Con­victed ter­ror­ist Odeh wins stand­ing ova­tion at speech

Me­mo­rial ser­vice held for bomb­ing vic­tims at the same ho­tel com­plex

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

Fac­ing de­por­ta­tion, con­victed ter­ror­ist Ras­mea Odeh on Sun­day bid a tear­ful but de­fi­ant farewell as she blasted “Zion­ists” and Pres­i­dent Trump in a fiery speech that drew a stand­ing ova­tion from a pro-Pales­tinian crowd in Chicago.

“We need you to con­tinue re­sist­ing Trump’s agenda and to con­tinue chal­leng­ing the Zion­ists and to con­tinue pro­vid­ing your sol­i­dar­ity and sup­port to the Pales­tinian and Arab na­tional move­ment,” said Odeh, a fea­tured speaker at the left­ist Jewish Voice for Peace con­fer­ence at the Hy­att Re­gency.

Not far away at the same ho­tel com­plex, the mood was far more sub­dued as mourn­ers re­mem­bered the two He­brew Univer­sity stu­dents killed in the 1969 bomb­ing in Tel Aviv, which earned Odeh a decade in an Is­raeli prison be­fore she was re­leased in a pris­oner ex­change.

She en­tered the U.S. more than 20 years ago after giv­ing false an­swers on her visa ap­pli­ca­tion, say­ing she had not been de­tained by po­lice, charged with crimes, or in­car­cer­ated.

Odeh, 69, agreed last month to leave the coun­try in ex­change for no jail time.

“As we learn that the killer will soon be de­ported from our coun­try, we feel jus­tice has been served, even if just par­tially,” said As­saf Grum­berg, Mid­west as­so­ciate di­rec­tor of Stand With Us. “She tried to de­ceive every­one, hop­ing her lies would save her. She tried to erase the me­mory of her vic­tims while hop­ing she would be­come a vic­tim her­self. She failed.”

Stand With Us was re­buffed ear­lier this month in its at­tempt to hold a me­mo­rial at the same ho­tel as the JVP na­tional mem­bers’ meet­ing. The pro-Is­rael group re­sponded by re­serv­ing a ho­tel suite and hold­ing the cer­e­mony any­way.

The re­mem­brance in­cluded re­marks from rab­bis and evan­gel­i­cal pas­tors, as well as state­ments from the fam­i­lies of Ed­ward Joffe and Leon Kan­ter, the stu­dents killed in the su­per­mar­ket bomb­ing.

“Who knows what Ed­ward and Leon would have been, who knows what gifts they and their chil­dren could have given to the world?” said Peggy Shapiro, Stand With Us Mid­west di­rec­tor, in pre­pared re­marks. “They were robbed of their lives and fu­tures by a killer who is speak­ing at this very venue.”

There was no men­tion of the deadly bomb­ing dur­ing Odeh’s speech, which came as part of the fi­nal ple­nary ses­sion at the three-day con­fer­ence.

In­stead, the ap­plause was thun­der­ous as the 69-year-old Odeh took to the podium after a glow­ing in­tro­duc­tion by Rabbi Alissa Wise, a JVP deputy di­rec­tor.

Ms. Wise praised Odeh’s work as a com­mu­nity or­ga­nizer work­ing with Arab women in Chicago and said her fight to avoid de­por­ta­tion was backed not only by Pales­tinian groups, but by “the Move­ment for Black Lives, the women’s rights move­ment, anti-tor­ture groups, and sex­u­alas­sault sur­vivor or­ga­ni­za­tions.”

Odeh’s ef­fort “has be­come one of the most prom­i­nent so­cial jus­tice cam­paigns in the en­tire United States,” said Ms. Wise.

“Ras­mea will be leav­ing us within a few months, but we know that in a short pe­riod of time she’ll have an­other Arab women’s com­mit­tee go­ing some­where, and her le­gacy of prin­ci­pled re­sis­tance to Is­raeli-U.S. crimes against Pales­tini­ans and all other op­pressed com­mu­ni­ties will be hon­ored and con­tinue,” said Ms. Wise. “We wel­come you to­day, Ras­mea, with love, with ap­pre­ci­a­tion, with grat­i­tude for all that you are.”

Wip­ing tears from her cheeks, Odeh com­pared her sit­u­a­tion to the “nakba” (the Ara­bic word for “catas­tro­phe”) in which hun­dreds of thou­sands of Pales­tini­ans fled dur­ing the found­ing of Is­rael.

“I was an in­fant dur­ing the nakba, but I hear many sto­ries of pain and bit­ter­ness from my fam­ily who were forced along with 750,000 other Pales­tini­ans to leave their homes, lands, lives and mem­o­ries. They had been there for generations,” said Odeh, whose re­marks were streamed on Face­book live at the Jewish Voice for Peace page.

“Now I face a sim­i­lar un­just nakba, forced to leave the coun­try and the life that I built for my­self over 23 years in the U.S.,” she said. “The re­la­tion­ships, the mem­o­ries and all the peo­ple I know and love, es­pe­cially the women of Chicago’s Arab com­mu­ni­ties, but I will con­tinue my strug­gle for jus­tice.”


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