Politics

South Carolina Federal Attorney’s Support For Hamas Draws Scrutiny

Where does free speech begin – and end – for federal employees?

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University of South Carolina law school graduate and Columbia-based federal public defender Suha Najjar has a long history of advocacy on the behalf of the Palestinian cause – advocacy which drew the attention of anti-semitic watch groups well before Hamas’ October 7, 2023 attack on Israel.

As this struggle continues, her online commentary is reviving a debate over where protected speech begins – and ends – for federal employees.

Najjar is a first generation American whose family immigrated from Palestine to Columbia S.C. when she was ten months old. She returned to Palestine on a UN humanitarian mission prior to attending the USC school of law.

Najjar’s activism as a student drew the attention of the pro-Israeli watchdog organization, Canary Mission. This group exists to document “individuals and organizations that promote hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on North American college campuses and beyond.” However, its detractors have accused the website of using “McCarthyist tactics” and “open racism” to hurt the job prospects of those listed on its pages.

The Canary Mission’s report on Najjar focuses on social media posts from 2013-2014 in which she praised the Hamas’ Qassam fighters. In one tweet, she recounted driving “by a truck that had a group of Qassam fighters in the back.”

“Everyone cheered. I wanted to kiss their feet,” she said.

Another tweet celebrated Qassam capturing an Israeli soldier.

Najjar has also touted her “M-75” perfume on Twitter, a perfume named after the missiles designed by Hamas and fired into Israel in 2012. In case her feelings on the subject weren’t sufficiently clear, in February 2013 Najjar tweeted “Israel has no right to exist.”

(Click to View)

Najjar appeared on RT while earning an undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan in 2014 (Via: Canary Mission)

While controversial, Najjar’s speech is protected by the First Amendment. And if the Canary Mission’s objective in publicizing it was truly to deny her future employment, the mission failed. After graduating law school, Najjar found employment with the federal government as an assistant federal public defender in 2021.

Najjar’s social media presence became more tame in the decade between her most most inflammatory posts and Hamas’ attack on Israel earlier this month. As news of Hamas’ attacks first broke, Najjar took to X (the social media platform formerly known as Twitter) to share her views.

On the day of the attack, she retweeted the following statement:

“Palestinians have been saying — for decades — that today’s historic resistance is inevitable in the face of a brutal settler-colonial ethno-state, but ‘analysts’ & ‘observers’ of the region are now in shock. They even dare to publicly proclaim: ‘we never saw this coming.'”

Reasonable regional observers could certainly conclude that violence was all but inevitable. Avner Cohen, an ex-Israeli religious affairs official who worked in Gaza for more than twenty years, told The Wall Street Journal in 2009 that “Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel’s creation.” Israel’s attempts to counterbalance the secularist government of Palestine with a religious one in the 1980s failed.

Avner addressed the Israeli government in his writings and suggested “focusing our efforts on finding ways to break up this monster before this reality jumps in our face.”

On October 7, reality jumped into the faces of Israelis harder than ever before – and Najjar retweeted a number of posts concerning not just the causes of the the terror attack, but America’s response to it. One tweet implored readers to “pay real close attention to who gets described as a terrorist when fighting for freedom, from Atlanta to Palestine” while another lamented that “America is on the wrong side of every liberation struggle on this earth.”

Perhaps most crass, Najjar tweeted an image comparing Hamas’ invading forces to a caged bird being freed.

(Click to View)

Image
(Via X user @su_esq)

Federal employees have the same rights to free speech as the rest of us, but that right is subject to the Pickering Connick test, a longstanding tool used by courts to determine whether governmental employers violated their employees’ right to free expression.

The test first asks whether the issue addressed by the employee was a “public matter.” Najjar’s comments certainly meet this criteria.

The second half of the test, dubbed the “balancing prong,” asks the court to balance the employee’s right to free speech with the employer’s interests in maintaining an efficient, “disruption-free” workplace. As imagined, those definitions allow wide latitude to presiding judges. Some factors the Washington, D.C. court of appeals has used to guide judges include “the truth or falsity of the employee’s statement; any interference with the performance of his job resulting from the speech; the context of the speech and accompanying conduct; and its anticipated effect on agency morale and upon working relationships with immediate superiors.”

It could be argued negative workplace effects of a federal employee repeatedly voicing support for a group the United States has officially designated a terrorist organization – a group which openly aims to destroy the state of Israel – could potentially interfere with both agency morale and Najjar’s ability to function within her role.

Najjar’s posts have yet to prompt an official response. In fact, FITSNews’ request for comment on the day prior to this article’s publication appeared to be the first time the office of the public defender became aware of Najjar’s social media engagement.

