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Joe Iosbaker speaks out for Rasmea Odeh at Moscow conference

By staff |
March 1, 2015
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Fight Back News Service is circulating a speech that U.S. anti-war activist Joe Iosbaker delivered at a conference in Moscow, Feb. 24. The conference, called "Developments in Civil Society in Russia and the USA," featured talks by several generations of anti-imperialist activists. A special guest was the Venezuelan Ambassador to Russia, Hoglys Martinez Nunez.

U.S. imperialism and the war on Arabs and Muslims

There is a growing degree of repression and racist violence in the U.S. Witness the murders of the three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina a few weeks ago. For the Black communities in the U.S., there is a police state, which has existed since the Africans were brought to America as slaves. And the U.S. government war on Arabs and Muslims, both abroad and at home, continues and expands, despite the drawing down of troops in Afghanistan and the end of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. I want to highlight the case of the Palestinian activist from Chicago, Rasmea Odeh, as the an example of repression of that community.

Attacks on democracy domestically have always accompanied wars of aggression abroad. To understand U.S. imperialism today, it’s useful to look at the recent developments in the War on Arabs and Muslims; the wars fought abroad just in the past year; the level of racism and Islamophobia whipped up by the politicians and media; and the prosecution of Rasmea Odeh, the newest victim of political repression by Washington.

This War on Arabs and Muslims began with George W. Bush. He used the 911 attacks to justify launch-ing wars of conquest in Afghanistan and Iraq, with plans for Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia and Sudan. The U.S. had been in decline on the world stage since defeat at the hands of the Vietnamese in 1975. What he named the War on Terrorism was intended to put the U.S. back on top, to regain a position of power and profitability enjoyed in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Things didn’t work out that way. The Iraq War ended a disastrous loss, and Afghanistan is an unfolding defeat.

The empire didn’t learn the lesson from these losses that regular people learned - that the era where big powers can remake the map using military force has come to an end. The White House thinks it is a matter of smarter tactics, choosing wars more carefully and keeping the junior partners in NATO on board. Now President Obama deploys a variety of war fighting methods: drone warfare, special operations, color revolutions and proxy armies - but their objective is the same - to use military force and the murder of hundreds of thousands, as in Syria, to maintain and expand U.S. hegemony, to control markets and to ensure profitability.

The newest Iraq War that started in August might seem to be a response to the danger to the world from the Islamic State. However, there’s nothing new about wars of ‘humanitarian intervention.’ The same pretext was used in Libya in 2011. The U.S. was looking for a reason to justify going back into Iraq, and now they have it.

Officially, the War on Terrorism has ended. That rhetoric is no longer used. But in truth, there continues to be a war on the countries and nations of the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. Why are they targeted? Because the countries where they are the majority are the largest oil producers. Because those peoples have had the audacity to believe that their national resources should be theirs to develop.

The endless war on these peoples is required because they refuse to accept the dictates by Washington.

In the U.S., there is a necessary corollary to these wars. It is a domestic war on Arabs and Muslims. The U.S. Attorney’s offices in Chicago, Illinois, and Detroit, Michigan, went after a Palestinian community activist in Chicago named Rasmea Odeh. Rasmea is 67 years old. She was put on trial and convicted in November, and now faces a possible sentence of ten years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and deportation. What crime did she commit? When she emigrated to the U.S. from Palestine, she failed to admit that she had been brutally tortured and raped by Israeli guards in 1969. She didn’t say on her application for citizenship that a kangaroo court of the Israeli occupation - a military occupation which is illegitimate and criminal in the eyes of the world, convicted her of a bombing, based on a confession that they tortured out of her, and which she immediately denied.

There is no due process in Israeli military courts, which ‘convict’ over 99% of Palestinians who come before them, and ‘evidence’ from these should not be accepted in a court in the U.S. U.S. law doesn't allow the use of evidence obtained through torture. The War on Arabs and Muslims has changed that. We use torture against prisoners in our wars abroad, and our courts now uphold the use of torture by the Israelis.

Rasmea was targeted by the U.S. government also as part of the repression of the pro-Palestinian movement. This movement, often called the BDS movement for Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions, has grown in recent years against Israel’s occupation and wars on Gaza.

The case against her grew out of the investigation of 23 anti-war and Palestinian community organizers in Chicago and Minneapolis, who were subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in 2010. I am one of those activists. My home was raided by 25 FBI agents on Sept. 24, 2010. I was targeted for my role as an or-ganizer of a large protest against the Iraq War, and because I am a supporter of the cause of the Palestinian people.

The grand jury is investigating myself and the 23 activists for allegations that we provided ‘material support of terrorism.’ This is a lie. The FBI and the Justice Department investigated us and are at-tempting to ‘criminalize’ efforts to empower Chicago’s Palestinian, Arab and Muslim communities, as well as work to build solidarity with the struggle in Palestine. No one testified to that grand jury and, due to broad public support and a strong defense campaign, no one was indicted.

Rasmea was not one of the 23, but she is a colleague of Hatem Abudayyeh, who was raided on the same morning I was. Hatem is the director of the Arab American Action Network in Chicago, a community service organization. Rasmea is the associate director. But it is clear that Rasmea came under attack by the U.S. government because she is Palestinian, and because for decades, she has organized for Palestinian liberation and self-determination, the Right of Return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes, and an end to U.S. funding of Israeli occupation.

On March 12, Rasmea will be sentenced. We are asking the judge for leniency, and we are preparing for the appeal. Rasmea’s story is the tale of the Palestinian people. She and the Palestinians are victims of a brutal occupation that has cost many lives and much suffering.

A growing movement has pledged to continue to work for her until she is out of prison and among the Palestinian community and their supporters. Free Rasmea Odeh.