Jacobson: Rasmea Odeh is no victim

William A. Jacobson

On Nov. 10, 2014, a federal jury in Detroit returned a guilty verdict against Chicago-based Rasmieh (Rasmea) Yousef Odeh for illegally procuring naturalization by falsely answering questions whether she "EVER" had been convicted or imprisoned.

In fact, Odeh was convicted in 1970 in Israel and sentenced to life in prison for a 1969 supermarket bombing in Jerusalem in which two Hebrew University students were killed, as well as the attempted bombing of the British Consulate. Odeh served 10 years in prison before being freed in a large-scale prisoner swap for an Israeli soldier captured in Lebanon.

Odeh's Israeli conviction and imprisonment were facts that needed to be disclosed on her immigration applications, but were not.

In the Detroit case, Odeh tried to claim she was wrongly convicted in Israel, but the judge would not allow that defense because the only legal issue was failure to disclose on the immigration applications. Even assuming, for the sake of argument, the Israeli conviction was unjust, it still needed to be disclosed.

Odeh also claimed she thought the word "EVER," capitalized on the original naturalization questionnaire, meant only since coming to the United States in 1994.

Not surprisingly, the jury took only two hours of deliberation to convict.

But there is another story here, in which Odeh now is portrayed by anti-Israel activist groups as a victim of Zionist oppression. Odeh has become, in the words of one supporter, "a Palestinian woman who embodies the Palestinian history of dispossession, struggle and resilience."

The pro-Odeh narrative runs something like this: Odeh was just a political activist prior to Israeli arrest, picked up as part of a mass arrest of 500 or more people with no evidence of involvement in terror. Odeh gave a false confession after 25 days of horrific sexual torture, including gang rape, being forced to watch another prisoner tortured to death, and failed attempts to coerce her father into raping her. Odeh was denied the ability to defend herself, was denied access to counsel in the Israeli military court, and did not receive a fair trial.

That narrative does not hold up based on the record.

The demonstrable facts show that:

■ Prior to her arrest in Israel, Odeh was a military participant in and organizer for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

■ Odeh confessed in a highly detailed account just one day after arrest. The timetable of her confession is inconsistent with the multi-week torture narrative. Other co-conspirators also quickly confessed; one of whom directly implicated Odeh as the mastermind in a 2004 film documentary.

■ After arrest Odeh was allowed to and did defend herself in the Israeli military court, where she was represented by counsel. Israel called witnesses to rebut the torture allegations.

■ An observer from the International Red Cross was present for the entire six-month Israeli trial, and stated afterward that the Israeli military court "had given the accused every chance of defending themselves, and the trial was – in his opinion – a fair trial."

■ Other evidence of Odeh's guilt in the bombing was overwhelming, such as bomb-making material found in her bedroom and home.

■ Odeh herself admitted her involvement in the attempted British Consulate bombing in an interview years later after release from Israeli prison, as did her main co-conspirator.

The only victims in the Rasmea Odeh story are the two Hebrew University students killed in the 1969 supermarket bombing.

Odeh is no victim, just a terrorist bomber rightly convicted in Israel, who then lied on her visa and naturalization applications to the U.S. and was rightly convicted a second time in federal court in Detroit.

William A. Jacobson is a clinical professor of law at Cornell Law School, and publisher of Legal Insurrection Blog.