Northwestern University president Morton O. Schapiro joined a vigil late Monday for two slain Israeli students outside a forum featuring Rasmea Odeh, who served time for the terrorist attack that killed them.
Slated to be deported for entering the country illegally, Odeh spoke at the invitation of Students for Justice in Palestine Northwestern at an event entitled, “When you come for Rasmea, you come for all of us.”
Photos taken outside her speech at the campus tech institute showed more than 100 people, including Mr. Schapiro, holding candles and photos of Hebrew University students Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner, who were killed in a 1969 terrorist bombing at a Jerusalem supermarket.
“He attended the vigil to show his support for the students who were slain,” said Northwestern spokesman Bob Rowley in an email. “He held a candle in silence with the others, some 120 people, gathered outside. One of the signs at the vigil read, ‘May their memories be for a blessing.’”
Northwestern Hillel, which organized the vigil, said in a statement posted on Legal Insurrection that, “Students for Justice in Palestine chooses to honor Rasmea; we choose to honor her victims.”
“While we respect Students for Justice in Palestine’s right to host programming that presents narratives critical of Israel, bringing a convicted terrorist to our campus is morally disturbing and crosses the line of rational discourse,” said Wildcats for Israel in a statement.
A member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Odeh served 10 years for her role in the bombing and a second attack on the British Consulate before being released as part of a prisoner exchange.
The 69-year-old Chicago community activist pleaded guilty last month to failing to disclose her conviction and prison sentence on her U.S. visa application, part of a deal with the Justice Department in which she agreed to be deported to Jordan in exchange for no jail time.
Despite her terrorism background, Odeh has been embraced by the social-justice movement and by the Palestinian movement. She spoke last month at a conference sponsored by the pro-Palestinian group Jewish Voices for Peace in Chicago.
The Daily Northwestern reported that about 50 people attended the speech, one of several events held as part of SJP’s annual Israel Apartheid Week.
Also speaking at the forum with Odeh was University of Illinois at Chicago professor Nadine Naber.
“Despite all the structures of power, violence and oppression that I’ve been talking about, she has continued to stay strong and speak up and serve as a mentor to so many of us and so many of our movements,” Ms. Naber said. “She is an embodiment of Arab and Muslim struggles against colonialism, war and racism.”
The pro-Israel group StandWithUs denounced the speech as a “last stab” to promote Odeh as a “social justice icon” before her deportation.
Her sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 17 before U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin A. Drain in Detroit, at which time she is slated to be stripped of her citizenship.
Odeh has argued that she confessed to the bombings after being tortured by Israeli authorities, which prosecutors have disputed.
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