The Passionate Attachment

America's entanglement with Israel

More than six years before 9/11, the Israel lobby drafted the original Patriot Act

with 5 comments

Jeffrey Blankfort
The Passionate Attachment
December 6, 2013

Since the minute after midnight on the morning of January 24, [1995] unbeknownst to all but a handful of its citizens, the United States has been under a state of “national emergency.” Earlier the previous day, President Clinton had signed an executive order stating that “grave acts of violence committed by foreign terrorists that disrupt the peace process constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States…”

He then declared “a national emergency to deal with that threat.” The stated intention was to block assets of what the government determines to be “terrorist” organizations in the United States “that threaten to disrupt the Middle East “peace process.”

Clinton based his action on the Emergency Economic Powers Act which President Carter had invoked against Iran in 1979 after US diplomats had been taken hostage in Tehran.

While the media coverage stressed that the order was intended to control “Islamic extremists,” it included the secular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Both groups have been part of the PLO, but have been critical of the Oslo and Cairo Agreements and the Declaration of Principles.

PLO Chief and Palestinian Authority head, Yasser Arafat, who had hailed the president as “a friend of the Palestinians” in Washington in September 1993, praised Clinton’s decision, saying he has waited for this for a long time, “because, as you know, they are using this money and this cover in different ways” (Jerusalem Times, 1/26). The article did not mention if Arafat had defined who he meant by “they.”

Two Jewish groups that were included, Kach and Kahane Chai — no doubt, so the administration could not be accused of favoritism — reportedly received an early warning of the crackdown, and were able to move their funds to safety.

Perhaps, it was an oversight, or maybe it was simply too embarrassing to declare a “national emergency” for something that was happening in Israel, but the official statement by the White House Press Secretary didn’t mention that fact, and so it went unreported in the mainstream media.

The Executive Order was quickly followed up by a new package of legislation, introduced in the House (HR 896) on Feb. 10 by Israel devotee, NY’s Charles Schumer, and in the Senate the same day by Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), a long-time lackey for the pro-Israel Lobby.

Labeled “The Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995” and ostensibly intended to impose new controls over “terrorist fundraising,” the bill is expected to have a devastating effect on the contributions from Muslim charities within the US that currently provide vital funding to for food programs, schools and hospitals in Gaza and the West Bank.

The legislation would also create further inroads into the US Constitutional guarantees by setting up a special court composed of five District Judges that would hear secret evidence not heard in open court, which could be used in criminal proceedings against “aliens” suspected of terrorism.

The bill will also permit law-enforcement agencies to conduct domestic surveillance of suspected terrorists, which runs counter to the guidelines that prohibited domestic spying that were established in the wake of massive government abuses on the late 1960’s and ‘70’s. “Since the measures can be seen as trampling on constitutional safeguards,” writes the Jewish weekly Forward’s Lucette Lagnado, “the legislation is being crafted in anticipation of objections from civil liberties’ advocates and mainstream Islamic groups who fear it will be open season on Muslims in America.”

How well they succeeded is open to question. Even Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), a long-time lackey for the pro-Israel lobby, who introduced the legislation for the administration, had qualms about the secret evidence provision, stating that “the right to see and confront the evidence against oneself is a fundamental premise of the due process clause of the Constitution.” That reservation, however, did not stop him from submitting the bill.

The prohibition against contributions to the peaceful activities of organizations that have both a civic and armed component, such as Hamas, also marks a new step in limiting what courts had previously determined to be an individual’s First Amendment rights. When the bill becomes law, anyone found guilty of contributing money to any organization designated as “terrorist” by the President will be subject to a 10-year imprisonment and/or a minimum fine of $50,000.

The executive order and the implementing legislation has been in the works since last November and represents the unprecedented totality of control now being exerted by pro-Israel groups over all policies involving Israel.

