FBI opened 'pointless' terror investigations into non-violent pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement

FBI opened 'pointless' terror investigations into non-violent pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement
Thousands of pages of documents reveal how the FBI snooped on non-violent pro-Palestinian activists in investigations that resulted in no charges.
3 min read
07 April, 2020
The International Solidarity Movement is a non-violent pro-Palestine group [Getty]

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened terrorism investigations into a group of non-violent Palestinian solidarity activists, according to a recent report by The Intercept.

Hundreds of pages of FBI documents, obtained by the online news outlet, revealed how federal agents investigated St Louis-based activist and academic Mark Chmiel, as well as several other unnamed individuals associated with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) across the US.

The ISM is a pro-Palestinian group that describes itself  as a "Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles".

It is known for arranging for international activists to travel to the occupied Palestinian territories to engage in non-violent resistance to Israeli occupation. 

Chmiel was approached by the FBI in 2006 regarding a trip he had made to the occupied West Bank three years earlier, when Israeli soldiers opened fire on his group and injured a fellow activist from St Louis.

Around the same period as Chmiel's trip, Rachel Corrie - an American pro-Palestine activist and ISM member - was killed by an Israeli military bulldozer as she protected a Palestinian home from demolition.

What interested the FBI investigators was not the shooting but a terrorism inquiry into him and other ISM volunteers.

According to The Intercept, Chmiel and other pro-Palestine activists had no knowledge of the probes until the recent revelation after the online publication finally secured access to redacted reports via public records requests from 2015.

The reports reveal how the FBI engaged in surveillance of non-violent opponents of Israel's illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories.

This included monitoring individual activists and solidarity groups, the use of confidential informants, and the involvement of a scandal-prone unit, formed in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks. 

Read also: Palestinian activists say there is a Facebook purge against them as algorithms replace coronavirus-hit staff

According to the report both investigations into the ISM "relied heavily on biased right-wing publications making fantastical claims of questionable veracity".

"The fact that ISM was under this kind of extensive investigation is ridiculous and a complete waste of taxpayer money," ISM co-founder Huwaida Arraf told The Intercept.

"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 Intercept said that the FBI documents were only released for review in 2019 following a four-year legal battle.

The report adds that federal police admitted that other records also exist regarding similar investigations, however the agencies involved declined their release.

Despite the efforts of the FBI, the investigations resulted in no criminal charges against the activists.

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