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FITSNews is a committed proponent of free speech. Our media outlet has never shied away from exploring narratives which run counter to those promulgated by the mainstream media machine. A marketplace of ideas in which American citizens do nothing but parrot pre-approved narratives is no marketplace at all.

But should we not also balance the defense of this most sacred principle against the reality that there are many who seek the destruction of the non-islamic world? Including many willing to commit acts of violence in furtherance of this agenda?

It beneficial to the American people that platforms like X allow for the wars of the 2020s to reach the citizenry directly. While mainstream media outlets will certainly continue to push their narratives, they no longer serve as the sole gatekeepers of which side’s dead children get shown to the world – and which side’s dead children remain hidden.

That is a positive development – as many of America’s most disastrous foreign policy decisions from decades past could have been avoided had the public simply been allowed to see beyond the tightly controlled narratives presented to them by legacy media outlets.

The magnitude of the civilian carnage and death caused by Israel’s retaliatory strikes in Gaza would surely not be widely known or understood in the western world if Palestinians weren’t able to leverage internet platforms to directly share horrifying photos and videos from the ground. Anyone who values reality over spoon-fed narratives should be glad Americans aren’t able to bury our heads in the sand – even if they believe Israel’s strikes are completely morally justified.

Individuals who contribute to conversations by voicing perspectives that Americans would otherwise be shielded from are certainly doing the public discourse a favor, and should be protected from retaliation. But individuals like Najjar who have for more than a decade voiced support for organizations that have carried out well documented rapes and murders, and who’ve voiced their support for the destruction of Israel (a goal which can only be achieved through unfathomable violence) fall far outside of the bounds of productive speech.

While Americans have the right to speak freely, we do not have the right to avoid the consequences of our speech. In the wake of the October 7, 2023 attack many Israeli commentators quoted Maya Angelou as saying “when someone tells you who they are, believe them.”

Najjar has for years expressed her support for violent militants. Perhaps is it time to believe her?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Via: Travis Bell)

Dylan Nolan is the director of special projects at FITSNews. He graduated from the Darla Moore school of business in 2021 with an accounting degree. Got a tip or story idea for Dylan? Email him here. You can also engage him socially @DNolan2000.

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11 comments

Where Did First Amendment Go October 18, 2023 at 7:26 pm

Whether you agree or disagree with her, her freedom of speech should be supported and upheld, just as the freedom of speech of multiple Richland County first responders should have been upheld in and around 2020 but shamefully was not.

Our country has gone from free speech, to ensuring that a few cherished and protected “minorities” never have to endure hearing anything they may not happen to like.

Reply
Feryal Abu January 14, 2024 at 8:14 pm

Your support of free speech for Ms. Suha Najjar is patronizing at best. Why aren’t you focused on members of the Israeli Knesset who publicly claim Palestinians are animals and don’t exist and anyone who doesn’t have their head in the sand can’t deny Israel’s leaders’ rhetoric has become more extreme prior to any incident that occurred on October 2023 and this is only a symptom can’t deny Israel’s leaders’ rhetoric has become more extreme prior to any incident that occurred on October 2023 and this is only a symptom that drove Hamas to act.

To you and Zionists, she may appear to support ‘violent militants’ but to her and I, they are freedom fighters. King Herod would be proud of the mass butcheries committed for centuries by a so called democracy for only Jews.

Don’t expect Ms. Najjar to turn a blind eye when she sees the blood not only of Palestinians but her own family in Gaza being spilled. Don’t put the weight of the world on her mourning shoulders. She is not telling you she is violent or supports violence. She supports justice for all people

Your agenda is not really free speech but speech that you and the Zionists can narrate and control and Ms Najjar refuses to be intimidated or controlled because she sees the truth with her own

Bravo to her!!!

Reply
there is no palestine October 19, 2023 at 7:39 am

Simple solution. Move her azz back to the middle east……

Reply
Anonymous October 19, 2023 at 11:11 am

How any person not speak against human suffering, Oppressions of the occupation and the apartheid system that has been brutalizing people for 80 years. And regardless of who these civilians are, what religion or nationality, we can all agree from common human decency that , Occupation is wrong, Apartheid is wrong, Bombing hospitals killing hundreds of children and medical staff is wrong, Bombing homes, Bombing schools is wrong, cutting water, food , medicine and power on 2.5 million civilians is wrong. And not to mention all previously mentioned acts against civilians are actually war crimes based on Geneva convention. No one should suffer because they advocate for human rights and civilian life to be protected. How can anyone see what has been happening to the Palestinians and still happening and not advocate for respect for human rights regardless of who you are. There is not one person that would want to trade places with any one living the hell people in Gaza are living. You do not have to be a Palestinian to advocate for human rights, you just need to be a human.
We share one planet, and hate caused so many problems, and never solve one. I pray that we all see each other equally as Gods children, and no one has to suffer. Advocating for protection for human life, any human life should be commended not punished. God Bless

Reply
Kayla Santana October 19, 2023 at 11:25 am

to the commentator above: she actually can’t move back to the “Middle East” because Israel has forcibly displaced her and blocks her and millions of Palestinians from returning to their indigenous land.

