The Trials of Rasmea Odeh, Part Three — Immigration and Indictment

This is the third post in a series of five. Trials of Rasmea Odeh.

Rasmea Odeh’s PFLP comrades tried to force her release through hijackings or hostage taking. The quadruple hijackings on four airplanes by “Black September” in 1970 were executed under the command of Task Force Rasmea Odeh. In May 1972, the quadruple hijackings of “Black September” were foiled. Her name was also on the list for prisoners who were released by the guerrillas responsible for the massacre at 1972 Munich Olympics. In March 1979, the PFLP finally succeeded when the Israelis freed 76 prisoners including Odeh, who was one of those held by them.

Odeh was released by the PFLP magazine with a poem that covered the entire page. It praised her participation in “the troops and revolution”, as well as the prophecy about the gun. After completing her law degree, she settled in Amman in Jordan. She also worked as a researcher at universities.

Odeh could not deny the Jerusalem attack while still living in Amman. As one of four first Palestinian women to become “an active guerrilla,” she was admired and freely spoke about her PFLP “military” work with U.S. and Lebanoni interviewers, as well as Jordanian TV.

In 1996, Odeh’s family requested that she move to America to care for her father who was dying of cancer. Odeh falsified her application to obtain a family unification visa. Infalsely denying ever being convicted of a crime, Odeh claimed she was not a member any organisations and that she has never been imprisoned or arrested.

Odeh eventually settled in Chicago. There she led a tranquil and inspiring life, becoming an associate director at the Arab American Action Network. The University of Illinois granted her funding for writing workshops to immigrant women. Chicago Cultural Alliance awarded her the “Outstanding Community Leader” award, unaware that she was a PFLP bomber. In her interview and naturalization application, she lied about having been in prison or convicted. She became an American citizen in 2005.

During an FBI investigation into one of Odeh’s coworkers, Odeh was accidentally exposed to citizenship fraud. In late 2013, she was charged with fraudulently procuring U.S. citizenship. After her arraignment in Chicago she was taken to Detroit for her trial, which took place where her naturalization interview had been held.

The arrest of Odeh in Chicago sparked immediate reactions from Chicago’s Arab-Muslim community. The AAAN released a statement, signed by more than 50 organizations within days. It claimed that Odeh’s arrest was part of a conspiracy by Israel and its support to suppress the Palestinian movement here in America.

Mainstream, progressive, and leftist organizations rallied around Odeh’s defence, as did the Peace and Justice Committee of Chicago’s Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. The men spread lies about Odeh’s case either credulously and cynically. They claimed Odeh was only being held in Israel for “anti-occupation” activism. Also, they exaggerated the length and severity of her treatment in prison. AAAN and other leftist groups repeated their assertions that Odeh’s arrest was part in an Israel-instigated plot to destroy the Palestinian movement within the U.S.

Two Chicago leftist veterans, and both members of the National Lawyers Guild, represented Odeh. Michael Deutsch is a pioneer of Chicago’s Peoples Law Office. His clients included Black Panthers, SDS Weathermen and survivors of Attica’s prisoners rebellion. James Fennerty, his co-counsel, was a pioneer in representing the American Indian Movement of Wounded Knee.

Fennerty and Deutsch presented a strong defense together, not straying too far from Israel’s conspiracy theory and only lightly tethered with the facts which will be the topic of my last post.