The Volokh Conspiracy

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Guest Posts on "The Trials of Rasmea Odeh: How a Palestinian Guerrilla Gained and Lost U.S. Citizenship"


I'm delighted to report that Prof. Steven Lubet (Northwestern) will be guest-blogging about this new book of his:

Here's the publisher's summary:

On February 21, 1969, a bomb exploded in the largest supermarket in Jerusalem. The blast killed two and injured many more, triggering an intense search for the terrorists behind the plot. Israeli security forces quickly apprehended, tortured, tried, and eventually convicted twenty-one-year-old Palestinian Rasmea Odeh for murder. Twenty-five years later, however, Odeh was not serving a life sentence in an Israeli prison but instead starting a new life in the United States, first in Detroit and later in Chicago, eventually becoming a naturalized citizen and working as a community organizer. Her arrest by U.S. federal authorities in 2013 on charges of unlawful procurement of citizenship and subsequent trial ignited defenders and detractors, even as the facts of the case, the previous conviction, and those of Odeh's life were obscured or ignored.

Based on extensive research, The Trials of Rasmea Odeh separates fact from fiction as it follows the remarkable twists of this story, even―or especially―where those facts subvert one political narrative or another. The result is that rare book that is both an extraordinary achievement of scholarly research and a gripping, accessible, and engaging narrative, making it an invaluable resource for discussion of the issues of citizenship, statehood, and the limits of legality this story engages.

And some blurbs:

"What an exemplary gem of scholarship. Combining thorough inquiry with critical empathy, Lubet has written a superb classic that young scholars whatever their field will benefit from reading. The Trials of Rasmea Odeh is truly one of the most impressive books I've ever read."―David J. Garrow, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama

"Professor Lubet takes no shortcuts with this book, unflinchingly examining the record of Odeh's life … Professor Lubet is able to explain the underlying law and legal strategy in a way that is clear and comprehensible without losing any technical nuance. He brings the courtroom alive to the reader, showing how both political and legal strategies influenced how the case was litigated. [It] is beautifully written and will be of interest to a wide audience. "―Cassandra Burke Robertson, John Deaver Drinko – BakerHostetler Professor of Law and Director, Center for Professional Ethics, Case Western Reserve University School of Law

"The Trials of Rasmea Odeh weaves together an intricate historical and legal account of Middle Eastern conflict and U.S. denaturalization. Rasmea Odeh's story, told with nuance and in crisp prose, grips the reader every bit as much as a fictional thriller would. A highly informative and fascinating book of great value to scholars and general readers alike. "―Irina Manta, professor at Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University

I much look forward to Prof. Lubet's posts!

NEXT: Three Russian War Songs in Honor of the Ukrainians

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  1. Its shocking how many people are still defending her even though she outright admitted to the bombings and there isn't a shred of evidence for her rape claims.

    1. Politics creates strange bedfellows, pun intended. Look at how many people applaud Marxist professors, even though they glorify the worst political ideology with the proven worst track record. How many people still let Trump govern their politics? How many idiots still brag about the year of Burn Loot Murder yet call Jan 6th an insurrection?

      It's all down to control. Government brings out the worst in people because , when you get right down to the nitty gritty, either you control government against your enemies, or they control government against you.

      Limited government doesn't appeal to anybody, because everyone knows limited government is an oxymoron. Either you grow government against your enemies, or they will grow it against you.

      Government sucks.

      1. I'm all for reading a disinterested, clinical look at situations similar to this (or even this one). But this book does not look like it. The word "guerrilla" is factually wrong, she's an admitted terrorist.

        I don't agree, but one could make an argument that bombing a checkpoint or stabbing a police officer is guerrilla action. Bombing a supermarket is terrorism.

        This book may be a wonderful example of scholarship, but it does not appear to be so based upon the titles and the blurbs. It's entirely possible this was an editorial decision and not reflective of the contents, but if that's the case, it's a very unfortunate one.

  2. "Guerilla"? That's a nice word for a terrorist that openly and proudly planted multiple bombs to kill Jews for being Jewish.
    Also, openly taking her "I was tortured" claims as fact is odd - does the author really believe that Israeli police brought in her father, stripped them both naked and ordered her father to rape her? A story her father denies?

    When you start from there, it threatens the trustworthiness of everything else. It's a little odd coming from a writer that, while very sympathetic to the Palestinians, normally is willing to call out the excesses and anti-Semitism of their members and supporters.

    Maybe the book is focused on the legal aspects of the case, despite the summary and the blurbs. But I hope it isn't another attempt to whitewash an unrepentant terrorist murderer.

    1. One of the most galling aspect of most terrorists to me is their unwillingness to be proud of their endeavors. I used to bicycle past the Concord Naval Weapons Station in the 1980s, and there were always protestors out front, in tents, sometimes picketing. Several were once sitting on the railroad tracks as a blockade; one didn't get up in time and the train ran over his legs. Instead of bragging that he had sacrificed his legs for a noble cause, he whined, even sued the train engineer, and pretended he hadn't known trains can't stop on a dime. That kind of cowardice seems to be standard for terrorists. Given the chance to use their suffering as a recruiting aid, or showing the world how much they suffer at the hands of their enemies, they whine and play the victim card for their own personal gain.

      Cowards, the lot.

