RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Bernstein writes: "The details behind Odeh's arrest go to the heart of the matter of an ongoing relationship between the US and Israel - a national security collaboration that allows the Israelis to push forward with a policy that can only be described as ethnic cleansing."

Rasmea Odeh raises her fist as she leaves federal court in Detroit Thursday, March 12, 2015. (photo: AP)
Rasmea Odeh raises her fist as she leaves federal court in Detroit Thursday, March 12, 2015. (photo: AP)

A New Day for Rasmea Odeh: Throwing the Spotlight on Israeli Torture

By Dennis J. Bernstein, Reader Supported News

03 April 16


hat would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?” wrote the late poet and biographer Muriel Rukeyser: “The world would split open.” And what would happen if the one woman telling the truth were Palestinian, and she was blowing the whistle about systematic torture of Palestinian prisoners, including the rape of women under Israeli custody?

Meet Rasmea Odeh. Odeh is a 67-year-old Chicago-based Palestinian community leader. She immigrated to the US in 1994 and received her United States citizenship in 2004. Since that time she has worked diligently and effectively with community organizations that provide crucial care and support for immigrant women.

Odeh is the associate director of the Chicago-based Arab-American Action Network and a founder of the Arab Women’s Committee, which provides ESL, social services, civil rights education and leadership training to over 800 immigrant and refugee women in the Windy City. She is also a convicted felon.

In October 2013 Rasmea was arrested, charged, and ultimately convicted of one count of unlawful procurement of naturalization (of her US citizenship). A few months prior to her arrest by Homeland Security, she received the Outstanding Community Leader Award from the Chicago Cultural Alliance for her work with Arab-Americans, women in particular.

The details behind Odeh’s arrest go to the heart of the matter of an ongoing relationship between the US and Israel – a national security collaboration that allows the Israelis to push forward with a policy that can only be described as ethnic cleansing. The policy’s core is seizing Palestinian land by any means necessary, while supporting an expanding settlers’ movement. Illegal arrest, imprisonment, and torture are tools used daily by Israeli occupiers to quell Palestinian resistance to the seizure of their land, house by house and acre by acre.

On February 25, Rasmea Odeh was granted an appeal for a possible new trial. I sat down with Lina Baroudi, a staff attorney for the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) to talk about the details of the case. AROC is a partner organization with the Arab-American Action Network where Rasmea Odeh is associated. They are working together on a national defense committee. Let’s begin in occupied Palestine.

Dennis Bernstein: Please explain how Rasmea Odeh’s treatment as a Palestinian woman by Israeli forces began.

Lina Baroudi: In October 2013 Rasmea was charged with one count of unlawful procurement of naturalization, which is US citizenship. She is accused of failing to report a prior conviction on her naturalization application, which was filed in 2004. The accusation is related to her conviction by an Israeli military court more than 45 years ago and her subsequent imprisonment for 10 years in an Israeli prison.

DB: Ten years, 45 years ago.

Baroudi: Absolutely. She is one of the few women who have publicly spoken about the brutal, sexual, psychological, and physical torture Palestinian prisoners endure at the hands of the Israeli government. That torture is what ultimately led to her coerced confession and conviction, a conviction she been very public about and has testified about before the United Nations.

DB: It took them ten years to come after Rasmea Odeh for this one count: How do you explain the timing? There must have been somebody pushing for this in the US.

Baroudi: Yes. The immigration charge was a pretext to attack Rasmea as an icon of the Palestine Liberation Movement. She’s been long involved with that movement in the US and the case against her grew out of an investigation of 23 anti-war and Palestinian community organizers in Chicago and Minneapolis in 2010, all of whom were subpoenaed to a Grand Jury but were never ultimately charged with anything.

DB: This is how they came back to her.

Baroudi: Exactly.

DB: She went from a respected community leader to handcuffs and jail. There must be multiple sufferings as a result.

Baroudi: Yes, in 2014, the US District Court in Detroit convicted her of the charge of unlawful procurement of naturalization. She was sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment and subsequent deportation from the US, where she’s lived for so many years. During the unfair trial, Rasmea was prevented from presenting evidence about the events that led to her conviction by an Israeli military tribunal.

DB: So she couldn’t talk about the torture.

