An Oakland bakery owner has dropped her case against a handful of protesters holding vigils outside the shop over its colorful wall-sized mural honoring convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh.
Reem Assil, owner of Reem’s “Arab street corner bakery,” voluntarily dismissed her case Tuesday after attorneys for protester Michael Lumish said they would counter with a motion to strike her lawsuit as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, or SLAPP.
Attorney Mitch Danzig described her request for restraining orders against Mr. Lumish and two others as “precisely the type of effort to use the courts to try to obtain a content-based prior restraint on political speech, which California law does not countenance.”
“[W]e are very pleased that Mr. Lumish is no longer facing the burden of having to deal with such an action and attempt to intimidate him and others from engaging in peaceful protest,” Mr. Danzig, an attorney with Mintz Levin, in a statement.
He added that his firm may file to recover legal fees and costs connected to the case.
Ms. Assil filed for a restraining order in August after a half-dozen pro-Israel protesters, most of them older and one using a wheelchair, held several demonstrations outside her shop holding signs saying, “Remember the Victims.”
Odeh, a former member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was sentenced in 1970 to life in prison for her role in the Jerusalem supermarket bombing that killed two Hebrew University students, Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner.
Released as part of a prisoner exchange 10 years later, she made her way to the United States in 1995 and settled in Chicago, but was deported to Jordan in September for lying on her visa application about her criminal past.
Still, Odeh enjoys an enthusiastic U.S. following among those who see her as a champion of Palestinian rights, including Ms. Assil, who has described the 70-year-old Odeh as an “emblem of resilience” and “women’s rights activist.”
In her August filing, Ms. Assil said Mr. Lumish “engaged in harassing and aggressive behavior repeatedly over the last month,” while he said that he participated in two peaceful protests over the summer along with mostly older Jews.
“The point was to silence pro-Jewish/pro-Israel voices in favor of antisemitic anti-Zionism and what is most insidious is that this is being done under the name of ‘social justice,’” said Mr. Lumish in an Oct. 7 post on his Israel Thrives blog. “It is vile.”
An attorney for Ms. Assil did not return immediately a request for comment.
Critics of the Odeh mural cheered the outcome of the case as a victory for free speech.
“That Assil had to drop the case represents a significant victory not just for the defendants, but for the rights of Israel supporters to exercise their constitutional rights without fear of litigation,” said Cornell Law School professor William A. Jacobson on his Legal Insurrection blog.
Yael Lerman, director of the StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department, called it a “prime example of what can be achieved when we partner with pro-bono attorneys to help those in need of legal resources.
“We are thrilled for the respondents that this meritless lawsuit was dismissed and especially proud of our partnership on this case with the Mintz Levin law firm,” Mr. Lerman said.
In Chicago, Odeh served as associate director of the Arab American Action Network and was listed as an organizer of the Day Without a Woman general strike in March.
Odeh’s supporters have argued that she was tortured into making a false confession by the Israeli police, which prosecutors have disputed.
Odeh made no secret of her antipathy toward Israel. At an Aug. 12 farewell event, she declared that, “We are winning this battle with the Zionists, you are winning this battle, and we will never stop organizing until all of Palestine is free.”