Detroit rallies for Rasmea Odeh, Palestine

Palestine solidarity demonstration in West Bloomfield faces off Zionists.WW photo: Abayomi Azikiwe

Palestine solidarity demonstration in West Bloomfield faces off Zionists.
WW photo: Abayomi Azikiwe

Two public actions in solidarity with Palestinians were held on July 31 in the Detroit metropolitan area.

A hearing in federal court for Rasmea Odeh, a 67-year-old Palestinian-American woman who lives in Chicago, was held in downtown Detroit. Odeh is facing criminal charges for alleged immigration fraud.

This community activist, who has been living in the United States for two decades, is a former political prisoner of the state of Israel. Like thousands of others who have resisted the illegal occupation of her nation, Odeh was subjected to torture during her detention in Israeli prisons.

A brochure circulated by the Arab American Action Network states, “In the early morning of Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, Rasmea Yousef Odeh, the Associate Director of the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), was arrested at her home by agents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). She was indicted in federal court that same morning, charged with Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization, an allegation based on answers she gave on a 20-year-old immigration application.”

Dozens of supporters from Chicago, Minneapolis and locally in Detroit gathered outside the federal courthouse beginning at 1 p.m. A spirited picket line was held calling for dropping the charges against Odeh.

Statements of solidarity were delivered by the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI), the Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan and the Committee to Stop FBI Repression.

A motion by Odeh’s defense lawyers to recuse Judge Paul D. Borman from hearing the case due to his pro-Zionist sympathies was rejected. According to the Electronic Intifada, “Defense attorneys filed that motion on 14 July and on 30 July submitted additional evidence, including the fact that Borman has donated thousands of dollars to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces as well as to Near East Report, a publication of the Israel lobby group AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee], through his philanthropic foundation The Borman Fund.” (July 30)

Additional court papers were filed detailing the nature of the torture Odeh suffered during her incarceration in Israel beginning in 1969. AAAN Executive Director Hatem Abudayyeh told Electronic Intifada, “It would be prejudicial if the government was able to submit the conviction from Israel or evidence from the crime Rasmea is alleged to have participated in. Rasmea and her attorneys are rejecting that conviction and calling it an unlawful one, as it was obtained through torture.”

Another hearing has been set for Sept. 2 in Detroit.

Zionist conference draws protest

That same evening in West Bloomfield Township, one of the wealthiest suburbs in the U.S., a gathering of the Michigan Chapter of the Zionist Organization of Amer­ica took place. Supporters of the Palestinian people announced they would protest outside the conference hall. Earlier, at the Rasmea Odeh demonstration, it was rumored that a large pro-Zionist group would be present to defend IDF actions.

A vigil in support of the people of Gaza began at 6 p.m. Across the street in front of the conference center, supporters of Israel shouted pro-Israel, anti-Hamas slogans. A heavy police presence kept the two sides apart.

The supporters of Palestine called for an immediate halt to the IDF siege of Gaza and decried the large-scale U.S. government’s financial, military and diplomatic support of Israel. They drew a direct connection between the subsidization of Israel and the deaths of more than 1,200 Palestinians killed by that time in what Tel Aviv called “Operation Protective Edge.” The greater metropolitan Detroit area is reputed to have the largest concentration of Palestinian and Middle Eastern people in the U.S.

In addition to the more than 100 Palestinians who gathered outside the Zionist gathering in the face of hostile chants from the pro-Israel demonstrators, there were representatives of such Detroit-area organizations as MECAWI, the Detroit Light Brigade, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Al-Quds Committee and others.

Jerry Goldberg of MECAWI was on the side of those supporting the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and nationhood. Goldberg talked to the Jewish News amid Palestinian signs with messages like “Occupation is a crime.”

“I’m a Jewish person, and I’m just here to say that these Zionists don’t represent Judaism,” said Goldberg. “They represent a racist, fascist ideology that’s based on occupation and murder of innocent Palestinian people. That’s not the heritage of Judaism.”

After Goldberg spoke at the rally, the mostly Palestinian crowd spontaneously began chanting, “Judaism yes, Zionism no!”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate unanimously voted on Aug. 1 to provide $225 million in additional funding for “Iron Dome” missiles, which are supposedly used to minimize damage in Israel from rockets fired from Gaza.