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The Land of the Free?
August 27, 2003
By Sheila Samples

"Every one of us must raise our voices, and march in protest, now and again and again..." - Edward Said, Feb. 16, 2003

Like so many others, when he came to America in 1987, he was full of hope. He was only 17, but his plans for education and success extended far into the future. Most of all, he wanted to live in peace and to enjoy the freedoms and justice upon which he truly believed this great country was founded.

Like so many others, he soon hit America's reality wall. He was forced to recognize that American freedoms are far too often meted out to certain privileged segments of our society. He also learned long before the tragedy of 9-11 that American justice can be anything but blind.

His name is Amer Jubran. Whoops - Red Flag! That sound you hear is a steel door clanking shut in the collective Western mind. With a name like Jubran, he can't possibly be like the rest of us - at least not like the Ashcroftian "King James" version of us. Amer Jubran is one of the others. Yes. He is one of them.

To make matters worse, Jubran is a Palestinian, which - in George W. Bush's cruel and simplistic "either/or" world - makes him the enemy. A radical Islamist. A terrorist. Never mind that Jubran, from Cumberland, Rhode Island, is a permanent resident of the United States. Never mind that he has lived in this country for nearly half of his 34 years, is widely respected on many fronts, and maintains a meticulous up-to-date immigration record and Green Card.

Never mind all of that, because Amer Jubran is guilty. He's been arrested, shackled and dragged to jail. He's been falsely accused, his home broken into and his family terrorized. And, if the FBI and BCIS (Bureau of Citizenship & Immigration Services) have anything to do with it, at his deportation hearing set for Sept. 25, Jubran will be banished forever from this hotbed of freedom.

Amer's Crimes

His crime? Echoing Aimee L. Smith's Nov. 22, 2002, MIT article, Jubran says without hesitation, "I am guilty of speaking while Palestinian..."

Smith wrote of Jubran's arrest and detention shortly after a legal protest for Palestinian rights in Boston on Nov. 2, 2002 - "...his (Jubran's) real crime, as far as the FBI is concerned, is his willingness to exercise his first amendment rights of assembly and speech in the streets of Boston, followed by his refusal to be interrogated without benefit of legal counsel. This is not the logic of security," Smith wrote, "this is the logic of repression."

Jubran recalls the day he was taken into custody - "I was in the shower, and they banged on the door so loud I thought there was an emergency," he said. "When I rushed to the door, four FBI and INS agents pushed me out of the way and barged in. All they said was, 'You need to come with us.' Then," Jubran said, "they searched my apartment, telling me they didn't need a warrant."

Jubran said he was first threatened with 50 years in prison, but then assured if he would "cooperate" and answer the FBI's questions about his political organizing in Boston, he would be home by lunchtime. When he demanded his right to an attorney, he was arrested and hauled off to the Cranston, Rhode Island, prison.

Fortunately for him, the Amer Jubran Defense Committee was hastily formed and became so in-your-face aggressive that, 17 days later, the INS was forced to free Jubran on bond. A deportation hearing was set for July 24, 2003 and, in the interim, the FBI harassed and interrogated Jubran's ex-wife and her family in an effort to prevent them from testifying, telling them that Jubran was a suspect in the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. (See www.axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/printer_908.shtml.)

So, what is Jubran's heinous crime? I asked him that last week, and he explained that on his marriage forms, the date on the license and another on the certificate did not jibe. "This is normal, and they knew about it even before I was issued my Green Card," he said. "My wife and I even got remarried when we found out about it. Now they say the marriage was a fraud, and is reason enough to deport me."

If raising your voice against man's inhumanity to man is a crime, then Amer Jubran is a criminal, and should get life without parole. He is an unabashed human-rights activist who readily admits his concerns for peace and justice extend beyond Palestine. "I lived through Israel's invasion of Lebanon in June 1982 and through years of occupation and repression before coming to the United States. I know what it's like to have no rights, to be thought of as less than human. I have seen war and blood and senseless killing of innocents. To live in silence against injustice is not to live," he said.

