By Rory McCormack – WUFT contributor
What do Dred Scott v. Sandford and Plessy v. Ferguson have in common?
They were both overturned.
“And if those cases can be overturned so can this case,” said attorney John Cline, addressing a crowd of about 60 people, Tuesday night at the University of Florida.
Cline, who was referring to the Holy Land Foundation case, spoke in Little Hall on the issue of political dissent. The event, hosted by UF Students for Justice in Palestine and Students for a Democratic Society, also featured anti-war activists Mick Kelly and Noor Elashi, the daughter of a man involved in the case.
The Holy Land Foundation was a charity set up by five men to provide relief to Palestinian refugees as well as people in need throughout the world. By building hospitals and schools and supplying food and medicine, it became the largest Muslim charity.
But three months after 9/11, Bush’s administration shut the charity down out of fear it was connected to terrorists. The five men were investigated, tried twice and sentenced. Elashi’s father, Ghassan Elashi, was given 65 years in prison.
“My father was basically arrested for giving humanitarian aid to Palestinians,” Elashi said. “I can only hope that as a nation we can learn from our wrongs.”
Cline, who was Elashi’s attorney in the case, said this is one bad decision made by the government that people can’t just turn their backs on. To fight against it, he encourages following the words of Ghassan Elashi himself.
“We need to be severely outspoken,” he said.
Taha El-Nil, a senior history major and president of Students for Justice in Palestine, thinks being severely outspoken is key to creating peace.
Speaking is something humans do every day, but it is usually about trivial matters, he said. Like talking about what’s for dinner or what’s on TV.
El-Nil thinks Americans should start focusing their freedom of speech on more humanitarian topics, specifically on justice and human rights.
“One day, we might end up in the court and we might be given the same treatment as the Holy Land Foundation men did,” he said. “It’s not fair for any American citizen to go through that kind of unjust justice system.”
Sara Mohamed, a sophomore health science major and secretary for Students for Justice in Palestine, said she tries speaking out against corruption regularly.
“I don’t sit around and be quiet,” she said. “I like to tell people about it. I like to say, ‘This is wrong’ and voice my opinion.”
In the case of the Holy Land Foundation, Mohamed said she is not going to ignore it or just brush it under the rug.
“It’s something that needs to be talked about and brought to life,” she said.
El-Nil said unjust trials such as the Holy Land Foundation case are often unknown to Americans and young people.
“These are things that are hidden,” he said.
This idea leads El-Nil to think there is a need to spread even more awareness about it. Although he doesn’t have a family of his own yet, El-Nil does have siblings he can relate to.
“And if I wasn’t able to see them for 65 plus years, that would be worse than death,” he said. “That’s why I stand up for these causes.”