The Trials of Rasmea Odeh, Part Two — A Bombing in Jerusalem

This is the 2nd of 4 posts. Trials of Rasmea Odeh.

Supersol, Jerusalem, was jammed on Friday morning February 21, 1969 by shoppers who were eager to be ready for Saturday. Around 11:00 am, the bomb detonated near the meat counter. The explosion ripped through the ceiling and shelves, and sent debris across the shop. Two botany students were killed—immigrant roommates, from South Africa and Uruguay—who were buying supplies for a coming field trip. A number of people were hurt, including an Auschwitz survivor, and a U.N.attache.

Israel was already on the edge after a string of terrorist attacks and bombings. The police had reasonable fears that “private revenge” would be used against Jerusalem’s Palestinian population. Roadblocks were erected in the vicinity of Palestinian communities to prevent angry mobs attacking their Palestinian neighbours.

A series of round-ups were also announced by the police, which took around 150 Palestinians into custody to be interrogated. Later, Odeh’s supporters portrayed them as arbitrarily arrested, however, they were mostly temporary detentions with individuals being quickly released following interrogation. Although the Palestinians did not consider mass detentions benign, the Israelis only indicted actual suspects against whom evidence was available.

In the middle of the night at the Odeh residence in al-Birah, it took just a few short days for Israeli security officials to arrive. Rasmea Odeh, a known PFLP partner, was also ratted out under duress, possibly torture, by a fellow conspirator. Bombmaking equipment—including timers, detonating cords, and gelignite—was recovered from Odeh’s bedroom, as was a receipt from the Supersol.

Odeh, blindfolded was brought to Jerusalem’s Russian Compound. This compound, which was originally a hostel in the 19th century, is now a terror factory.

Odeh endured a brutal interrogation. Her treatment included being repeatedly beat, tied to a wall and denied sleep. While the Israeli authorities claimed that these techniques were not used at that time, an Israeli commission determined later, along with others, they were common in security interrogations. Odeh claimed that he was sexually abused. There is not enough evidence to support this claim.

Odeh was quick to admit her guilt. Although she initially stated that she had only acted in self-defense, the Israelis rejected this explanation. They wanted to look for the proverbial ticking bomb, not just evidence to convict. Therefore they kept going with interrogation and Odeh finally gave her names.

In documentary interviews, the true story was revealed that Odeh purchased a jam tin from Supersol in Jordan before the operation’s date. Later, the conspirators gathered at Odeh’s home—her other family members were away—where the explosives were assembled and concealed in the tin. The two of Odeh’s comrades went back to her home, where they placed the tin again on a shelf. They hoped that the store would recognize it. Odeh later returned to Jerusalem with another bomb planted at the British consulate. It exploded safely.

Odeh was unable to conceal her confession, and the prosecution lasted for months. The motion she made was rejected, because the frequent use of torture by interrogators wasn’t publicly recognized and the security officers lied to her court. Odeh was guilty even without her confession. The receipt and ordinance found under her mattress were significant proof.

In January 1970, she was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Next, we will discuss Odeh’s 10 years imprisonment and eventual immigration to the United States.