Justice for Rasmea Odeh

(Editors’ Note: To learn more about Rasmea Odeh’s case, listen to an engaging interview with Nadine Naber on KPFA)

by Nadine Naber
(originally published at Middle East Research and Information Project)

This past wintrasmeaodeher, I was privileged to participate in several events in Chicago organized by Rasmea Yousef Odeh, associate director of the Arab American Action Network and leader of that group’s Arab Women’s Committee. The events brought together anywhere from 60-100 disenfranchised women, all recent immigrants, from nearly every Arabic-speaking country. The attendees were there to learn English, share meals and stories, and discuss personal struggles, in everything from marriage and parenting to navigating the US educational and medical industries and the US immigration system. The women also talked about fending off racism. Together, they developed solutions for their own lives.

One event I attended was a celebration of International Women’s Day, at which immigrant women performed a play that Rasmea Odeh had written. The play focused on several generations of women in an extended Arab immigrant family who grappled with gender-related struggles both in the family and in American society with recourse to their loving but often tense connections with one another. The audience was engrossed, laughing and commenting throughout the performance, perhaps because they rarely see their own life struggles thus affirmed in America. Rarely, in fact, do they see humane, nuanced representations of Arab women’s lives at all.

After the play, attendees listened to music and celebrated their own accomplishments. Several women were from countries like Yemen and Iraq and had come to the United States without knowing a word of English. They could now read and write. Odeh asked each of her students to bring something they had written in English to be read out loud. The first woman stood up and read: “I love my teacher.”

As the event went on, women spoke over and over about the affection and gratitude they felt toward Rasmea Odeh for touching and transforming their lives and making such a beautiful space possible. I then understood why scores of women were attending each class, workshop or event — even though they were under no obligation to do so and even though many had to walk by themselves through a polar vortex snowstorm (in Chicago, no less) to get there.

I could not help but recall the scenes at the Arab Women’s Committee events some months later, in May, at a historic Chicago conference in commemoration of the 1964 Freedom Summer, when civil rights icon Angela Davis insisted that every social justice activist in the US embrace solidarity with Palestine and the movement demanding that the US government drop its charges against Rasmea Odeh.

Charges? What charges? Why would the US government want to prosecute this 67-year old Palestinian-American community activist and teacher?

On October 22, 2013, also in Chicago, Department of Homeland Security agents arrested Odeh. She was subsequently indicted on one charge of unlawful procurement of naturalization, and released the same day on a $15,000 bond. The US government accuses Odeh of failing to answer a question truthfully on her naturalization application ten years ago in 2004. She is scheduled to stand trial in a Detroit federal court starting on September 8, 2014. If convicted, she could face up to ten years in prison and fines up to $250,000. She may also be deported and have her US citizenship revoked after the potential prison sentence is served. From national call in-days to student protests, petitions and mobilizations to pack the courtroom, a campaign to support Odeh has gained massive support.

US officials say they are after Odeh for immigration fraud. The Department of Justice alleges that Odeh failed to disclose on her naturalization application that she had served time in Israeli jail — even though her sentence was based on a confession she made in the midst of 45 days of sexual and physical torture while in detention. In addition, Odeh’s 1969 conviction in Israel was determined by a court system that systematically abuses Palestinians’ due process rights and convicts Palestinians at a rate of 99.74 percent. The Israeli military justice system that is applied to occupied Palestinians, in fact, has itself been found to be in immense violation of international law — from the lack of protections against torture and rape while in custody to the simple fact that virtually no Palestinian walks away free from an Israeli trial. The Israeli state also unlawfully imprisoned and tortured Odeh’s family and destroyed her family home soon after her arrest.

