The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

The "L.A. Eight":
The U.S. government's relentless vendetta against Palestinian activists

Sep 10, 2001

A 14-year-old legal battle entered a new stage in June, when a U.S. immigration judge in Los Angeles ruled against the deportation of two Palestinians, Khader Hamide and Michel Shehade. The judge agreed with the defendants that a 1990 "anti-terrorism" law cold not be used against them retroactively.

Hamide and Shehade were among the so-called "L.A. Eight," seven Palestinians and one Kenyan who in 1987 were arrested on charges of "terrorism." The accused were supporters of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), which at that time was branded a "terrorist organization" by the U.S. government.

Of course, things have changed since then. In an effort to quell a massive Palestinian uprising, the U.S. actively sponsored a pact between the PLO and its arch-enemy, the state of Israel, in 1994. The leader of the PLO, Yasser Arafat, returned to the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel as the head of a "Palestinian Authority." The U.S. government started to aid and train PLO units as a police force in the occupied territories of West Bank and Gaza Strip.

So, now that the PLO is no longer called "terrorist," one would think that the U.S. government would stop persecuting the L.A. Eight. But that's not the case. The Justice Department still threatens to appeal the June ruling against the deportation of Hamide and Shehade.

A surprise? Not at all, for the government's case against these eight activists never had any legal basis to begin with. Having never been involved in any kind of activity that could even remotely be considered terrorist, the L.A. Eight never had any criminal charges filed against them. Instead, the government made an about-turn and accused these eight immigrants of visa violations. Those charges, however, didn't go very far either. Three of the eight no longer face any charges. Three others now face less serious charges such as overstaying their visas. Hamide and Shehade are the only ones who still face the threat of deportation – if the Justice Department decides to charge them with "advocating worldwide communism" under the McCarran-Walter Act, a cold-war relic.

This is a case that the U.S. government, through different departments and agencies, and under four different presidents, has been relentlessly pursuing for the past 14 years. So, obviously, what's involved here is not some odd mistake or accident, but a very conscious effort by the U.S. government. The question, of course, is why?

There is only one explanation which makes sense: the L.A. Eight were activists who tried to expose the reality of U.S. policy in the Middle East. The U.S. government has a very long history of repression against people and organizations who oppose, or are a hindrance to, its policies. In the past one-and-a-half centuries, the U.S. government has repeatedly framed up, jailed, blacklisted, deported or even assassinated union organizers, communists, leaders of the black movement, American-Indian activists.

This kind of repression is simply part of the normal workings of capitalism, a system which is based on exploitation and thus relies on intimidation and terror.

Yes, terror... In the never-ending case of the L.A. Eight, the only terror involved is that used by the U.S. government against these activists, whose only "crime" was to publicly speak out in support of the struggle of the Palestinian people.