Rasmea Odeh was born in 1948 in Lifta, a town just outside of Jerusalem. When she was one month old, her family fled to Ramallah in order to escape the Arab-Israeli War. Odeh began attending Communist Party meetings at the age of 12, and subsequently became involved with the Arab National Movement. She studied political economy at …
Rasmea Odeh was born in 1948 in Lifta, a town just outside of Jerusalem. When she was one month old, her family fled to Ramallah in order to escape the Arab-Israeli War. Odeh began attending Communist Party meetings at the age of 12, and subsequently became involved with the Arab National Movement. She studied political economy at the American University of Beirut in 1968 and returned to the West Bank the following year.
Also in the late ’60s, Odeh became an active organizer with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Marxist group designated by the United States as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Odeh famously masterminded PFLP’s February 21, 1969 terrorist attack in which two Israeli university students, Leon Kaner and Edward Jaffe, were killed by a bomb blast in a Jerusalem Supersol food market. A second bomb, timed to detonate just as first responders arrived, was defused by security forces before it could explode. A third bomb that Odeh and PFLP placed near the British consulate office in Jerusalem was also discovered and destroyed in a controlled detonation on February 25, though another bomb in that same vicinity did manage to cause structural damage some days later.
Odeh was arrested on February 28, 1969 for her role in the aforementioned bomb plots, and on March 1 and 7 she made a full confession to Israeli authorities. The physical evidence against Odeh was also compelling, as a large quantity of bomb-making materials were found in her bedroom and in the home of one of her co-conspirators.1
When Odeh stood trial in 1969, she was convicted on all the charges against her and was sentenced to spend the rest of her life in an Israeli prison. With the exception of a brief period in 1975 when she escaped from that penitentiary, Odeh remained incarcerated until March 14, 1979, at which time she was released as part of a deal in which she and 75 other PFLP-affiliated prisoners in Israeli jails were exchanged for a single Israeli soldier who had been captured in Lebanon.
Upon regaining her freedom, Odeh spent the next four years living in Lebanon, then moved to Jordan, and finally came to the United States, where her father was living, in 1995. When she filled out an application for an immigrant visa and an alien registration, Odeh falsely checked off “no” when asked if she had ever been convicted of a crime. Moreover, she falsely stated that she had resided exclusively in Amman, Jordan since 1948.
In 2004, Odeh, who has used as many as nine aliases over the years, applied for U.S. citizenship and filled out an Application for Naturalization where she again lied about her prior arrest, conviction, and incarceration. She also checked off “no” when asked if she had ever belonged to a terrorist organization. Because Odeh’s lies were not detected at that time, her application was approved and she was sworn in as a United States citizen in December 2004.
In 2004 as well, Odeh became involved with the Chicago-based Arab American Action Network, where she subsequently served for a number of years as the Associate Director and the Community Adult Women Organizer.
Odeh rejected a plea deal that would have: (a) required her to serve just six months in jail, and (b) permitted her to remain in the United States for another six months following her release. As she prepared to go to trial, Odeh insisted that the presiding judge, Paul Borman, recuse himself because of his close ties to a pro-Israel social-service organization. Borman initially refused to comply, but later—to avoid any appearance of impropriety—he stepped aside when it was learned that at the time of the 1969 Supersol bombing, his family had a small financial interest in the supermarket chain.
In her November 2014 trial, Odeh took the stand and claimed that when she had filled out her fraudulent applications in 1995 and 2004, she thought that the questions referencing arrests, convictions, and incarcerations referred to criminal acts committed on U.S. soil. Her testimony however, was soundly refuted by documentary and testimonial evidence, and in March 2015 the jury found Odeh guilty of immigration fraud. A federal judge stripped the woman of her American citizenship and sentenced her to a prison term of 18 months and immediate deportation to Jordan following her sentence.
Odeh’s lawyer appealed the jury’s verdict to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, arguing that his client should have been permitted to introduce evidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in her defense. This was because Odeh alleged—without any proof whatsoever—that she had been repeatedly raped and tortured while in prison and, as result, suffered from PTSD which caused her to suppress memories of her arrest and conviction. While the Sixth Circuit rejected most of Odeh’s appeal, it ruled that evidence of PTSD and its effects on memory should have been allowed into testimony. Consequently, the court ordered a new trial and scheduled it for January 10, 2017. When Odeh’s lawyers then claimed that they needed more time to review the superseded indictment and requested an adjournment, a new trial date was set for May 16, 2017.
In 2015 Odeh participated with the longtime Communist revolutionary Angela Davis in an event that was co-organized by the Chicago chapter of Black Lives Matter. According to a report in Ebony magazine, the two women “discussed the importance of Black-Palestinian solidarity, political imprisonment in the U.S. and Israel, as well as the need for the abolition of prisons and ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine.” Moreover, Odeh praised the black liberation movement and proudly stated: “I now more fully understand the prison-industrial-complex that sister Angela Davis so eloquently talks and writes about.” Davis returned the praise and stated that the federal government was targeting Odeh as “part of the broader struggle against political imprisonment in the U.S.”
In early 2017 Odeh co-authored a manifesto laying out the agenda for a March 8th “general strike” called “Day Without a Woman,” an anti-Donald Trump event that was billed as part of a “new wave of militant feminist struggle.” The document instructed women to: (a) wear red as a symbol of solidarity against Trump’s “misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic and racist policies”; (b) block roads, bridges, and public squares; (c) “abstai[n] from domestic, care, and sex work”; (d) identify and denounce “misogynistic politicians and companies”; and (e) boycott businesses supportive of Trump and his agendas. The other co-authors of the manifesto included Angela Davis and Purdue University professor Tithi Bhattacharya, a self-proclaimed “revolutionary socialist.”
The pro-BDS organization Jewish Voice for Peace invited Odeh to participate in a workshop at its 2017 National Member Meeting, alongside Arab American Association of New York executive director Linda Sarsour, BDS activist Alissa Wise, and Ferguson (Missouri) activist Nyle Fort.
In a March 2017 plea agreement between Justice Department officials and Odeh, the latter pled guilty to violating 18 U.S.C §1425(a), a statute criminalizing any deliberate effort “to procure, contrary to law, the naturalization of any person.” Moreover, it was agreed that Odeh would be stripped of her U.S. citizenship and deported but would not have to serve jail time.
On September 19, 2017. Odeh boarded a plane at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and was officially deported to Jordan.
Odeh is revered as a heroine by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, as evidenced by the fact that the organization has named a number of its terror cells in her honor.
 [According] to the Investigative Project on Terrorism: “A 2004 documentary sympathetic to her cause shows Odeh and an accomplice freely admitting their roles in the supermarket bombing. The accomplice directly names Odeh as the mastermind. The details they each provide match Odeh’s confession, given one day after her arrest. Her co-conspirators also confessed.”