New York protest demands justice for Rasmea Odeh

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Dozens of New Yorkers gathered on Friday, 10 June to rally and march in support of Palestinian community leader, former Palestinian prisoner, and torture survivor Rasmea Odeh. Odeh will return to court on Monday, 13 June for a closed status hearing following her victory in the Court of Appeals, which rejected Judge Gershwin Drain’s exclusion of expert testimony on her torture by Israeli occupation forces and subsequent PTSD.

Beginning with a protest outside G4S, the security contractor that provides security systems, equipment, and control rooms to Israeli prisons, checkpoints, and interrogation centers, protesters then marched to the Times Square US military recruiting center. The New York protest was part of several actions around the country in support of Odeh, who was convicted of unlawful procurement of naturalization based on charges stemming from her imprisonment and torture by Israeli occupation forces. Odeh, a Palestinian community leader in Chicago renowned for her organizing among Palestinian and Arab women, was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment and deportation; she is free and working in Chicago during her ongoing appeal against the conviction.


Michela Martinazzi of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression read a special statement (below) from Rasmea Odeh to the rally. Speakers included Suzanne Adely of the US Palestinian Community Network, Bill Doares of the NY 4 Palestine Coalition, Sara Flounders of the International Action Center, lawyer Scott Fenstermaker, transit worker activist Marty Goodman, activist Jill Dowling, and Nerdeen Kiswani of New York City Students for Justice in Palestine.

Joe Catron of Samidoun spoke about the role of G4S today as a profiteer and enabler of torture, continuing the same oppression that Rasmea Odeh suffered in Israeli prison. He also addressed the role of US foreign policy and the Pentagon in supporting Israeli aggression and imperial attacks on people around the world. He noted that at the same time Rasmea Odeh – former Palestinian prisoner once again facing persecution in the United States – was returning to court, fellow former Palestinian prisoner Omar Nayef Zayed was being laid to rest in Sofia, Bulgaria. Nayef Zayed was found dead in the Palestinian embassy in Bulgaria on 26 February after a fall from several stories; he had taken refuge in the embassy for 72 days from an attempt to extradite him back to the Israeli state.

Catron noted that the death of Omar Nayef Zayed indicated “the lengths that the Zionist regime would go to pursue its enemies, as well as the complicity of its state allies. Rasmea’s prosecution by the US is part of the same dynamics.” Focusing in on G4S, he said that the security corporation “exemplifies the Zionist torture regime from which both Rasmea and Omar had escaped or been liberated.”

Catron also noted the funeral of famed athlete and cultural phenomenon, Muhammad Ali, taking place at the same time. He recalled Ali’s words and actions in support of the Palestinian struggle: “I declare support for the Palestinian struggle to liberate their homeland and oust the Zionist invaders.”

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Goodman, of the Transit Workers Union Local 100, discussed a demand by progressive transit workers to challenge Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent Executive Order seeking to suppress BDS activism in New York in solidarity with Palestine by prohibiting state funds’ investment in corporations or entities identified as supporting BDS, and producing a state “blacklist” of organizations and companies supporting the BDS campaign. Progressive transit workers are planning to attend an upcoming MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) meeting and demand that it defy the Executive Order by divesting instead from funds invested with the Zionist occupation.

The protesters were joined in Times Square by a street performer dressed in a Spiderman costume, expressing his support for their demands. As they rallied and marched, they engaged in spirited chants demanding freedom and justice for Rasmea Odeh and the Palestinian people.

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The rally and march were endorsed by Al-Awda New York: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, American Muslims for Palestine, the Committee to Stop FBI Repression NYC, the International Action Center, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Labor for Palestine, New York City Students for Justice in Palestine, NY4Palestine, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Palestine Solidarity Alliance of Hunter College, Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, and the US Palestinian Community Network.

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Rasmea Odeh’s statement to the protest:

To my wonderful friends and colleagues in NY:

I thank you all for coming out in support of my freedom, in support of justice, in support of Palestinian rights. Because make no mistake–this is not an immigration case or a case of lying on an application. It’s a case, like so many others, of Palestinians coming under political and legal attack for who we are, because of our nationality, because we have struggled so long and hard for our national and human rights.

In three days, I’ll be appearing again in front of Judge Drain in Detroit. It will be in closed court, in his chambers, but dozens of my family, friends, and supporters will be outside the courthouse nonetheless. This is only a status conference, but when it’s over, we will have a better idea of what’s next in the case. We are going to need you over and over again in the next many months, because there will be more status and evidentiary hearings, and ultimately, if things go as we hope, a BRAND NEW TRIAL.

And at that trial, the TRUTH about Israel will be revealed. The truth about its military courts, its racist and sexist soldiers, its use of rape and torture and collective punishment. When a jury of my peers hears that story, the story of apartheid and terrorist Israel, I know that I will be exonerated. And I know it will be a victory for me, for all of you, and for Palestinians and our supporters across the world.

Thank you. I love you all!

Photos by Joe Catron and Michael Letwin