Demanding Answers in Unsolved Murder of Palestinian-American Activist Alex Odeh

Jewish Extremists Suspected in 1985 Calif. Bomb Slay

Whodunnit: Jewish extremists have long been suspected in the assassination of Arab-American activist Alex Odeh. Why can’t the FBI solve the 1985 murder?
Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee
Whodunnit: Jewish extremists have long been suspected in the assassination of Arab-American activist Alex Odeh. Why can’t the FBI solve the 1985 murder?

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published October 16, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Civil rights groups are demanding that the FBI solve a 28-year-old California murder long thought to be the work of Jewish extremists.

Alex Odeh, the Palestinian-American regional director of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, was killed in October 1985 by a pipe bomb that exploded when he opened his office door. No one has ever been charged in the case.

Now, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee has launched a campaign to draw attention to the unsolved killing, in cooperation with other civil rights groups and members of Congress.

“Twenty-eight years is a long time, and, with all due respect, too long a time,” said Michigan Congressman John Conyers on a conference call announcing the effort.

NAACP president Ben Jealous and ADC president Warren David spoke on the call, as did Jewish Voice for Peace executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson.

Though officially unsolved, press reports have named a handful of suspects in Odeh’s murder over the past three decades, often sourcing the reports to FBI officials. An FBI spokesman said in the immediate aftermath of the murder that it believed the Jewish Defense League was responsible for the bombing, though officials later would only say that they suspected Jewish extremists.

Reports in 1990 by Robert I, Friedman, a Village Voice journalist who has since died, named Jewish Defense League members then living in Israel as suspects.

Founded in 1968 by Rabbi Meir Kahane, who went on to found the banned Kach party in Israel, the JDL was a Brooklyn vigilante group with an underground terrorist wing. JDL members bombed Soviet targets in the United States in the early 1970s to protest the treatment of Soviet Jews. A smoke bomb it set in 1973 ended up asphyxiating a young Jewish secretary employed by a Sol Hurok, a Jewish performing arts promoter who managed concert tours for Soviet classical musicians.

Kahane moved to Israel in 1971, but the group continued its U.S. activism and its terrorist violence without him. The day after the Odeh murder, JDL chairman Irv Rubin brushed off the attack.

“I’m certainly not going to lose any sleep over it,” Rubin said. Later, Rubin was harsher. “No Jew or American should shed one tear for the demise of Mr. Odeh,” Rubin said. “Regarding the death of Mr. Odeh, unfortunate as it may be, as they say, ‘What goes around comes around.”’

In a television interview the day before the bombing, Odeh said that Palestinian Liberation Organization head Yasser Arafat was not involved in the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro days before, and that Arafat was a “man of peace.” Arafat maintained at the time and throughout his life that he was not involved in the Achille Lauro hijacking, though some have questioned his account.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.