A group of Black and Palestinian organizers hold a sign saying end state racism.

Why BLM activists are showing up for a Palestinian woman threatened with deportation

Dani McClain has an excellent piece over at The Nation that discusses growing solidarity between Black and Palestinian activists challenging state violence. The poignant example at the center of the piece? A campaign to support Palestinian feminist icon Rasmea Odeh, one of the first Palestinian women to speak about the Israeli military’s use of rape as a form of torture.

On Wednesday, October 14, Rasmea Odeh stood outside a courthouse in Cincinnati after her attorney argued before the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that she had not received a fair trial in federal court in Detroit late last year and is being denied her right to remain in this country as a naturalized citizen. Rallying around her were about 100 people, including representatives from black organizing circles in Chicago and members of Cincinnati’s Black Lives Matter contingent, who stood shoulder to shoulder with members of Chicago’s Arab immigrant and Arab-American communities.

Odeh is a 68-year-old woman who in October 2013 was arrested at her home in suburban Chicago and charged with lying to obtain her citizenship. The federal government claims that she had deceived immigration officials during her application process in 2004 because when asked whether she had ever been incarcerated, Odeh replied that she had not. In fact, Odeh had spent 10 years in prison after being sentenced to life by an Israeli military court for her alleged involvement in the bombings and for her involvement in a Palestinian organization Israel deemed illegal. She was released after a decade as part of a prisoner exchange and moved to Jordan, where she lived until immigrating to the United States in 1995. During this incarceration, Odeh says she endured various forms of torture, including rape, and that she gave a false confession as a result. According to her supporters, Odeh is one of the first Palestinian women to speak about the Israeli military’s use of rape as a form of torture.

The rally and ongoing campaign, the article points out, comes shortly after the release of “When I See Them I See Us,” a film collaboration by leading organizations (including Black Youth Project and the Dream Defenders), dope artists (among them Lauryn Hill and Remi Kanazi), and brilliant women and local organizers (s/o to Angela Davis, Alice Walker, Sandra Tamari, and Suhad Khatib).

While that video was in incredible statement of solidarity in itself, what is particularly remarkable about the campaign around Odeh is that it demonstrates the ability to translate powerful viral videos and online letters into offline, local, and intersectional organizing. It captures the kind of solidarity many of us adhere to in theory, but often find difficult to practice: a solidarity that has folks showing up. That involves inter-movement accountability. That meaningfully shifts and shapes offline organizing tactics well beyond online talking points. A solidarity that really truly runs deep.

Read the rest of the piece here.

Mahroh is a community organizer and law student who believes in building a world where black and brown women and our communities are able to live free of violence. Prior to law school, Mahroh was the Executive Director of Know Your IX, a national survivor- and youth-led organization empowering students to end gender violence and a junior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Her research addresses the ways militarization, racism, and sexual violence impact communities of color transnationally.

Mahroh is currently at Harvard Law School, organizing against state and gender-based violence.

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