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The future of DePaul Divest

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A protest at Arts and Letters Hall May 2014 by Students for Justice in Paletine (SPJ). Students wave the Palestinian flag in support of the DePaul Divest movement. (DePaulia File)

A protest at Arts and Letters Hall May 2014 by Students for Justice in Paletine (SPJ). Students wave the Palestinian flag in support of the DePaul Divest movement. (DePaulia File)

The Lincoln Park Student Center was the venue for a fundraiser last Tuesday on behalf of convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh, stirring controversy on campus amid recent developments regarding DePaul Divest.

The event, hosted by the Chicago chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), raised legal funds for Odeh, who was found guilty last November of concealing her arrest, conviction and imprisonment upon her immigration to the United States.

Odeh concealed that she was convicted on terror charges in Israel for her involvement in a 1969 bombing that killed two Israeli teenagers. She was released in a prisoner exchange in 1979 and immigrated to the United States in 1995.

Despite her confession, SJP disputed the conviction claiming that it was forced after Odeh endured weeks of torture in an Israeli prison.

“Israel released Odeh, so it is absolutely ridiculous to call her a terrorist,” Hanna Alshaikh, spokesperson for SJP DePaul said. “Odeh signed a forced confession after enduring rape and torture in an Israeli interrogation center for 25 days. This is a common practice by Israel used against Palestinians. We must look at this situation critically and with empathy.”

According to Alshaikh, the night consisted of Odeh’s defense committee and legal team speaking about her case, a spoken word, comedy and dance performances. The organization also met their fundraising goal of $5,000.

While being hailed a freedom fighter by some, Odeh’s presence on campus was not warmly received by all. Organizations including Students Supporting Israel and DePaul Hillel hosted a vigil remembering the two victims of the 1969 bombing.

“We really wanted to do it to commemorate the victims of Rasmea Odeh’s crime in 1969, which resulted in the death of two boys and we really just wanted to honor their memory because of the circumstances on campus,” Cameron Erickson, president of Students Supporting Israel at DePaul, said.

Erickson disputed the claims made by Odeh and her defenders, calling them “lies” and saying that there was no doubt that the confession was legitimate.

“For example, they say that it took her 25 days of torture and rape to get her to confess. But that’s just preposterous since she actually confessed in Arabic, a written confession, one day after she was arrested,” Erickson said.

“And also, there was a monitor from the International (Committee of the) Red Cross that was present at the trial,” he said. “And the International Red Cross is not the most pro-Israel organization, and they said that it was a fair trial.”

Alshaikh, however, points to a 99.7 percent conviction rate for Palestinians in Israeli military tribunals as evidence that Odeh was not given a fair trial.

“Considering the context of Rasmea Odeh’s case, one has a better understanding of why this is a human rights issue, a feminist issue and a Palestinian issue,” Alshaikh said. “To paint Odeh as a terrorist is to deny all context of Israeli occupation and is rooted in anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian bigotry.”

The stark differences of opinion regarding Odeh’s appearance on campus, and her role in the action that put her in her current situation, underscore the differences between supporters of Israel and supporters of Palestine.

On Jan. 30, DePaul’s Fair Business Practices Committee dismissed DePaul Divest’s case to divest from corporations that do business with the Israeli government and military, whom they argue are responsible for war crimes against Palestinians.

The issue came before the committee after a hotly-contested referendum was passed in support of divest in last May’s student government elections.

DePaul Divest rebooted in January as they prepared to take on the issue. They posted videos on social media and shared photos in support of divestment on their Facebook page and held a protest on the Lincoln Park campus last month. What is next for the initiative and its parent organization, SJP, is unclear. According to Alshaikh, the organization will come out with a press release soon.

After the decision, SSI released a statement saying “we applaud the committee’s hard work and final decision on this pressing issue. We at SSI are committed to further strengthening ties between the United States and Israel as well as DePaul and Israeli academic intuitions.”

Erickson was equally glad that the committee threw out the case.

“I think they made the right call because it shows that they’re not even going to give these types of bigoted complaints pushed by SJP the type of legitimacy of even having their case heard,” Erickson said.

While the divestment is still the official policy of the DePaul SGA, it is not clear whether the body will take any further action on the issue. And despite the official policy, several pro-Israel SGA senators attended the vigil, according to Erickson.

4 Comments

4 Responses to “The future of DePaul Divest”

  1. Arafat on February 9th, 2015 10:21 am

    Islam is indeed a crime against humanity, and its first victims are Muslims. I think that is why Muslims are so quick and ready to assume victimhood. On a subconscious level, they feel victimized, but in their search for the cause of their discomfort they incorrectly identify colonialism, crusades, Jews, racism, and so forth as the cause.
    For a Muslim to face up to the reality of Islam and to admit to oneself that Islam is the problem means to lose one’s identity. Hence the cognitive dissonance Muslims experience when Islam is called into question. Hence the scrambling for excuses and explanations that can convince the Muslims themselves that Islam is not the problem. And the explanations tend to be colonialism, crusades, Jews, racism, and so forth.
    When cultural Muslims refer to spurious arguments by Islamic apologists as a counterargument to brush aside direct quotes from the Qur’an and the hadiths, it is not that they are deliberately trying to deceive the non-Muslims. They are desperately clinging to the hope that Islam is not the problem. When they repeat the talking points of Islamic apologists explaining how Islam is a religion of peace, their primary aim is to convince (delude) themselves and make the cognitive dissonance go away at least momentarily, which then removes the immediate threat to their identity and postpones the inevitable confrontation.

  2. Arafat on February 9th, 2015 10:22 am

    As Nikolai Sennels said, a Muslim never sees himself as the cause of his own actions. It is all external reality and everything is the will of Allah or the fault of the Big Bad Infidel. Hence the eternal victimhood status, the rage, the search for external culprits, hence the jihad. You can’t expect anything else from people who are incapable of taking a long hard look at themselves and who have been told since the cradle that this look is only reserved for the infidels.

  3. Boyee on February 10th, 2015 6:09 pm

    Rasmea Odeh is a known murderer of two Israeli college student as well as lying on her immigration forms. She is the definition of a terrorist and belongs in jail for a life sentence without possibility of parole. Many time when I was a DePaul student I heard SJP telling only half the truth making the their stories non-factual and extremely biased.

  4. Boyee on February 10th, 2015 6:12 pm

    As a DePaul University alumnus, I am very disappointed and angry with my alma mater that they would allow fundraising for a terrorist murderer to take place on their campus.

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