The problem with inviting Rasmieh Yousef Odeh to speak

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If there were any doubts about the true face of Jewish Voice for Peace, the organization that has been named by the Anti-Defamation League as one of the top 10 anti-Israel groups in the nation, this settles it.

JVP will give a platform to Rasmieh Yousef Odeh, convicted in Israel for her involvement in two 1969 bombing plots that killed two people, at its national conference March 31-April 2 in Chicago. Extremist groups like JVP have transformed Odeh, who also was found guilty of omitting information about her criminal background on her U.S. citizenship application, into a martyr. In the process, the real victims have been forgotten.

In 1969, Odeh was involved in the bombing of a supermarket in Israel that killed two college students, Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner, and wounded nine other shoppers. She confessed in a detailed account. Odeh also admitted her involvement in a bombing at the British Consulate in Tel Aviv, which took place four days after the supermarket attack.

Odeh was found guilty in both cases as well as for her involvement with a designated terrorist organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Although she was sentenced to life in prison, she was freed after 10 years in a large-scale prisoner swap for an Israeli soldier captured in Lebanon.

That trial was not her final brush with the law. In 2014, a federal jury in Detroit returned a guilty verdict against Odeh for illegally procuring naturalization by falsely answering questions on whether she had ever been convicted or imprisoned.

Odeh’s transformation to victim began when her lawyers argued in that case that post-traumatic stress disorder could have prevented Odeh from recalling the traumatic torture and imprisonment she endured in 1969. They claimed she had confessed after weeks of rape and duress in an Israeli prison, and that her lies on her immigration application resulted from PTSD. The Detroit jury deliberated for only two hours before issuing a guilty verdict on fraud. She appealed and is currently awaiting a new trial, scheduled for May.

Aided and abetted by anti-Israel voices, Odeh became the cause célèbre as a victim of “Zionist oppression.” She became, in the words of one supporter, “a Palestinian woman who embodies the Palestinian history of dispossession, struggle and resilience.”

While anti-Israel groups honor and feature Odeh, the real victims are forgotten. Hebrew University students Kanner, who was 21, and Joffe, 22, had been shopping for canned food for a botanical field trip when they were killed in the 1969 bombing. They were not the only victims. Their parents were deprived of attending their sons’ college graduations, dancing at their weddings or holding grandchildren and great-grandchildren in their arms.

To understand why a group that calls itself “Jewish” and a “Voice for Peace” would celebrate someone involved in killing Jews, one must know more about the organization. JVP works to steer public support away from Israel and to convince the American public that opposition to the Jewish state is not anti-Semitic. It promotes the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, which has become the American anti-Zionist movement’s top tactic in recent years.

The group exploits its “Jewish” title to mislead its own supporters that opposition to Israel not only doesn’t contradict, but is actually consistent with, Jewish values. While it co-sponsors anti-Israel rallies, JVP cloaks its Israel animus behind its “Jewish” identity to shield anti-Israel elements from allegations of anti-Semitism.

Odeh’s story is one of torture, but not in the way JVP promotes it. It is a case of tortured logic and language. A group that provides a platform for the most extreme and virulent voices against Israel, that lends legitimacy to terror, that justifies past crimes and incites new ones, demonstrates beyond all doubt that it is neither Jewish nor peaceful.

Peggy Shapiro is a Deerfield resident and retired professor from the Chicago City Colleges.

The problem with inviting Rasmieh Yousef Odeh to speak

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