The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) condemns the US government’s decision to sentence Rasmea Odeh, Palestinian organizer and community leader, to 18 months in prison for allegedly lying on her immigration and US citizenship paperwork. Odeh was accused of having failed to disclose a 1969 conviction in an Israeli military court, despite the conviction being based on a confession produced through torture, including sexual assault by her Israeli jailers. Odeh’s US citizenship has been revoked and she can be deported to Jordan if her appeal is unsuccessful. Our hearts find relief that Odeh’s sentence is shorter than the five-to-seven years that the US government had pushed for, and that she will be in the arms of her community while her case is being appealed.
The fact that the sentence was shortened is a victory for our movements and a clear indication that our organizing for justice in Palestine has had significant impacts and will only continue to intensify as long as the US and Israel target Palestinians. We will stand unwaveringly with Odeh until her freedom day arrives.
While Odeh was charged with an immigration violation, we recognize these charges for what they really are: targeted political repression. Why else would the US government wait 20 years to object to the alleged omission on Odeh’s naturalization paperwork, then make her the subject of federal criminal prosecution? Threatening Odeh with 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and deportation is indicative of how people of color – in particular Palestinian and Muslim organizers and activists – resisting the US’s destruction of their homeland are directly targeted by the federal government in order to undermine their struggle and all struggles for justice and liberation.
The state repression levied against Muslims, Arabs and particularly Palestinians in the US reminds us that the wars waged against the people, land and natural resources of Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan by the US and its allies depend upon the racist dehumanization of those groups at home. Israel’s settler-colonial occupation of Palestine is an extension of the profit-motivated agenda of global elites, whose wealth and power rely on Islamophobia for manufacturing the public consent necessary for the profitable “War on Terror.”
Furthermore, the fact that the judge presiding over the case would not admit evidence of torture and sexual assault points to the patriarchal and misogynistic nature of a US court system that deems women’s experience, and in particular Muslim women’s experience, of sexual assault as irrelevant, trivial and unfit as “evidence.”
As with the Grand Jury subpoenas of the 23 anti-war and Palestinian human rights activists in Minneapolis and Chicago in 2010, the case of the Holy Land 5, and the New York Police Department heavily spying on and surveilling Muslims and showing racist, anti-Arab films to their officers, the sentencing of Odeh is part of a larger strategy of repressing organizers and suppressing liberation movements by mobilizing Islamophobia and simultaneously using it as a justification for further US-led wars waged primarily against Muslim-majority countries.
The arrest of Odeh is meant to send a chilling message to those who work for and believe in justice and freedom for all people. As Odeh said, during the course of her trial, “Maybe the government will ask to lock me in the prison. I don’t mind. I am stronger. With my rights and your rights, we will be strong. Don’t mind about that and continue to support me, to support Palestine, to support justice.” Drawing on Odeh’s courage we assert that we will not be intimidated, we will not be silenced, and we will not rest in our defense of Palestinians’ right to struggle for their own liberation.