      1. Most Palestinians involved in terrorism are quite happy to brag about their accomplishments - they get paid for it, after all. At least, proud until it bites them.

        Odeh was proud until the 90s, when it threatened her lifestyle. Then suddenly nothing was her fault, she was tortured and all the bombs and plans in her home were planted and her (also convicted) compatriots were liars and her previous bragging was all faked. You know how it goes.

        After reading several reviews of this book, I'm now curious what Lubert intends to say. His book seems to quite clearly prove the Odeh is a terrorist and her excuses are all lies.
        But at the same time, it explicitly calls her "beyond question a sympathetic figure" and wonders "There is no telling how much more Rasmea Odeh could have achieved in Chicago if the U.S. Department of Justice had not intervened".

        Maybe blown up a synagogue?

        1. Maybe wait and see what Prof. Lubet writes in his posts, or read the book. Even though your mind seems already made up, there is always a slight chance he knows more about the case than you.

          1. "The case"?
            The case about Odeh's deportation for falsifying her immigration application?
            I'd followed the case as it happened. While there is an excellent chance (=100%) he understands the law better than I do, I doubt there is anything important about the facts of the case he knows that I don't.
            But as I said above, I'm curious as to how he intends to present this topic, because it isn't often you get people defending open and unrepentant anti-Semitic terrorists here.

            1. That last is my interest too. Drinkwater seems more interested in insults than having any curiosity about this odd opportunity of learning something unexpected.

      2. As I recall, the train crew threatened to countersue for the emotional distress of watching a man go under their wheels. I forget if any money changed hands in the end. But Ortega is still, or rather again, in power -- I think the track-sitter was protesting America's anti-Sandinista policy.

        1. I don't remember precisely what they were protesting. I tried narrowing down the possible years, who was President, etc, but it was too long ago; sometime between 1986 and 1993. I always thought it a bit peculiar to pick on the Concord NWS in the first place, out in the middle of nowhere with poor publicity; and in the second place, their little group of tents and sporadic picketing seemed pretty half-hearted.

  3. Hi Eugene Volokh,

    You’ve recently written a lot about pseudonymous plaintiffs, but your analysis in my view misses the mark. You seem to focus a lot on the defendants, how it’s unfair for the defendants to be named but the plaintiff to remain anonymous, because “it wasn’t the defendant’s fault” for being hailed into court. Sure, that’s true to a certain extent, but how come you never consider the other, perhaps more common case – the defendant harmed the plaintiff in some way, and it was NEVER the PLAINTIFF’s goal to be hailed into court. The plaintiff has no choice but to use the court and legal system to stop a defendant’s tortuous actions.
    Think about the case of cyberstalking or cyber-harassment? Was it the plaintiff’s fault to be harassed, stalked, or doxed by the defendant, often times truly malicious people? No. The defendant chose to commit a crime, to harm the plaintiff, who has no choice but to commence legal action to stop the defendant from inflicting further harm? In this very frequent case, how is it not justifiable that the plaintiff SHOULD be granted a pseudonym for trial? The plaintiff is defending him/herself from the defendant’s attacks! If the plaintiff uses his real name, that means EVEN IF he wins the suit against the defendant and stops the attacks, he is still HARMED (and never made whole) due to the public disclosure of the case. So in privacy situations like this, I think it is absolutely necessary for the plaintiff to remain anonymous, simply for the fact that if he were to suffer defendant’s attacks, and ALSO forced to litigate using his real name, he would NEVER be made whole, rather he would be punished twice, once by the defendant and another time in the court of law just for exercising his legal rights. This is especially prevalent in the age of internet harassment where the entire offense in question is to “dox” victims, disclosing private or personal information for the purpose of harassing or ruining their life. A pseudonym is absolutely appropriate and should be granted in this case.
    If the defendant wants to also use pseudonym in this case, I think it would be fine for both parties to use pseudonym. But to frame the pseudonym litigant situation as somehow “an injustice” caused by the plaintiff “bringing” the defendant to court, is in my view, to grossly mischaracterize the truth – that in most cases the DEFENDANT THROUGH HIS MALICIOUS ACTIONS forces the plaintiff to use the court to defend himself.

    Your truly,

    1. 1) Such a plaintiff was not haled into court. He chose to go to court. He did in fact have the choice.

      2) Your argument doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The harm to the plaintiff from proceeding non-pseudonymously is that the case discloses private information about the plaintiff. But his complaint is that the defendant had already revealed that information, so the lawsuit doesn't further harm him.

      3) No, you don't get to assume that "in most cases" the plaintiff's claim has merit.

  4. Is this book being excerpted here because it covers an interesting personal story set in a political and legal milieu, or because it addresses important legal issues?

    If the latter, what are the legal issues involved? Did this case for example set a precedent in terms of what standards must be met or what evidence is admissable in a proceeding to revoke naturalized US citizenship?

    1. The only point of much legal interest seems to be around the appeals court overturning her 2014 conviction. The reason the appeals court overturned the verdict is that the trial judge excluded testimony from Odeh's expert witness that Odeh suffered from PTSD that "automatically" would have blocked her memories of the crimes and conviction, causing her to answer those questions falsely.

      Which seems like it's only interesting to the extent that it shows how quacks can be considered to be legitimate expert witnesses.

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