CHICAGO — Dozens of demonstrators gathered at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Tuesday to show their support for a Chicago Palestinian activist with a decades-old record of bombings in Jerusalem prior to her deportation to Jordan.
Rasmea Odeh posed for pictures with supporters and activists, some carrying signs with her picture proclaiming their support for her and her cause.
Odeh thanked the crowd before getting on a Royal Jordanian aircraft for the 11 1/2-hour flight to Amman.
“Thank you for all you did for me,” she said. “What happened is unjust, it’s inhuman. They tried to destroy my life, but they will not destroy me.”
Some of her supporters vowed to take up her cause.
“We will liberate Palestine,” said Hatem Abudayyeh, co-ordinator of Odeh’s defence committee. “We will liberate Palestine because of the Rasmea Odehs of the world.”
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.
With family in Michigan, she applied for a U.S. visa in 1994, but didn’t disclose her criminal record. She also didn’t disclose it when she applied for citizenship in 2004. Odeh was convicted of lying in 2014, but the verdict was overturned. She chose to make a deal with the government rather than face a second trial.
Odeh didn’t serve any time in prison after pleading guilty to misleading U.S. immigration officials, but she lost her citizenship and was ordered deported.
“Her grace and her resilience under this relentless, stupid, idiotic attack has been so inspiring,” said Lynn Pollack of Jewish Voice for Peace.
In Chicago, Odeh was associate director of the Arab American Action Network, which provides social services and education. She is widely respected for her work with immigrants, especially Arab women.
“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.”