Baroudi: She couldn’t talk about any evidence. The judge, ironically, allowed in the actual conviction documents, but she wasn’t allowed to testify about the conviction or the circumstances that led to her arrest, her torture, her coerced confession, her imprisonment, or the subsequent Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from which she suffers to this day. In addition, her expert witness on PTSD was also barred from testifying. It’s incomprehensible that the judge admitted her conviction into evidence but barred any mention of the torture and coerced confession that led to it, because he said they were irrelevant. The Israeli military court system has a conviction rate of 99% for the Palestinians brought before it. This flaw in the judge’s reasoning was the basis of the appeal, which is that Rasmea was denied the right to present a complete defense because the trial court precluded her and her expert witness from testifying about how her PTSD affected the naturalization process.

DB: On what grounds was the appeal granted?

Baroudi: There were several arguments put forth by her legal team. On February 25, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit granted the appeal and vacated her conviction. They looked at the de-naturalization statute, which they said criminalizes knowingly procuring naturalization, contrary to law. PTSD is relevant to whether Rasmea knowingly omitted information on her citizenship application. They found that the trial court’s conclusion – that her PTSD and circumstances of her arrest and torture were irrelevant – was wrong.

DB: The court implies they believe her that she was tortured and has a right to tell that story.

Baroudi: Yes. The court recognizes that PTSD is relevant to the immigration process and that when the process is asking about your background and arrests and the judge allows convictions from a military court system – referred to as a kangaroo court system by many organizations and well known scholars – then PTSD is going to be relevant.

DB: Where does it go? There are two possible outcomes.

Baroudi: The decision of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals becomes final on April 10. At that point the case goes back to the trial court. The first scenario is that the trial judge can find another basis to exclude Rasmea’s and her expert witness’s testimony and that she can appeal again to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The more likely scenario is that the trial court allows in the PTSD testimony, and that Rasmea and her expert witness will be allowed to testify at a new hearing about the circumstances of her conviction by an Israeli military court and how the lifelong effects of her PTSD may have affected the naturalization process.

DB: What is your assessment as to the possibility of a positive outcome?

Baroudi: The Sixth Circuit decision language is encouraging the trial court to allow in the testimony because they made a finding that PTSD is relevant. I expect the second scenario, which is a new trial.

DB: Why was she targeted? Torture is such a touchy subject. The Israelis, who have so many complaints you can’t keep track of them, are sensitive on this front. Now the Americans are taking their lessons from the Israelis, so the American government is sensitive about torture. There are highly political forces operating, and some are coming down on her and others.

Baroudi: The case came out of an investigation of the 23 anti-war and Palestinian community organizers in Chicago and Minneapolis. She specifically came under attack by the US government because she’s a Palestinian, an Arab, an immigrant, and a woman. She’s under attack because for decades she’s organized for Palestinian liberation and self-determination, the right of return, and an end of Israeli occupation and colonization. This case is of special significance for immigrant activists in the US because it highlights the level of surveillance and repression employed by the US to further the interests of its allies, including the Israeli state – namely by silencing and intimidating those who speak out and organize against racism and Zionism. Last week the University of California regents adopted a statement condemning anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism on university campuses. Although it is unenforceable and raises First Amendment concerns, it’s another tool. Rasmea’s case is about stopping political speech that advocates for the self-determination of the Palestinians.

DB: This is the age of degrading, disparaging, undermining the Arab-American community. We have a candidate who wants to purge the community. This is happening in this cauldron.

Baroudi: Absolutely. In the post 9/11 climate, prosecutors have used fear mongering and growing anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia to target Arabs and Muslims and launch a smear campaign against people like Rasmea.

DB: Why is this case so important to you?

Baroudi: I am the staff attorney at the Arab Resource and Organizing Center in San Francisco and we work closely with the Arab-American Activist Network in Chicago, which Rasmea is the associate director of, so AROC has been on the national defense committee since its inception. We use local efforts to amplify the demands coming out of Chicago for Rasmea’s defense. We organize to raise awareness about the case, raise money for her legal defense, conduct educational forums and direct actions. As a staff attorney who represents immigrants of an Arab organization, this case will affect my clients and how they will be treated as well.

DB: Have you been monitoring an upsurge in violence, threats, and attacks?

Baroudi: Yes. We’ve definitely seen a rise in Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism in the Bay Area. We have many complaints, and much fear. We’ve also seen how they affect our immigration cases, which are being held up for security background checks for much longer than they used to be.

DB: Is Rasmea free pending appeal?

Baroudi: Yes, she is out as of last year on $50,000 bond. She is free, still working at the Arab-American Activist Network in Chicago, doing well. Now we’re waiting to see what will happen at the trial court.

