Remembering Alex Odeh: 36 Years of Justice Delayed, Justice Denied

“He always fought for the truth. He gave his life for it. Today, we celebrate his life, his work and his legacy.”

Nearly four decades after the terrorist attack and no one has been brought to justice for the assassination of a civil rights hero.


Washington, D.C. | | October 11, 2021 – Today, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and all Arab Americans once again commemorate a somber day. Thirty-six years ago, on October 11, 1985, Alex Odeh was assassinated when a pipe bomb exploded as he opened the door to the ADC West Coast office in Santa Ana, California. Alex died at a nearby hospital shortly after the attack. Alex is survived by his wife Norma, and their three daughters Helena, Samya and Susan.

Following Alex’s assassination in 1985, the FBI classified the bombing as an act of domestic terrorism and designated the investigation as one of the highest national priority. Despite solid leads, as well as advancements in technology and forensics that could aid in the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators, no arrests have been made.

It is important to remember the context of the terrorist bombing that took Alex’s life. It was not simply a hate crime, it was part of a series of attacks that targeted ADC offices across the country, including in Boston and Washington, D.C. This was a concerted effort by Israeli terrorist organization(s) to silence ADC. One suspected group behind the attack is the Jewish Defense League (JDL). The JDL, and other Israeli extremists adhere to the teachings of radical Rabbi Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the JDL. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the JDL  has orchestrated countless terrorist attacks in the U.S. and abroad, and has engaged in intense harassment of foreign diplomats, Muslims, Jewish scholars and community leaders, and officials.To call what happened to Alex on October 11, 1985 anything less than the terrorist bombing that it was is reductive and willfully ignores the serious threat Arab Americans in the U.S. face from pro-Israeli terror groups such as the JDL, and other Israeli extremists.

Investigative journalists over the years have indicated that the FBI identified members of the JDL as those responsible for the targeted terror attack. Two of those suspects currently live in an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank. As of today no members of the JDL have ever been publicly named as suspects in the attack, nor have any members of the JDL ever been charged or prosecuted in connection with Alex’s assassination.

One of the primary suspects in the case, Robert Manning, is currently in prison for the 1980 mail bombing of the Prowest Computer Corp. in which an employee, Patricia Wilkerson, was killed. Manning, who fled to Israel after Alex’s assassination, was extradited to the U.S. to face murder charges in the Wilkerson killing. He was eventually convicted of the bombing death of Wilkerson in 1993. ADC has vigorously pushed back against Manning in his parole hearings – it is imperative that he remain in custody so he does not flee to Israel where he would be allowed to live freely under the protection of the occupying Government of Israel.

We demand that the Department of Justice (DOJ) take action against those responsible for taking Alex from us. ADC is communicating with Attorney General Merrick Garland and the DOJ, pressuring the Department to take immediate action and bring justice to those responsible for the assassination of Alex. ADC is also requesting that the DOJ provide a public update on the investigation into the terrorist attack, and answer why after 36 years there still have been no arrests.

On this 36th Anniversary, we vow to reinforce our work and commitment in bringing justice for Alex and his family.  We will continue to publicly pressure the DOJ and FBI to bring the murderers to justice. We are also working with Congressional members to elevate this case. In September of this year Representative Lou Correa (D-CA), who represents the district where Alex lived, worked, and died, introduced H.Res 695, a Congressional Resolution recognizing Alex as a civil rights hero, and demanding that those responsible be brought to justice. The resolution is co-sponsored by Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), the first Palestinian-American woman to be a member of Congress, and life long civil rights and peace advocate. This is the first piece of legislation which specifically acknowledges Alex’s life, work, and death.

In a parallel effort, ADC was joined by nearly two dozen civil society organizations in calling on Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) to convene a House Judiciary Committee hearing into the assassination of Alex Odeh. The last hearing on the case was 35 years ago, and it is long past time for Congress to take an active role in pressing the DOJ for answers.

After joining the organization in 1982, Alex quickly rose to the forefront of combatting stereotyping of Arabs and biased reporting. He fought tirelessly to build unity between Jews, Muslims and Christians in southern California. On the day of his assassination, Alex was scheduled to give a speech at Congregation B’nai Tzadek, a synagogue in Fountain Valley.

Prior to his murder, Alex had already been the victim of numerous hate-filled threats to his life and safety simply because of his advocacy for Arab-American and Palestinian-American rights. An exemplary and dynamic civil rights activist, he never let the threats deter him from his important work. In 2013, then-NAACP President Ben Jealous wrote an op-ed for the Huffington Post comparing Alex to civil rights icon Medgar Evers, both in life and in death. The only difference that was noted is that, “unlike Medgar Evers, however, the name Alex Odeh remains unrecognizable for too many Americans, and his murder remains unresolved.”

Alex was born in the Palestinian village of Jifna in 1944. He was a firsthand witness to the dispossession and disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people. In 1972, he brought those experiences to America.  Like thousands of his Palestinian Arab brethren, Alex used art to speak about the Palestinian struggle for human rights, once publishing a volume of poetry dedicated to that cause. Today, he continues to stand as a model of perseverance and dedication to all Arab Americans and Palestinian Americans.

Alex Odeh dedicated his life to ADC and social justice. He always fought for the truth. He gave his life for it. Today, we celebrate his life, his work and his legacy, and recommit ourselves to getting justice for him and his family.

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