Victory for Rasmea Odeh, a Hero of the People

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In October 2013 Palestinian community leader and political activist Rasmea Odeh was arrested by Department of Homeland Security agents and subsequently indicted in federal court on immigration fraud charges. The charges alleged that she failed to disclose that she was convicted by an Israeli military court in 1969 in her application for U.S. citizenship from the early 1990s. Despite the fact that it was only after she was tortured and raped by Israeli interrogators in 1969 that Odeh signed a false confession that implicated her in a pair of Jerusalem bombings that same year. Also, despite the fact that she spent the next ten years incarcerated in an Israeli prison, the presiding judge in her 2014 criminal trial refused to admit any evidence of torture or its psychological effects

While the U.S. government claimed that Rasmea broke the law by not disclosing her 1969 conviction, the prosecution failed to address the original fact that the conviction was the result of torture leading to a false confession. There is no due process in Israeli military courts , which “convict” over 99% of Palestinians, and that evidence from an Israeli military court should not have been accepted in a U.S. courtroom in the first place.

The Rasmea Defense Committee, a coalition led by the United States Palestinian Community Network and the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, has argued that “Rasmea came under attack by the U.S. government because she is Palestinian, and because for decades, she has organized for Palestinian liberation and self-determination, the Right of Return, and an end to Israeli occupation and colonization.” Drawing from the shared experience of political imprisonment, Angela Davis elaborated in July 2015 that she identifies with Odeh “because I know that it is through individuals that entire movements are attacked.” From the outset of her criminal trial, Rasmea’s defense team sought to have her case dismissed, on the grounds that her indictment was “the product of an illegal investigation…intended to suppress the work of the defendant in support of the Arab community of Chicago.”

While Rasmea’s conviction was vacated in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, the fact that she still faces a prison sentence and deportation, and was even subject to it in the first place reveals the true intentions of the U.S. government: to target and punish people like Odeh as a means of suppressing political organizing in Palestinian, Arab and oppressed nationality communities. Yes, Odeh’s conviction may have been vacated, but there are still political prisoners languishing in cages in the U.S. and Israel/occupied Palestine. With the imprisonment of Mohammad Allan, a Palestinian lawyer who went on a hunger strike in August of 2015 for 66 days, and Mohammed Al Qeeq, who is still in Israeli Prison. There is no saying to what extents they will go to to silence the Palestinian people.  

With the rise of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and the fascist, xenophobic politics of the far right, Islamophobic attacks have surged to levels unseen in the U.S. post 9/11. Republican presidential candidates continue to call for the expanded surveillance of Muslim/Arab communities all under the guise of “counterterrorism,” much like the rise of surveillance on Muslim students in MSAs across CUNY that has led to the entrapment of students. The escalation of these right wing politics leads to heavier repression of Muslims and Organizers not only on campuses, but also into communities in order to silence people who challenge the state. We also recognize this as an effort to repress Palestine solidarity organizers such as Rasema Odeh   

From Palestine to Jordan to Chicago — Odeh has committed her life’s work to fighting for the rights of Arab immigrant and refugee communities from Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. Her community has remained at her center and her freedom continues to be a rallying cry in Palestinian and Arab communities across the country. We applaud the work Rasmea, and all other revolutionaries do to liberate oppressed people and would like to emphasize the fact that even if the case is eventually dismissed, repression of Palestinian revolutionaries does not stop at this court case. The ruling could lead to a new trial for Odeh, unless the government or the defense appeals the decision to the full bench of the 6th Circuit or the Supreme Court. So we must continue in this fight, this is not over, and we must not trust the courts of empire.  The movement needs to keep growing stronger in the face of repression, and must stay ready to mobilize to support Rasmea and all political prisoners.

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