Dennis J. Bernstein is the executive producer of Flashpoints, syndicated on Pacifica Radio, and is the recipient of a 2015 Pillar Award for his work as a journalist whistleblower. He is most recently the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+64 # Ken Halt 2016-04-03 14:32
This is a woman of spirit and integrity, a woman I support. One of the global hot-spots for human rights activists is Palestine, as Black Lives Matter has recognized. HRC is on the wrong side of this issue, too.
+9 # corduroyz 2016-04-04 10:25
Can you name one issue on which she has consistently been correct?
-22 # lights 2016-04-04 13:41
You don't know that Ken Halt. And I am (at the very least) weary of you saying these things in an attempt to get YOUR candidate elected. Using this woman to speculate what YOU personally think Hillary Rodham Clinton would do is morally wrong and pure exploitation!

I am counting on Hillary Rodham Clinton to make a difference with Israel's leaders in the peace process! She has made a difference ALL of her life!
+13 # lfeuille 2016-04-04 14:59
You are in a fantasy world. Total denial of reality.
+14 # Ken Halt 2016-04-04 15:55
lights: Please listen to HRC's recent speech to AIPAC. Inform yourself before spouting nonsense.
+2 # WPOH#1 2016-04-06 12:13
What are you talking about? Hillary is an openly in-yer-face Israel-first Zionist and has stated her allegiance clearly and repeatedly.
-30 # pagrad 2016-04-03 22:37
Yes!!! Let's set the Gazans and Palestinians free... In Texas.
+21 # pietheyn07 2016-04-04 02:03
My suggestion,some 68 years ago, was to award Eastern Arizona to the Israelis.
+11 # tedrey 2016-04-04 05:31
The British generously offered them Kenya.
+4 # Ken Halt 2016-04-04 16:26
ted: The British specifically offered Palestine in the Balfour Declaration of 1898 and enabled Jewish colonization of Palestine during the mandate period, 1918-1947. The British governor of the mandate was Jewish and was not even-handed in his administration.
# Guest 2016-04-04 05:29
This comment has been deleted by Administrator
+6 # tedrey 2016-04-04 05:29
No; in Palestine.
+9 # Capn Canard 2016-04-04 09:17
lol... No, give back these beleaguered Arabs their rightful land of Gaza and Palestine. And let those Ashkenazim be free, release them back into the wilds of the Caucasus Mountains...
# Guest 2016-04-03 22:42
This comment has been deleted by Administrator
-25 # Salburger 2016-04-04 02:45
Antisemitic conspiracy theories--pure crap.
+11 # Douglas Jack 2016-04-04 07:49
Violent over the top language "crap" as well as "Antisemitic" for those who give unquestioning support to Israel's torture, murder, deportation & apartheid is meant to shut down dialogue. State-terrorism is not an option. I've offered below the option of Both-sides-now, equal-time, recorded & published dialogue over many years, as a means for disputants or co-researchers to find common ground but Salburger never responds.

I gave a perspective from Palestinian sources, which was removed. There's usually no need to remove comments on any side when they are politely posited. All social-media needs a mandatory on-line or Skype-style 'debate' option so both sides can contribute their perspective reciprocally at a chosen time for an agreed upon duration. 'Debate' (French 'de' = 'undo' + 'bate' = 'the-fight') software may be programmed for equal-time or equal-character s. Typically 90 minutes or 45 minutes each provides a good hearing or the equivalence in character typing. Those who advocate abuse or are degrading in language will automatically disqualify themselves in the COURT-OF-PUBLIC -OPINION. Typically advocates of one side or another are asked to debate among themselves so as to chose a spokesperson who then debates among other stakeholders, step-by-step. However it is dishonourable for only the side with money to rule as in the case of owned Mainstream Media which censors only one side & let's their own side free-reign. Hopefully RSN is greater than this.
# Guest 2016-04-04 04:08
This comment has been deleted by Administrator
-1 # CarolinMexico 2016-04-03 23:20
I guess I just don't get this. You have a bunch of Israeli and Palestinian soldiers raping and committing murder. Both sides, at least with their current leadership, want to off the other, want to take land belonging to the other and have lots of angry young men who are willing to die to exact vengeance. Both sides have their radicals who seem to refer only to their counterparts when referencing bad acts, never to the moderates who could resolve things. Both have a distorted view of history that they trot out with different starting points when they make arguments. Of course, the Israelis are supported by the US and the Palestinians receive support of primarily lip service from their supporters. Both sides spend inordinate amounts of other people's money. On top of this, we have rhetoric out of the Rs that is insane, one Democratic candidate who seems to be so desperate for Israeli support that she's willing to sell the farm and a Jewish candidate who isn't. And, both the US and Israel seem to have lost any higher ground that they may have had in terms of moral authority
To me, this woman's claims of torture and abuse seems believable. Who knows the rest of it.
+44 # lewagner 2016-04-03 23:35
Palestinian soldiers? You mean the kids throwing rocks at Israeli tanks? Those "soldiers"?
+21 # Majikman 2016-04-04 00:04
"Both sides"???? Are you trying to imply there is an equivalency in power, guilt and criminal activity??? Are you sure you're in Mexico and not some planet north of Pluto? You are abusing the privilege of being a "low information" voter.
+11 # Douglas Jack 2016-04-04 06:20
Majikman, lewagner, CarolynMexico, pagrad, Salburger, Our choice as humanity at this point is to engage BOTH-SIDES in equal-time-reco rded-&-publishe d-dialogues, so we can determine how to contribute to a lasting solution for all.