“We’ve been fearing something like this for a long time,” said Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), “because there have been elements in the pro-Israeli lobby accusing Muslim groups of raising money for these kinds of purposes, with no evidence whatsoever of divergence of funds” (Washington Post, 1/25)

The story that impending legislation was in the works first appeared in the Forward on December 30, when Ms. Lagnado reported that an anti-terrorist package was “being pushed by officials of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who have worked exhaustively in recent months with deputies to Louis Freeh, the director of the FBI, and aides to Attorney General [Janet] Reno.”
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Jewish Presidents, was not shy about the organization’s involvement. When the president’s council, Abner Mikva, who is also Jewish, told the Forward in December that the president had not yet endorsed any anti-terrorist package, Hoenlein rejoined that both he and chair of the Presidents’ Conference, Lester Pollack, had had many meetings with FBI and White House officials and were confident the package would come to fruition. He, was of course, right.

“The seizures of funds probably won’t amount to much,” he told the Washington Post (1/25), but “what will be significant is that those who contribute to terrorist organizations in the future will be subject to criminal prosecution. Now we have to get the European and Asian nations to follow suit.”

Hoenlein also noted that there had been no law which made it illegal for an individual in America from planning a terrorist act against Israel. “The new laws will cover that,” he said.

The well-organized efforts of the Jewish biggies began with a video presentation, “Jihad in America,” which was shown on national Public Television on November 21 and described in the Forward as “a watershed… [in] exposing in detail the operations of Islamic groups in this country” (1/27). Its producer was Steven Emerson, a regular contributor to the New Republic and a well-known propagandist for Israeli policies, who, when he isn’t crusading against “Islamic terror,” acts as a hatchetman against other filmmakers or journalists who have the temerity to criticize Israel.

He trashed, for example, Seymour Hersh’s book on the Israeli nuclear program, “The Samson Option,” and Jo Franklin Trout’s video, “Days of Rage,” which had aired on Frontline.(He also, significantly, led the charge against those accusing members of the Reagan administration of planning the “October Surprise,” which speculated that Reagan’s CIA Chief Bill Casey, Veep George Bush and others had made a deal with Iran to keep the hostages until after the 1980 elections, thereby sabotaging Carter’s re-election plans.)

Preceded by a major publicity campaign, “Jihad in America” played fast and loose with film clips in an effort to make a case that Islamic fundamentalism was about to wage “holy war” on America.

“Our investigation has uncovered more than 30 groups that fund radical Islamic activities and operate under tax-exempt status,” Emerson declared in his video, but, like anti-Communist crusader Senator Joe McCarthy, in an earlier, he failed to identify any of them, thereby putting all Muslim organizations “under a cloud of suspicion,” as former Congressman Paul Findley wrote in the Washington Report on the Middle East (3/95).

The Jewish organizations and community newspapers took it from there. The liberal Jewish Journal of Los Angeles was typical. “Is Hamas Among Us?” asked the 48-pt. bold headline over a story by Robert Ashman, its Associate Editor. Following Hamas’s capture of Israeli Col. Nachshon Waxman and a bus bombing in Tel Aviv, Ashman wrote, the Simon Wiesenthal Center sent a petition to President Clinton demanding, among other things, that the Justice Dept. investigate “groups posing as legitimate organizations that were actually fronts for Hamas.

The group than sent thousands of mailers to its supporters urging them to write elected officials with the same request.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Wiesenthal Center, told the Journal that he had found evidence of “jihad” activities in Southern California.

While refusing to name the groups, Rabbi Cooper accused a number of Arab fundraising organizations of having “crossed the line” by knowingly channeling money into terrorism. “We’ve known for some years that cells that support radical groups are our neighbors.”

Even before President Clinton’s Executive Order, the anti-Islamic and anti-Arab fervor, was having its chilling consequences. “Its already had a detrimental effect,” Salam al-Maryati, director of the Southern California Muslim Affairs Council, told the Journal. “There’s a stigma emanating from the media and the government.” The possible Hamas links had already scared away potential donors to Arab causes. “Many Muslims,” according to al-Marayati, “don’t want to get involved in something perceived as problematic.”

And that’s just one part of what the legislation is all about.

