Federal law enforcement agencies have come under scrutiny for their actions involving Palestinian nationals and Muslim communities after Hamas’s recent attacks on Israel. Civil rights advocates have raised concerns about reported visits to mosques and detentions of Palestinian nationals by federal agents, echoing the post-9/11 era of surveillance and targeting of Muslim and Arab communities.
Resurgence of Fear Among Muslim Communities
Abed Ayoub, executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), revealed that his organization had received multiple reports of individuals and mosques being visited by the FBI. These actions have sparked fear and anxiety among Muslim communities, reminiscent of the post-9/11 period when similar surveillance and targeting were rampant. Ayoub expressed the concern within these communities, asking, “How are we going to protect ourselves?”
Federal Government’s Response
President Joe Biden issued a warning about potential “domestic threats” across the United States following the attacks in Israel. While local and federal law enforcement agencies are closely monitoring for potential threats, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials have clarified that there is no specific credible intelligence indicating an imminent threat to the United States. Instead, they are monitoring various threat actors driven by anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, or anti-Arab sentiment.
Reports of FBI Visits and Detentions
The ADC reported several instances of FBI officers visiting mosques and questioning community leaders. In one case, agents sought to question an individual who had been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for a green card issue, despite having no previous issues. The FBI’s actions have raised concerns about profiling and the targeting of individuals based on their ethnicity, religion, or national origin.
Pattern of Federal Law Enforcement Practices
Human rights attorney Azadeh Shahshahani highlighted that increased surveillance and targeting of Muslim and Palestinian community members are part of a pattern of federal law enforcement practices. Many community members have reported unannounced visits by the FBI without prior suspicion or reason, other than their ethnicity or religion. These actions are often characterized as “fishing expeditions” and have been employed in response to global events or as a preemptive measure.
Advocacy director at Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), Raed Jarrar, emphasized the importance of considering federal targeting of Palestinians within the broader context of U.S. policy on Israel-Palestine. He pointed out that while the U.S. government provides weapons to Israel, it simultaneously subjects Palestinians in the United States to heightened scrutiny and profiling, treating them as second-class citizens.
Incidents of Discrimination
As federal law enforcement agencies intensify their scrutiny of Palestinians, Muslims, and their supporters, incidents of discrimination have been reported throughout the nation. In New York, a group of individuals waving Israeli flags assaulted an 18-year-old Palestinian, while others made violent threats against Palestinians during a rally. These incidents illustrate the tensions and divisions that have emerged in response to the Israel-Gaza conflict.
FBI’s Priorities Questioned
While the FBI has quickly activated resources to investigate Palestinians and their supporters, the agency’s track record in investigating crimes committed by Israelis against Palestinian American citizens appears less urgent. Jarrar of DAWN cited the cases of Alex Odeh, an activist assassinated in California in 1985, and Shireen Abu Akleh, a journalist killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank last year. Despite calls for justice, the FBI’s response to these cases has been limited, leaving Palestinian Americans feeling marginalized and their concerns unaddressed.
The reported actions by federal law enforcement agencies have ignited concerns about the targeting and profiling of Palestinian nationals and Muslim communities. As civil rights advocates and affected individuals continue to call for justice and accountability, the nation grapples with questions about the balance between security and civil liberties, as well as the broader implications of U.S. foreign policy on domestic communities. In a world marked by divisions, it remains essential to find common ground and ensure the protection of the rights and freedoms of all citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or national origin.