06 April 2017
All Out for Rasmea’s April 25th Plea Hearing in Detroit!
WHEN: Tuesday, April 25th, 2017, at 1:00 PM Eastern Time (rally at 1:00 PM, hearing starts at 2:30 PM)
WHERE: U.S. District Court, 231 W. Lafayette Blvd., downtown Detroit, Michigan
The Rasmea Defense Committee is calling on everyone to mobilize for Rasmea’s final court appearance in Detroit on April 25th, and tell us here that you’re attending, or if you need a ride or can provide transportation!
It is essential that we fill the courtroom one final time, in support of our leader and shero Rasmea Odeh, who accepted a plea agreement two weeks ago (statement below), and will be forced to leave the United States soon.
Supporters from Chicago and other parts of Illinois, as well as from Milwaukee, Detroit / Dearborn, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Minneapolis / St. Paul, Cincinnati, Indiana, and other Midwest areas are already committed to attend.
The Rasmea Defense Committee is led by the U.S. Palestinian Community Network and the Committee to Stop FBI Repression.
March 23rd, 2017 - Rasmea Odeh, the 69-year old Palestinian American community leader who was tortured and sexually assaulted by the Israeli military in 1969, is bringing to a close her battle to win justice from the U.S. legal system.
After living in this country for over 20 years, Rasmea was charged in 2013 with an immigration violation that was always just a pretext for a broader attempt to criminalize the Palestine liberation movement. She has spent the last three and a half years leading a powerful battle to resist this attack, joined by hundreds of supporters for every court appearance, and thousands of supporters across the country and the world. However, the prospects for a fair trial are slimmer than ever. The prosecution team is now under the regime of racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and a new superseding indictment re-frames this as a case about “terrorism” rather than immigration. There is the great likelihood that a jury would be prejudiced by hearing the zionist Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel call Rasmea a “terrorist” and her supporters “mobs and hordes,” as he has done many times before. As a Palestinian who has dedicated her life to the cause of liberation, it is impossible for Rasmea to expect a fair trial in U.S. courts.
In 1969, as a college student, Rasmea was arrested by the Israeli police, along with as many as 500 others, and accused of involvement in two bombings. She was horrifically tortured for 25 days (including electric shock treatment and sexual assault), as was her father in her presence; and then tried before a kangaroo Israeli military court. This tribunal has military officers, and not civilians, as prosecutors and judges, and convicts over 99% of its Palestinian prisoners. She was found guilty based on a confession coerced through torture, and then given a life sentence. In 1979, she was freed with other Palestinians in a prisoner exchange.
In her 2014 trial in U.S. federal court, where she was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison for allegedly giving false answers to questions on her applications for permanent residency and citizenship, Judge Gershwin Drain prohibited the defense from challenging the legality of the military tribunal or offering proof of her innocence of the bombings. She was also not allowed to put forward that she suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the torture, but she won an appeal and a new trial expressly based on the excluded torture evidence. Its back against the wall, the government then filed a vindictive new superseding indictment that falsely accused Rasmea of being a “terrorist” and a member of a “designated terrorist organization.”
Under this current, racist political climate, and facing 18 months or more of imprisonment, as well as the possibility of indefinite detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Rasmea has made the difficult decision to accept a plea agreement. She will plead guilty to Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization, lose her U.S. citizenship, and be forced to leave the country, but will exit the U.S. without having to serve any more time in prison or ICE detention, a victory, considering that the government had earlier fought for a sentence of 5-7 years. Tukel and acting U.S. Attorney Daniel L. Lemisch clearly want this case to go away, and to dodge a public and legal defense that puts U.S.-backed Israel on trial for its crimes against Rasmea and the Palestinian people as a whole.
Through a massive, organized defense campaign, Rasmea Odeh—a long-time icon of the Palestine liberation movement—is now a name known in every corner of the movement for social justice in the U.S. From the Movement for Black Lives in Ferguson, Chicago, and beyond, to the call for a global #WomenStrike on International Women’s Day, Rasmea has become synonymous with resilience and resistance. This fight not only brought her story to the U.S. and the world, but also pushed forward the cause of the liberation of Palestine. She exposed Israel for what it is – a racist occupier and colonizer – and put its policy of torture and sexual assault on the permanent record in a U.S. court of law.
We had other victories too. When the first judge assigned to Rasmea’s case was exposed as a lifelong supporter of Israel, and it was then found that he had direct financial ties that affirmed this bias, he was forced to remove himself from the case. After the first trial led to a conviction that did not hold up under appeal, Rasmea was taken immediately into custody. Supporters mobilized to demand her release. Within weeks, the movement had helped to post her bond, and Rasmea was back in Chicago, planning her successful appeal and continuing her important community organizing. And Rasmea never once walked into a courthouse alone. Whether by the dozens or the hundreds, at every hearing, every day of trial, from Detroit to Cincinnati, we were with her.
