There were two public actions in solidarity with Palestinians in the Detroit metropolitan area on July 31.
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.
The community activist, who has been living in the United States for two decades, is a former political prisoner of the Israel. During her tenure in Israeli prisons, she was subjected to torture like thousands of others who have resisted the illegal occupation of her country.
According to a brochure circulated by the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), “In the early morning of Tuesday, October 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 1:00 p.m. A spirited picket line calling for the dropping of charges against Odeh was held.
Statements of solidarity were delivered by the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Michigan chapter and the Committee to Stop FBI Repression (CSFR).
A motion by the defense lawyers for Odeh to recuse Judge Paul D. Borman presiding over the case due to his pro-Zionist sympathies was rejected. Another hearing has been set for Sept. 2 in Detroit as well.
According to an article published by Electronic Intifada, “Defense attorneys filed that motion on July 14 and on July 30 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, 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. Hatem Abudayyeh, the executive director of AAAN, told Electronic Intifada that, “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.”
Zionist organization of America regional conference draws protest
That same evening in West Bloomfield Township, one of the wealthiest suburbs in the US, a gathering of the Zionist Organization of America Michigan chapter was taking place. Supporters of the Palestinian people in their current struggle against the Israeli military and the massacres of the people of Gaza and the West Bank announced that they would protest outside the conference hall.
Earlier in the day, it was rumored at the demonstration to support Rasmea Odeh that a large pro-Zionist group would be present to defend the Israeli military actions in Gaza and the West Bank. A vigil began at 6:00 p.m. in support of the people of Gaza, however, across the street in front of the conference center, over 100 supporters of Israel shouted slogans saying that, “Israel was a Jewish state” and “Gaza must be liberated from Hamas.”
A heavy police presence kept the two sides apart. The supporters of Palestine called for an immediate halt to the IDF siege of Gaza.
Others on the Palestinian side decried the large-scale US governmental financial, military and diplomatic support of Israel. They drew a direct connection between this subsidization of Israel with the deaths of over 1,200 Palestinians killed by that time in what Tel Aviv called “Operation Protective Edge.”
The Metropolitan Detroit area has a large Palestinian and Middle Eastern population, reputed to be the largest concentration in the US. Yet the US Senate voted on Aug. 1 unanimously to provide additional funding for the so-called “Iron Dome” purportedly utilized to minimize damage from the rockets fired from Gaza into other occupied areas of Palestine.
In addition to over 100 Palestinians who gathered outside the Zionist gathering in the face of hostile chants from the pro-Israel demonstrators, there were representatives of other Detroit-area organizations, including the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI), the Detroit Light Brigade, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Al-Quds Committee and others.
Jerry Goldberg of MECAWI was present on the side of those supporting the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and nationhood. Goldberg talked to the Jewish News amid Palestinian signs which embodied messages saying “Occupation is a Crime.”
“I’m a Jewish person, and I’m just here to say that these Zionists don’t represent Judaism. They represent a racist, fascist ideology that’s based on occupation and murder of innocent Palestinian people. That’s not the heritage of Judaism,” Goldberg said. (Aug. 1)