Odeh’s release from Israeli jail was followed by exile to Jordan and immigration to the US. Living in Michigan and Chicago since 1994, she has worked at the Arab American Action Network since the mid-2000s and led the Arab Women’s Committee, one of the most successful empowerment programs for Arab immigrant women living in poverty. For this service, Odeh received the Mosaic Award for Outstanding Community Service from the Chicago Cultural Alliance. Thanks to her leadership, the Arab Women’s Committee now has a base of nearly 600 Arab immigrant women and does much more than the typical social service program. Women may obtain language training and other services, but they also come to find emotional support, genuine human interaction, artistic and writing activities, political discussion and debate, and a level of solidarity otherwise absent from their lives.

The question remains: Why is Rasmea Odeh being prosecuted, and why now, for an alleged infraction that is a full decade old? Analysts connect her arrest with many previous US government campaigns against Palestinian-American activists and their supporters. Under the Nixon administration, there was Operation Boulder. The case of the Los Angeles Eight outlasted three (and almost four) presidents before it was finally set aside. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, there has been increased spying, profiling and infiltration of Arab and Muslim communities and there have been prosecutions for sending charitable aid to Palestinians, as in the case of theHoly Land Five.

In all of these cases, as in Odeh’s, what the US government considers suspect is connected to what Palestinian-Americans and their supporters are permitted to say about Israel — and to Israel’s own systems of militarism, surveillance, repression and incarceration. There may also be a connection between Odeh’s indictment and the 2010 FBI raids targeting 23 anti-war and Palestine solidarity activists in the Midwest. And Palestine Solidarity Legal Support responded to more than 100 more incidents in 2013 alone. These incidents involve not only extra government scrutiny but also all sorts of intimidation and bullying. The Odeh indictment may also be related to the US government’s Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program, which delays and denies naturalization applications of members of Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian communities, solely on the basis of religion, ethnicity and/or national origin.

But again, why Rasmea Odeh, and why now? Why now, when so many Arab immigrant women in Chicago are celebrating their personal successes in America partly due to Odeh’s remarkable leadership? Why now, when the Palestinian struggle, typified by the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, is growing faster than ever before in Chicago and across the US?

We may never really know why, but this much is clear: The federal government is using immigration infractions as a political tool to target Rasmea Odeh with criminal charges. The circumstances of her case are especially aggravating: 1) Israel tortures and sexually assaults Palestinians like Odeh as a means of facilitating the colonization of Palestinian land; 2) the US is complicit going back decades in Israeli war crimes and violations of international law; and 3) the US is now excavating the naturalization papers of a 67-year old survivor of sexual torture in order to brand her as a criminal.

These circumstances are why the streets of Detroit will be filled and the courtroom packed on September 8. From now until then, the collective voice of those whose lives Rasmea has touched, and the growing number of others who support her, will continue to demand: Drop the charges now!

For more information on this case and how to support Rasmea Odeh, see here and here.

What Does A Prisoner Defense Committee Do?

inciteblog:

A quick and helpful snapshot of what a prisoner defense committee does from the Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander. Marissa Alexander has a wonderful base of supporters, including groups of people organizing intentionally in Chicago, Seattle, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, the Southern Movement Assembly, and of course, her hometown of Jacksonville, FL. Contact Free Marissa Now if you’d like to start a local organizing committee to free Marissa Alexander!
freemarissanow@gmail.com
freemarissnow.org

Marissa’s trial is scheduled to begin on Dec 8, 2014. Let’s get ready!

Originally posted on Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander:

When people hear that the Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander (CAFMA) is a prisoner defense committee, they often wonder what that means. It’s actually simple. We raise awareness of Marissa’s case and most importantly we raise funds for her legal defense. We do this in many different ways. This weekend, for example, we had a table at Chicago’s Dyke March.

Before the tabling though, on Friday, four CAFMA members spent the afternoon making buttons and magnets to sell for a donation. The button maker and supplies were all donated by a member of CAFMA. As such, all proceeds from sales can be donated to Marissa’s legal defense fund.

by Chez Rumpf (6/27/14)

by Chez Rumpf (6/27/14)

On Saturday, we talked to dozens of people about Marissa’s case…

by Sarah Jane Rhee (6/28/14)

by Sarah Jane Rhee (6/28/14)

And collected over $150 in donations…

by Sarah Jane Rhee (6/28/14)

by Sarah Jane Rhee (6/28/14)

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COV4 Call for Proposals: Extended Deadline – September 15th!

