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'State intimidation tactics': Pro-Palestine activists facing increased FBI interrogations

Police officers monitor pro-Palestine protests in Philadelphia on October 12, 2023. (File photo by WHYY)

An independent advocacy group says the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has ramped up questioning of pro-Palestine activists across the United States based on their social media activity condemning Israeli atrocities against Palestinians.

“We’ve received several reports of the FBI visiting activists in response to their social media posts criticizing Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza,” Palestine Legal, which is focused on defending people who support Palestinian rights, wrote Wednesday in a post on X.

The Chicago-headquartered civil rights organization also called upon victims of FBI harassment to know their rights if approached by federal officers.

“The FBI’s discriminatory targeting of people who speak up for Palestinian rights online is an attempt to intimidate and censor popular opposition to Israel’s policies,” it said.

“Activists have a right to condemn apartheid and genocide. They also have a right to refuse to speak to FBI agents without an attorney,” the group noted.

The organization further highlighted that it has received multiple accounts of activists being visited by FBI agents with printed copies of their tweets, Facebook posts and TikTok videos showing Gazan children killed in Israeli air strikes.

Moreover, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee confirmed it has also documented increased FBI interrogation of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims over the past year, calling it “state intimidation tactics” aimed at suppressing dissent.

As solidarity with Palestinians builds across the globe, governments have faced serious criticism for deploying police to censor critics, and exercising desperate attempts to muzzle critical voices by equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.

Advocates condemn such incidents as discriminatory targeting, arguing they contribute to heightened fear and vulnerability among Arab and Muslim communities.

They maintain such overt suspicion derived exclusively from ethnicity or faith reminds crackdowns in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and infringes upon constitutional freedoms.

Advocates advise all activists approached by FBI agents to immediately state they will only speak with an attorney present.

Experts also encourage reporting harassment incidents, and filing complaints about constitutional rights violations.

According to the online American news organization Intercept, civil rights groups have noticed a spike in federal law enforcement agents questioning Palestinians and increasing surveillance of mosques after the surprise and large-scale Operation al-Aqsa Storm by members of Hamas and other resistance groups against the Israeli-occupied territories.

Israel has been conducting relentless air and ground attacks on the besieged Gaza Strip since October 7 last year, even targeting hospitals, residences, and houses of worship.

At least 25,900 Palestinians, most of them women and children, have been killed. Another 64,110 individuals have sustained injuries as well.

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