Rasmea’s choice today was not easy, but nothing in this journey has been, and our support continues to be critical. A hearing date has been set for Tuesday, April 25th, when Judge Drain will consider the plea agreement. We will go All Out for Detroit and stand beside our leader on that difficult day. After that, Rasmea will continue her incredible organizing work wherever she is, and so will we.
As she said to supporters outside the courthouse after the initial verdict, “There is justice in this world, we will find it. We will face injustice and we have to change this world, not just in this country, in all the world in all the places there is no justice, we have to bring the justice together. In spite of everything, we are the stronger people, not the government who is unjust.”
The case of Rasmea Odeh presents us all with an example of how to resist. The current political climate is formidable. The Muslim Ban, attacks on Latino immigrants and Black people, the cuts to programs serving women … these and other attacks will call on each of us to be unwavering, like Rasmea; to be consistent like her supporters; and to never run scared or fall silent in the face of injustice.
(This essay is adapted from speeches delivered by Rasmea Odeh at the Crossroads Fund Seeds of Change event on 31 March 2017 and at the Jewish Voice for Peace national conference on 2 April 2017.)
I was an infant during the Nakba, the 1948 catastrophe in Palestine. Growing up I heard many stories of pain and bitterness from my family, who were forced, along with 750,000 other Palestinians, to leave the homes, lands, lives and memories they had built for generations.
Now I face a similar Nakba, forced to leave the country and the life that I built for myself over 23 years in the US – the relationships, the memories and all the people I know and love, especially the women of Chicago’s Arab community.
But I will continue my struggle for justice for my people wherever I land. I will continue the struggle for the right of return, for self-determination and for the establishment of a democratic state on the entirety of the historic land of Palestine.
When I immigrated to this country and found myself in Chicago, after many years of working on women’s rights and other legal advocacy issues in the Arab world, I found psychological tranquility and stability amongst family and new friends, far away from any kind of fear or threats. I determined that this would be my second home, where I would build a life amongst a Palestinian community that I love and respect so dearly.
Community and struggle
I have been a community organizer for the past 13 years with the Arab Women’s Committee, a project of the Arab American Action Network. I have spent the best years of my life with these Arab immigrant and refugee women. We protect each other, and struggle for justice together through our organizing work. They are all helping me to live a generous and simple life, and forget a lot of my personal pain.
We created this committee from scratch; it now has over 700 members. The committee promotes leadership by and for Arab women, to build their capacity to fight for social change, and to challenge systems of oppression like racial profiling, sexism and patriarchy. We built a formation of immigrant and refugee women who fight for their own rights and the rights of all oppressed peoples.
We all have a role to play in our own cities, our own neighborhoods. Organizing is difficult. It’s hard work, but it’s the only thing that is guaranteed to make change in this world.
White people didn’t just decide to give up their power and allow people their civil rights. It was fought for in a Black-led movement that inspired the whole world, and it is still being fought for. Mubarak in Egypt didn’t just walk away quietly from his presidency. It took 10 million workers on strike to push him out, and that revolution is still not complete.
The Arab American Action Network was one of the leaders of the shutdown of O’Hare International Airport in Chicago the day after Trump’s Muslim Ban was announced. We helped get 5,000 people to that airport over two days, and thousands more shut down a number of other airports in the US.
Later that same weekend, a federal court froze that executive order, but it wouldn’t have happened without the mass movement in the streets. Trump lost Muslim Ban 2.0 as well, and the Republican bill to take healthcare away from millions, and he will lose many times more. Even though he said he was going to win more than any other president, he keeps losing because people in the US are in the streets resisting every single day.
Our role in Palestine’s liberation
Of course, Zionists aren’t going to stop their land grab in Palestine either. The Palestinians there — and the Palestinians and our supporters here — have to stop them with our resistance and our organizing. With boycott, divestment and sanctions – including the cultural and academic boycott of Israel. With challenging the Jewish United Fund in Chicago, and with shutting down Zionists when they try to defend their war crimes. With defending our students and our community-based institutions and our organizers and our allies when they get attacked.
Many hundreds of Palestinians and our supporters in the US have had to face government repression because of our organizing for peace and justice, and it is important that all of you continue your activism despite the attacks, because we are doing effective work in this country that is having an impact. Our community organizations, our student organizers, our academics, our solidarity activists — all exposing Israel for the criminal, apartheid state that it is.
There is a long history of repression against oppressed communities in this country. Law enforcement goes after those, like the Black liberation movement and so many others, who are fighting for social justice, those who want to make a difference in the world.
We are those people, and we will be targeted, but we should understand that we have the support of millions of others around the world who share our vision of historical Palestine liberated from Zionism, where all Palestinian refugees can return to their original homes, and where everyone there can live together with dignity and equal rights.
I am going to have to leave the life I have built for more than a decade at some point in the next few months. I am going to have to leave Chicago and all the beautiful people who have welcomed me so warmly to this country and this city. But I will still be organizing wherever I end up.
And I’ll be watching developments in the US very closely, because besides Palestine, this is the main front of the battle for the liberation of my homeland. And liberation we will win.