28 years after the assassination of Alex Odeh on October 11, 1985 at the offices of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) in Santa Ana, California, civil rights groups, along with members of Congress, are pressing the Justice Department to renew the investigate into Odeh’s murder.
Alex Odeh was a Palestinian-American civil rights leader, a peace activist and ADC’s Southern California Regional Director. A lecturer of Middle East history at Coastline College in Santa Ana, he dedicated his life to “the defense of civil liberties at home, and civil and human rights abroad,” Odeh was scheduled to speak at a Friday prayer service at a synagogue in Fountain Valley, CA the day of his murder.
His life ended and seven other people were injured when an powerful pipe bomb exploded as he opened the door to his office at ADC’s regional headquarters. Although the FBI declared the attack an act of domestic terrorism and identified suspects, saying they believed the bombing was the responsibility of the Jewish Defense League, no one was ever questioned or indicted for the crime.
Congressperson Loretta Sanchez, representing Californian’s 46th district which includes Santa Ana, wrote US attorney general Eric Holder requesting information on the investigation. AP reports Rep. John Conyers, past chairman and ranking member of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, has stated he wants the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations to convene a hearing on the bombing:
“We’re going to pursue it vigorously and we’re not going to let any more time lapse,” Conyers said. “We’re going to continue to help all of the organizations that are involved build up more and more support for us getting to where we ought to be in terms of a horrific, violent crime that has, I think, been put on the back burner for far too long.”
Now the ADC and a coalition of other civil rights groups, including the NAACP and prominent members of Congress, have come together to try to kickstart what they see as a moribund investigation……..
In the aftermath of the bombing, the FBI named the Jewish Defense League, JDL, as a focus of its investigations. The league, formed in 1968 by a Brooklyn-based lawyer called Rabbi Meir Kahane, devoted itself to a violent form of anti-Arab Jewish nationalism, and advocated Jews defending themselves “by any means necessary”.
The group was linked to a wave of bombings across the US in the 1980s, and was classified by the FBI as a rightwing terrorist group in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. According to Rebecca Vilkomerson of the advocacy group Jewish Voices for Peace, some of the original suspects may now be living in Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territory of the West Bank.
Benjamin Jealous, the president of the NAACP, likened the Odeh case to that of Medgar Evers, the civil rights activist killed in 1963 in Mississippi. It took 30 years to bring his assassin, Byron De La Beckwith of the White Citizens’ Council, to justice.
Asked why after so many years Odeh’s killers had yet to be indicted, Jealous said that often a “residue of discrimination gums up the wheels of justice in bringing cases to a close. It would be foolhardy to believe that police and prosecutors are all completely immune from the bias of discrimination that leads some people to believe that some lives are worth less than others.”
For more information on the suspects, and news report footage stating the FBI told congress the bombing suspects were Jewish extremists who “may be receiving support from Israel” I recommend the video above.
ADC, NAACP, JVP and others have launched a petition demanding Alex Odeh’s murderers be brought to justice. Demand justice, please sign the petition.