Alex Odeh (April 4, 1944 – October 11, 1985) was an Arab-American (specifically, Palestinian American) anti-discrimination activist who was killed in a bombing as he opened the door of his office at 1905 East 17th Street, Santa Ana, California. Odeh was west-coast regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).
Life and murder
Born into a Palestinian Christian (Latin rite Catholic) family in Jifna, the West Bank, Odeh immigrated to the United States in 1972. He was a lecturer and poet who had published a volume of his poetry, Whispers in Exile.
The Boston office of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee suffered a bombing on August 16, 1985, injuring two officers. The Santa Ana bombing came the day after the ending of the Palestine Liberation Front–sponsored Achille Lauro attack in which Jewish American Leon Klinghoffer was killed. The night before his death Odeh denied to the media that the PLO was involved in the hijacking and portrayed Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat as being ready to make peace. The day of his murder he had been scheduled to speak at Friday prayer services at a synagogue in Fountain Valley, California.
Shortly before his killing, Odeh appeared on the television show Nightline. The program featured a back-and-forth between Odeh and a representative from the Jewish Defense League, a Jewish armed militant organization which has been characterized by the FBI as a terrorist group involved in numerous attacks within the United States.
Reaction to murder
Irv Rubin, who had become chairman of the Jewish Defense League (JDL) the same year, immediately made several public statements in reaction to the incident. "I have no tears for Mr. Odeh," Rubin said. "He got exactly what he deserved." He also said: "My tears were used up crying for Leon Klinghoffer."
Four weeks after Odeh's death, FBI spokesperson Lane Bonner stated the FBI attributed the bombing and two others to the JDL. Rubin criticized the FBI for implying his organization's guilt without evidence, saying the FBI "could take their possible link and shove it." In February 1986, the FBI classified the bombing that killed Alex Odeh as a terrorist act. In July they eased away from their original position, saying the JDL was "probably" responsible for this attack and four others, but that final attribution to the JDL or any other group "must await further investigation." Rubin again denied the JDL's involvement. "What the FBI is doing is simple," he stated, "Some character calls up a news agency or whatever and uses the phrase Never Again, ... and on that assumption they can go and slander a whole group. That's tragic." The JDL denied any involvement in Odeh's killing.
Immediately after the 1985 assassination the FBI identified three suspects, all of them believed to be affiliated with the JDL, who fled to Israel. Floyd Clarke, then assistant director of the FBI, claimed in an internal memo that key suspects had fled to Israel and were living in Kiryat Arba, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. In 1988, the FBI arrested Rochelle Manning as a suspect in a mail bombing which killed a secretary, Patricia Wilkerson, in Manhattan Beach, California. It also charged her husband, Robert Manning, who they considered a prime suspect in the Odeh bombing. Manning had previously been convicted of a 1972 bombing of the home of an Arab activist in Hollywood, and was a suspect in three other bombings in 1985, one of which killed a Neo-Nazi. Both Rochelle and Robert Manning were members of the JDL. Rochelle's jury deadlocked, and after the mistrial she left for Israel to join her husband. The U.S. government requested Manning's extradition in 1991. After an unsuccessful two-year legal battle in the Israeli courts to prevent his extradition, Manning was extradited in 1993.  Manning was charged with the bombing attack that killed Wilkerson and convicted; in February 1994, Judge Dickran Tevrizian sentenced him to 30 years to life in prison.
In April 1994, the Alex Odeh Memorial Statue, created by Algerian-American sculptor Khalil Bendib, was erected in front of the Santa Ana Central Library over protests by the Jewish Defense League. On October 11, 1996, the eleventh anniversary of his murder, vandals defaced the statue. On February 6, 1997 vandals poured two gallons of red paint on the statue. JDL chairman Irv Rubin commented: “I think the guy [Odeh] is a war criminal.” The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee called for greater government efforts to catch Odeh's killers.
On August 27, 1996, the FBI announced a $1 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Odeh’s killers. JDL members heckled the FBI spokespersons announcing the reward. The reward is still in force.
In 2007, the FBI revealed they had received information from a deceased informant, believed to be former Jewish Defense League member Earl Krugel, who had been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for 2001 plots to bomb a Southern California mosque and office of an Arab American congressman. It is believed that Irv Rubin, who died in prison while awaiting trial on the same charges, revealed to Krugel the names of those responsible for Odeh’s death and Krugel shared those with the FBI before he, too, died in prison. The bombers are believed to be Manning and two other JDL activists, Keith Fuchs and Andy Green, who also fled to Israel and are believed to be living in Kiryat Arba.
- ADC Remembers Alex Odeh, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee website, October 11, 2005 .
- Andrew I. Killgore, Alex M. Odeh: American Martyr, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 4, 1985, 16.
- Harvey W. Kushner, Encyclopedia of Terrorism, SAGE, 2003, 192-193 ISBN 0-7619-2408-6
- Michael K. Bohn, The Achille Lauro Hijacking: Lessons in the Politics and Prejudice of Terrorism, Brassey's Inc., 2004, 67, ISBN 1-57488-779-3
- ADC Observes “Alex Odeh Day”: Organization Calls on FBI and State Department to Redouble Effort in Ongoing Investigation of Terrorist Attack, ADC web site, October 2008.
- Juergensmeyer, Mark. Terror in the mind of God. 2003, page 56
- Tom Tugend, Never Say Never Again, Jerusalem Post, December 27, 2001.
- Jewish Defense League FAQ web site page.
- Judith Cummings, F.B.I. says Jewish Defense League may have planted fatal bombs The New York Times, November 9, 1985.
- Jewish Defense League FAQ page.
- Bombing Suspect Returned to U.S. : Extradition: Robert Manning leaves Israel to face trial in the killing of a Manhattan Beach secretary. Officials also believe that he is responsible for the death of an Arab activist - Reich, Kenneth. Los Angeles Times
- Robert Manning Sentenced to Life in Prison for 1980 Mail Bomb Killing
- Tom Tugend, FBI offering $1 million reward in killing of U.S. Arab, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, September 6, 1996.
- Pat McDonnell Twair, Alex Odeh Memorial Statue Vandalized in “Hate Crime”, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, April/May 1997, 77-68.
- FBI page on Alex Odeh investigation Archived October 25, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
- Greg Krikorian, Evidence emerges in ‘85 Santa Ana slaying, Los Angeles Times, October 11, 2007, B-1.
- Friedman, Robert I., The California Murder Case That Israel Is Sweeping Under the Rug : Justice: In 1985, Alex Odeh was killed by a pipe bomb in Orange County. The FBI has three suspects, but they are in Israel; extradition is unlikely, Los Angeles Times, May 13, 1990
- 2008 ADC Board Resolutions at ADC web site.
- Americans for Middle East Understanding: An Interview with Ellen Nassab at the Wayback Machine (archived October 20, 2007)
- Erik Skindrud, Twenty years later, still no charges in Alex Odeh assassination, The Electronic Intifada, December 6, 2006.
- Santa Ana Library photograph of Alex Odeh statue
- Democracy Now!, FBI Urged to Reopen Probe Into 1985 Assassination of Arab-American Leader Alex Odeh in California, broadcast 17 Oct 2013 (video, audio, and transcript available)