The LA 8

Bury My Heart at The Dome of The Rock

by Rhoda Shapiro

Dissident Voice
March 3, 2003


Since the end of the European crusades to wipe out the Muslim infidels of the Levant, western expansion into other lands has been justified by the attempt to bring 'civilization' to savage hordes under the banner of Christianity, with racism as its murderous backdrop. In any discussion of the dangers facing activist immigrants in this country, especially those from the Middle East, it must always be remembered that the United States came into being as a result of European expansion. It was the first European settler state.


What came to be called "The United States of America" was built on the continuous destruction of the Indian peoples and nations. They have paid a staggering price for the creation of American society and culture. This is true for Mexico as well as the rest of the Americas. The process continues to this very day. The entire edifice of US society has been built on the racism that destroyed Indian peoples for their land, and built its economic might on the backs of African slaves.


Anti-immigrant hatred was part of the American experience from its beginnings, and was fueled by the economic and political forces coming into being in the new country. This has remained the case. The first English settlers feared that the next wave of French and German Catholic settlers were in the pay of the Pope to take over the colonies. Before the Civil War, the Know-Nothing Party, organized against Catholics and Catholic immigrants, was the second largest political party in the country. Chinese immigrants who came to help build the railroads were murdered by racist mobs and then excluded by law from entering the US, as were the Japanese.


In the early 1920's the Red Scare led to the Palmer Raids, when thousands of immigrants, accused of spreading 'foreign doctrines', were rounded up, held incommunicado, tortured, beaten and summarily deported. "Foreign doctrines" included workers attempting to organize unions and striking. Mexican immigrants in California have been rounded up and deported back to Mexico whenever the need for their cheap labor dwindled. Racist fears were whipped up against newly freed African-American slaves, the Yellow Peril, and all things foreign, by religious institutions, schools and the media.


By the end of the 19th century the American Frontier had been ethnically cleansed and settled, and the United States became a world power. In the late 20th century after the fall of the Soviet Union, when the United States became the only world superpower, the way was cleared for the entire planet to come under US corporate domination for the fulfillment of the true American Manifest Destiny. Unlike the brutal but short-lived Nazi nightmare of a thousand year Reich and the cataclysm it created in Europe, there is no one left to stop them.


For more than thirty years, we have been experiencing yet another cycle of anti-immigrant hatred, one driven by Federal and corporate power in its drive for capital accumulation throughout the world, currently manifest by US interests in the Middle East. The newest twist, and by far the most dangerous, has been the attacks on immigrants from Arab countries. How did the perception of Arab peoples become so virulent in the US? Beginning with the imposition of the Zionist state in Palestine (1948), when the Arab people living there were driven from their homes and land, Arabs were dismissed as non-beings by Zionist leaders. Historic Palestine was characterized as "a land without a people, for a people without a land." This mantra was taken up by American Zionists and the US media.


In 1958 Lebanon was shaken by disruptions against pro-Western policies. President Dwight Eisenhower sent 15,000 US troops, ostensibly to protect Americans living in Lebanon. In 1975 a bloody civil war broke out between Muslims, the PLO and conservative Christians. Once more US troops, "helped out." When Syrian troops intervened a cease-fire was declared, but Israel invaded the border in 1978.


The first Palestinian refugees arrived in southern Lebanon fleeing the Zionist war machine during the Israeli war against its neighbors in 1967. In 1970 the PLO and thousands of Palestinians were expelled from Jordan, where many had fled when the Zionist state pushed them out of their homes in Palestine. In 1982 the Sharon-induced Sabra & Shatilla massacres of Palestinian refugees occurred to world condemnation, but were deliberately downplayed in the US.


The Shah of Iran was overthrown by an uprising of religious and secular forces in 1979. The taking of US hostages by militant students (released Jan 1981 upon George Bush I's command) escalated anti-Arab feeling in the US into hysteria. That Iran is not an Arab country was all but ignored. By then, the Zionist war to eliminate Palestinian Arabs from Israel was in full swing, resulting in the first Intifada. Arabs have been fair game ever since. And Arab bashing has found steady fuel in the US media.


