Charlotte Kates, coordinator of Samidoun, shared the following thoughts after the sentencing of Palestinian community leader Rasmea Odeh in Detroit in U.S. courts. Odeh, associate director of the Arab American Action Network, founder of the Arab Women’s Committee, and former political prisoner in Israeli jails, was sentenced by Judge Gershwin Drain to 18 months imprisonment, $1100 in fines, the stripping of her U.S. citizenship and deportation to Jordan, on one count of unlawful procurement of naturalization. She was found guilty in a trial in which she was forbidden to disclose that she had been tortured and raped by Israeli interrogators to extract a confession.
In the hearing (livetweeted at http://twitter.com/nfwazwaz) both prosecutor Jonathan Tukel and – perhaps more troublingly – Judge Drain, introduced and focused on themes of “terrorism” in an attempt to criminalize Rasmea. Kates’ comments, and links to the two Palestinian and Arab films introduced in the hearing by Tukel, follow:
“Rasmea’s sentencing hearing was incredibly troubling today for several reasons – beyond even the sentencing of a torture survivor, a leader and an icon to the Palestinian community. It is a victory in some ways that Rasmea is coming home to her community, despite the attempts at demonization pushed by prosecutor Tukel, including references to ISIS, and deeming her an “icon in the terrorist world”. (She is in fact an icon of the Palestinian community and all communities and movements struggling for justice and liberation.) She has a wonderful legal team who will fight vigorously for her case. And the prosecution’s attempt to push for a sentence 3-4x the standard sentencing guidelines was rejected.
But in this sentencing hearing, while Rasmea was barred from discussing her torture and rape during trial – and was today censured for breaking that gag during trial by Judge Drain – the prosecution not only used her confession extracted through torture and the prison sentence extracted through torture, but Rasmea’s own public documentation and discussion of her torture at the hands of the Israeli military against her.
Drain uncritically accepted the framework of “terrorist” to describe Palestinian armed resistance – an absolute right of a people under occupation. He uncritically ascribed the word “terrorist” to “being a member of the PFLP” (in 1969, decades before the US had a “foreign terrorist organizations” list). He then contrasted this “terrorist” past, which he alleged Rasmea has, to her “reformed” present, her admirable work organizing with the Palestinian and Arab community, especially women. He said Rasmea “changed.” That community organizing is the opposite of armed resistance – when, regardless of the facts of this case, it is absolutely not. Both armed resistance and community organizing are driven by love and service to the people. They are part of one struggle and one resistance to occupation. In some ways, the torture dens of the occupier are more honest – there are, of course, thousands of Palestinian community organizers in prison and who have been imprisoned as “members of hostile organizations” because they convened women, students and workers. Because this too is the work of every Palestinian political party labelled as “terrorist.”
Furthermore, the prosecution, in a form of “guilt by association,” in a racist display, in a criminalization of Palestinian memory and existence, displayed clips from two films. This is so disturbing because they are wonderful films. Excellent films, created by Palestinian and Arab women filmmakers, telling the stories of Palestinian and Arab women in resistance – of all kinds. These films, “WOMEN IN STRUGGLE” and “TELL YOUR TALE, LITTLE BIRD” are documents of the Palestinian narrative. They are presenting a history and a legacy for generations to come. They are films that deserve to be seen everywhere. And it is difficult to see the attempt of the prosecution to use these beautiful testimonies as “evidence” against Rasmea as something other than an attempt to suppress, silence and censor just such Palestinian documentation, memory-making, recording, oral and written history by using them for the opposite purpose for which they were intended – as some sort of “testimony” (inadmissible at trial) against the very Palestinian women whose stories they bring forward. Is such use of these films an attempt to strike fear in the heart of researchers, historians and documentarians? To wage war on the Palestinian narrative – and a woman who has always ceaselessly, courageously and clearly represented that narrative – and its memories and legacies? Rasmea’s story, her voice, will NOT be silenced, by this unjust verdict. And despite the games of the prosecutors, neither will the histories and memories – and the future – of the Palestinian struggle for liberation.
The films are available on youtube. Everyone should watch them. Screen them. Show your friends, show your families, your comrades. Hear their voices and amplify them. Jonathan Tukel does not own these voices – the Palestinian liberation movement includes, cherishes and highlights them.”
WOMEN IN STRUGGLE (2004, Buthaina Canaan Khoury):
TELL YOUR TALE LITTLE BIRD (2007, Arab Loutfi):