Israel’s lobby – Criminalizing Resistance

SHAFAQNA – Since its very inception Israel has worked to criminalise resistance – a natural right which countless nations have claimed for themselves when faced with tyranny. America itself was born in resistance against Britain’s imperialism. Arguably Israel’s very existence has too been expressed in resistance – resistance against a fictitious tyranny, made legitimate by its false claim to religious sanctity over the land of Jacob (Israel).

Whether peaceful or armed, Israel has passionately opposed all forms of resistance, designating armed Palestinian and Arab groups as terrorists and legally preventing Palestinians from holding demonstrations.

Since the launch of the “war on terror” in 2001, Israel has also had some success in exporting this framework to its Western allies, conflating the ideological threat posed by al-Qaeda and the Palestinian struggle for justice.

This effort to criminalise resistance has also extended to transnational civil society – proof of Israel’s reach within world politics. But there lies too a great weakness … Israel cannot exist outside the tyranny it has weaved.

Israel very much understands that its survival lies in its ability to silence the opposition and slaughter the resistance. But since it is in the nature of man to push back against enslavement, and if we agree that any action will create an equal reaction, Israel has already condemned itself. Understand here that my commentary is not an enticement to violence.

In the years following the 9/11 attacks, the US government “designated more than 40 [Muslim] charities internationally as terrorist financiers.”[1]

The Holy Land Foundation, once the largest Muslim charity in the US, was almost immediately targeted in December 2001.  Founded in 1989, the Texas-based foundation helped to raise funds primarily for Palestinian refugees, but also helping victims of tornadoes, earthquakes and floods around the world. US federal prosecutors accused the Holy Land Foundation and its members of providing financial assistance to individuals and organisations linked to Hamas, claiming that this constituted “material support for terrorism” because the money the foundation was sending to zakat associations in Gaza, to build hospitals and feed the poor, relieved the social organisations affiliated with Hamas of carrying out this responsibility. None of the zakat associations were listed as terrorist organisations at the time.[2]

Flying in the face of logic, and of course legality, then-President George W. Bush called the closure of the foundation “another step in the war on terrorism,”[3] and the government publicly named more than 300 individuals and American Muslim organisations as “unindicted co-conspirators”, without allowing them to hear the evidence against them or defend themselves in court.[4]

Right on cue, the American Jewish Committee, which had established a Division on Middle East and International Terrorism back in 1999, released a statement calling the closure of the charity “a bold and welcome step” and urged the Bush administration’s move to cut sources of funding for Hamas to be matched by similar steps by European governments.[5]

Here America can be seen as a trend-setter and enabler of Israel’s anti-resistance activities, in that it is setting both a legal and political precedent – introducing the idea that Palestinians, and all those who dare emphasise with their cause are divergent dissident.

Most of the Muslim charities targeted by the US government have had their assets frozen and their offices shut down without ever being formally prosecuted or convicted of any crime. The few federal cases that have arisen against them have been legally problematic because Washington has adopted loose interpretations of “material support for terrorism,” and used ex post facto relationships to prove that suspects are “otherwise associated with” terrorists according to President Bush’s Executive Order 13224 of September 24, 2001.[6]

This use by the Israeli lobby of America’s fear of terrorism, and counter-terror legislation is fascinating as one could ask to which extent Tel Aviv helped shaped those policies to help introduce its own. In many ways America’s tragedy has served Israel’s colonial policies by rooting the Palestinian cause in the fear of radical Islamism. By radical Islamism readers must understand Islamism as the political expression of Wahhabism – this imperious need to impose a warped interpretation of Islam by way of the sword. If ever there was a historical parallel which could be drawn with radical Islamism, it is towards the Khawarij[7] we should turn our gaze.

The loose interpretation of “material support” and the targeting of respected charities have created a climate of fear that has allowed the Israel lobby to strengthen its call for European countries to classify Palestinian and Arab non-violent resistance to Israeli aggression, even in the charitable sector, as criminal. The Israel lobby has largely focused on criminalising two groups, Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as the Iranian government. As demonstrated in a 2004 report published by AJC, entitled “Al-Qaeda, Iran, and Hezbollah [sic]: A continuing symbiosis,” the lobby has often sought to conflate these groups with Al-Qaeda to exaggerate the threat they pose to the West.

By Catherine Shakdam for the Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies


[1] Arik Bender, ‘Bill marks products from states backing Israel boycott’, The Jerusalem Post, 5

November 2015. News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Likud-MKs-label-for- label-bill-would-mark-products-from-countries-backing-Israel-boycott-432114. Accessed 7 November


[2] Neil MacFarquar, ‘As Muslim group goes on trial, other charities watch warily’, The New York Times, 17 July 2007

[3] White House freezes suspected terror assets’, Washington Post, 4 December 2001. srv/nation/specials/attacked/transcripts/bushtext_1204

01.html. Accessed 19 August 2015

[4] Laurie Goodstein, ‘US Muslims taken aback by a charity’s conviction’, The New York Times, 25 November 2008

[5] ‘American Jewish Committee applauds US action against funders of Hamas’, American Jewish Committee, 4 December 2001. oJILSPwFfJSG&b=8479733&ct=12488693#sthash.78C DpMmF.dpuf. Accessed 31 October 2015

[6] Kay Guinane, Vanessa Dick, Amanda Adams, and Brian Gumm,  ‘Collateral damage: How the  War on Terror hurts  charities, foundations, and  the people they serve’,  International Journal of Civil Society Law, Volume 6, Issue 3, July 2008

[7] How The Khawarij Came Into Existence – Shafaqna October 2016

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