The US’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has opened a counter-terrorism investigation into a non-violent Palestinian activist group, a report revealing hundreds of pages of FBI documents has shown.
The pages, acquired by the news and investigative outlet the Intercept after public records requests filed in 2015, reveals how the Bureau’s agents launched a secret investigation into members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) throughout the US.
The group of activists, of whom the academic Mark Chmiel and other unnamed individuals are members, is a pro-Palestinian movement which identifies itself as a “Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles.”
ISM is known to carry out its activities through its non-violent means of arranging and enabling international activists to visit the occupied Palestinian territories in order to engage in peaceful resistance against the Israeli occupation.
The FBI conducted a series of probes into figures like Chmiel, who was approached by the Bureau in 2006 regarding his trip to the West Bank three years prior. During that trip, Israeli forces opened fire on his group and managed to injure a fellow activist. That same year, another author and ISM member hailing from the US named Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli military bulldozer while attempting to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home.
Rather than the FBI’s confrontation with Chmiel being about the shooting by Israeli forces, however, it was instead based on a terrorism inquiry into him and fellow ISM members due to their pro-Palestinian activism. The author and ISM had no knowledge of the investigation itself, however, as it was kept confidential by the FBI and was not discovered until the release of the Intercept’s report on Sunday.
The FBI papers also included other methods used to monitor pro-Palestine solidarity groups and individuals associated with them, with the most prominent reportedly being through the use of secret informants. It makes references to other investigations carried out by federal agents throughout the country, but many of the papers are significantly redacted up to such an extent that they were deemed impossible to identify what they exactly referred to.
The Bureau’s investigations into ISM were also wildly inaccurate, as they “relied heavily on biased right-wing publications making fantastical claims of questionable veracity.”
ISM’s co-founder Huwaida Arraf condemned the FBI’s investigations and probes into its work, telling the outlet that “The fact that ISM was under this kind of extensive investigation is ridiculous and a complete waste of taxpayer money.” Arraf added that “ISM has always been open and transparent about who we are, what we do, and what we stand for, which is purportedly what this country stands for – freedom and human rights.”
The US has long supported Israel as an essential and strategic ally and has banned a variety of movements who have sought to resist the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and the Jewish State’s constant violation of international law, one of them being the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in recent years. Such revelations of the FBI’s secret investigations into pro-Palestine groups and activists is seen as the latest manifestation of its efforts to curb popular pro-Palestine support within the US.