A Little Law and Politics: Should We Deny U.S. Visas to Gaza Flotilla Activists?

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).

California Congressman Brad Sherman

Congressman Sherman said that,

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 interestedreads:

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.
He said:

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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