Thousands of people have been demonstrating in support of Palestinians and against Israel’s assault on Gaza in major cities across the United States. Police have shown some willingness to facilitate protests, but organizers have also experienced a double standard in the way police handle Palestinian supporters versus Israel supporters. Multiple examples of this double standard, in fact, have surfaced in recent weeks.
Hatem Abudayyeh is based in Chicago, Illinois, and sits on the National Coordinating Committee of the United States Palestine Community Network (USPCN). He is a prominent organizer around issues related to the Arab community in Chicago and the US, in addition to issues related to Palestine. He has been targeted by the federal government for his solidarity activism. He was one of several activists, who had their home raided by the FBI nearly four years ago. The Justice Department issued 23 activists grand jury subpoenas, but they all refused to testify. He has remained a steadfast and outspoken person in the community.
Abudayyeh joins the podcast to talk about the incredible response to Israel’s assault on Gaza in Chicago. He discusses how police have handled the demonstrations and the history of racial profiling, which the Palestinian community has routinely experienced. He also highlights the Justice Department’s cloud of investigation that hangs over him as well as the political case of Rasmea Odeh, which targeted activists suspect may have a connection to the Justice Department’s investigation.
After the interview, I highlight how CIA director John Brennan and former CIA officials have been plotting to discredit the Senate intelligence committee’s torture report and talk about The Intercept’s story on the National Counterterrorism Center’s criteria for placing people on government watchlists. Khalek wraps the episode with an update on Gaza and the West Bank.
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Abudayyeh said during the episode, “This has been an incredible response from the community. It’s an expected response. There are a lot of impressive institutions in our community in this country and especially in Chicago, which has always kind of been a hub for Palestinian community activism. On the other hand, although there are strong organizers and institutions here, it’s really the issue itself that brings people out.”
He mentioned there have been five major demonstrations in Chicago. One of them, on July 20, brought out 10,000 people for what he believes was probably the largest gathering of Palestinians in one place in the history of the community in Chicago.
According to Abudayyeh, the Chicago police have essentially taken sides when policing protests. The consulate in chicago organized a pro-Israel rally on June 22 and, when that rally wrapped, the “most rabid” of the Israel supporters came over to “provoke and confront” those protesting in support of Palestinians.
Instead of stopping the Israel supporters from leaving their area, the police took their police on horseback and other various officers and surrounded the rally for Palestinians.
This same day, a gun-toting pro-Israel supporter, who is a prominent real estate broker who sells condos at the Trump International Tower, slipped past police and was carrying a concealed handgun. He was arrested. The police did not put out a press release on this arrest.
“If, by any stretch of the imagination, a handgun was found on a Palestinian on the Palestinian side, it would have been international news and the cries of terrorism would have been coming from probably the White House even,” Abuddayeh contended. This reflected a “disgusting double standard” and spoke to the history of racial profiling and white supremacy in Chicago.
Abudayyeh noted, “A Chicago police department officer was overheard being asked by some person on the street what are these folks out here for. And the cop said they’re out here because they hate Jews.”
As he explained, “There’s a sordid history—in Chicago especially but around the country—of Palestinians and their institutions coming under fire from the government and being repressed. Organizations that have been shut down since September 11th, humanitarian aid organizations, people who have been subpoenaed to grand juries to talk about their Palestinian solidarity activism and their delegations to Palestine.”
Abudayyeh has been investigated, along with twenty-two others, for allegedly providing material support to terrorist organizations. With the Palestinian Solidarity Group, he organized delegations to visit Palestine. He believes this is what the Justice Department is criminalizing.
All the targeted activists refused to testify before a grand jury, and nearly four years later the US Attorney’s Office in Chicago refuses to close the case.
“Most of the people that were raided had all of their property returned within a year and a half. Mine was the only home where the property was not returned until just recently,” Abudayyeh added.
His lawyer, Michael Deutsch, was contacted a few weeks ago and informed that the US Attorney’s Office was ready to return his property. Deutsch tried to get the office to say that this investigation was all over but they claimed the investigation still was not over.