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Deportation of Rasmea Odeh

By TTN Blog

Our colleague, Prof. Steven Lubet of the Northwestern University School of Law, has posted an analysis on the case of how the case of Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian-American championed by Jewish Voice for Peace and other radical supporters of Palestinian nationalism, who was deported for not disclosing her conviction in Israel for terrorist activities, which included the murder of two young Israelis.  This a partial post of Prof. Lubet’s lengthy piece,The Deportation of Rasmea Odeh: Two Newspapers, Same Event, Different Stories“:

Following her guilty plea to naturalization fraud and subsequent revocation of citizenship, Rasmea Odeh departed the United States last Tuesday, on a flight from Chicago’s O’Hare to Amman, Jordan.  Her supporters held one last rally in the airport parking garage, which was reported by both of Chicago’s major newspapers, but they told very different stories about the event.

The coverage in the Chicago Tribune was straightforward.  Under the headline “Palestinian Activist Deported to Jordan from Chicago,” it was explained in the first paragraph that Odeh had “a decades old record of bombings in Jerusalem,” continuing,

Odeh pleaded guilty in April to concealing her convictions when she applied for U.S. citizenship in Detroit in 2004. Her record would have disqualified her from entering the U.S. a decade earlier.

In 1970, Odeh was convicted of two bombings in Jerusalem, including one that killed two young men at a supermarket. She insists she was tortured into confessing by the Israeli military. She was sentenced to life in prison but was released in 1979 as part of a prisoner swap with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

This is all entirely factual.  The story would have been incomplete without including Odeh’s claim of torture, but it made clear that the concealed convictions would have disqualified her from entering the U.S. in any case.  Given that the event was a gathering of sympathizers, it also made sense to quote the speakers: “We will liberate Palestine,” said Hatem Abudayyeh, coordinator of Odeh’s defense committee. “We will liberate Palestine because of the Rasmea Odehs of the world.”

Some observers might take issue with the headline calling Odeh a “Palestinian Activist” rather than a convicted felon or terrorist (both of which would have been accurate), but I think it is a fair description.  Odeh’s life in the United States, which is most relevant to American newspaper readers, has been characterized by her activism in the Palestinian and Arab community, for which she is very well known in Chicago.  She was convicted of a terrible crime, but she served her time in Israel and was released from prison in an amnesty as part of a prisoner exchange.  In other words, she is an ex-convict who has led a commendable life since her release, and she has earned the right to call herself an “activist.”

The Tribune story ends with a quote from the judge who accepted her guilty plea and signed the order of removal from the United States:

“Technically she was a terrorist,” U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain said in 2015. “But looking at Ms. Odeh’s recent history, I’m convinced she’s really been involved in a lot of good works.”

Although I would have written a less sympathetic story — for example, I would have said something more about Odeh’s victims — I think that Judge Drain actually summed it up pretty well, and I understand why the reporter concluded with his words.

The article in the Chicago Sun-Times, however, abandoned objectivity in favor of advocacy journalism, beginning with the headline: “Political Activist Rasmea Odeh a Symbol of Deportation’s Many Faces.”  This is both inaccurate and insulting to the many innocent people facing potential deportation who have never been convicted of any felonies, much less both murder and fraud.  In fact, Odeh’s situation is nearly unique, and she has virtually nothing in common with the “many faces” of the millions of people, including DACA Dreamers, who are currently at risk of deportation.  . . .

Click here for the entire essay.

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