Ties to Terrorism

There are many in American public life who have embarrassing pasts, like Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., or who engage in very questionable tactics, like Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.

But few members of mainstream organizations have worked closely and openly with terrorist groups, like Jeanne Butterfield (search), director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (search).

The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the immigration bar's equivalent of the American Bar Association. It is a national professional organization that requires membership, keeps immigration lawyers abreast of developments in immigration law and acts as an advocate for immigrants before legislative bodies. It also promulgates ethical standards for immigration lawyers.

Jeanne Butterfield is, in some sense of the term, the nation's head immigration lawyer (search). A major part of the organization's work is developing and deploying legal strategies that ease the entry of immigrants, help to erect hurdles to their removal, and in many cases, are used in class actions to seek to keep people who never had any legal immigration status -- illegal aliens (search) -- in the country.

You may recall that it was Ms. Butterfield who said, just after a group of young men on student visas flew planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, "I don't think that the events of last week can be attributed to the failure of our immigration laws."

To understand Ms. Butterfield's history is to understand the newer and downright irresponsible positions taken by AILA. Before she was elected director of AILA, Jeanne Butterfield was executive director of the Palestine Solidarity Committee (search), the group that acted as a front for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (search) in much the same way that Sinn Fein (search) acted as a representative of the Irish Republican Army (search) -- but without participating in electoral politics and representative government as Sinn Fein has.

Instead, the Palestine Solidarity Committee seems to have devoted its efforts to apologizing for the PFLP and campaigning to isolate Israel, specifically U.S. aid to Israel.

But its defense of terror did not stop with the action of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. David Horowitz (search) noted in a 1991 National Review article that the Palestine Solidarity Committee was "one of the few groups in the world supporting Saddam's rape of Kuwait."

The Palestine Solidarity Committee was formerly known as the November 29th Committee for Palestine (search) (November 29th is the "International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People"). The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (search) said the following in a 1983 report: "Close observation and analysis of the activities of the November 29 (committee) indicates that it appears to be a de facto alliance between U.S. adherents of the Popular Front...and the (Trotskyist) Workers World Party (search) (of New York)..."

The "Popular Front" the report refers to of course is the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The group was founded by George Habash (search) in 1967 when he was a member of the PLO, and it continues to attack and murder settlers. Just last year, the PFLP was described by the New York Times as "a secular Marxist (search) organization that spearheaded international Palestinian terrorism in the late 1960's and 1970's, [which] remains lethal."

The PFLP is undeterred by the facts that current Palestinian politics have trended strongly toward the PLO and Hamas, and that it no longer appears to have much of a hand to play in bringing about a Palestinian state. In 2001 alone, the PFLP exploded seven car bombs, a bus and motorcycle bomb, and several bombs placed near high-pedestrian traffic areas, like malls across Israel. In October, 2001, it assassinated Israel's Minister of Tourism as he walked to his home in a quiet neighborhood.

The March-April 1989 issue of Palestine Focus (search), the national newspaper of the Palestine Solidarity Committee -- which features Butterfield on the masthead -- lists among its goals "to stop U.S. intervention in the Middle East and to cut off U.S. aid to Israel."

The Workers World Party referred to in the B'Nai Brith Report, perhaps still bitter that Saddam's work in Kuwait had been cut short by American military intervention, is of course the entity that orchestrated the anti-war protests which preceded President Bush's action in Iraq. The Palestine Solidarity Committee has morphed into many college and regional chapters, some as far away as Africa.

It's baffling that a person whose early career was spent apologizing for terrorism has risen to director of a mainstream, national professional organization whose members testify on Capitol Hill. (search) It is even more baffling that Ms. Butterfield was elected to her position by members of a profession that counts among its members many Jews, while her early career was devoted destruction of the Jewish state (search). If Ms. Butterfield had been a leader of another group that advocated hate and violence, such as the Ku Klux Klan (search), she would not have the credibility or trustworthiness to find work as a bank teller, let alone lead a national, mainstream legal organization.

F. Scott Fitzgerald (search) said that in American life, there are no second acts. Jeanne Butterfield proves, provided your politics are acceptable to some, that that's not always so.

Matt Hayes began practicing immigration law shortly after graduating from Pace University School of Law in 1994, representing new immigrants in civil and criminal matters. He teaches at Berkeley College, and is author of The New Immigration Law and Practice, a textbook to be published by West Legal Publications in October, 2003.

Respond to the Writer