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Rights group report spike in FBI interrogation of pro-Palestine activists

January 25, 2024 at 10:42 am

Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters building in Washington D.C., United States on July 3, 2023 [Celal Güneş/Anadolu Agency]

Civil rights organisation, Palestine Legal, has reported that the FBI has intensified questioning of pro-Palestine activists across the US based on their social media activity condemning Israeli violence against Palestinians.

“We’ve received several reports of the FBI visiting activists in response to their social media posts criticizing Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza,” Palestine Legal, said on X urging victims of FBI harassment to know their rights if approached by federal officers.

“The FBI’s discriminatory targeting of people who speak up for Palestinian rights online is an attempt to intimidate and censor popular opposition to Israel’s policies,” Palestine Legal continued. “Activists have a right to condemn apartheid and genocide. They also have a right to refuse to speak to FBI agents without an attorney.”

The organisation says it has received multiple accounts of activists being visited by FBI agents with printed copies of their tweets, Facebook posts and TikTok videos showing Gazan children killed in Israeli air strikes.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee confirmed it has also documented increased FBI questioning of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims over the past year, calling it “state intimidation tactics” aimed at suppressing dissent.

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Advocates advise all activists approached by federal agents to immediately state they will only speak with an attorney present. Experts also encourage reporting harassment incidents and filing complaints alleging constitutional rights violations.

As solidarity with Palestinians goes mainstream globally, governments have come under criticism for their increasingly desperate attempt to chill speech by equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism and deploying police to censor critics.

The Intercept reported that after 7 October civil rights groups noticed a spike in federal law enforcement agents questioning Palestinians and increasing surveillance of mosques. Multiple accounts of Palestinians contacted without any prior suspicion of wrongdoing were reported to Arab civil rights groups. Federal agents also reportedly met with mosque leadership to ask about potential “troublemakers.”

Advocates condemn these incidents as discriminatory targeting that contributes to heightened fear and vulnerability among Arab and Muslim communities. They argue such overt suspicion based solely on ethnicity or faith recalls post-9/11 crackdowns and violates constitutional freedoms.

The increased scrutiny comes despite Homeland Security stating it has no specific threats identified domestically tied to the Israel-Gaza violence. Officials claim they are monitoring for broader anti-Arab or anti-Semitic incidents.

But human rights attorneys note federal questioning of Arabs and Muslims frequently intensifies during global events without actual cause beyond identity.