How the US weaponizes terrorism statutes against Palestinians

A new briefing paper maps the historical and political context for the current criminalization of solidarity activism and organizing against Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

Palestine liberation activism has been “like a laboratory, a canary in a coal mine,” academic and researcher Darryl Li told The Electronic Intifada Podcast.

Li is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Social Sciences and a Lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago.

He is a lead author of the paper, “Anti-Palestinian at the Core: The Origins and Growing Dangers of US Antiterrorism Law,” which was co-published by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Palestine Legal.

The paper highlights how many foundational anti-terrorism laws arose during, or were adapted to, pivotal moments in the Palestinian liberation struggle – often pushed by Israel-aligned groups to reflexively cast the veil of “terrorism” almost uniquely on Palestinians.

Over the past few months, Palestine Legal writes, Israel lobby groups such as the Anti-Defamation League have called on university presidents “to investigate Students for Justice in Palestine chapters for ‘material support for terrorism.’”

“Efforts to defund the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, have invoked these same ‘support for terrorism’ laws,” Palestine Legal notes.

Li told us that the report was written to try and map “the threats of terrorism law to Palestine organizing. And in doing so, we realized that not only were there a bunch of laws that are dangerous and terrible and repressive, but whenever we looked into the history of these laws, it came up again and again and again that Palestine was the motivating factor.”

He added that “it’s not simply a coincidence that these laws happen to be obstacles to Palestine organizing. That’s their entire intended purpose in the first place.”

We also discuss the Anti-Defamation League’s role as a key player in the crafting of these US “anti-terrorism” laws, and how activists can use the report’s recommendations to protect free speech and advocacy for Palestinian rights.

Listen to the entire episode above, or listen via SoundCloud below.

Articles we discussed

Video production by Tamara Nassar

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).