WITH ALL THE ATTENTION PAID to the erosion of civil liberties of U.S. citizens under the Bush administration via secret detentions and other actions in the “Global War on Terror,” few realize that the precedent for equally serious infringements on citizens’ rights is being established through prosecutions of Palestinian Americans in U.S. courts for alleged support of Palestinian terrorism. One of the most egregious examples is the long-running case of Muhammad Salah, who was finally acquitted on terrorism-related charges in U.S. Federal Court in February 2007. Salah’s story has never before been told in any detail, and JPS is fortunate to have the exclusive, firsthand report on the case by his lawyers, Michael E. Deutsch and Erica Thompson of the People’s Law Office in Chicago. Among the important contributions of their report is the light it sheds on the growing collaboration between U.S. and Israeli intelligence and law enforcement bodies and the attempt to criminalize support for Palestinians under occupation by prosecuting American citizens with alleged ties, past or present, to Hamas, including charities suspected of links to the movement. Part I of this two-part special details Salah’s arrest, interrogation, and imprisonment in Israel and the legal precedents established upon his return to the United States.
JPS has another “exclusive” this issue: the second installment of Mouin Rabbani’s probing interview with Hamas politburo chief Khalid Mishal in Damascus, which focuses on the movement’s recent history and particularly the fallout from its decision to become part of the Palestine Authority. What is especially interesting about the interview, given Mishal’s importance as the movement’s leader, is the sense of his personality that comes through, particularly in his very spirited dialogue (sometimes verging on argument) with Rabbani on issues of morality and the utility of armed struggle.
Two articles from unusual perspectives round out the issue. Much has been written about the consequences of Israel’s closure regime, but Birzeit sociologist Lisa Taraki’s penetrating look at the enclaved city of Ramallah/al-Bireh provides new insights while tracing the town’s trajectory as a “middle-class project” from the early twentieth century to the present. Meanwhile, Randa Serhan, also a sociologist, examines the Palestinian-American community of the tri-state (New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania) region, particularly its evolving sense of identity, through the lens of the “Palestinianization” of their wedding celebrations.
Finally, a number of documents have relevance to items in this issue, notably the report by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), which echoes Muhammad Salah’s testimony about his interrogation, and several concerning Hamas, including President Jimmy Carter’s report on his fact-finding mission to the Middle East, controversial because of his meetings with Hamas leaders, including Khalid Mishal.
—Rashid I. Khalidi