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May 25, 2001
Sue the Bastards

By Sam Bahour


Dear NileMedia Reader: we recieved the following letter from our good buddy, Sam Bahour. We asked him if we could share his reflections with our subscribers and he said to go for it. We are increasingly getting feedback from readers advocating taking action in court; suing the bastards. Since, the fourth estate is busy with public relations for the IDF, congress is bought and paid for and the State Department is under lease to the Israeli lobby, perhaps it is time to sue. This letter from Sam is very encouraging about the prospects of law suits against those who would give material assistance to the machinery of repression. So, read Sam's letter.

Dear friends,

During the first few years of the first Intifada (1988+), I had the "pleasure", with a half dozen or so solidarity friends, of chaining myself to the gates of Federal Laboratories in Saltsburg, Pennsylvania (USA). Why did we do this and face arrest - because we learned that a death near Jerusalem was caused by Israeli misuse of US-made tear gas. This gas was no normal gas, it was CS gas - a deadly chemical.

After multiple political/diplomatic efforts to convince the firm that their tear gas was being misused and was causing Palestinian deaths - we were left with no other choice but to take action. Given this plant is in the middle of nowhere, a fully wooded and secluded area, we choose to organize a civil disobedience act. We took, I think 3 bus loads of folk to the gates of this company. We were met with armed state troopers, regular police (most who have never seen an Arab), and even a helicopter. I felt like I was home at the City Inn intersection in Al-Bireh.

After a successful civil disobedience event the firm buckled and suspended export of the gas, fearing that their knowledge (as per US law) that their product was being misused was in violation of US arms export law. They sent a fact-finding mission to investigate and as we expected resumed export 6-months later, thinking we were a fly by the night headache.

A report at the time stated:
In 1988, Amnesty International reported that medical personnel in Israel had cited tear gas as "the cause of or a contributory factor in the deaths of more than 40 Palestinians in the Occupied Territories." The report caused American manufacturers of CS to halt exports of the gas to Israel.

Learning this we went to plan 2, and in December, 1991, the New York based Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit on behalf of nine families of Palestinians killed by tear gas. With dedicated help of CCR's Atty. Jules Lobel and activists Todd May, Mark Lance, Barbra Lubin, Dick Riley, Staughton and Alice Lynd, Ray Nakley, Ellen Robinson, Martha Katz, and a whole lot of others, we planned demos, letter campaigns, etc in support of the case: Abu-Zeineh v. Federal Laboratories, Inc.

After a several year legal battle, in which we had some minor victories, we lost the case due to a technicality that was decided by the US State Dept. The State Dept claimed at the time that Palestinians are stateless and in US courts you must be a national of some country to file a suit. We had a good chance of winning at the time due to the laws that force US firms to be liable for their products - - even if used on the other side of the world.

NOW, why do I try and remember this (and I'm sure I missed some details).

Since the start of Intifada II we have been searching for the make and model of this vicious tear gas the Israelis have been using. All the canisters in the street had only Hebrew writing on them. Last week, a local activist at the Birzeit Road demo was lucky (and smart enough) to pick up, after an untidy Israeli soldier, "a nice, heavy-duty metal bucket". This "bucket" is the crate that these deadly canister are shipped in, and what do you know, the following is stamped on the bucket:

Federal Laboratories Inc.
An Armour Holdings Inc., Company
1855 South Loop, Casper, WY. 82601

Below this address was written, also in English, on the bucket label:
Government of Israel
Ministry of Defense
Hakirya, Kaplan Street
Tel Aviv. Israel
Ref: PO# 192/71394-04

Our local activist reports: "What was interesting was that everything else on the label was written -- printed, that is, of course, like the English lettering -- in Hebrew. The "candles" I found all over the ground had only printing in Hebrew, too. So where was the Hebrew lettering done? In the US? ...Without the bucket, there would have been no indication that the canisters were made in the USA."

After doing some research I found that several reporters during the past several months have made the Federal Labs connection. Thus, we need to act.

Friends, calling for a stop to US Aid to Israel is a long and hard battle - because most Americans cannot relate to it. Bringing this struggle to a firm- level - making the connection to the damage their products are doing has a chance to get our message across.

I urge our US activists to take up this issue and remind Federal Labs that we are still here, alive, but no well!!

If you have any questions regarding the past efforts, I will be more than happy to try and address.


Some references: