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Gainesville International Women's Day panel: Solidarity, Palestine and Rasmea Odeh

By Chrisley Carpio

Michela Martinazzi of University of Florida SDS speaks

Gainesville, FL – On March 18, University of Florida Students for Justice in Palestine, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) filled a room with about two dozen students and community members to celebrate International Women's Day. They hosted an educational panel titled, “Celebrating Women's Solidarity and Palestinian Activism,” which addressed the history of the holiday, the Palestinian women’s movement, and the trumped-up immigration charges against Palestinian women's rights activist Rasmea Odeh.

Farah Khan of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) opened the panel with a summary of the history of International Women's Day. She traced back its roots to the socialist movements of the early 1900s and spoke of the huge 1917 strike in czarist Russia. This massive strike, led mostly by women, demanded an end to poverty, war, and the oppression of workers, and cemented a long tradition of militant women leaders fighting for revolution against the ruling class.

Another SJP member, Tesneem Shraiteh, then connected International Women's Day to the crucial role played by women's organizations in the Palestinian liberation movement. She pointed out the existence of feminists who deny the oppression of women in countries occupied by the U.S. or its imperialist agents, such as Israel, and characterized their feminism as limited and damaging: “You have some Israeli women who identify as feminists and want equal rights for women, but not if you're Palestinian. Some feminists don't understand the imperialist borders around the women's movement, dividing women against each other along lines of class and race. But there can be no equality for women without equality for all.”

Michela Martinazzi, of University of Florida SDS, then presented the case of Rasmea Odeh, the Chicago Palestinian leader who is a long-time organizer for ending the occupation of Palestine. She was arrested last year and charged for immigration fraud, but she is only one of a long line of Arab, Muslim, or anti-war organizers facing political repression from the U.S. government. Martinazzi urged the event attendees to sign the petition to drop the charges against Rasmea Odeh.

Martinazzi stated even though International Women’s Day commemorates the victories of women – from suffrage to legendary workers' strikes – women progressives still face attacks on every front of society and the fight goes on: “This day should be a reminder of the struggles we've won and the challenges we've faced, but it should also be a reminder of the battles we have yet to win.”

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