Color of Violence 4 (COV4) Call for Proposals:
EXTENDED DEADLINE: September 15, 2014

More about COV4:

9975648INCITE! is excited to announce the upcoming conference, Color of Violence 4 (COV4)Beyond the State: Inciting Transformative Possibilities. This gathering will mark INCITE!’s fifteen years of engaging in grassroots organizing projects, critical conversations, national actions, transnational campaigns, and community building strategies to end colonial, racial, and gender-based violence against women of color, trans and queer people of color, and our communities.

COV4 will highlight emerging strategies and new frameworks that focus on ending violence without relying on policing, mass incarceration, restrictive legislation, and other systems of violence and control.  Although on-going systems of criminalization and punishment are occupying and devastating our communities, those systems are still often considered the front-line response to violence within and against our communities.  Challenging multiple interlocking forms of violence requires new conversations and transformative approaches.

More details at the conference website: colorofviolence.org

Bad Home Training: An Open Letter to Melissa Flournoy of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast

Originally posted on Women's Health And Justice Initiative:


A little back story:

Last night, August 13th, there was a screening of We Always Resist: Trust Black Women. The documentary touches on the ways that the pro choice framework abandons black women. It talks about solution oriented community activism and the ways that black women are left in the lurch when the conversation about reproductive rights focuses only on the single issue of abortion.  After the film, local activists Deon Haywood of Women With A Vision and Paris Hatcher of SPARK and Race Forward got together to do a panel discussion about their work and the film.

Melissa Flournoy, Louisiana Director of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, was the first person to speak. She proceeded to rudely derail the entire conversation. 

This is my response as a member of the Women’s Health and Justice Initiative, a queer black femme woman, a New Orleans native, and a daughter of a mother who…

View original 1,959 more words

Statement in solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza and with seekers of freedom and justice world-wide

[A boycott how-to is below this powerful statement. -Eds.]

Statement in Solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza and with seekers of freedom and justice world-wide

As Palestinian, indigenous, women of color, anti-racist, and Jewish feminists involved in a range of social justice struggles, we strongly condemn the current massacre of the Palestinians of Gaza and affirm our support for and commitment to the growing international movement for a free Palestine and for racial justice, equality, and freedom for all.

As many of us know from time spent in Palestine and in other movements for justice, the connections between the movement for a free Palestine and anti-colonial struggles for self-determination throughout the world are inextricable.

The current Israeli attacks on Gaza have resulted in more than 1900 Palestinian deaths, including over 450 children; the displacement of up to 25% of the population; and the destruction of crucial infrastructure such as sanitation, hospitals, and schools.  We condemn and are horrified by the current acts of Israeli brutality, while also recognizing the deeply rooted and ongoing violence that Palestinians are forced to endure on a daily basis — for example, living in ghetto-like conditions in Gaza, systematically having land confiscated, being deprived of their livelihoods, collective punishment, gender and racial violence, and ongoing expulsion and displacement from the Nakba until today.

An extensive prison system bolsters the occupation and suppresses resistance.  Over 5,000 Palestinians are locked inside Israeli prisons; more than 200 are children.  There is ongoing criminalization of their political activity.

We believe in the critical importance, now more than ever, of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions call for Israel to 1) End its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantle the Wall; 2) Recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
 3) Respect, protect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194. The purpose of the BDS campaigns is to pressure Israeli state-sponsored institutions to adhere to international law, basic human rights, and democratic principles as a condition for just and equitable social relations.

We stand with the Palestinian community and with activists all over the world in condemning the flagrant injustices of the current Israeli massacre against the Palestinians of Gaza; the land, air, and sea blockade of Gaza; and the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

We call for an end to US military aid, at more than 3 billion a year, for the Israeli state and its occupation.

