If the Holy Land Foundation “terrorism” case had been held in Russia, we would now be enduring a flood of thundering commentary from every leading orifice of the corporate media, denouncing yet another travesty of justice in the sham democracy controlled by the Kremlin. Yet a decorous editorial silence covers the convictions of five charity officials whose only crime was helping needy and oppressed people through agencies used by international charities such as the Red Cross, and by the United States government itself. As Alternet.com reports:
On Monday afternoon, a jury in Dallas, Texas found five Palestinian men guilty of more than 100 charges in the nation’s largest terrorism financing trial since 9/11…
Edward Abington, the former number two intelligence official at the State Department (and ex-US consul in Jerusalem), told jurors he was never told that the Palestinian charity committees supported by Holy Land were part of Hamas in the daily intelligence briefings he received. In fact, these same charities, or “zakat committees,” still receive donations from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the International Red Cross.
This was the second trial against Holy Land. Last year, the government’s case ended in embarrassment and defeat when jurors returned after 19 days of deliberations with no guilty verdicts. At least one of the defendants would have been completely acquitted had a juror not changed her mind at the eleventh hour, backing out of her decision to acquit when the judge polled the panel about their votes. Another juror later said she refused to discuss the evidence during deliberations, simply explaining that she relied on her “feelings.”
The stark differences between the two juries became apparent at the conclusion of the second trial. “Twelve good American citizens in the first trial didn’t convict anyone of anything,” Linda Moreno, one of the defense attorneys on the case, told the Associated Press. “And 12 good American citizens in the second trial convicted everyone of everything. If you can make sense of that explain it to me.”
…Over fervent objections from the defense, the judge in the Holy Land trial allowed the prosecution to present testimony from an anonymous Israeli intelligence agent. This bizarre episode marked the first time in American legal history that testimony has been allowed from an expert witness with no identity. If the witness, who was introduced to the jury simply as “Avi,” lied or committed perjury, he faces no consequences. He is officially non-existent, after all.
Nancy Hollander, a lawyer from Albuquerque who represented Mr. Abu-Baker, said the defendants would appeal based on a number of issues, including the anonymous testimony of an expert, which she said was a first. [The Times demurely omits the fact that the “expert” was an Israeli intelligence agent.]
“Our clients were not even allowed to review their own statements because they were classified — statements that they made over the course of many years that the government wiretapped,” Ms. Hollander said. “They were not allowed to go back and review them. There were statements from alleged co-conspirators that included handwritten notes. Nobody knew who wrote them; nobody knew when they were written. There are a plethora of issues.”
Back to Alternet:
Though the prosecution ostensibly limited their case to Palestinian charities operating in the present day, most of the evidence presented to the jury involved the general activities of Hamas, and dated back decades. With its propaganda-like quality, the evidence was clearly intended to provoke an emotional response. For example, jurors were repeatedly shown videos of grisly suicide bombings that none of the defendants were in any way connected to, or accused of planning.
William Neal, who served on the first Holy Land jury, raised disturbing questions about the prosecution’s tactics in an interview with Dallas radio station KRLD 1080. “They never proved — they kept trying to show us stuff around the case, not the case. They presented to the jury, you know these committees, these organizations controlled by or on the behalf of Hamas, but they kept showing us blown-up buses and they kept showing us little kids in bomb belts reenacting Hamas leaders,” he said. “It had nothing to do with the actual charges. It had nothing to do with the defendants.”
Of course it had nothing to do with defendants. The entire case had nothing to do with the defendants — and certainly nothing to do with “fighting terrorism.” It did, however, have everything to do with the U.S. government’s decades-long struggle to eliminate every single avenue of resistance to its policies in the Middle East (and the whole of the “Central Command” proconsular territories) save that of violent, sectarian extremism. The bipartisan poobahs in Washington have long believed — and continue to believe — that it is far better to deal with small, radicalized bands of extremists (and by “deal with,” we not only mean confront and fight, but also co-opt, create, manipulate, arm, fund, etc.) than to see the rise of popular, broad-based national movements that could provide substantial, legitimate opposition to the way the poo-bahs want things ordered in the Oil Lands and their strategic environs. This is the same strategy employed by Israel in its long, covert efforts to build up Hamas as a counterweight to the secular PLO. Fomenting extremism not only splits and discredits opposition movements, it also provides a handy excuse for the authoritarian measures that American leaders love to see their proxies employ, while also justifying massive arms deals to said authoritarian proxies. And of course, the presence of “radical extremists” (and “New Hitlers”) in any country can always be used to whip up support for a direct U.S. intervention, and the guaranteed gushers of war-profiteering blood money that result.
Thus any and all measures that might alleviate the suffering and address the grievances of oppressed people in the all-important satrapy of Central Command have been diligently hounded, constricted and/or destroyed for years. There is also another important component to this strategy: it aims to establish the principle of criminalization for any person or activity that can be connected by even the most tenuous, specious, ludicrous (and sometimes torture-produced) “evidence” to any entity that has been arbitrarily declared a “terrorist organization” by the fiat of one Beltway poobah or another. After all, the Bush Administration once freely declared, in open court, that even “little old ladies” who unwittingly wrote a check to a charity that could be tied, by some pretzelish thread, to a proscribed entity could be declared an “enemy combatant” and subject to rendtion, arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention, “intensive interrogation” and the whole Patriot Act panoply.
But not to worry; surely a new administration well-stocked with anti-imperialists like Hillary “I Told Bill to Bomb Belgrade” Clinton and Robert Gates (once described in these precincts as “an old Bush Family factotum who was hip-deep in the Iran-Contra arms-drugs-terror scam, who doctored, spun and manipulated intelligence for partisan purposes and also steered secret U.S. military intelligence to help Saddam Hussein launch WMD attacks”) will bring American policy back to the straight and narrow real soon.