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Bay Area activists shut down federal building to protest Rasmea Odeh conviction

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After dawn on Wednesday supporters of Palestinian-American Rasmea Odeh shut down a federal building in Oakland, CA to protest her conviction two days before on charges of immigration fraud. The five who used lock boxes to block the front entrance of the government building were arrested hours later as 50 more protesters called for Odeh’s release.

Odeh was taken into custody in Chicago after her Monday hearing. Her case has struck a chord with Arab-Americans, and in leftist circles, and they will not be letting up their protests anytime soon.

“We see this as an attack on the entire community especially since they attacked one of our elders, we see her as a leader and a community organizer,” organizer Lara Kiswani, 33, told Mondoweiss. Kiswani is executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center based in San Francisco.

Rasmea Odeh. (Photo: Fight Back News)

Rasmea Odeh. (Photo: Fight Back News)

There are clear omissions in Odeh’s immigration forms. She was arrested in 1969, tried in 1970 in an Israeli military court and served ten years in prison in relation to a Tel Aviv bombing, and none of this made its way into her naturalization paperwork. Yet, Odeh is very much a victim. Before her 1970 trial, for nearly a month she was tortured and physically and sexually abused by her Israeli captors. Her military hearing relied on a confession she gave during this violent interrogation. Odeh contends it was a false confession, a regular occurrence at the time of her arrest.

When Odeh was tried in an Israeli military court, confessions and false confessions made through torture were the most common source of evidence used to produce convictions. I’m going to underscore this, because it’s really important: the most common from of conviction in an Israeli military court at the time of Odeh’s interrogation was made with a confession given under torture. This practice was first cataloged by the Israeli government in 1987 when the Landau Commission finally started a long awaited inquiry into the military court system after detainees who were mysteriously killed were later found to have died from torture with an attempted cover up from their interrogators. In its research the commission found false confessions were so widespread, referred to as “the norm,” that the head of Israel’s security services even distributed a memo to interrogators instructing them to lie in court about the use of torture to garner such confessions.

“The novelty consisted in the fact that senior GSS [security services] personnel considered false testimony so ingrained and self-evident, that they were not even apprehensive about putting it in writing and distributing it,” said the Landau Commission.

Years later when Odeh finally emigrated to the U.S. in 1995, she left her past behind her and did not include it in her naturalization forms. When this was raised in court, Odeh said that she did not understand that she was committing immigration fraud because she thought the questions about jail time and arrests pertained only to convictions in America. But if she had written that she spent 10 years in Israeli prison, would they have understood? Would they have granted her citizenship and recognized she had been incarcerated through a system of beatings and lies presented to an army judge—and not a civil or criminal court with regulations of due process? Or, would they have said no to her, denying her application outright?

Rasmea Odeh faces possible deportation. She was remanded until sentencing procedures begin.

“We want the entire case to be done with and that she be freed, and they drop all of the charges,” said Kiswani after the Oakland demonstration. “We did this action because we want to intensify protest on the harassment of Rasmea Odeh, especifally since she is in detention now.”

Correction: This post originally incorrectly reported the protest took place in San Francisco and has been updated. Thanks to commenter BDSList. 

Allison Deger
About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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10 Responses

  1. BDSlist
    November 13, 2014, 12:31 pm

    One little correction: the protest was at the Oakland Federal Building, in Oakland (not San Francisco) and I think the protesters would be better described as Bay Area activists, as many were not from San Francisco and AROC focusses on the Bay Area.

  2. annie
    November 13, 2014, 2:23 pm

    i had the opportunity of hearing lara kiswani speak at nora’s book launching in berkeley a very impressive individual/activist
    not sure how she was off my radar and as it turns out we had published an interview of her recently and i had just finished quoting her in one of my articles a few days before and didn’t even recognize her name. anyway, if you ever get a chance to here her speak, i highly recommend. i won’t be forgetting her name again.

    thank you allison

  3. Henry Norr
    Henry Norr
    November 13, 2014, 8:43 pm

    I was one of the folks who had the honor of getting arrested for blocking the doors of the federal court house in Oakland yesterday. We didn’t have just lockboxes – two of us did, but two people used u-locks, and we were all chained to each other and the doors with a nice collection of heavy chains. It’s a bit of an exaggeration, though, to say we “shut down the federal building” – the court is part of a fairly large complex, with multiple entrances, and while we blocked the doors going directly to the court, people were able to use other doors to get into the building, then go where they wanted. Still, it felt very worthwhile to do something to call attention to the horrible injustice being done to Rasmea Odeh.

    • 666
      November 13, 2014, 10:42 pm

      thanks for setting the record straight henry,lets go to town and support this fine lady.

    • amigo
      November 14, 2014, 11:12 am

      Well done Henry.I lived in Fremont many years ago so am familiar with the buildings you refer to.

      Thanks from Ireland for your bravery and genuine commitment to Human Rights.

  4. CigarGod
    November 14, 2014, 9:00 am

    I’m always interested in the names of the judges, and attornies.

  5. just
    November 15, 2014, 5:07 pm

    beautiful people~ all. thank you, Henry Norr.

    this poor lady~ denied justice everywhere.

  6. Jackdaw
    November 17, 2014, 12:11 am

    Rashmeeh accused of terror bomber plot by her own kinsmen.

    See ‘Women in Struggle’ @ 10.00.

  7. adele
    November 17, 2014, 3:13 pm

    Posted by @Justice4Rasmea on Twitter (Nov 16):

    Take a moment to write to Rasmea:
    Rasmieh Odeh #144979
    St. Clair County Jail
    1170 Michigan
    Port Huron, MI. 48060


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