By Mahmoud El-Yousseph
October 22, 2009
Alex Odeh was a professor of Middle East History and Arabic Language in Santa Ana, California. He was a U.S. citizen and a Palestinian Roman Catholic who immigrated to the U.S. in 1972, and served as the West Coast Regional Director of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, [ADC].
I had the privilege of meeting Alex once at an ADC convention in our nation’s capitol in the Summer of 1985. I served in a similar capacity as Alex, and was a volunteer media coordinator for the ADC chapter in my home state. Alex, a typically gracious Arab, refused to accept money from me when I picked up a copy of his new book, “Whispers in Exile.” As he said to me–“It is a gift!”
I departed the next day to North Carolina to serve my first two weeks annual tour as a reservist at Pope Air Force Base. Upon my return home, I learned about the tragic death of Alex Odeh in the news.
It took place at 9:00 A.M. on October 11, 1985 as he tried to unlock his office which triggered a powerful pipe bomb. Alex Ode’s face and chest were torn apart.
The day this peace advocate was brutally murdered, he was scheduled to speak at Friday prayer service at a Synagogue in Fountain Valley, California.
The prime suspect of Alex’s murder was a member of the Jewish Defense League [JDL], who fled to Israel. Israel (surprise, surprise) refused to extradite him or allow the FBI to question him. JDL was at that time the #1 domestic terrorist organization on the FBI list.
One day before Alex’s brutal murder, a Jewish American passenger, Leon Klinghoffer sailing aboard the cruise ship Achille Lauro in the Mediterranean Sea was also tragically murdered and his body thrown overboard. The mastermind of the hijacking was arrested 20 years later by our U.S. special forces following the fall of Baghdad. According to the official account, he died of a heart attack while in U.S. custody.
Unlike Klinghoffer’s murder that received front page coverage in America’s newspapers, Alex’s death was reported in the back pages. There were no pictures of him, his grieving wife, Norma, or their three daughters Helena, Samia, and Susan, who were all under the age of 10 when their father was robbed from them by Jewish assassins.
Klinghoffer was nominated by Congress for a Medal of Honor. Alex’s family received a bomb threat during his funeral. Mrs. Klinghoffer received a condolence call from President Reagan. Mrs. Odeh received a letter from Reagan addressed to Alex, thanking him for his financial contribution and asking for more.
It is worth nothing here that in April of 1994 the city of Santa Ana erected a statue of Alex Odeh in front of its Central Library. Since the time of it being erected, it has been vandalized twice, the most recent one when someone poured two gallons of red paint on the statue. For some people shame has no boundaries.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush vowed to hunt down the terrorists and bring them to justice. This warning is dandy, but why ignore other acts of terrorism committed on American soil, and why discriminate among the victims of terror?
Zero tolerance against terrorism means going after terrorists regardless of their religion. It also means targeting countries that provide them with safe haven. The Jewish Defense League has publicly praised the senseless murder of Alex Odeh. JDL publicly stated in reaction to Alex’s murder, “He got exactly what he deserved.”
It is time that news organizations in our country quit repeatedly playing the old record, “why do they hate us” and instead ask the question “what did we do wrong or fail to do?”
Since we know who Alex’s killers are and where they are hiding, why not shut down their offices, freeze their bank accounts, and go after them to help bring them to justice, just as we would (and have) with other “terrorist“ entities?
Then, and only then will there be peace, when at last there is the foundation upon which peace rests, meaning JUSTICE.
Retired USAF Veteran