Alex Odeh

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Alex Odeh
Odeh in 1985
Alexander Michel Odeh

(1944-04-04)April 4, 1944
Died October 11, 1985(1985-10-11) (aged 41)
Cause of deathAssassinated in a terrorist attack
Alma materCairo University and Cal State Fullerton
OccupationCivil rights activist
OrganizationWest Coast regional director of the ADC
Known forPeace and resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Notable workWhispers in Exile.[1]
SpouseNorma Odeh
ChildrenHelena, Samya and Susan
WebsiteAlex Odeh

Alexander Michel Odeh (Arabic: اسكندر ميكل عودة; April 4, 1944 – October 11, 1985) was a Palestinian activist who was assassinated in a bombing in 1985. Odeh was the West Coast regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Life and murder[edit]

Born into a Palestinian Catholic family in Jifna, Mandatory Palestine, Odeh immigrated to the United States in 1972 at the age of 28.[2] He was a lecturer and poet who had published a volume of his poetry, Whispers in Exile.[1]

The Boston office of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee suffered a bombing on August 16, 1985, injuring two officers.[3] The Santa Ana bombing came the day after the ending of the Palestine Liberation Front–sponsored Achille Lauro hijacking in which Jewish American Leon Klinghoffer was killed.[4] 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.[1]

The day of his murder, October 11, he had been scheduled to speak at Friday prayer services at a synagogue in Fountain Valley, California.[5] 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.[6] Odeh was later killed by a bomb as he opened the door of his office at 1905 East 17th Street in Santa Ana, California.

Reaction to murder[edit]

The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee both condemned the murder. United States President Ronald Reagan sent a message of condolence.[1]

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."[7] He also said: "My tears were used up crying for Leon Klinghoffer."[8]

Helen Hatab Samhan, deputy director of the Arab American Institute in 1987, wrote that the murder of Odeh "shocked the Arab American community nation-side and demonstrated how political intolerance had crossed the line into anti-Arab terrorism on American soil."[9] She labeled the crime an example of "political racism," meaning racism that targeted pro-Palestine Arab viewpoints and individuals and groups associated with espousing those particular views.

Samhan also notes that FBI Director William Webster warned following Odeh's murder that "Arab individuals or those supporting Arab points of view have come within the zone of danger, targeted by a group as of yet to be fully identified and brought to justice."[9]

Criminal investigation[edit]

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."[10] 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.[7][11]

Immediately after the 1985 assassination the FBI identified three suspects, Robert Manning, Keith Fuchs and Andy Green, all of them believed to be affiliated with the JDL, who fled to Israel soon after the incident. 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.

Arrest and trial of Robert Manning[edit]

In 1988, the FBI arrested Rochelle Manning, Robert Manning's wife, as a suspect in a mail bombing which killed a computer company secretary, Patricia Wilkerson, in Manhattan Beach, California, in July 1980.[12] Rochelle Manning was also considered a possible suspect in Odeh's murder.[13] It also charged her husband, Robert Manning, who was 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 Tscherim Soobzokov.[14] 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.

In 1989, American journalist Chris Hedges discovered Robert Manning's residency in Kiryat Arba due to his use of a compromised alias.[15] The US government requested Robert Manning's extradition in 1991. It also requested Rochelle Manning be extradited for a retrial. After an unsuccessful two-year legal battle in the Israeli courts to prevent his extradition, Robert Manning was extradited in 1993.[4][16] Robert Manning was charged with the bombing attack that killed Wilkerson and convicted; in February 1994, Judge Dickran Tevrizian sentenced him to life imprisonment with a minimum of 30 years before parole. This was subsequently reduced to a minimum of 10 years before parole.[17][18][19] After some years imprisoned at USP Lompoc, Manning was transferred to the medium security federal prison in Phoenix, Arizona.[20][21] Rochelle Manning died in an Israeli prison on March 18, 1994, while awaiting extradition to the United States after the Israeli Supreme Court rejected her final appeal against extradition.[22]

Later developments[edit]

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[23][24] 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.[25]

