Editor’s Note: The following is a press release from the Rasmea Spricht campaign. Mondoweiss occasionally publishes press releases from organizations in an effort to draw attention to overlooked issues.
Palestinian activist Rasmea Odeh was banned from speaking at an event marking International Women’s Day in Berlin and faces the imminent threat of deportation. Odeh’s lawyers have issued an urgent procedural appeal against the deportation order and the ban on political activity.
Gilad Erdan, Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs, claimed credit for the decision taken by German authorities to revoke Odeh’s Schengen Visa. Once again, Israeli officials have exerted their influence on Germany in order to prevent public criticism of its human rights abuses.
This attack on freedom of speech and association, basic rights enshrined in the German constitution, marks a new low in the targeting of Palestinian activists and BDS supporters in Germany and could set a legal precedent, if successful. Odeh is appealing both the deportation order and speaking ban.
Odeh (born 1947) was scheduled to speak at an event title “Palestinian women in the liberation struggle”, organized by the Samidoun Prisoner Solidarity Network on 15.03.2019 at the Dersim Cultural Center in Kreuzberg. Dareen Tatour (born 1982), a former political prisoner, was also billed alongside Odeh, with the expectation that an inter-generational exchange would provide unique insight into the Israeli state’s tactics of torture and detention, and offer ideas for social engagement and forms of non-violent resistance.
After much political pressure, the Berlin Senate Department for Internal Affairs and Sport decided to prohibit Odeh from participating in the event and the Foreigners’ Office revoked her Schengen Visa, claiming her presence in Berlin posed a danger to national security. Odeh was quickly surrounded by police on her arrival to the event and forced out of the area.
A few days before the scheduled event, Rasmea Odeh was branded a “terrorist”, “hate preacher” and “anti-Semite” in several sensationalist articles whose authors failed to do background research on her case. It should also be noted that most of the articles in the local press (Tagesspiegel, Berliner Zeitung, Berliner Morgenpost) do not mention the fact that Odeh’s confession was extracted under torture and sexual violence. The articles found rapid and unchecked widespread distribution. Even politicians such as the Berlin Interior Senator accused Odeh of “anti-Semitic propaganda”, and the US ambassador even used the terms “murder” and “terrorism”. So far, there was only one article in taz which indicates that freedom of expression is endangered by the ban on the event.
Rasema Odeh, Dareen Tatour and the organizers of the event make it clear that they strictly reject all forms of violence, anti-Semitism, racism and sexism.
On 18.03.2019, an urgent procedural request to prevent Odeh’s deportation was made at the Berlin Administrative Court. The Administrative Court, however, rejected the request and followed the order of the Foreigners’ Office. Odeh’s lawyers have now issued a complained at the Higher Administrative Court, whose decision is still pending.
Odeh’s attorney Nadija Samour sums it up: “Cancelling a visa based on what has happened so far in the past is a completely new concept from a legal point of view, especially as it is based on a confession condemned even by the “The Special Committee to investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Population of the Occupied Territories”.”
Rasmea Odeh’s rights were violated on several levels:
1. By sensationalist, inaccurate reporting and slander as a “terrorist,” “murderer,” and “anti-Semite,” Odeh suffered a serious injury to her personal rights.
2. The prevention of the event restricted Odeh’s right to freedom of expression.
3. The withdrawal of her visa curtailed Odeh’s right to freedom of movement.
About Rasmea Odeh
Odeh was sentenced to life in prison in 1970 after an Israeli military tribunal found her guilty of participating in a two bomb attacks, one of which killed two civilians. Odeh was held for 25 days where she was raped and tortured before signing a confession. This confession was revoked in court, and Odeh later gave evidence about her torture before a UN Special Committee following her release in 1979 as part of a prisoner exchange. The Sunday Times also exposed her torture in a five-month long investigation in 1977.
Odeh co-founded the Arab Women’s Committee in Chicago. She was awarded the Outstanding Community Leader Award by the Chicago Cultural Alliance for her work on political education in 2013.
In 2017, after a 4-year immigration battle, Odeh was deported from her home in Chicago to Jordan after being convicted for immigration fraud for failing to disclose her earlier life sentence. The fact that the conviction was based on an extracted confession had no bearing on the court decision.
About Dareen Tatour
Dareen Tatour is a Palestinian poet with Israeli citizenship, who spent years in house arrest and was sentenced to a five-month jail term after initially being arrested in October 2015 for publishing her poem “Resist, My People, Resist Them.” She was put on trial in an Israeli court for incitement and support of terrorism. PEN America and many international freedom of expression organizations demanded the poet’s immediate release.