On a call hosted by The Israel Project last Friday, California Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman made an intriguing announcement.
He called for all Americans who participated in the Gaza flotilla to be prosecuted in Federal court, and all non-Americans to be barred from entering the United States.
The Congressman was referring to the Federal law banning “providing material support to terrorists” (see below). Essentially, the law states that any American providing support (and that includes any tangible and intangible property) to a terrorist organization is subject to prosecution in Federal court, and potential imprisonment.
Now let’s recall that the Gaza flotilla “activists” have made some very public statements about trying to break the blockade, and bring in supplies to Gaza – supplies including concrete and iron, which we know Hamas uses to build military-style fortifications and weapon-smuggling tunnels, and which would pretty clearly constitute providing “support” and “materials” to an internationally-recognized terrorist organization.
This is not about how much you “like” an organization, or agree with its aims.
This is about a very simple issue.
Hamas is a terrorist organization, which murders innocent civilians (including children) to achieve its aims. Every person on Earth (save perhaps Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) agrees on this point. Hamas is also in charge of Gaza – all its roads, all its ports, all its “smuggling tunnels.” So if you provide anything to Gaza, unless you do it through the UN, or in another organized fashion – you provide it to Hamas. Like it or not – that’s the plain truth.
And let’s recall that Americans are banned, by Federal law, from providing help, supplies, or any other “material support” to terrorists. Even “nice” terrorists, who mean well, or whatever makes people sleep better at night. This includes Al Queda, Timothy McVeigh, the Unabomber, and yes, Hamas.
Hence we’re back to the Congressman’s call that the US must apply its own laws, and prosecute those Americans involved (and there were at least 3 of them just from the San Francisco Bay Area, from what I hear from friends there).
The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 makes it absolutely illegal for any American to give food, money, school supplies, paper clips, concrete or weapons to Hamas or any of its officials.
And so I will be asking the Attorney General to prosecute any American involved in what was clearly an effort to give items of value to a terrorist organization.
Just to be clear (for any lawyers in the audience), the law on Providing Material Support to Terrorists (Section 2339A of title 18, United States Code, in case the lawyers are interested) reads:
Whoever provides material support or resources … knowing … that they are to be used in preparation for, or in carrying out, a [terrorist act] or in preparation for, or in carrying out, the concealment of an escape from the commission of any such violation … shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both, and, if the death of any person results, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life. A violation of this section may be prosecuted … in any other Federal judicial district as provided by law.
The law further goes on to state:
the term “material support or resources” means any property, tangible or intangible…
Congressman Sherman further said that he will be petitioning Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as the Department of Homeland Security, to ensure that any non-Americans involved in the flotilla are denied entry to the United States, on the grounds of them providing support to a terrorist organization.
Any non-American engaged [in the flotilla] is excludable from the US. Those who fund terrorists or give them items of value should be excluded from the US.
Again, the issue is not how warm and fuzzy or well-meaning your intentions are.
However misguided or well-meaning you might be, if you provide, or have ever provided, support to a terrorist organization (and here it’s pretty blatant support – concrete for Hamas, not a place to crash for your cousin’s college roommate), by law, you will be denied entry into the US. If that is our law, this should be no exception, just because some folks in the UN feel sorry for the knife-wielding “innocent victims” on the boats.
So what do you think? Should the Americans involved in this effort to help the Hamas government be prosecuted, in accordance with the law? And should the non-Americans be treated just like any other people who provide support to terrorists? And if not, just in this one instance – why not?
[Photos: Gerard Girbes, Wikimedia]
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do you blog or write about non-israel topics?
as far as any media is concerned, i found jerusalem post to be the best (spec. israel issues), are there any one’s you recommend?
Thanks a lot, Ben.
My column for TC Jewfolk is primarily focused specifically on political (and not so much) issues and events impacting Israel and the larger Middle East.
There are other writers on TC Jewfolk who write about other issues.
Do you have a suggestion for some other issue or topic you’d like me to write about?
Go ahead and let me know, and I would definitely be willing to consider it, assuming it’s a topic I know something about.
As for media sources, I agree that the Jerusalem Post (http://www.jpost.com/) is by far the best source of Israel-related news.
As far as American media, I’ve found the main 3 – The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post – to be fairly good, as well.
I’ve also found The New Republic, the Christian Science Monitor, and Slate Magazine to often be good sources of news and commentary. (Did I mention I’m a political news junkie? :))
Ynet is also interesting, but it can be more difficult for an American reader to get through all the more local Israeli news they feature.