We call upon all people of conscience to stand with Palestine and to join the worldwide actions in which communities and civil society are stepping up in critical ways. We recognize that all our struggles for social, racial, gender, and economic justice and for self-determination are deeply interconnected and can only gain strength and power from one another. As Audre Lorde taught us, “When we can arm ourselves with the strength and vision from all our diverse communities then we will in truth all be free at last.”

Signatories:

Ujju Aggarwal, INCITE!; New School for Social Research

Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, San Francisco State University

Bina Ahmad, National Lawyers Guild

Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley

Linda Carty, Syracuse University

Ayoka Chenzira, Artist and Filmmaker

Angela Davis, University of California, Santa Cruz

Gina Dent, University of California, Santa Cruz

Zillah Eisenstein, Anti-Racist Feminist Scholar, Activist, Writer

Eve Ensler, Writer, Activist, Founder of V-Day and One Billion Rising

G. Melissa Garcia, Dickinson College

Anna Guevarra, University of Illinois at Chicago

Lisa Kahaleole Hall, Wells College

bell hooks, Feminist critic and writer

Suad Joseph, University of California, Davis

J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Wesleyan University

Nada Khader, WESPAC Foundation

Mona Khalidi, Columbia University

Reem Khamis-Dakwar, Adelphi University

Nancy Kricorian, Writer

Amina Mama, University of California, Davis

Hannah Mermelstein, Adalah-NY; Librarians and Archivists with Palestine

Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Syracuse University

Nadine Naber, University of Illinois, Chicago

Premilla Nadasen, Barnard College

Donna Nevel, Jews Say No!; Nakba Education Project, US

Dana Olwan, Syracuse University

Barbara Ransby, University of Illinois at Chicago

Beverly Guy Sheftall, Author, Atlanta, Georgia

Kimberly M. Tallbear, University of Texas, Austin

Rebecca Vilkomerson, Jewish Voice for Peace

Alice Walker, Writer and Activist

Editors: Here’s a list of “optimal” items to boycott to help end Israel occupation:

Food/Drink:

  • Sodastream
  • Jaffa citrus fruits
  • Golan Heights Wine
  • Sabra Hummus
  • Medjool Dates
  • Eden Springs Water
  • Dorot Garlic and Herbs, Israeli Cous Cous and Pastures of Eden Feta (found at Trader Joes)
  • Osem
  • Tribe Humus
  • Yes to Carrots
  • Sara Lee bakery items
  • Coca Cola: includes Dr Pepper, Fanta, Fruitopia, Kia Ora, Lilt, Sprite, Sunkist, Schweppes, Dasani Water, Nestea, Fresca, Tab

Clothes:

  • Victoria’s Secret
  • Sara Lee:  Hanes, Playtex, Champion, Leggs, Wonderbra
  • Naot shoes
  • Delta Galil Industries: Gap, J-Crew, J.C. Penny, Calvin Klein, Playtex, Victoria’s Secret, DIM, Donna Karan / DKNY, Ralph Lauren, Playtex, Calvin Klein (cK), Hugo Boss, Banana Republic, Structure

Makeup:

  • L’Oreal / The Body Shop
  • Estee Lauder
  • Ahava cosmetics
  • Dead Sea Cosmetics

Household:

  • Pampers
  • TEVA drugs

Technology:

  • Hewlett Packard
  • Intel
  • Motorola

Cars/Bulldozers:

  • Volvo
  • Hyundai
  • Caterpillar

(Resources: here, here, and here)

And here’s info on “Buycott,” a phone app to help do more consumer boycotting.

As the campaign for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions writes, “The consumer boycott is beginning to bite, too: a fifth of Israeli exporters reported a drop in demand as a result of the boycott in the wake of the Gaza massacre.”

One more thing:  here are links on how to engage in academic boycott, consumer boycott, cultural boycott, and press for divestments and sanctions.

