Alex Odeh’s murder, 26 years ago, was an early sign of Southern California’s treatment of Palestinian dissent


Today is the 26th anniversary of the murder of Alex Odeh in Southern California. Odeh — the ADC West Coast director — was targeted because he spoke up on behalf of Palestinians, earning him the hate of the extremist Jewish Defense League (JDL). But what must be most noted about this case, is that even today, no one has been prosecuted for this hateful killing, a terrorist act that took place on US soil because of events related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is a failure of the state and in keeping with a Southern California tradition of a hostility to Palestinian dissent. I outline some of this history in this week’s The Nation where I compare the recent conviction of the “Irvine 11” to the 20-year witchhunt against the “LA 8”:

The [Irvine 11] prosecution had echoes of the government’s pursuit of the LA 8, eight students arrested in Los Angeles in 1987 for handing out leaflets on behalf of a Palestinian group with communist leanings. Though the publication was available in public libraries, on college campuses and even at the Library of Congress, the government pursued the case for twenty years, spending taxpayer dollars to use both the criminal justice and immigration systems to try to convict or deport the eight. In 2007 the charges were finally dropped.

Many have decried the potential chilling effect of the Irvine 11 case, but such
intimidation is not likely to work in the long run. “Such tactics don’t stifle debate or activism; what it does is propel it and energize it,” says Michel Shehadeh, one of the LA 8 defendants, reflecting on the similarities between the two cases. “If such tactics worked, then the Irvine 11 wouldn’t have happened, because the LA 8 happened twenty years ago.”