Before 'physical-cowar dice' such as US, Canadian, NATO & Israeli colonial soldiers represent, there's 'intellectual-c owardice' wherein the mentally insecure refuse to 'debate' (French 'de' = 'undo' + 'bate' = 'the-fight') /dialogue equally with perceived opponents.

Whenever there's conflict both at home & worldwide, we've 2 main choices to: 1) believe the finance-media-e ducation-milita ry-industrial-c omplex, demonize others while armouring against perceived enemies, launch pre-emptive war & create hell, 2) engage others in formal equal-time recorded & published dialogues.

Mohandas Gandhi developed 'Satyagraha' (Hindi 'truth-search') based upon simultaneous inquiry with both parties to dispute &/or research asking, "What are your best intentions & how can we help you fulfill these?", "I can imagine a fully armed man to be at heart a coward. Possession of arms implies an element of fear, if not cowardice. But true non-violence is an impossibility without the possession of unadulterated fearlessness." We need transparency in all levels of human interaction including the military, government, education, business listening to both sides.
+12 # elizabethblock 2016-04-04 08:03
"Both sides"???? Are you trying to imply there is an equivalency in power?"
I just spent two weeks in Palestine with Christian Peacemaker Teams. We heard (among many others) a presentation by Combatants for Peace. The Israeli had been an officer in the IDF. The Palestinian had been, at age 16, the top stone-thrower in his village.
Hardly equivalent!!!
+20 # Ken Halt 2016-04-04 01:09
Carolin: Please read some history, Israel is a Eurasian colony imposed on the mideast by British impetus and UN mandate.
-5 # kalpal 2016-04-04 15:22
Is that why the Brits refused entry to Jewish WWII survivors, because they wanted to impose a colony upon Arabs?
+8 # Ken Halt 2016-04-04 16:13
kal: The facts are there for you to research. The Balfour declaration was an illegal usurpation of land that was not Britain's to give, and ignored the wishes of the indigenous population. The British were overseers of Palestine during the mandate period, the British governor of Palestine during the mandate period was Jewish, and from 1918 on the British opened Palestine to unlimited Jewish emigration until the violence created became unmanageable. When they tried to be more even-handed Jewish extremists blew up British hdqrtrs in the King David Hotel and the British withdrew. UN partition designated half of Palestine to the Jewish partisans though they owned only 15-20% of the land. I think that qualifies as colonization.
+6 # Capn Canard 2016-04-04 09:10
-5 # kalpal 2016-04-04 15:20
I have lived in the USA for several decades and have taken note that anything pejorative said about someone is considered to be a truth. No evidence needs to be provided.
# Guest 2016-04-04 02:42
This comment has been deleted by Administrator
+32 # treerapper 2016-04-04 03:59
It's a real pity that we always learn the wrong things from our collective experiences. Look what the Israelis learned from World War II and the what they learned is now being inflicted over and over again on Palestinians and the entire region. The abused has become the abuser.