Free Palestine is a Feminist Issue

“I was more than terrified,” [Sena Alissa] says while holding her newborn baby girl in a bed in Gaza City’s struggling al-Shifa hospital, 20 minutes from Nuseirat. “I’m giving birth in war.” (source)

The latest Israeli attack on occupied Palestine in the form of an ongoing military assault on the people living in the Gaza Strip has made an already unbearable situation much more devastating.  Women, children, and elders represent the majority of the hundreds of people who have lost their lives.  The assaults are a form of reproductive violence by creating conditions that increase miscarriages, pre-term labor, and stillbirths.  Israel is currently targeting sewage systems, worsening an existing water crisis created by the Israel blockade of supplies to Gaza, and depriving hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents of clean water.  Free Palestine is, and always has been, a feminist issue.

People around the world are mobilizing direct actions to denounce Israel’s brutal violence and ongoing occupation.  Here’s a list of convergencesBelow is INCITE!’s statement of endorsement of the movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel, framing the occupation with a race & gender analysis. 

INCITE_BDS_Page_1 INCITE_BDS_Page_2

Here are handouts: PDF, JPEG Front, JPEG Back
The statement is in text below.  Also visit this call from ASWAT to LGBTQ organizations to take action against the bombing of Gaza civilians. And download and place stickers or bookmarks where you see items that should be boycotted.  TAKE ACTION!

INCITE! endorses the Palestinian call for BDS—Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions for Palestine because…

  • Israel is a settler colonial state founded on the ethnic cleansing of 80% of the indigenous Palestinian people…
  • And because Israel considers Palestinian women a “demographic threat,”…
  • And because one in four women in Gaza, and 4 in 5 children there, are undernourished…
  • And because the siege on Gaza was described as “catastrophic” and a “prelude to genocide” even before the latest murderous assault…
  • And because Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and a UN-commissioned independent report have concluded that Israel’s offensive in Gaza amounted to “crimes against humanity”…
  • And because the restrictions imposed by Israel have resulted in a 58% increase in miscarriages among Palestinian women in the West Bank in a single year…
  • And because Israel celebrates the declining Palestinian birth rate as a success, while encouraging Jewish women to have more children…
  • And because Israel promotes itself as a haven for gay people, while barring queer Palestinians from participating in Pride day celebrations…
  • And because Palestinian children are arrested by Israeli soldiers with no right to due process, and are imprisoned without any charges against them…
  • And because our tax dollars are used, against our will, to create a living hell for Palestinian women and their families…
  • And because, since 2000, nearly 6500 Palestinians have been killed, including over 1400 children, and 40,000 have been injured…
  • And because, since 2000, 20,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished to allow for Israeli “natural growth,”…
  • And because Israel has resisted all official attempts to force it to comply with international law and end its violation of Palestinian human rights…
  • And because Israeli control and domination of the geographic terrain and resources of Palestine deny Palestinian families the right to free mobility, clean water, food, and other basic living necessities…
  • And because reports of torture and sexual violence of Palestinian men and women political prisoners and detainees violate international human rights law…
  • And because Israel’s entrenched system of discrimination and segregation constitutes an apartheid system as harsh as South Africa’s old system…
  • And because the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement played a major role in ending apartheid in South Africa, and is the model and inspiration of the Palestinian people today…
  • And because Palestinian civilian society, not their corrupt “leaders,” is calling upon the international community to show its solidarity and support by engaging in a similar consistent and comprehensive movement…

We can support the Global BDS movement by engaging in boycotting Israeli products everyday.

For more info on the global BDS movement, please visit:
http://www.bsdmovement.net/
http://usacbi.org/

Color of Violence 4: Call for Proposals

INCITE! Color Of Violence 4 Conference

BEYOND THE STATE: 
INCITING TRANSFORMATIVE POSSIBILITIES
March 26 – 29, 2015
Chicago, IL

Conference Call for Proposals
Deadline: September 1, 2014
Conference website: colorofviolence.org

INCITE! is excited to announce the Color of Violence 4 (COV4)Beyond the State: Inciting Transformative Possibilities. This gathering will mark INCITE!’s fifteen years of engaging in grassroots organizing projects, critical conversations, national actions, transnational campaigns, and community building strategies to end colonial, racial, and gender-based violence against women of color, trans and queer people of color and our communities.