Amer's Journey

His destination has always been freedom and justice for Palestine, but Amer Jubran's long and arduous journey, mostly uphill, didn't begin on the college campuses he initially attended in Detroit and Boston. It began for him, as it does for all Palestinians - at birth. "My parents were expelled from Palestine during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war," Jubran said, "I was born in Jordan. But - " he added simply, "I am from Palestine."

The commitment to speak out against Israeli atrocities - apartheid, ethnic cleansing, mass murder and, more important, the forced transfer, or "disappearing" of Arabs from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip has been lifelong for Jubran, and has nothing to do with his coming to America.

"I sought an education, a better life - one that does not cause harm to others or exploit anyone," he said. "That is the way I try to live, but I cannot remain silent while my people are slaughtered daily, and those who remain move in fear amidst the rubble of their lives. Wherever I live - until there is a free Palestine - I will continue to speak out against the daily suffering and humiliation inflicted on Palestine by Israel..."

Jubran's intelligence, his friendly, outgoing personality and his burning desire to speak out against injustice wherever he finds it has earned him many friends and supporters. He is a founding member of the New England Committee to Defend Palestine (NECDP), and a key organizer of significant Palestine-related events in Boston, to include the April 6, 2002 downtown rally which drew more than 2,000 people. He was a popular key speaker for anti-war rallies which drew massive crowds leading up to the war on Iraq.

He has been much in demand as a guest lecturer on college campuses such as Northeastern University, Worcester State College and Emerson College. Jubran was a veritable "presence" on the MIT campus, speaking to political science classes and sitting on panels discussing the Palestine situation and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

All of this, of course, is what brought Jubran firmly into the center of John Ashcroft's "patriotic" crosshairs. To his credit, Ashcroft has never made any bones about how he feels toward the right to free speech, assembly, privacy, due process, the right to legal counsel or equal protection of immigrants under the law. Shortly after 9-11, Ashcroft told the Senate Judiciary Committee that those voicing dissent, or "scaring peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty," i.e., anyone caught criticizing administration policies, were "aiding the enemy."

In other words, Ashcroft threw down the gauntlet to people like Jubran and others who would voice dissent - shut the hell up or get the hell out.

Luckily, Jubran was not one of the thousands of immigrants Ashcroft's justice department caught up on the massive net cast after 9-11, or it would have been much easier to silence him by secretly deporting him with hundreds of others. The 762 who remain in detention have yet to have charges brought against them even though they have spent dark months in harsh confinement, denied access to counsel and family, and are automatically denied bail.

Do Americans not know, or do they just not care so long as it is happening to the others? Perhaps they recall Tom Ridge's chilling comment when he accepted the post of Homeland Security Secretary - "Liberty is the most precious gift we offer our citizens." Perhaps Americans are compelled to remain silent, lest Ridge and Ashcroft disqualify them for the "gift" of liberty. The thought of a government so arrogant as to assume the power to dole out liberty and freedom to obedient citizens is frightening indeed...

"It's strange," Jubran mused, "in order to detain less than one percent of the American population, it was necessary to change the laws to drastically affect the other 99 percent. It would be like dealing with the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995," he said, "by targeting and detaining every young white Christian male who ever served in the Army."

It's difficult to imagine that, on September 25, at 9 a.m. in Boston's JFK Federal Building, Amer Jubran could be deported for making a simple mistake on a marriage license - which was later remedied. Even with the support he will have, Jubran knows such a travesty of justice is possible - even probable. But he says wherever he is, he will continue his journey because the cause for peace and justice and, yes - Tom Ridge's liberty - is not about one man. It's not about silencing one voice...

Maybe so, but I have my doubts. For who will speak out when Amer Jubran and the others are gone?

They seem to have already come for the rest of us...


Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma freelance writer, a former US Army Public Information Officer and contributing editor of AxisofLogic.com

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