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US spooks spied on non-violent pro-Palestinian group for two years

Activists condemn the FBI's operation as a ‘complete waste of taxpayers' money’

PRO-Palestinian activists have condemned “a complete waste of taxpayers’ money” by the FBI after the US anti-crime agency was revealed to have spied on them for two years.

News website the Intercept reported that US spooks had been keeping tabs on the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and other associated organisations between 2004 and 2006.

The FBI used a network of informants, as well as physical and telecommunications surveillance, as part of terror-related investigations into the non-violent campaigning organisation.

The ISM supports international volunteers to visit the Palestinian territories and engage in non-violent direct action against the Israeli occupation.

Its activists have often faced violent attacks by Israeli forces, including the firing of live ammunition during protests and other actions.

Now it has become clear that members of the movement in the US have also been targeted by their own country’s authorities, with the FBI opening international investigations into a number of individuals, including St Louis-based academic Mark Chmiel.

He was quizzed by the FBI over his 2006 trip to Palestine, during which he connected with the ISM and took part in solidarity work.

The Intercept revealed that, while nothing came of those investigations, the FBI office in Los Angeles opened a domestic security investigation into the ISM as a terrorist organisation.

Hundreds of pages of the report show that the investigations linked other organisations to the ISM and that the political beliefs of individuals were equated with terrorism.

Former FBI agent Michael German, who now works for the Brennan Centre for Justice, said: “These cases demonstrate the FBI’s unwillingness to distinguish non-violent civil disobedience protesting [against] government policy from terrorism.”

ISM denounced “this shameless abuse of power and misuse of public funds in an attempt to criminalise Palestinian solidarity and anti-occupation activism, as well as the current ongoing campaign in some American states to criminalise the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] campaign.

“ISM activists have been secretly spied on and targeted by various intelligence services, including British, Israeli and US, for over 19 years, merely for standing up for the rights of Palestinians,” the organisation said.

Co-founder Huwaida Arraf deplored the waste of taxpayers’ money on the extensive investigations.

“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,” she said.

She called on those who believe that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity to take action and boycott companies profiting from the continued Israeli occupation of their land.

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