Although on-going systems of criminalization and punishment are occupying and devastating our communities, those systems are still often considered the frontline response to violence within and against our communities.  Challenging multiple interlocking forms of violence requires new conversations and transformative approaches.  Since 2000, INCITE! chapters, affiliates, and partners have developed and learned from non-state based responses to violence rooted in global grassroots liberation movements, local feminist of color practices, communities and organizations.  COV4 will highlight emerging strategies, multiple approaches, and new frameworks that re-engage community agency and focus on ending violence without relying on policing, mass incarceration, restrictive legislation, and other systems of violence and control. Non-state based responses to violence are happening in our neighborhoods, families, classrooms, places of worship, friendships, online social networks, political actions, and around our kitchen tables.  These efforts have been called “community accountability,” “transformative justice,” “restorative justice,” or simply taking care of our communities and our lives.  Examples of these responses in action include: organizing workshops, community-based resources, and art & media projects; convening gatherings, interventions, and brainstorm sessions; and creating grassroots toolkits, participatory research projects, resource lists, and other practical tools to help us figure out what we do next. We believe that these practices are key components of radical movement building.

As we imagine, create, and build on practices that radically value the lives of women of color, trans & queer people of color, and our communities, this conference asks:

  • What anti-violence organizing strategies are activists, artists, scholars, workers, and community members imagining or implementing “beyond the state?”
  • What kind of new spaces and models have been invented locally, nationally, and globally?
  • What core questions still need exploration?  

We invite survivors of violence, artists, media makers, health practitioners, advocates, young people, people in the sex trade, students, activists & community organizers, scholars & teachers, and anyone else interested in submitting workshops and presentations that examine these questions and break new ground. Women of color, girls of color, trans & gender non-conforming people of color, Indigenous women and two-spirit people, immigrants of color, currently or formerly incarcerated people of color, and disabled people of color are strongly encouraged to submit proposals.  Proposals might also consider the following tensions and challenges:

  •  How do we address violence beyond the state in cases of police violence or hate violence? Is incarceration all we can ask for or are there other possibilities? 
  • How do we scale up community accountability models so that their impact poses a real challenge to the prison industrial complex?  
  • How do we navigate the ways in which non-profit systems and foundation & government grant funding can bind our work to violent institutions?  
  • How do we address the ways in which community accountability or transformative justice strategies have not been responsive for all survivors and scenarios?  
  • How has community accountability been practiced in classrooms and on campuses as a way to address interpersonal harm as well as a way to challenge the violence of the academic industry?
  • How do we imagine community accountability not only as responses to domestic violence, sexual assault, and other interpersonal harms, but also in the context of reproductive, economic, immigration, colonial, environmental, labor, and medical violence, as well as the violence of prisons, policing, surveillance, genocide, disaster, and war?
  • How has media been a promising, yet complex strategy for community accountability?  How do we address the racial/gendered threats faced by women of color and trans/queer people of color on social media? 
  • How can we challenge the ways in which state violence against people in the sex industry is strengthened and justified by many anti-trafficking initiatives?
  • How have community-based responses to violence been used within recent insurgencies, such as Idle No More, Not1More anti-deportation actions, anti-capitalist actions, direct actions against prisons and policing, the movement for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions against Israel occupation, and revolutionary and anti-imperial movements abroad?

This gathering will provide an opportunity for individuals and groups to problem-solve ongoing challenges and share promising strategies. We are open to workshops on any theme that is in keeping with INCITE!’s mission to address the intersections of interpersonal, state, and institutional violence, and welcome a variety of formats: performances, participatory workshops, learning labs, story circles, open discussions, strategy sessions, activist studios, network gatherings, etc.

PROPOSAL DEADLINE:  September 1, 2014
Proposals can be submitted online HERE!
Please send inquiries to: cov4incite@gmail.com