WE have to stop letting Israelis hide behind the Anti-Semitisim rant. A Semite is a person from this region and as far as I can see, it's Israel who has is the major anti-semite in the region. They have stolen land and water from Palestinians, they have murdered, tortured and raped Palestinians. You can't get any more anti-semitic than that.
+8 # elizabethblock 2016-04-04 08:06
We also heard a women from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, who said that she doesn't use the word "genocide" to describe what is going on now. Why not? She is saving it for when it happens. Not if, when.
+5 # Douglas Jack 2016-04-04 09:00
elizabethblock, Genocide is each act of an apartheid, exclusion, murder, removal from livelihood resources (food, shelter, clothing, warmth & health) & destabilizing processes which take place over time. Rarely has every member of a group (genome) been eliminated such as being shot. Genocide is a combination arising from exclusion.

Dr. Gideon Polya in his statistical analysis on destabilization , colonization & war lays out the criteria of genocide. Included are those who finance genocide as well as those implementing. 5.6 Million Afghani War-related Deaths Zionist-imposed American Holocaust,

As a person with Jewish family roots, I am concerned with the genocide which royalty & Jewish colonial financiers have been implementing over many 100s of years among empire nations.

Everywhere such as 100 million killed through colonization in each of: Africa, the America's, the far-east / Australia we find the world's largest genocidal events. Arab-Spring's a false-flag genocide.

When a nation describes itself as having only one religion (ie belief system), then who's free to choose one's beliefs. Apartheid is an affront to dominant colonial peoples as well as victims. Those who economically contribute to exclusion are complicit.

Human interdependence is a given & mutual aid an obligation.
-20 # pagrad 2016-04-04 08:22
Israelis haven't learned it from World War II; they learned it from the Arabs, who were allied with the Nazis. Those Arabs have backed Syria in their attempt to maintain dictatorial rule. They haven't stolen land and water from Palestinians. Actually, the Israelis are the only nation, which uses desalination of seawater, so why steal it? Folks, like you, should stop going to the region to join terrorist groups. We can now give your name to the FBI, for investigation.
+15 # Kootenay Coyote 2016-04-04 08:36
The same Arabs the British betrayed, along with their advocate T. E. Lawrence, after WW I, you mean? The Arabs who supported the Allies against then enemy Turkey, & who had been promised liberation from Turkey? & betrayed again by ceding what became Israel with no protection for its existing inhabitants? Are those the Arabs you mean?
+7 # Ken Halt 2016-04-04 16:20
pag: Total misdirection on your part. Israel has illegally annexed land with the most valuable resources, often water, such as the Golan heights. "Why steal it?" Because it is a valuable resource in an area where water is scarce.
+3 # Douglas Jack 2016-04-04 17:18
Imagine if Ashkenazi foreigners coming to Palestine, had joined with Semite Arab Muslim, Jew & Christians to plant food trees in existing villages so as to increase olive, orange & other orchard lands mixed sustainably among walls & buildings.

Such habitation food planting is much more sustainable than park-land tree-planting of cellulose trees which Israel tries in restricted areas. One area is called 'Canada-Park' near Jerusalem. The Canadian government through tax deductible Jewish National Fund Charitable status financed a significant part of the park's building. 10,000 Palestinians had been driven from their homes in the destruction of Beit Nabu, Yalu & Imwas villages where Canada Park was built. Israeli Zionists wanted a straight line highway between Jerusalem & Tel-Aviv. The word 'Canada' (Mohawk 'kanata') means 'village' implying cultural human relationships from the bottom up. Institutional colonial peoples impose structure from the top-down without understanding complex cultural & biosphere relations so as to eventually die.

The ancient 2000 year old villages of this area contained more trees, bushes, other plants & animals before their bulldozed destruction than the park contains even now 40 years + after el-Nakba. Cultural village people polyculture photosynthesize 92 -98% of solar energy pump water & condense moisture on leaf surfaces.
+1 # Douglas Jack 2016-04-04 18:48
Canada Park, Palestine-Israe l Published on 15Jan’14- Park With No Peace, CBC - The Fifth Estate, Produced By Neil Docherty, Correspondent Trish Woods, 21Oct’91, 31 minutes,
+11 # Capn Canard 2016-04-04 09:09
Didn't Voltaire say something to the effect of "you know who has real, actual power by who you are not allowed to criticize."
-7 # kalpal 2016-04-04 15:24
So who must not be criticized? Surely you would appear idiotic if you claimed it is Israel?
+7 # Ken Halt 2016-04-04 18:21
kal: Please check Glenn Greenwald's article current on RSN, "Fighting Israeli Occupying Forces Is "Terrorism." Boycotting Is "Anti-Semitism. " What's Allowed?" Your comment has no substance.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.