In this edition of From the Vault, hosted by Pacifica Radio guest-producer Gabriel San Roman, we look back on the October 11th, 1985 murder of Arab-American poet, lecturer, and political activist Alex Odeh in Santa Ana, California.
Born in Palestine in 1944, Odeh lived his life as a poet, lecturer and Arab-American peace activist both in the Middle East and Orange County, California, where he relocated in 1972. In 1982, the Odeh joined the newly-formed American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a group focused on combating Arab stereotypes in the media and bias in Middle East reporting; a year later, he became the West Coast Regional Coordinator, setting up an office in Santa Ana, California. Because of his outspoken nature and embrace of controversial viewpoints regarding Palestine and other actors in the Middle East, death threats were leveled at Odeh on nearly a daily basis.
On October 10, 1985, a local California television station interviewed Odeh about the Achilles Lauro cruise ship hijacking, and murder of American cruise passenger Leon Klinghoffer. Odeh, while broadly condemning terrorism in the interview, also admonished the media for so quickly assigning blame to the Palestine Liberation Organization (which ultimately did take full responsibility for Klinghoffer's murder). The next day, as Odeh arrived at work and opened his office door, a powerful bomb exploded, killing him instantly.
Featured today is a 1986 recording from the Pacifica Radio Archives, originally aired on KPFK radio in Los Angeles under the title Political Terrorism in the United States: The Assassination of Alex Odeh. Produced by Diane James and Michael Bogopolsky, this documentary features the voices of Odeh, his family members, the FBI representatives, and members of the Jewish Defense League.
From the Vault is presented as part of the Pacifica Radio Archives Preservation and Access Project, funded in part by an award from the GRAMMY Foundation and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission at the National Archives and Records Administration, and past grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford Foundation, and the American Archive funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, along with the generous support of Pacifica Radio Listeners. We also thank our partners and collaborators at the Pop-Up Archive, Amara, Other Minds Archives, George Blood Audio, and the California Audio Visual Preservation Project.