Kalamazoo, MI |October, 12th 2019
By Luma Qashou
On October 11th, 1985, Alex Odeh, a Palestinian activist, was murdered in the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee offices in Santa Ana, California when a pipe bomb exploded as he opened the door. Over 34 years later, Odeh’s case remains unresolved and no justice has been served.
Alex Odeh was a published poet, a father, a husband, and a human rights activist. He was the ADC’s Southern California Regional Director and was most well known for his work on the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. His life was dedicated to activism and peace work. With great generosity and compassion for justice, he fought for what was right and his fight was taken from him.
Alex Odeh was an anti-discrimination and Palestinian rights activist. Everyday, students on college campuses across the United States are working towards similar initiatives. As a Palestinian-American college student, it is not easy to navigate a system that wants to see you fail. Students organizing for Palestine consistently face intimidation and setbacks. When a friend and I founded a chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine just last year on our campus, we faced constant scrutiny, questioning, and we were told what not to do. Community members, faculty, and students were all skeptical and voiced their concerns and worries about our organization. I had to fight for my voice to be heard and my identity to be recognized by my own school. Why is my right to advocate for my identity and land made less than by institutions? Why is being Palestinian and wanting to talk about it problematic? These are the questions I ask myself. My identity is political, my family tree is political, and the Palestinian people’s existence is political. It’s not going anywhere.
Alex Odeh’s work is still inspiring people to continue to carry out his goals and take them on in their own ways. Odeh was known for reaching out to the Jewish community and engaging in dialogue about the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict when others did not. Even on the day of his murder, Odeh had been scheduled to speak at Friday prayer services at Congregation B’Nai Tzedek, a synagogue in Fountain Valley, California. His efforts to create peaceful spaces for inter-faith unity and dialogue surrounding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict are inspiring. I aspire to foster such dialogues as Odeh has. Alex Odeh continues to inspire the voices of the younger generations as they get louder and louder. Today, he inspires myself and others to make peaceful connections in our communities regarding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. Collaborating and working with my peers in other student organizations to create similar spaces on our campus has been very challenging. I still struggle with the best way to navigate these obstacles but along the way I have never given up hope.
The Palestinian people do not know a life without struggle. They fight for a land that was taken, they fight for the lives that were taken far too soon, they fight for their culture, food, humanity, agency and freedom, and they keep fighting even when the respect for their own lives was stripped away. Nevertheless, the Palestinian people across the world are strong and to exist is to resist.
Odeh built bridges beyond his own community. He truly recognized, as Martin Luther King Jr. said “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Born and raised in Palestine, Odeh was not a stranger to racial segregation. Dedicating his life to civil rights and grassroots activism, he knew that the unceasing struggle for justice was a struggle all over the world.
Alex Odeh’s work was and still is very special. Odeh’s case is one of many. 34 years later, no arrests have been made and no one has been prosecuted. Still standing is a $1 million reward from the FBI for information leading to the arrest or conviction of the person or persons responsible for his murder. The Palestinian community demands justice for Alex Odeh. His story will not be forgotten with the passage of time as it is one that continues to be repeated.
Luma Qashou is a Sophomore at Kalamazoo College studying Chemistry and Spanish. She is the Founder and President of SJP KZOO, works on the Food and Farming Justice Design Team, and is a member of the POC Acapella Team, ACAPOC.