestinians have been victims of ethnic cleansing and genocide (insert Geneva convention on the crime of Genocide), and Palestinians living in Palestine have been subjected to an apartheid regime.  All the attempts made by Palestinians to negotiate with the Zionist state have failed and with each attempt, conditions have gotten worse for Palestinians.  Considering all the above, the following ten demands need to be made to the British parliament:

  1. Expel the Israeli ambassador and close the Israeli embassy in London.(This one received an enormous applause).
  2. Bring home the British ambassador from Tel-Aviv and close the British embassy there.
  3. Designate the sale of arms to Israel a crime against humanity.
  4. Adopt the Palestinian call for boycott, (insert BDS demands here) divestment and sanctions against the state of Israel and demand the same from the international community.
  5. Send British naval forces to force Israel to end the siege on Gaza and ensure regular supplies of clean water, medicine and electricity to the people of Gaza. Provide care for the injured and the sick.
  6. Call for the unconditional release of all Palestinian prisoners.
  7. Demand the dismantling of the apartheid Zionist state.
  8. Call for elections with one person one vote that will include all who reside in between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea.
  9. Demand the creation of a constitution that will guarantee equal rights and respect for human rights within the new state of free Palestine.
  10. Call on the ICC to consider prosecuting Israeli political leaders and military commanders for the crime of genocide.

If the British parliament was to adopt these demands it would hasten the freeing of Palestine and Palestinians. It would facilitate ending the Zionist regime, and it would allow the British to atone for the crimes committed against the Palestinian people both directly and by complicity through military and political support for Israel.

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At the end of the day, this wonderful tweet from Oxford PCS sums up the feelings of so many who were part of the Palestine Expo. And indeed thanks goes to the countless volunteers and organizers who worked tirelessly and to Friends of Al-Aqsa for fighting to make Palestine front and center.

To book Miko Peled for a lecture please click here