And for Russian-language readers, there is some good coverage on http://news.israelinfo.ru/
(I’m pretty sure the Hebrew-language readers already have their own favorites.)
Interesting article, and interesting questions.
The ambiguous part seems to be whether the section of the law that says, “knowing … that they are to be used in preparation for, or in carrying out, a [terrorist act]” applies to all the people on all the boats.
Clearly, there were some people on the boat where the violence happened who were looking for a confrontation and who may very well have known that the cement and metal bars would be used for military purposes by Hamas.
However, there may have been people, especially on the boats that were diverted with no violence, who actually believed all the materials were going to help the people of Gaza and who did not know that some or all of the materials would go to Hamas to help with terrorist acts.
So while I’m all for prosecuting anyone helping to give materials directly to Hamas (or any other terrorist organization), I am not convinced this law applies to everyone one all the boats.
I think you raise a very important point.
In general, any support you provide to a terrorist organization gets counted under this law. So that would be strike 1 against these participants.
But in my opinion, the bigger issue is this:
Hamas is the government – the only government – of Gaza. We can dislike this fact, but it is a fact, nonetheless.
This particular flotilla was clearly organized to try and break the blockade imposed to prevent Hamas from getting weapons. They clearly said so themselves, and I think it’s pretty evident from their refusal to bring their goods to Ashdod, to have them inspected and brought to Gaza by truck (in which case they would be far more likely to reach the NGOs and the people of Gaza).
Instead, the people on the boats said that they had permission from the “Gaza port authority” (read: Hamas – it is the *only* authority of any kind in Gaza).
And they were headed straight to Gaza, bringing goods in.
I suppose we could argue that they really intended to stand around in the streets of Gaza, handing out items only to people under the age of 10, but I think that’s not really reasonable.
When you are headed into an area that is under pretty tight control by a paramilitary terrorist group, to claim that you intended to give 10,000 tons of stuff to the “local people,” and not to that paramilitary group that runs everything is a pretty thin argument to me.
I think anyone interested enough in Gaza to join such a flotilla would have known that much of what they were bringing was likely to end up with the official local government, ie, Hamas.
My guess is that (and I’d love for some of the lawyers to chime in here) in any normal case, if you’ve ever participated in a giant flotilla to provide a whole lot of stuff to a terrorist organization, or a small region, tightly run by a terrorist organization – you would be prosecuted, or denied a visa into the United States, for the rest of your life (Lord knows, we deny visas on far flimsier excuses than that). Assuming I’m right, I’d be concerned if a glaring exception is made in this one case.
P.S. From what I hear from my sources in California (aka sunny land of insanity), several of the American participants have been interviewed pretty much non-stop on their local news channels, telling and retelling the story of their glorious adventure bravely standing up to the Israeli foe (unsurprisingly, aging hippies feature prominently). Personally, I’m disgusted – both by their actions, and by the so-called news media giving these people a platform.
Very well said!
In response to Susan, these “peace” activists are not stupid… just useful idiots. But they’re hoping the rest of the world is stupid enough to believe this was a Love Boat rather than a ship of fools whose main objective, as stated by flotilla organizers, was to run Israel’s maritime blockade.
You make good points. Certainly one could argue that a jhudge or jury should be given the opportunity to decide whether it’s reasonable to believe that, since they were trying to run a blockade, they could possibly believe the goods would go to anyone other than Hamas.
As someone who lives in the “sunny land of insanity,” I can confirm that I have seen a few short follow-up interviews with people who were on the flotilla trying to break the blockade. They haven’t been horribly skewed, though.
For instance, in one report a man says he was beaten while he was detained by the military after being taken from one of the flotilla boats, however the reporter did mention that his claim could not be independently varified. He also made it clear that he resisted the Israeli military at every opportunity, including jumping from the ship.
great post. I think the problem is not with the law but with its selective enforcement.
Why is it okay for American citizens to raise funds for the IRA and have Gerry Adams visit the White House?
I think the global fight against terrorism would be far more effective if we didn’t choose between “good” terrorist and “bad” terrorists.
The Charity and Security Network have a lot of great content and testimony about how laws and impulses like this are not helping in the war on terror or humanitarian relief operations: http://www.charityandsecurity.org/
Col. Ann Wright and other Free Gaza Movement activists tried to confront Rep. Brad Sherman about his: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NPuFyduZI4