Charges dropped against last of
'Los Angeles Eight'
By Michel Shehadeh
11/15/07 "ICH" -- -- For the last 20 years, the U.S. government
has accused me of being a terrorist. Along with six other
Palestinians and a Kenyan, we were dubbed the "Los Angeles
Eight" by the media. Our case even made it to the U.S. Supreme
On Oct. 30 - 20 grueling years after the early morning raid in
which armed federal agents barged into my apartment, brutally
arrested me before my 3-year-old son's eyes, incarcerated me in
maximum security cells in San Pedro State Prison for 23 days
without bond, and attempted to deport me - the government
dropped all charges fabricated against me. The charges involved
accusations of aiding a member group of the Palestine Liberation
Organization that the government alleged aided terrorism. But
Los Angeles immigration Judge Bruce J. Einhorn had ordered an
end to the deportation proceedings against us last January
because the government failed to comply with his order to
disclose evidence that supported our innocence. He called their
behavior "an embarrassment to the rule of law."
Why did the U.S. government spend 20 years trying to ban us from
this country? Because we tried to educate Americans about the
situation facing millions of Palestinians living in
apartheid-like conditions under Israeli military occupation.
Because we organized fundraisers to provide Palestinians with
humanitarian support. And because we attended demonstrations to
urge a shift in U.S. policy away from unconditional financial
and diplomatic support of Israel.
The government robbed us and our families of the best and most
productive years of our lives. For more than 20 years, they
vilified us in public without recourse. We'll never be able to
entirely erase the negative words and images they manufactured
about us. Our case is a stark example, and is different only in
degree, from what routinely befalls those who call for equal
rights for Palestinians and press for a fair Middle East U.S.
policy consistent with international law. In February of this
year, two others who advocated equal rights for Palestinians -
Mohammed Salah and Abdelhaleem Ashqar - were found not guilty of
terrorism charges based in part on evidence provided by Israel
and obtained through the use of torture.
President Carter, university professors John J. Mearsheimer and
Stephen M. Walt and Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu face
charges of anti-Semitism and shoddy scholarship meant to
intimidate, discredit and silence them.
And it may be surprising, but I don't hold a grudge. Throughout
this 20-year plus ordeal, we never lost faith that we would win
against this political and legal oppression. Not only because of
our innocence, but because of the tremendous, unfaltering
support that we enjoyed all these years across religious, ethnic
and civic communities, and a legal team that did not waver once
in its commitment to justice. This incredible support has taught
us more about America than we could have learned in two
lifetimes; the support of such people who are a living example
and a role model for immigrants - to positively engage with the
issues facing the country on a daily basis. Struggling to make
the place a bit better than when we arrived is what made America
home to us. We made that choice, and we're the better for it.
My two American-born sons learned though this experience the
meaning of establishing a strong grassroots connection and of
getting involved with their community. The words justice,
freedom, equality and civil liberties are not words they learned
in school that will become empty clichés as they grow older.
They are concepts that have real meaning to them, that affect
their family and community. They know that they must be
vigilantly protected, especially when the issues they advocate
are not popular, or at times of war, and conflict, when the
first causalities are our basic freedoms - free speech, the
right to dissent and to disagree with the government - the very
basis of democracy.
From the beginning, we said that our case was a political one
and that the government made us victims of a political
witch-hunt. We persevered all these years and defeated the
attempt to uproot us from our communities, break our families
apart, and deport us, because we were innocent. Free at last, we
are finally exonerated and it tastes sweet. We will savor the
sweetness. And we will use it to fuel our determination to
defend the same issues that our supporters defended through us:
justice, civil liberties, freedom and immigrant rights. We
believe that this is the America for which we continually
aspire, the America that is just, here at home and in faraway
places - with policies based on fairness, equality, and a shared
Michel Shehadeh is a research associate in the Arab and
Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative in the College of
Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University.
Click on "comments" below to read or post comments
Be succinct, constructive and
relevant to the story.
We encourage engaging, diverse
and meaningful commentary. Do not include
personal information such as names, addresses,
phone numbers and emails. Comments falling
outside our guidelines – those including
personal attacks and profanity – are not
See our complete
use this link to notify us if you have concerns
about a comment.
We’ll promptly review and remove any
Send Page To a Friend
with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material
is distributed without profit to those who have
expressed a prior interest in receiving the
included information for research and educational
purposes. Information Clearing House has no
affiliation whatsoever with the originator of
this article nor is Information ClearingHouse
endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)