Feature Photo: SFP Speaks Out

Elizabeth Dobbins, News Editor

This Wednesday, under a cold gray sky, 40 students huddled outside the Cox Administration Building to speak against the conviction of Palestinian-American activist Rasmea Odeh at an event hosted by Students for a Free Palestine. Odeh was convicted on Monday in a Detroit federal court for immigration fraud after failing to disclose her 1969 Israeli military court conviction during her U.S. naturalization process.

In 1969, Odeh was arrested, convicted and sentenced to life in prison for her alleged 1969 involvement in a fatal terrorist bombing that year. She was released in a prisoner exchange program 10 years after sentencing and immigrated to the United States in 1995. She went on to become the associate director for the Chicago-based Arab American Action Network.

In a printed statement distributed at the action, SFP members claimed that Monday’s conviction was a political act.

“The court did NOT allow Rasmea to speak of her persecution and torture at the hands of the Israeli Defense Fund,” read the printed statement. “The Court did NOT allow for Rasmea to explain her history of PTSD from her experiences in Israeli prisons. Instead the court continued the U.S. state project to criminalize, prosecute, and deport Palestinian immigrants and leaders. Rasmea resisting racism, misogyny and Islamophobia in the U.S. threatened this white-supremacist state and the court sought to silence it.”

The action was held as part of the national #FreeRasmeaNow week. Individual students, community members and student groups, including the Sexual Information Center and the Edmonia Lewis Center, read statements and spoke about Odeh’s conviction and intersecting issues. Attendees were encouraged to write letters of support to Odeh and sign a petition to U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade to drop the conviction.

“The purpose of this was to draw attention to the case of Rasmea Odeh, but not only Rasmea Odeh, and tie it into bigger systems that are all intersecting on this trial, such as the corrupt immigration system in the U.S., repression of Palestine solidarity work, state-sanctioned sexualized violence, U.S. imperialism, Islamophobia, anti-Arab sentiment, etc. The list goes on,” said SFP member and College senior Victoria Velasco. “And we also wanted to show public support for Rasmea.”