At Jewish group event, Palestinian ex-terrorist vows to fight on for Palestine

Rasmea Odeh gives keynote address at far-left JVP conference, says she is facing another ‘nakba’ after accepting plea deal to leave US, lose citizenship

Rasmea Yousef Odeh, November 10, 2014. (AP/Carlos Osorio, File)
Rasmea Yousef Odeh, November 10, 2014. (AP/Carlos Osorio, File)

At a controversial event on Sunday in Chicago hosted by the far-left Jewish Voice for Peace, Rasmea Odeh, the Palestinian ex-terrorist and now feminist activist who is set to leave the US after signing a plea deal that would see her avoid jail time for not disclosing her involvement in two terror attacks in Israel, vowed to continue her “struggle for justice.”

Israel last week castigated JVP, a movement which supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel and which the ADL has defined as a leading “anti-Israel” group, for hosting Odeh, with Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan calling the move shameful.

“My heart screams against injustice. I thought [that] when I came to [the] US, and made it my second home, it would be the last station in a journey of struggle that I share with my Palestinian people in response to the Nakba and the occupation of 1967,” Odeh said, at one point breaking down in tears, in reference to the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948, which Palestinians view as a “catastrophe,” and to the outcome of the Six Day War 19 years later when Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan and Gaza from Egypt.

“Now I face a similar, unjust Nakba — forced to leave the country and the life that I’ve built over 23 years in the US,” she said.

“But I will continue my struggle for justice for our people wherever I land,” she vowed, “I will continue my struggle for the ‘Right of Return’…and for the establishment of the democratic state on the entirety of the historic land of Palestine,” she said in reference to the Palestinian demand to allow refugees and others who fled to returm to areas they inhabited before 1948.

For the Palestinians, the “right to return” to homes they or previous generations of their families fled or were forced out of is a prerequisite for any peace agreement with Israel, but it is a demand the Jewish state has rejected. Israel argues that Palestinian refugees would make their homes in a Palestinian state under a peace agreement, just as Israel absorbed Jewish refugees, and that the demand for a “right of return” is an attempt to destroy Israel as a Jewish state by means of flooding it with Palestinians.

Odeh, one of the leaders of the grassroots feminist International Women’s Strike, added: “I will still be organizing wherever I end up and we need you to continue resisting [US President Donald] Trump and fighting for liberation.”

“Organizing is hard work, but it is the only way we have to make change in this world,” she added.

Odeh, 69, recently accepted a deal that would not see her spend time in US prison or detention but she would lose her US citizenship, according to a Thursday statement by the Rasmea Defense Committee.

In 2015, Odeh was sentenced in the US to 18 months in prison for covering up her conviction and imprisonment in Israel when she entered the country in 1995 and applied for citizenship in 2004, but the conviction was later vacated.

Odeh was convicted by Israel of involvement in a 1969 bombing in Jerusalem that killed two and injured nine. She was sentenced by an Israeli military court in 1970 to life in prison for two bombing attacks on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and spent 10 years in prison before being released in a prisoner exchange in 1980.

Odeh confessed to planting the bomb in the 1969 attack, though in recent years has claimed the confession was given under torture, which is disputed by Israeli officials.

Also speaking at the conference for JVP on Sunday, which backs the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel was Linda Sarsour, another pro-Palestinian activist who has recently taken a public role in various feminist events.

Sarsour, who helped organize the Women’s March on Washington in January and the Women’s Strike and who also helped raise more than $150,000 for damaged Jewish cemeteries in the US last month, recently said there is no space in the feminist movement for those who do not criticize Israel.

On Sunday, she appeared to address the remark, that sparked outrage in American Jewish communities, saying “if what is being asked of me by those who pronounce themselves and call themselves Zionist is that I, as a Palestinian-American, have to somehow leave out a part of my identity so you can be welcomed in a space to work on justice, then that’s not going to be the right space for you.”

“We, as Palestinian-Americans, as Arab-Americans, as Muslim-Americans, we will not change who we are to make anybody feel comfortable. If you ain’t all in, then this ain’t the movement for you.”

She also drew loud applause for her mentions of Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, arguing that they were hated in their time but respected and loved generations later, intimating that JVP, while critiziced now, will be appreciated later. “History is on your side,” she said.

Sarsour said: “I want you to know that all my friends at JVP and all of you that are here today, that you have taught me what Judaism is all about: your work toward justice, your love, your compassion, your solidarity, the way that you see us as whole people, that you allow is to show up in all of our complexities.”

“Let us fight fascism together, let us call people into the movement and let us keep… fighting for justice,” she was quoted as saying.

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Erdan on Thursday lamented JVP’s decision to host Odeh, saying it made him feel “ashamed” as a Jew.

“As a Jew, I am ashamed that a conference filled with hatred for Israel, and that is hosting a terrorist as a central speaker, is led by a Jewish organization,” Erdan said.

He called the organization’s decision to host Odeh “inexcusable” and said he would “continue to lead a determined struggle against those who seek to harm Israel and undermine its legitimacy.”

The Israel advocacy group StandWithUs also slammed JVP for hosting Odeh, but the organization defended its decision earlier this month, saying it was “proud” to host Odeh and questioning the validity of her Israeli conviction.

“The accusations against Odeh stem from a context of long-standing anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim persecution by both the Israeli state and the United States, policies which are escalating under the Trump administration,” JVP said in a March 7 statement.

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