She’s a convicted terrorist preparing to be deported for entering the United States illegally, but Rasmea Yousef Odeh has seen her status as a leftist celebrity remain intact.
The Palestinian and feminist activist is scheduled to speak this weekend at the Jewish Voice for Peace conference in Chicago despite agreeing last week to a plea deal in which she will admit to failing to disclose her criminal record on her visa application. In exchange Odeh will be sent to Jordan and receive no jail time.
Still, Jewish Voice for Peace has remained steadfast in supporting Odeh, a featured speaker at the left-wing group’s annual three-day meeting, which starts Friday at the Hyatt Regency.
“Rasmea has made the difficult decision to leave the home and community she has built in the U.S. over the last 20 years,” the organization said in a statement after the plea deal was announced.
Odeh is slated to speak at a session called “All In!” along with Women’s March organizer Linda Sarsour, another Israel critic who leads the Arab American Association of New York.
“We are pleased that we will be able to host Rasmea at our National Member Meeting next week, to hear her story of resilience in the face of state violence and offer our enduring support in the next steps in her work and life,” Jewish Voice for Peace said.
The decision to keep her on the platform comes despite weeks of outrage by pro-Israel groups such as StandWithUs, which has blasted JVP for showcasing a “convicted murderer” and accused the group of blocking plans for a memorial to slain Israelis at the hotel.
At this point, however, Odeh’s critics say they are happy to bid her good riddance.
“The deal is Odeh’s admission of guilt,” said Peggy Shapiro, Midwest director for StandWithUs. “Her deportation is a measure of justice, and the U.S. will be well rid of this icon of hate.”
Odeh, 69, served 10 years in prison for her involvement in a 1969 terrorist attack in Israel that killed Hebrew University students Edward Joffe and Leon Kanter, and the attempted bombing of the British consulate.
She was released in 1979 as part of a prisoner exchange, and entered the United States after filling out a visa application in which she falsely answered questions asking if she had been detained by police, charged with crimes, convicted or jailed.
Odeh landed in Chicago, where she built a following as a community organizer while maintaining her innocence, saying her confession to Israeli law enforcement was coerced under torture, which federal prosecutors have disputed.
Her public profile has soared in recent years as a result of her involvement in Black Lives Matter, giving speeches in which she has linked her own experiences with the legal system to those of U.S. racial minorities and decried “police crimes” against Palestinians and blacks.
Her celebrity went international earlier this year as a sponsor of “A Day Without a Woman,” the worldwide general strike on March 8.
Cornell Law School professor William A. Jacobson, who has written extensively on her case for the blog site Legal Insurrection, blasted what he described in a 2015 article as her “sickening deification” and the “continuing effort by anti-Israel activists to co-opt and hijack the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Based on that history, Mr. Jacobson said he wasn’t surprised “that JVP would double down on the Rasmea appearance.”
“Since the day of her arrest in 2013, JVP has backed Rasmea as part of JVP’s campaign against Israel,” Mr. Jacobson said, adding that the connection “calls into question JVP’s legitimacy as a supposedly pro-peace organization.”
Odeh was convicted of fraud for failing to disclose her criminal history in 2014, but had been scheduled for a new trial starting in May after her conviction was overturned on appeal. She is slated to plead guilty and accept the plea deal on April 25 in Detroit.
The Rasmea Defense Committee has argued that it would have been “impossible” for her to receive a fair trial under “racist” Attorney General Jeff Sessions and “Zionist” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel.
“We will go All Out for Detroit and stand beside our leader on that difficult day,” said the committee in a March 23 statement, referring to her court date. “After that, Rasmea will continue her incredible organizing work wherever she is, and so will we.”