Press Release: U.S. Palestinian Rights Group Confronts Challenge to Human Rights Advocacy in Federal Appeals Court
Contact: USCPR’s Media Inquiries
Jewish National Fund lawsuit alleges support for terrorism; court should affirm dismissal by district court, says US Campaign for Palestinian Rights
January 12, 2023, Washington, D.C. – Today, a U.S.-based Palestinian rights organization asked the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a federal district court’s dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and several U.S. citizens who live in Israel. Citing the speech and expressive activities of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR), including its support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the lawsuit argues that the group provided “material support” for terrorism.
In dismissing the suit in March 2021, the lower court said the arguments were, “to say the least, not persuasive.” The suit is part of a broader effort to criminalize and silence the political activities of supporters of Palestinian rights, advocates say.
“The worldwide movement for Palestinian freedom is growing,” said Ahmad Abuznaid, Executive Director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights. “USCPR’s work to advocate for Palestinian human rights is a critical part of that freedom struggle, or else right-wing forces allied with the Israeli government would not be repeatedly trying to silence us. All the more reason to keep up our work to build toward justice for all.”
Headquartered in Jerusalem, the JNF is a quasi-state institution that acquires and administers land for the sole benefit of Jewish Israelis. The lawsuit alleges that USCPR bears responsibility for “incendiary terror balloons and kites” sent from Gaza onto JNF land during the Great Return March.
At issue are USCPR’s fiscal sponsorship of the Boycott National Committee and expressions of support for the rights and demands of Palestinians participating in the Great Return March, when Palestinians protested to demand respect for their right to return to the villages from which Israeli settlers expelled them in 1948. These two activities, the lawsuit claims, amount to a violation of the Antiterrorism Act, which prohibits “material support” for terrorism. The lawsuit fails to establish a direct connection between USCPR’s activities and terrorism. The charges are a mixture of guilt by association and bigoted insinuation, USCPR’s attorneys say.
“This lawsuit is no more than a fishing expedition that casts protected advocacy as a violation of the law. Smearing human rights advocates as terrorists is a tired and cynical tactic,” said Diala Shamas, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who presented the oral argument today.
Supporters of Palestinian rights face mounting attacks on their ability to engage in advocacy, from the United States to Germany to Palestine. In August 2022, the Israeli government raided and shut down the offices of seven leading Palestinian human rights groups in the occupied West Bank. It had previously designated many of these organizations as “terrorist” in an authoritarian effort to stop their essential human rights work.
Also representing USCPR are cooperating counsel Judith Chomsky and Beth Stephens.
For more information, visit the Center for Constitutional Rights case page.
The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR) is a national network of activists and organizations who are committed to freedom, justice, and equality for the Palestinian people and who work to end U.S. complicity in their oppression. USCPR is a political home for all who believe that freedom for the Palestinian people is an integral part of achieving our collective liberation. We provide resources and strategic support to the U.S.-based Palestine solidarity movement, channeling grassroots power into positive change in U.S. policy and public opinion. We work with local organizers and activists, policymakers, movement leaders, media, and advocacy organizations to advance a rights-based, and accountability and justice-oriented framework from the U.S. to Palestine. Follow the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights on social media: US Campaign for Palestinian Rights on Facebook, @USCPR_ on Twitter, and @uscpr on Instagram.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org. Follow the Center for Constitutional Rights on social media: Center for Constitutional Rights on Facebook, @theCCR on Twitter, and ccrjustice on Instagram.