In July 2004, federal agents raided the homes of five Palestinian-American families, arresting the fathers, who had been leaders of a Texas-based charity called the Holy Land Foundation. Until 9/11, the HLF was the largest Muslim charity in the United States, but in December 2001 the federal government shuttered the organization and seized its assets. The first trial of the HLF-5, held in 2007, ended in a hung jury. The second trial was marked by highly questionable procedures including the admission of testimony from anonymized Israeli security agents. It resulted in very lengthy sentences for the men — for “supporting terrorism” by donating to charities in Palestine that the US government itself had long worked with. The men remain in prison.
The following essay is excerpted from Injustice: The Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five by Miko Peled (Just World Books, 2018), which is available for purchase.
Twenty-year-old Zaira Abu-Baker was still in bed in her parents’ home when she heard the banging on the front door. She looked at her phone and noticed several missed calls and a message from her friend Noor Elashi. She opened the message from Noor; it contained one word. Aju.
It means “they came.”
At precisely 7:00 a.m. central time, on July 27, 2004, the homes of Shukri Abu-Baker, Ghassan Elashi, Mu d Abdulqader, Abdulrahman Odeh, and Mohammad Elmezain were raided by local and federal law enforcement. All five men, who would come to be known as the HLF-5, were taken into custody. Four years and two trials later, all five were sent to federal prison, serving sentences ranging from fifteen to sixty-five years.
I learned about the HLF-5 in the fall of 2011.
I had been asked to lecture at the University of Texas, in Dallas. After my lecture ended, I met with some of the student activists…