Aletho News


Been to Israel/Palestine lately? The FBI may come knocking on your door.

By Cecilie Surasky | MuzzleWatch | December 15 2010

By the time she was in high school, Sarah Smith had already been named one of the 100 most influential women in Chicago by Chicago’s business magazine, Crain’s. Now Smith, who happens to be Jewish, has been subpoenaed by the FBI to appear before a grand jury on January 25 to explain her trip to Israel-Palestine with two Palestinian women friends. (As terrifying as this whole episode is for everyone involved, it says something about Palestinian safety that only Smith has come forward publicly.) All three young Chicago residents have been subpoenaed, joining ranks with 14 other peace activists from the Midwest who have been similarly targeted in recent months.

Here is Sarah Smith’s full statement from a December 6 press conference:

Friday morning, December 3, I received a phone call from an FBI agent. He asked if I had about 30 minutes to sit down and speak with him so he could ask me some questions. I asked about what and he said he “was not at liberty to discuss it.” I then asked if I needed a lawyer present and he said it was up to me but that I was not in any trouble and that they just had a few questions.

I felt something suspicious about him telling me he wanted to ask me some questions, but he would not tell me what these questions were. So I said that I had to consult a lawyer and check my schedule and that I would get back to him. I reiterated that it would be easier for me to meet him if I knew why an FBI agent wanted to sit down with me. He then said that it had to deal with the trip I took this summer. He then emphasized, “I think you know which one I’m talking about.”

The trip I took last summer was to Israel and Palestine. I am Jewish and wanted to see first hand what life is like for Israelis and Palestinians. If I went on the standard tour to Israel, I would not be shown how Palestinians live. So I went on a tour that showed me both worlds, Israel, and the Israeli occupied Palestinian West Bank. I went with 2 Palestinian-American friends. You would think Jews and Palestinians going together to visit Israel and Palestine is something the U.S. government would encourage.

Instead, we are now being ordered by the FBI to go before a Grand Jury for going on that trip. The US government says it supports peace between Israel and Palestine. It says it supports separate Israeli and Palestinian states.

So why does the FBI investigate us because we went to see the Palestinian land? Top US government leaders meet with Palestinian leaders, so why does the FBI investigate us because we talked to average Palestinians on the street?

I went there so I could make up my own mind and talk about what I saw. It seems to me our government wants to hide what Israel is doing to Palestinians. I would like to thank the Committee Against Political Repression for standing up for me and my friends. You can learn about case at, and please make a donation there. Or you can make a donation for our legal expenses: to NLG Foundation, memo line: FBI raids and mail it to Sarah Smith, 2961 S. Bonaparte, Chicago, IL 60608

Smith’s father, Stan Smith,  added “I think Patrick Fitzgerald, the US District Attorney, Robert Parker of the FBI need to see my daughter and her friends and apologize to them. And I think President Obama, who was elected in 2008 because he said he would stop this sort of thing, should make a point on his next trip to Chicago to personally apologize to my daughter and her friends for how his government is intimidating them.”

Meanwhile, there are actions across the country to protest this crackdown on peace activists (sign the petition here). Firedoglake’s Kevin Gosztola has this report:

The hunting down of activists began on September 24th when the FBI raided homes and offices of activists from Minneapolis and Chicago. Computers, phones, documents and other personal items were seized and the FBI officially subpoenaed 14 activists to appear before a Grand Jury. The FBI began to contact members of the “peace community” and ask them what they knew about the subpoenaed activists’ “material support for terrorism.”

The attorneys representing the activists have noted “the current definition of “material support’ can cover just about anything, like providing humanitarian aid that ends up in the hands of a group tagged as ‘terrorist’ by the US government, or posting a link to an informational website. The implications of this law, as it is being used, are troubling to anyone who does community organizing, or anyone who does journalistic reporting or academic research on wars, conflicts or controversial movements.”

Months later, the activists in Minneapolis and Chicago have not been charged with a crime, but they continue to face possible jail time if they refuse to go before a Grand Jury and participate in this “witch hunt.” They have yet to have their belongings, which were seized by the FBI, returned.

Democracy anyone?

December 16, 2010 - Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel


  1. If it were me, and I knew the kind of world we live in, I would have to check my ‘motive’.
    Like the 3 american hikers who ‘lost’ their way on the Iraq/Iran border, and were arrested as ‘spies’, put in jail, and save for the young lady, are still there. Iran has and still has the ‘right’ and duty to protect her borders. Unlike the american government idiots who encourage any one and everyone to be ILLEGAL. So back to the article here. There are a myriad of documentaries, and internet links that tell us what is happening in Palestine. Common sense would tell me I should stay where I was safe, instead of tempting fate. Did they think they could change things? In this time, in this age of deceit and lies.. did they think nothing could happen to them, or their families, or did they just not think.
    I believe I can be arrested and taken to jail, just going to the grocery, or to the Library. For no particular reason. And even be accused for something that could sentence me to life in prison, or death. WHY? Because THEY CAN!
    They are going to have to face the consequences of their actions. Perhaps the father should have warned them of the danger. I don’t feel sorry for them. Maybe this will teach them to THINK before they act. Something we ALL need to learn. People need to grow some brains and common sense.


    Comment by Joyce | December 16, 2010

  2. I am in my 60’s and visited the Occupied West Bank last November. So I think I’ve done most of my growing up and I don’ take risks I consider unwise. I went because I wanted to see for myself if the things I was hearing about the nature of the occupation could posibly be true. Unfortunately, things were much worse than anything we have an opportunity to hear or read about in the U.S. I never felt in danger while I was in the Occupied West Bank. However now that I’m back and ready to speak out, I’m finding the only thing I have to fear is my own government. However, that will not stop me from speaking the truth as I saw it during my visit. “What the eye sees it cannot un-see.”


    Comment by Gayle | March 6, 2011

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