Free Rasmea Odeh!

Speech by Sophia Hansen-Day of the Anti-War Committee, Drop the Charges against Rasmea Now! Protest and Rally, November 4th, 2014

We are here today to condemn the trial of our Palestinian sister Rasmea Odeh. Her lifelong commitment to struggling for justice should be cause for celebration, not criminalization, imprisonment and deportation.

We know that the government’s persecution of Rasmea is part and parcel of a longtime campaign to vilify Arab and Muslim Americans who support peoples in their homeland.

This is true particularly of Palestinians who support the self-determination of their people. It is no coincidence that while the US government funds Israel to the tune of 13 million dollars a day, that our judicial system is targeting a leader in the Palestinian community for deportation to her occupied homeland. This case is an extension of US foreign policy, the likes of which we have also seen in the case of the Holy Land 5. Prosecuted for supplying humanitarian aid to the children of Gaza and given inordinate prison sentences, the Holy Land 5 also faced terrorism related charges.

Just in this past year, as Israel and the imperialist US government witnessed the growing success of the Boycott Divest Sanctions movement, we’ve seen increasing repression. The University of Illinois denied Palestinian scholar Steven Salaita a position due to his outspoken criticism of Israel’s 51 day bombing of Gaza this summer. Ethnic Studies Scholar Rabab Abdulhadi of San Francisco State University came under attack for leading a delegation of students to Palestine and for her scholarship calling out Israel’s policies of settler colonialism and genocide.  Closer to home for those in the Anti-War Committee, Hatem Abudayyah of the US Palestinian Community Network continues to be a target for the US government due to his effective organizing. Just the latest example of this came from the US Attorney’s office characterizing his actions on the Rasmea Defense Committee as “almost certainly criminal.”

With all of these cases the US government and their allies on university campuses and in corporate board rooms hope to communicate one message: If you struggle for the self determination of the Palestinian people and against US imperialism, you will become a target. They hope to chill dissent and dampen our growing movement. They hope Palestinian-Americans and international solidarity activists will cease our fight for a Palestine free of Zionist occupation and apartheid. They hope we will stop demanding the right of return for all members of the Palestinian diaspora. They hope we will stop demanding for an end to white supremacy and racist immigration and incarceration policies here in the US too.

We know, however, these are empty dreams. We will not be silenced. As we mobilize to defend our courageous sister Rasmea, we say NO to government repression. As we fight US imperialism, colonialism, and white supremacy in the belly of the beast, we stand firmly in saying we will not back down in our struggles for justice. In the words of freedom fighter Angela Davis, “As a person with first-hand knowledge of the devastation wrought by politically motivated prosecutions…I see Rasmea Odeh’s case as a continuation of the embarrassing history of decades of suppression of social justice activists in the U.S… As many people in Chicago and Detroit once joined the call to “Free Angela Davis,” I hope they will now join the campaign to “Free Rasmea Odeh.”

With these words as inspiration, I want to ask you all here today, what are YOU doing to demand justice for Rasmea? Share about her case with your friends and coworkers, make calls to the US attorney’s office, donate to her defense committee, come to Detroit. We have a responsibility to mobilize and the time is NOW. Justice for Rasmea!