[Pnews] Rasmea Odeh and political prosecutions in the US
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Nov 22 12:55:05 EST 2013
Rasmea Odeh and political prosecutions in the US
Submitted by Maureen Clare Murphy on Thu, 11/21/2013 - 23:04
I appeared on WBEZ Chicago Public Radio's /Worldview
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/worldview>/ program yesterday to
discuss the case of Rasmea Yousef Odeh
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/rasmea-yousef-odeh>, a Palestinian
community organizer in Chicago who was indicted last month for allegedly
lying on her citizenship application about a conviction in an Israeli
military court more than 40 years ago.
Odeh faces up to ten years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, as
well as revocation of her US citizenship, if she is convicted.
I was joined by Odeh's attorney and longtime friend Jim Fennerty, who
met Odeh in Jordan in 1984, five years after she was released from
Israeli prison. Odeh was imprisoned for ten years before being released
as part of a prisoner exchange deal.
In the interview, Fennerty describes the brutal torture Odeh endured in
Israeli prison, and how Israeli forces destroyed her family's home and
arrested her family members shortly after her arrest for alleged
involvement in Jerusalem bombings that killed two civilians.
"She's always denied the allegations, but how do you get a fair trial in
an Israeli military court?" Fennerty states.
In her own words
During the interview, one can hear Rasmea Odeh, who was born in
Palestine in 1948, describe her life and work in her own words. Earlier
this year, Odeh was interviewed in the same studio as I was yesterday,
for a video profile that was produced when she was given the Mosaic
Award for Outstanding Community Service from the Chicago Cultural Alliance.
Odeh discusses mentoring immigrant women as part of her work as
associate director of the Arab American Action Network, a social
services organization in Chicago. She is founder of the organization's
Arab Women's Committee, which now includes 600 members who have become
leaders in their own right, she says.
"She's really respected in the community and the women all love her, and
she's empowered them so they can become more independent and she's just
a wonderful person," Fennerty says in the interview.
During the program I discuss how US authorities are targeting
Palestinian and Palestine solidarity activists, and my own experience
being visited by the FBI in 2010 and being served a subpoena to appear
before a federal grand jury.
I explain that three years later, this investigation into material
support for foreign terrorist organizations is apparently ongoing and
that I, along with the 22 other activists who were targeted, are still
in the dark. Fennerty adds that US attorneys recently said in court that
they're going to decide within the next few months whether to issue any
"It's an ongoing investigation and we don't really know what the details
are yet, and there's not any crime that's been specified that people are
being investigated for," I explain. "There's a lot of indications to
believe that this is about people's solidarity organizing, their
political work, their first amendment-protected activities."
I add that while it seems that I was subpoenaed because of my
involvement in Palestine solidarity organizing in Chicago, and not
because of my journalistic work, the experience has nonetheless
influenced my journalism and compelled me to examine domestic terror
prosecutions more closely.
Long history of oppression
In the interview I briefly discuss the long history of oppression of
Palestine-related organizing in the US which led to the FBI coming to my
door in 2010 and the Department of Homeland Security coming to Rasmea
Odeh's door last month, and will elaborate on it here.
This history goes back to the 1970s, following the waves of immigration
of Palestinians to the US after Israel's military occupation of the West
Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, which has been bankrolled by the US.
As /Al-Akhbar English/ reported
<http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/15474> earlier this year:
Long before 9/11, Arabs and Muslims have been on the receiving end
of institutionalized racism from the American government and law
enforcement agencies. The earliest example of this discriminatory
policy is the little-known "Operation Boulder" initiative. Launched
by the Nixon Administration in 1972, it was allegedly a response to
the "terrorist threat" that followed the Munich Olympics operation
carried out by Palestinian organizations.
As Boston University law professor Susan M. Akram noted in a March
in /Arab Studies Quarterly/, "Nixon Administration's 'Operation
Boulder' [was] perhaps the first concerted US government effort to
target Arabs in the US for special investigation with the specific
purpose of intimidation, harassment, and to discourage their
activism on issues relating to the Middle East."
Much of the secrets behind Operation Boulder were only recently
What we know today is that the operation involved stringent reviews
and background checks of Arabs, particularly Palestinians, by the
FBI, CIA, State Department, and Secret Service. Moreover, much of
the information was shared between the Israeli and American security
services, as well as pro-Zionist organizations within the US.
At the program's zenith, background checks were made on 40 to 50
visa applicants per day and the operation was only terminated by the
State Department in 1975 after objections were raised by the FBI.
Despite the massive effort to monitor Arabs in general, only 23
visas for non-citizens were denied at the end.
Operation Boulder was in place long before the 11 September 2001
attacks, but would foreshadow the Bush administration's controversial
In 1987, US authorities targeted seven Palestinian immigrants and a
Kenyan in Los Angeles because of their activities educating Americans
about US policy towards Israel and the Palestinians. These activists
were dubbed the "LA 8."
The US government arrested the eight in 1987 and accused them of
organizing in support of the Popular Front for the Liberation of
Palestine <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/pflp>, a Palestinian
political party and armed resistance group, because of their first
amendment-protected activities such as the distribution of political
literature and organizing demonstrations. The attempt by the US to get
them deported ultimately failed, but their case dragged through the
courts for twenty years.
"From the beginning, we said that our case was a political one and that
the government made us victims of a political witch-hunt," said Michel
Shehadeh in 2007
the government finally dropped all charges against him.
In more recent years, there have been several other high-profile cases
in the US against Palestinian, Arab and Muslim activists because of
their work opposing US support of Israel or for providing aid to
Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation.
This includes the Holy Land 5
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/holy-land-5>, five humanitarians
currently serving lengthy prison sentences for their charity work in
Palestine. The Holy Land Foundation was the largest Islamic charity in
the US before it was shut down without due process with an executive
order by President Bush in December 2001.
One of the government prosecutors of the Holy Land Foundation case is
Barry Jonas, who was present in court when Rasmea Odeh was brought
before a judge after her arrest last month.
A motion recently filed
to exonerate the Holy Land Five states: "The defendants in the Holy Land
Foundation case were prosecuted for one reason, and one reason only:
that they are Muslim." The motion notes that virtually all of the
prosecutions under the statute barring material support to foreign
terrorist organizations have targeted Muslims and that non-Muslims
alleged to have committed similar acts were not prosecuted.
From Operation Boulder, the attempt to deport the LA 8, the prosecution
of the Holy Land 5, among many other cases, a pattern emerges:
politically-motivated, selective prosecution which has the effect if not
the intent of intimidating entire communities.
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