Among the groups named as “terrorist organizations.” in addition to Hamas, the DFLP and the PFLP, were the Arab Revolution Brigades (Abu Nidal), Hizballah, Islamic Gama’at, Islamic Jihad, Palestinian Islamic Jihad-Shiqaqi faction , Palestine Liberation Front-Abu Abbas faction, and the PFLP-General Command. With each organization, there were listings of other names each group is allegedly using.

In addition, the list contained the names of 21 individuals including George Habash, long-time head of the PFLP and Naif Hawatmeh, his counterpart in the DFLP.

This article was originally published in the Middle East Labor Bulletin, Vol. 5, No. 2, Spring, 1995.


Written by Maidhc Ó Cathail

December 6, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Responses

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  1. would have been helpful to inform the reader what YEAR is being discussed.


    December 6, 2013 at 6:01 pm

  2. Good point, Solon. Done.

    Maidhc Ó Cathail

    December 6, 2013 at 7:06 pm

  3. Hi, Yes, like Solon, I got confused. Thanks extremely much for this because a friend in the U.S. just asked for information about Israeli involvement in 9/11. But I got confused reading the article. Jeff’s attention to journalistic details does not match his very exceptional mental acuity I’m afraid. (Although that does not detract from my very immense appreciation to him and you for keeping us informed.) Although your initial post (by email) refers to 6 years ago, I got confused. Going to the fuller version, I found that you’d added “1995” but I’m concerned about my taking the liberty of automatically adding that year to all the many references in the article that do not include any year, such as: “(Jerusalem Times, 1/26)” “introduced in the House (HR 896) on Feb. 10 by,” “funds” (Washington Post, 1/25).” In EVERY instance in the article where no year is included in the date, should we, the readers, conclude correctly that the year is 1995? It would be a shame to add the needed date information and then pass on the article or to urge friends to come here to read it, and then discovered that I’d erred by adding “1995” to a date when 1995 was not correct.

    Should we rest assured that “1995” may be added in every instance?

    Thank you immensely much for your very hard work. I, and I’m sure everyone, immensely appreciates it.



    December 7, 2013 at 1:38 am

  4. Thank you so much, kufa/Louise, for pointing out this confusing editorial oversight on my part. In my defense, I posted Jeff’s article in a hurry late the other night because of its importance and relevance to understanding contemporary developments, such as Dianne Feinstein’s recent efforts to tout the waning “war on terror” in a CNN-facilitated interview.

    Yes, all of the references in Jeff Blankfort’s article, originally entitled “Clinton’s National Emergency,” refer to 1995.

    Maidhc Ó Cathail

    December 8, 2013 at 6:56 am

  5. Criticisms about Blankfort’s attention to detail is such a backhanded slap -It clearly points to an obvious lack of attention on the part of some readers. I cannot imagine anyone being confused– for long —unless they skim read– thus failed to comprehend it was written and published in 1995.

    If none of the obvious “Clues” inform one it was from 1995, they also missed the bold font TITLE at the top of blog which mentions “SIX YEARS BEFORE 9/11”. (9/11/01 and six years prior —1995).
    As T.S.Eliot wrote: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

    Heartfelt appreciation to Maidhc for reposting this Invaluable article and of course, deepest appreciation to one of the truly great journalists of our time Jeff Blankfort –for sharing this foundational article.

    This is the first time I’ve ever read the article or learned what background (bullish**) was used to frame Dr.Sami al-Arian….(who was not “pre-warned” as jewish zionists were, as JB wrote in paragraph 6).

    Dr Sami’s ‘crime’ was raising funds for desperately needy Gazan children and families & speaking publicly of their suffering for many years. Dr al Arian an honorable deeply respected academician, full professor of computer science, beloved family man and 30 year resident of the United States was persecuted, abused and imprisoned for fund raising & charitable work??

    Surely Steve Emerson’s name and reputation should have been tarnished enough to completely check him from ever selling himself again as an ‘expert’ on anything—as his deceptive blather immediately after Oklahoma City’s Murrah Building destruction) as “the work of Arabs” LIVE on CNN. They fired him. But like any attention-seeking sociopath Emerson continues spewing his bigotry as a ‘career’.


    December 8, 2013 at 8:29 pm

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