Community organizing rallies to support Rasmea Odeh
Federal trial set to start June 10 in Detroit, Michigan
By Ray Hanania
It’s hard to know what the truth is about Rasmea (Rasmieh) Yousef Odeh, 66, the Palestinian woman who was charged by Israel 45 years ago with conducting an act of violence against Israeli civilians.
Ironically, Odeh was charged by Israel but was never given the opportunity to defend herself. Israel routinely denies Palestinians the right to a legal defense and has incarcerated tens of thousands of Palestinians on false charges of engaging in violent acts, even though in many cases, the accused have merely expressed verbal opposition to Israel’s brutal occupation.
On Oct. 22nd, Federal officers arrested Odeh at her Chicago home and they charged Odeh with “Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization” for allegedly lying on her immigration application which she filed in 1994. Odeh, who was granted citizenship in 2004, is to be tried in Detroit, and not in Chicago where she lived, because that is where her application for citizenship was filed.
During the past 20 years in the United States, Odeh has dedicated herself to peaceful protests and building a support network to support American Arab women and children. She has promoted literacy and political education and has been an advocate against domestic violence and anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry and discrimination. She is an associate director of the Arab American Action Network (AAAN) and worked as an “Obamacare Navigator” helping people apply for healthcare under the program pushed by President Barack Obama.
Israel accused Odeh with participating in the planning of a terrorist attack that took the lives of two civilians at a crowded Jerusalem supermarket on Feb. 21, 1969. She was 21 years old at the time. Responsibility for the incident was claimed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) which has a strong base of activists in Chicago.
An Israeli military court convicted Odeh and three others “for membership in an illegal organization,” (the PFLP) and as such she was accused of participating in all three bombings. Odeh’s supporters insist she was tortured by Israeli interrogators who are notorious for their brutality, and she was forced to make an admission of guilt.
Odeh’s supporters insist she was not involved in the attack and was convicted the same way all Palestinians are convicted in the Israeli court system, without justice or the right to defend themselves. Odeh has refused to discuss the incident and declined several interview requests on the issue. At the time of the attack, Israel was arresting and killing Palestinians as a part of a campaign to eliminate critics in the West Bank which it had occupied only 21 months earlier.
An Israeli military court sentenced Odeh to life in prison following a kangaroo-court trial in 1970. Odeh was released after serving only 10 years as a part of a prisoner exchange with the PLFP. Israel released 76 prisoners in exchange for an Israeli soldier captured in Lebanon.
The killing of the two Hebrew University students during the marketplace bombing is indeed tragic. And there is no justification for violence. Unfortunately, violence by Israel occurs with no one being accountable. For every one Israeli who has tragically died in this ongoing conflict, 400 Palestinians have died at the hands of Israeli settlers, extremists in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and as part of Israel’s official policy of “extra-judicial killings” which is the execution of individuals never charged of convicted of any crimes other than being labeled as “terrorists” by Israel.
This disparity in how the biased American mainstream media closes its eyes to Israeli terrorism and often exaggerates terrorism by Arabs and Palestinians is one reason why the American Arab community has so strongly protested against Odeh’s arrest. The killers of Palestinians seem to escape justice and are never hassled in Israel or in the United States.
Many see a conspiracy behind Odeh’s recent arrest, which followed a larger crackdown when the FBI raided the homes and offices of 23 pro-Palestinian and Palestinian activists in Chicago, Minneapolis and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Since the raids, the government has failed to release any information about what was sought and no indictments have been handed down leading many to believe it was a campaign to intimidate and silence critics of Israel.
The timing of the charges against Odeh are also suspect coming a decade after she became a citizen and two decades after her application. Her past as a prisoner in Israel was well-known when she applied for citizenship.
The prosecution of Odeh will be handled by the offices of Barbara L. McQuade is the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, an appointed of President Obama and someone who has maintained close relations and contacts with Detroit’s large American Arab and Muslim Community.
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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