[Pnews] Rasmea Odeh and political prosecutions in the US

Prisoner News 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.

    Targeting activists

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
    2002 article
    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 
Patriot Act.


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 
<http://electronicintifada.net/content/after-20-years-freedom-sweet/7220> after 
the government finally dropped all charges against him.

    Political prosecution

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.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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