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.[21][25] The reward is still in force.[26]

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, all of whom fled to Israel where they have avoided prosecution and extradition.. Manning is believed to have settled in West Bank Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba.[27][28][29]

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee continues to honor Odeh's memory and call for prosecution of his killers.[5][30] In October 2023, Robert Manning was granted parole and is set to be released in July 2024.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Andrew I. Killgore, Alex M. Odeh: American Martyr, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 4, 1985, 16.
  2. ^ ADC Remembers Alex Odeh, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee website, October 11, 2005.
  3. ^ Harvey W. Kushner, Encyclopedia of Terrorism, SAGE, 2003, 192-193 ISBN 0-7619-2408-6.
  4. ^ a b 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.
  5. ^ a b 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.
  6. ^ Juergensmeyer, Mark. Terror in the mind of God. 2003, p. 56.
  7. ^ a b Tom Tugend, Never Say Never Again, The Jerusalem Post, December 27, 2001.
  8. ^ Jewish Defense League FAQ web site page Archived 2006-10-05 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ a b Samhan, Helen Hatab (1987). "Politics and Exclusion: The Arab American Experience". Journal of Palestine Studies. 16 (2): 11–28. doi:10.2307/2537085. ISSN 0377-919X. JSTOR 2537085.
  10. ^ Judith Cummings, F.B.I. says Jewish Defense League may have planted fatal bombs The New York Times, November 9, 1985.
  11. ^ Jewish Defense League FAQ page Archived 2006-10-05 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ West, Nigel (August 15, 2017). Encyclopedia of Political Assassinations. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 187. ISBN 978-1-538-10239-8.
  13. ^ "Israel Orders Murder Suspect Returned to L.A. for Trial : Extradition: Rochelle Manning, 53, may also be responsible for the 1985 bombing death of Arab-American Alex Odeh in Santa Ana, police say". Los Angeles Times. August 17, 1993. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  14. ^ Fisher, Dan (July 30, 1988). "Bombing Trial Is Snarled in U.S.-Israeli Treaty Issue". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 1, 2023.
  15. ^ Hedges, Chris (November 1, 2007). "Israel's Toy Soldiers". Truthdig. Archived from the original on November 9, 2020. Retrieved January 9, 2022.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Robert Manning Sentenced to Life in Prison for 1980 Mail Bomb Killing
  18. ^ "Convicted Bomber Robert Manning Denies Any Role in Alex Odeh's Murder in Lawsuit – OC Weekly". July 19, 2017. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  19. ^ "FindLaw's United States Ninth Circuit case and opinions". Findlaw. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  20. ^ (No. 98500-012)
  21. ^ a b Tom Tugend, FBI offering $1 million reward in killing of U.S. Arab, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, September 6, 1996.
  22. ^ "Jailed California Woman Dies in Israel : Mideast: Settler Rochelle Manning, 54, was awaiting extradition for trial in a letter-bomb murder. She was a friend of Baruch Goldstein, who massacred about 30 Arabs". Los Angeles Times. March 19, 1994. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  23. ^ "Statue a Tribute to Slain Activist : Memorial: At unveiling, hundreds honor Palestinian American Alex Odeh, killed by a bomb in 1985. He is remembered as 'an advocate for justice for his people.'". Los Angeles Times. April 11, 1994. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  24. ^ "California Chronicle: Memorial Dedicated to Slain Activist Alex Odeh". WRMEA. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  25. ^ a b Pat McDonnell Twair, Alex Odeh Memorial Statue Vandalized in “Hate Crime”, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, April/May 1997, 77-68.
  26. ^ FBI page on Alex Odeh investigation Archived October 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ Greg Krikorian, Evidence emerges in ‘85 Santa Ana slaying, Los Angeles Times, October 11, 2007, B-1.
  28. ^ 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
  29. ^ Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, University of California Press 2003 pp.55-56.
  30. ^ 2008 ADC Board Resolutions at ADC web site.
  31. ^ "Important Update: Alex Odeh Investigation" (Press release). Washington, D.C. Retrieved October 6, 2023.


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