Alex Odeh (April 4, 1944 – October 11, 1985) was an Arab-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).
Born into a Palestinian Christian family in Jifna, the West Bank, Odeh immigrated to the US in 1972. He was a lecturer and poet who recently 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 Achille Lauro incident where Jewish American Leon Klinghoffer was killed. The night before his death Odeh denied to the media that the Palestine Liberation Organization 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 militant organization which has been characterized by the FBI as a terrorist group involved in numerous attacks within the United States.
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 has 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. In 1987 it was revealed that Israel was hindering the FBI investigation. Floyd Clarke, then assistant director of the FBI, claimed in an internal memo that key suspects had fled to Israel and were living in the West Bank town of Kiryat Arba. 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. Both were members of the JDL. Rochelle's jury deadlocked, and after the mistrial she left for Israel to join her husband. Robert Manning was extradited from Israel to the U.S. in 1993. He is serving a life sentence on that charge.
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 individuals now living in Israel.