To Dylan Nolan, please find a new job. Maybe you can be a spokesperson for netanyahu. What journalistic or subject authority does an accountant white boy focused on “education” have as a credible source

This is such a pathetic vitriolic racist piece of flaming garbage propaganda. Stop targeting and doxxing women of color advocates with your little sound bites that bypass all intellectual reasoning and humanity.

And keep Maya Angelou’s name out of your dirty mouth.

Reply
Sofia K October 19, 2023 at 11:53 am

This woman is brilliant young attorney who worked incredibly hard from a disadvantaged background and has said and done nothing wrong in her time as a defense attorney. This article lacks all journalistic integrity and is inciting unmertied hate towards her.
Mr. Nolan actually says, “But should we not also balance the defense of this most sacred principle against the reality that there are many who seek the destruction of the non-islamic world? Including many willing to commit acts of violence in furtherance of this agenda?” Is this serious? That is an irresponsible statement to make and misleadingly implies Ms. Najjar is some sort of threat. This article should be revised to reflect the reality of her very reasonable, personal political statements and step away from such unwarranted personal attacks and hatred towards her.

Reply
Alizay October 19, 2023 at 12:50 pm

Her personal beliefs and political opinions are fully her right. And calling her advocacy for Palestinian freedom, who have been undergoing an ethnic cleansing and genocide from an apartheid regime for over 70 years, antisemitism is intellectually dishonest at best and incites hatred at worst. These are simply bad faith attempts at silencing Palestinian advocacy. If the Federal Public Defenders’ office has any integrity, which they should as that upholds their work, they should see through this vile, pathetic attempt at journalism.

Reply
Mark October 19, 2023 at 5:36 pm

The writer here engages in what is famously known as the “straw man” argument. He acknowledges all of the First Amendment protections, then he trashes them by assuming a premise that was never stated by her i.e. that she condoned attacks. In fact, she is a public defender, and what public defenders do when an offense occurs is explain look for the reasons why and what potentially mitigates them.

The author here however suggests that when it comes to Palestinians there can be no mitigation. He misleadingly equates a disagreement with policy with antisemitism. He falsely equates concern about foreign policy to supporting violence at home. To understand the straw man argument, simply put it in this context: Attorneys represented many Jan 6th defendants and tried to explain the reasons for their actions. Applying Mr. Nolan’s logic would suggest all of these ppl should be fired because they are supporting insurrection. Our adversarial system recognizes a simple idea, that there are two sides to every story, but here Nolan suggests that telling the other side is grounds for termination.

This piece lacks basic integrity. FITSnews has a duty not to incite hatred and attacks against individuals, or to intentionally mischaracterize the subjects they write about. Perhaps if Mr. Nolan had any type of training in journalism and not an accounting degree from an unheard of institution, he would not have produced this meritless piece. That FITSnews published it is far more problematic.

Reply
Terminator44 Top fan October 20, 2023 at 1:05 pm

Quite telling that the rest of the arab world has refused to allow palestinians to enter their respective countries.

Reply
Kareema January 7, 2024 at 8:54 pm

I find this article to be a misguided attempt at journalism, displaying a concerning disregard for the principles of the First Amendment and demonstrating a lack of respect for Palestinian Americans. The author’s struggle with the complexities of dual nationality is palpable, as if she questions her right to express herself as an American merely because of her Palestinian heritage. Dylan, I urge you to focus on topics that align more closely with your expertise. Your coverage of the frustrations voiced by a Palestinian American comes across as disappointing and lacking depth. The examples you present to counter her arguments inadvertently reinforce her points due to your evident bias and inadequate research.

Rather than challenging her First Amendment rights and attempting to undermine her remarkable academic and professional achievements, consider removing this article altogether. It seems your intention was to discredit her, but in reality, you only succeeded in shedding light on the issue and amplifying her perspective. I initially followed her based on your social media posts, expecting valuable insights. However, upon visiting her page, I gained a deeper understanding of the situation, thanks to her informative content. In a time when misinformation is rampant, her contributions are appreciated and valuable. We stand in support of individuals like her.

This article is, regrettably, embarrassing. If your goal is to pursue journalism, it is evident that there is much room for improvement. Perhaps focusing on your expertise in accounting would be more beneficial at this moment. Journalism may be a goal for you, but it is clear that you have not yet reached that point—maybe someday, but certainly not today.

Reply
Kyle January 7, 2024 at 8:58 pm

We support her and those like her.

Reply

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