Monday, January 17, 2011

The government attacks PART 1

Sarah Smith (pictured) is a young Jewish activist who lives in the Chicago area and one of the people served with a subpoena by the FBI to appear before a grand jury. Yesterday, I attended a meeting (every seat taken) where Sarah spoke along with two lawyers who are defending her. I learned quite a bit and am eager to pass it on to you because it tells of how an innocent person can be roped in and potentially sent to prison for doing nothing wrong. Her case is a warning to all Americans that our freedom cannot be assumed.

I have published Sarah's statement to the public, but in person she told of details not mentioned there and her lawyers presented information about the U.S. grand jury system that you should hear - that will be in my next post.

So what did Sarah do that has her under the government spotlight?

She, along with two Palestinian-American friends, took a trip to Israel/Palestine with the intention of seeing more than would be revealed to Sarah by a Birthright trip (a propaganda filled venture to rope young American Jews into support for Israel). They wanted to experience the situation in the occupied territories.

The difference in treatment for Sarah and her friends was astonishing to this young woman who had come to believe all Arabs in Palestine were out to get Jews. On arrival at the airport in Israel, Sarah was passed through without problem while her friends were pulled aside into an interrogation area for ten hours during which they were asked why they were there - who were their relatives in Palestine. It was not constant questioning, but brief question periods followed by long hours of being kept sitting by themselves in a room supplied only with water, wondering what was going on - in other words, the kind of psychological game that Israel plays daily with the Palestinians under their authority.

Sarah could not believe that she, an American with no ties to the area and just as much a stranger as her two friends, was treated with courtesy and not subject to scrutiny while her friends with deep ties to Palestine were under suspicion.

After being granted freedom to go, the three were off to see what they could. At this point Sarah repeated a story I have heard so often from Americans who travel to the occupied territories.

Far from being hostile, Palestinians were welcoming and more than friendly. Tea was constantly on offer and walks around villages brought many warm introductions and visits in homes. Sarah was impressed by the contrast between this warmth and the coldness of the people they encountered in Israel.

When I first heard this kind of story, I was reluctant to give it credit, but too many Jews have told of the same experience, people who were not pre-disposed to see Palestinians in a warm light, so I now expect to hear it and believe it indicates the true situation.

So the three friends completed their visit and after another challenging encounter at the airport, returned to the United States.

Then, on December 3 of last year, Sarah received a call from the FBI as related in her statement and she was suddenly in the spotlight, expected to respond to a demand by the American government to appear and answer any and all questions posed by a grand jury. The grand jury story is a shocker in itself and that will be in my next post.

The Electronic Intifada provides a comprehensive overview of the situation.

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