CST Blog

U.S. Terror-Related Trials Marked by Claims of Israeli Control

10 February 2010

This is a cross-post from the Anti-Defamation League

The trial of a Pakistani woman with alleged links to Al Qaeda is the latest terror-related trial during which defendants and their supporters have claimed that American courts are controlled by Israel.

As jurors left a Manhattan federal courtroom on February 3, 2010, Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman who they found guilty of attempting to kill U.S. security personnel while detained in Afghanistan in 2008, exclaimed, “This is a verdict coming from Israel, not America. That’s where the anger belongs.”

During court proceedings two weeks earlier, Siddiqui, who has been described by FBI Director Robert Mueller as an “operative and facilitator of Al Qaeda,” stated that Jews should be excluded from her jury pool.  “If they have a Zionist or Israeli background…they are all mad at me,” Siddiqui said.  “I have a feeling everyone here is them – subject to genetic testing… They should be excluded.”

An article about the trial published by the online news service of the Nation of Aztlan (NOA), a California-based Hispanic nationalist organization whose nationalist message is blurred by frequent appeals of anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, homophobia and other expressions of hatred, echoed Siddiqui’s statements that U.S. courts are controlled by Israel and the Jews.  “The verdict came down in a ‘virtual’ Jewish court in Jewish New York that was presided by a Jewish judge,” wrote Ernesto Cienfuegos, staff writer for NOA’s Web site, La Voz de Aztlan.  “These nefarious Zionists within the USA and in Israel will eventually destroy themselves, the country and probably the entire Western world,” Cienfuegos continued.

Siddiqui’s outbursts in court and the subsequent coverage of her trial are the latest examples of terror-related trials during which defendants, their supporters or their attorneys have blamed court proceedings on Israel and the Jews.

Supporters and former employees of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), an American-based Muslim charity shut down by the government for funneling money to Hamas, have portrayed the trial against HLF as an Israeli effort to meddle in internal U.S. affairs. As the jury and judge were leaving the courtroom for a break, HLF co-founder Ghassan Elashi, who was sentenced to 65 years in prison for providing material support to Hamas, yelled out, “This trial is an extension of a Zionist conspiracy.” 

Throughout the HLF trials, supporters of the defendants argued that the case was part of an anti-Muslim agenda promoted by Israeli interests. These supporters used the trials to propagate anti-Israel conspiracy theories and even described the case against the charity as a “political witch-hunt” led by the U.S. government on behalf of Israel. 

The following is a sampling of other instances in which defense lawyers during terror-related trials have made similar allegations against Israel or have sought to use trials to delegitimize Israel:

  • In July 2007, Muhammad Salah was sentenced to 21 months in prison for lying about his ties to Hamas.  In closing arguments, his attorney, Michael E. Deutsch, addressed the testimony given by Israeli Shin Bet agents: “In the mind of the interrogators anything is justified if it will secure the State of Israel - they will lie, they will torture people.”  Deutsch also reportedly claimed that Salah was used by Israel “to get publicity and pressure the U.S. government to crack down on the Hamas fundraising network in this country.”
  • William Moffitt, the lawyer of Sami al-Arian, a former University of South Florida professor who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, has also claimed that his client’s trial was controlled by Israel.  “Most of the evidence will come from Israel,” Moffitt said during opening statements in June 2005.  “Israelis are here to silence Dr. al-Arian.  If hundreds of Israelis are here to silence Dr. al-Arian, we say, go home.”  Moffitt also claimed that al-Arian “came to the U.S. to publicize the continued favoritism for Israel here in the Middle East conflict.”
  • Defense lawyers for Abdelhaleem Ashqar, who was convicted in November 2007 for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating Hamas, argued that their client’s refusal to testify was justified by Israel’s oppressive actions toward Palestinian Arabs and by America’s aid to Israel.  In their sentencing memorandum filed after his conviction, Ashqar’s lawyers wrote, “It has been suggested over and over again that Dr. Ashqar owed a duty to the United States.  This belief is unconscionable in as much as the United States aids and abets Israel’s illegal oppression of 3.8 million people.”  The sentencing memorandum also cited passages from Steven Walt and John Mearsheimer’s book The Israel Lobby in an attempt to falsify the “hegemonical myth that Israel is the victim, defending itself against the barbaric Palestinians.”

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