Even before the first Bush War in the Persian Gulf, the US government was preparing to go to war against Arabs, beginning here at home. A secret document leaked to the press in 1987 revealed that the US government has been making plans. "Alien Terrorists and Undesirables: A Contingency Plan," outlined various methods that could be used to deport nationals of seven Arab countries and Iran. It also included a plan to round up Arab immigrants and hold them in a 1,000 acre military camp in Louisiana, already prepared to hold detainees.


The test case was to be seven Palestinians and a Kenyan woman married to one of them, who became known as the LA 8. On January 26, 1987, in the early morning hours when most of the men and women were still asleep, seven Los Angeles homes were broken into by SWAT teams of the INS and FBI. The terrified people taken and held under maximum security at Terminal Island Prison in Long Beach California. For several days they had no access to attorneys. The eight men and women were held in chains, in solitary confinement for three weeks. This was 1987 remember, before Bush War I in the Persian Gulf, Clinton's Omnibus Anti-terrorism act of 1996, before September 11. And before the Patriot Act...with Patriot Act II on the horizon. The public outcry against the circumstances of their detention was swift. The threats of Arab detentions died down. As far as we know, there are no Arab-only detention camps operating yet, and the Eight are still here.


For the past sixteen years the Eight have been in and out of court. Every time a judge throws out the government's 'case' to deport them, first under McCarren for 'advocating world communism', the government revives it. After the McCarren Act was declared unconstitutional, the government tried to get the Eight for technical violations like not taking enough credits in school, or working. Two of the eight were accused of having ties to the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (which they have vociferously denied and the US government was never able to prove). Their travails, and others like them have all been based on 'secret evidence'. This is so-called evidence the government claims to possess, but refuses to divulge to the accused, mostly on the basis of 'national security'. It is a catch all for the government's selective prosecution of political activists. According to the ACLU, "Virtually every secret evidence case that has come to public attention involves a Muslim or Arab."


Almost four years ago, Mazin Al-Najjar, another Palestinian activist was jailed on the basis of secret evidence and jailed for three and a half years, after which he was summarily deported. The recent arrests in February 2003 of four Palestinian activists in the US are also based on secret evidence. This is all sending a chilling message to Palestinian residents of the United States who dare to speak out, just as the government intended.


In 1999 the Supreme Court ruled for the first time that aliens have no right to object to being targeted for deportation based on their political affiliations. They also ruled that federal courts have no jurisdiction to hear such cases, ensuring that they could not raise a First Amendment challenge to their claim that they were unconstitutionally selected for deportation. This paved the way for the recent Patriot Act that rushed to put a seal on our already fragile civil rights, pushed through by a congress seemingly overdosed on Valium.


They still fight on. Since their arrest sixteen years ago, life for the Eight has been lived in a weird confluence of Kafkaesque horror and the Theater of the Absurd. In the current climate, the outlook for the accused and their families is not hopeful and under current law they can be summarily deported by the INS.


Current anthropological and archaeological evidence points to the existence of civilizations perhaps as much as forty thousand years ago on this continent. That history has been all but wiped out in the European sweep. The violence of the endeavor has perpetuated itself in US culture and social relations. As Anders Stephanson writes:


"...Indians were a sizable blot on the American surface...Little prudence and no compassion were necessary in dealing with them...It is an instructive history of ethnic cleansing."


The current US administration continues to create a climate of fear and hatred against Arab immigrants that goes back to Presidents Carter, Bush I and Clinton. It must do this in order to carry out the consolidation of global domination with the full support of the US public. History tells us this is not very difficult to do.


Most Palestinians now living in the United States came here as refugees, when

Palestine came under the domination of the European/Zionist settler state in 1948. We are seeing history come full circle. Three hundred years after the European conquest of this land and its original peoples, Palestinian Arabs in their motherland find themselves in danger of annihilation by the latest European invaders, with full support of the resources of the United States. And those who have fled to America's shores for safety and a better life, may now be swept up in the latest attempt at ethnic cleansing.


Rhoda Shapiro is a long time activist in the Palestine liberation struggle. She is a contribuor to the Al-Awda Right of Return Media Committee. She may be contacted at:


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