The unjust fate of an American ‘terrorist’

Charlotte Silver writes: Before Hamas was designated a “terrorist organisation” in the United States, it wasn’t.

And before Sami al-Arian, The Holy Land Five, and the countless other Palestinian Americans whose lives have been wrung through harrowing immigration and counter-terrorist proceedings for their connections – however slight – to Gaza, there was Muhammad Salah.

It’s useful to view the shift in the US relationship to Hamas alongside the story of Muhammad Salah, a Palestinian-born citizen of the United States, who was seized in 1993 by Israel when he was on his way into the Gaza Strip to distribute humanitarian aid. The aid had been raised in the wake of Israel’s mass deportation of 415 men from Gaza to South Lebanon in the dead of winter in 1992.

In 1993, Salah was a grocer in the suburbs of Chicago; a husband and father of four children. He was described as soft-spoken and keen on community volunteer work.

Today, Salah is the sole person residing in the US who is labelled a “terrorist”. The status, assigned to him in 1995, has rendered his every movement, purchase, transaction and life decision – from the mundane to the substantive – subject to review by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

“He is, essentially, internally banished. He cannot engage with anyone, and no one can engage with him,” said David Cole, an attorney with the Centre for Constitutional Rights, who is representing him in his recently filed suit against the federal government.

“Internal banishment” is a form of punishment in which the government determines with whom the sentenced is permitted to speak. It gained notoriety by its wide use under South Africa’s apartheid regime.

Matt Piers, who has represented Salah since 1998, believes the conditions of Salah’s sentence are even more severe than those imposed in South Africa [Continue reading…]

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