Column: Justice for Rasmea

William Jacobson

On April 25, 2017, Chicago activist Rasmieh (Rasmea) Yousef Odeh pleaded guilty in federal court in Detroit to one count of illegally procuring naturalization. She previously had been convicted by a jury in November 2014, but obtained a retrial that was scheduled for later this month.

Under the plea deal, Odeh will be deported and stripped of her U.S. citizenship, but will not serve further jail time.

The guilty plea comes at a time when there is a fierce public debate over the proper screening methods for preventing terrorists from entering the U.S. In Odeh’s case, the screening consisted of questionnaires which depended on the applicant’s honesty.

The case arose over Odeh’s false answers on a 1994 visa application and 2003 naturalization application. The Superseding Indictment to which Odeh plead guilty listed numerous grounds, including falsely answering questions whether Odeh “ever” had been convicted or imprisoned, or had been a member of a terrorist group.

In fact, Odeh had been a military member of the terrorist group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Odeh was convicted in 1970 in Israel and sentenced to life in prison for a 1969 Jerusalem supermarket bombing which killed two Hebrew University students, and the attempted bombing of the British Consulate. Odeh served 10 years in prison before being freed in a 1979 prisoner exchange.

Odeh made her way to the U.S. in the mid-1990s. Had Odeh honestly answered the immigration questions, she would not have been permitted to enter the U.S. or to obtain citizenship. In the plea deal, Odeh is being stripped of the fruits of her dishonesty.

Odeh has been turned into a hero of the anti-Israel movement in the U.S. based on a false narrative of her terrorist past and U.S. prosecution.

The heart of the hero-worship is the claim that Odeh did not participate in the 1969 bombings, and only was convicted in Israel because she falsely confessed after 25 days of sexual torture. That story never had credibility because demonstrable facts proved otherwise.

Israeli court recordsshowed that Odeh confessed not after 25 days, but after one day, as did her co-conspirators. The confessions were reported in the media at the time. There also was physical evidence of her guilt, including bomb-making material found in her bedroom.

In interviews for pro-Palestinian documentaries long after release from prison, Odeh’s co-conspirators spoke of Odeh’s involvement, with one of them describing Odeh as the mastermind of the supermarket bombing.

Odeh also received a full and open trial in Israel. She was represented by defense counsel, and an observer from the International Red Cross publicly stated at the time that she received a fair trial.

Yet the false narrative of Odeh’s Israeli conviction formed the false narrative of her defense on immigration charges.

Odeh’s supporters claimed that Odeh was a victim of a vindictive prosecution by a “Zionist” prosecutor in the Justice Department.

Odeh herself claimed that she should not be held liable for her false immigration answers because she suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder when she came to the U.S. and unconsciously “filtered” the questions so as to exclude her Israeli convictions and imprisonment.

Odeh’s profile as the victim of sexual torture suffering from PTSD who vindictively was being prosecuted by Zionists helped boost Odeh’s activist profile. Odeh became involved with the Black Lives Matter movement, and even was honored at the 2017 annual meeting in Chicago of the anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace. “Justice for Rasmea” has been the rallying cry.

Yet in the plea agreement, Odeh admitted that her false immigration answers were not the result of PTSD or any other mental condition. Odeh admitted that her prior court defense was false, and that she knowingly lied to obtain citizenship.

Despite exposure of Odeh’s lies, the groups supporting her continue to portray Odeh as a victim.

In reality, there are only two victims, Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner, the two Hebrew University students killed in the 1969 supermarket bombing.

After formal sentencing in August, Rasmea Odeh will be deported and lose her U.S. citizenship. That’s justice for Rasmea.

William A. Jacobson is a Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Securities Law Clinic at Cornell Law School, and publisher of the Legal Insurrection website.