Terrorism, War Crimes and Justice in America
Via TPM we find this AP story of the conviction of 5 members of a Muslim charity for the crime of providing money to help children in Palestine.
Two founding members of what was once the nation’s largest Muslim charity were each sentenced to 65 years in prison Wednesday for funneling millions of dollars to the Palestinian militant group Hamas. . . .
Mufid Abdulqader, 49, was sentenced to 20 years on three conspiracy counts. Mohammad El-Mezain, 55, got 15 years for one count of conspiracy to support a terrorist organization. Abdulrahman Odeh got 15 years for three conspiracy counts.
The Holy Land leaders were convicted on charges ranging from supporting a terrorist organization to money laundering and tax fraud. The group wasn’t accused of violence, but of bankrolling schools and social welfare programs the government says are controlled by Hamas. Holy Land itself was convicted of 32 counts.
It’s illegal to offer Hamas support because it was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. in 1995. The group has taken credit for hundreds of suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians.
So let’s review the state of justice in the US criminal justice system.
The State of Israel had been keeping Gaza under a state of virtual/actual siege in response to Hamas firing rockets at Israeli settlements. The Israelis closed off all access in/out of Gaza, limited the flow of food, medicine and fuel. When this did not stop the rockets, they eventually conducted dozens of air strikes on Gaza, including the use of phosphorus/incendiary weapons in civilian areas. Use of these weapons is, in some conditions, considered a war crime; many civilians were killed or wounded, and there was significant damage to Gaza buildings/structures.
In response to the devastating impact on Palestinian civilians, international relief agencies tried repeatedly then and since to send in humanitarian assistance, food, and medical supplies to relieve the human suffering caused by the conflict.
You might have made a contribution to one or more of these relief organizations, like the Red Crescent or Doctors Without Borders, or some church-connected charity. Perhaps you had friends or relatives there, and tried to send money or whatever you could. Or perhaps it was just you paying your taxes, a tiny part of which goes to fund UN humanitarian relief operations. Your churches might have encouraged this.
In addition, following the major conflict, Condoleeza Rice and other Western officials who failed to stop the violence beforehand, endeavored to raise billions of dollars in reconstruction aid afterwards to help rebuild schools and hospitals and public health facilities in the bombed areas of Gaza. As a tax payer, you would be asked to contribute to these US/international humanitarian relief efforts.
None of you are going to jail for providing this help, because you, or your government, were simply trying to make amends for, or repair the damage of, the crimes and wars of others. The politics didn’t matter; if you are moral person, the only important point is the need for humanitarian relief to the victims, whoever they are.
But 5 Muslims in the US are going to spend 15-65 years in jail because they [allegedly] channeled their humanitarian efforts, all meant for the same people and the same purposes as those "legitimate" efforts above, through an organization, Hamas, that the US has designated as "terrorist." [Update: but see this comment on where the funds actually went and whether the recipients were even controlled by Hamas]
There is indeed much terrorism in our world, and unfortunately lots of people and organizations and governments willing to commit terrorist acts. But the idea that Hamas is a "terrorist" organization, but the United States of America is blameless, after all we’ve done in our wars and at Abu Ghraib, CIA black sites and Gitmo (without holding a single senior official accountable), or the State of Israel, after its actions in Gaza, has long since lost any credibility. The dubious distinctions we make to claim we’re somehow different are not worthy of a people who claim to stand for justice.
Five Muslims will go to jail for decades for trying to build schools and hospitals in a war-torn land where leaders on neither side can find a way to coexist. If that was their crime, the US laws that tried, convicted and sent those Muslims to jail are unjust, and we should be ashamed they were applied in our name.