The United States Palestinian Community Network (USPCN) strongly condemns the arrest and indictment of Rasmea Yousef Odeh by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She is a founding member of the Chicago chapter of USPCN and a mentor to all of its organizers, and we pledge to fight this injustice with all of our strength.
Rasmea has dedicated her whole life to Palestine and Palestinian communities across the world, from her case management and social services work with internally displaced refugees after the 1967 Israeli occupation to her legendary status as an advocate for women’s rights and empowerment in Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and now Chicago. Her career spans close to five decades and her influence spans continents.
Early morning Tuesday, October 22nd, Rasmea was awakened at her home by a number of federal law enforcement agents, and then taken to federal court in Chicago, where she was charged with Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization for allegedly lying on immigration application questions back in 1994. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Detroit, Michigan (which has jurisdiction because that is where she applied for citizenship), Rasmea failed to mention an arrest from over 40 years ago. That arrest was ordered by an Israeli military court, the same system that allows almost no right to due process, and today holds hundreds of Palestinians without charge, under “administrative detention,” amongst over 7,000 political prisoners, including 179 children, in total. That arrest was by an army in Palestinian territories that even the U.S. government says is illegal for Israel to militarily occupy. And that arrest led to Rasmea being subjected to years of unspeakable, inhumane, and illegal torture by Israeli prison authorities.
USPCN unequivocally rejects all the charges against Rasmea, as they are nothing but a pretext to criminalize her and her continued work on behalf of our community, including the leading role she played in helping to organize both USPCN national popular conferences in 2008 and 2010, each attended by over 1,200 people. This arrest proves, as in the cases of the Holy Land 5, Sami Al-Arian, Muhammad Salah and Abdelhalim Ashqar, and countless others, that yet again, federal law enforcement in the U.S. is working in coordination with Israel and its Occupation Army to harass, repress, and sow fear in Palestinian communities and their supporters here.
In addition, the lead prosecutor in the Holy Land 5 case, and career anti-Palestinian ideologue and racist, Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas, was present at Rasmea’s hearing on the morning she was arrested. This proves beyond a doubt that this case is not about any alleged immigration violation, but rather a witch-hunt against another community leader who has dedicated her life to organizing for the Right of Return and Palestine’s decolonization.
Rasmea Yousef Odeh is a living legend in the eyes of thousands across the world. In the past 9 years in Chicago, she has been a leader in defending the rights of immigrants and promoting equality and legalization for all. She is the founder of the Arab Women’s Committee, which provides social services, English language and civics instruction, organizing training, and social, personal, and leadership development to over 600 Arab immigrant women in Chicagoland. She advocates for the civil, economic, and political rights of Arabs, Palestinians, Muslims, Africans and African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and all other immigrants, communities of color, and marginalized people. And she is one of our precious elders, a 65 year-old woman who still leads by example and organizes block to block and house to house.
In the U.S., witch-hunts, FBI raids, phony “material support for terrorism” charges, and other attempts to silence Palestinian community members, students, academics, organizers, and activists, as well as our supporters, are not working. The Palestinian-led Boycott Divestment Sanctions Movement is in full swing, gaining more support and strength across the world everyday. National Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) just wrapped up its largest conference ever at Stanford University in the Bay Area of California. The Presbyterian Church in the U.S. is poised to pass a divestment resolution next year. Israel’s supporters and apologists for its Apartheid policies are confronted everywhere they try to spew their racist propaganda. USPCN held a successful national strategic planning meeting just two weeks ago. And, of course, our heroic people in all of historic Palestine, as well as our refugees in surrounding Arab countries, are courageously resisting capitulation, occupation, and colonization in the belly of the Israeli beast. Israel and its U.S. patron are reeling and on the ropes. Keep the pressure on!
If convicted, Rasmea faces up to 10 years in prison, being stripped of her U.S. citizenship, and probable deportation. We cannot allow this to happen! USPCN calls on all people of conscience everywhere to support Rasmea and all Palestinians in our fight against these charges. We are asking our members and supporters to:
- Call Barbara McQuade, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, at 313.226.9501 or 313.226.9100, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, to demand that she Drop the Charges Now!
Example script and talking points to use:
“Hello, my name is ________ and I am calling from _________. I am calling to demand that U.S. Attorney McQuade drop the immigration charges against Rasmea Yousef Odeh. She is a beloved leader in the community and has worked tirelessly to serve and help empower Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim families throughout the Chicagoland area.
Rasmea is a community icon and was recently awarded an “Outstanding Community Leader” award from the Chicago Cultural Alliance for her over 40 years of dedication and service to people across the Arab World and the U.S.
These charges are a political attack on her as an individual, and on Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim communities across the U.S. as a whole. I stand in unequivocal support of Rasmea and demand that these charges be dropped immediately!”
- Send statements of support and solidarity to email@example.com.
- Join us to pack the courtroom on either November 13 or 14 for Rasmea’s first hearing in Detroit. And if you cannot make it to Detroit, participate in a national day of action to support Rasmea wherever you are. Stay tuned for the specifics.
- Like this Facebook page and tweet with the hashtag #justice4rasmea.
- Send us your pictures holding up the following message:
“I am ________ and I support Rasmea!”
You should fill in the blank with a self-identifier: your name, your occupation, or any other description. Some examples are “I am a stay-at-home dad and I support Rasmea!” “I am a youth organizer and I support Rasmea!” and “I am a supporter of Palestinian human rights and I support Rasmea!”
Hold the sign up and snap a selfie, then send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put it up as your Facebook/Twitter profile pic, Google Account image, or anything else! Just remember we may use your image in future publications and informational pamphlets that get published online or distributed as hard copies.