The convoluted legal saga of Rasmea Odeh is thankfully nearing its end. On April 25, the convicted murderer and fraudster pled guilty in federal court to committing immigration fraud and violating 18 U.S.C §1425(a) which criminalizes knowingly procuring naturalization contrary to law. She will be stripped of her U.S. citizenship and is expected to be deported – likely to Jordan – after a sentencing hearing scheduled for August 17. Unfortunately, we will have to endure her presence in the U.S. for another 3 ½ months.
Courtroom witnesses said that Odeh teared up during her allocution. But the tears she shed were not for the two young university students – Leon Kaner, 21, and Edward Jaffe, 22 – she murdered on February 21, 1969 when she and her PFLP cohorts detonated a bomb at a Jerusalem supermarket. No, her tears were the tears of a cowardly, unrepentant terrorist who was sorry that she got caught committing immigration fraud.
By any standard, Rasmea Odeh is toxic. She is a convicted murderer and terrorist whose felony record now spans two continents. She is also a rabid anti-Semite. Her bombs targeted Jews for no other reason than the fact that they were Jews. Her instruments of death were insidiously timed to go off on Friday when Jewish shoppers were known to purchase last minute grocery provisions for the Sabbath. So sinister was this woman that she timed the second bomb to go off just as first responders – doctors and ambulance personnel – were tending to the wounded. Thankfully, the second bomb was discovered and neutralized in the nick of time, minutes before causing further injuries or damage.
But Odeh still has her supporters. The PFLP (A group listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department) has named terror cells after her. More recently, the anti-Semitic hate group, Jewish Voice for Peace, featured Odeh as a guest speaker at their annual hate fest. Another invited guest speaker was the notorious Linda Sarsour, a woman who once absurdly touted Saudi Arabia (a country that often punishes rape victims and denies women the right to drive) as a model for upholding women’s rights. Sarsour, who has a long history of offensive social media posts, including support for terrorism, once tweeted that she wished she could give her political opponents an “ass whippin” and wanted to “take their vaginas.” She maintains racist views that are consistent with the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism and openly calls for the end of Israel.
With such a morally skewed compass, it comes as no surprise that when Sarsour met the convicted felon and murderess Odeh at the JVP conference, the two engaged in a long embrace. Odeh and Sarsour maintain ideologically identical positions and see nothing wrong with murdering Jews who have the temerity to live in their ancestral homeland. Both wish and advocate for Israel’s demise and destruction.
Sarsour is of course free to express her views, no matter how odious. A red line however, is crossed when a taxpayer funded institution raises her on a pedestal. That is precisely what happened on April 19, when Dean Ayman El-Mohandes of CUNY’s Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy announced that Sarsour would be a keynote speaker. Perhaps feeling the backlash, El-Mohandes felt compelled to release two follow-up statements on April 21 and April 24 touting Sarsour’s credentials. There is of course, no mention of her dark, anti-Semitic past and support for terrorism; nor is there any mention of her past misogynistic statements, support for Saudi-style Sharia law and claim that liberal Zionists cannot be feminists.
There is no doubt that Sarsour is trying to mainstream herself and rehabilitate her image. She has deleted past offensive and misogynistic tweets and has thrust herself into the spotlight by raising funds for a vandalized Jewish cemetery near St. Louis. Sarsour apparently cares more about tombstones for dead Jews than she does about the living. But anti-Semites are full of paradoxes and one need not waste time making sense of their actions.
El-Mohandes’ inexplicable invitation to Sarsour comes on the heels of last year’s CUNY report, endorsed by CUNY Chancellor James Milliken, which essentially whitewashes the role that the hate group, Students for Justice in Palestine, plays in promoting anti-Semitism at CUNY campuses. The report completely disregards another report compiled by the watchdog group AMCHA, which states that manifestations of Jew-hatred are eight times more likely to occur on campuses where the SJP maintains an active presence.
On the issue of Sarsour, Milliken again punted claiming that while he is an opponent of BDS, revoking her invitation, “would conflict with the First Amendment and the principles of academic freedom.” That may be so but the fact that a dean of a taxpayer funded institution sought out a xenophobic, Jew hater above many other qualified speakers, calls into question his thought process, motives and ability to lead.
Moreover, platitudes issued by CUNY’s chancellor come as no solace to the countless Jewish students who are forced to endure harassment or are otherwise cowed into silence on a daily basis because of outrages committed by the SJP and their allies in academia. Free speech is indeed a sacred concept ingrained in our culture and should be defended at all costs but when speech crosses the line into hate speech and support for terrorism, an actionable red line is crossed.
Sarsour’s entire career is based on hatred of the Jewish state and while she may have deleted offensive tweets and performed a few faux acts of benevolence for the cameras in a transparent effort to rehabilitate her image, she is still the same rancid Jew-hater she always was. Sarsour’s appearance at the Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy as commencement speaker represents an indelible stain on CUNY as well as Chancellor Milliken.