WASHINGTON (Jul. 17)
An official of the FBI said Wednesday that the FBI had “suspects in the case” of Alex Odeh, the West Coast regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), who was killed by a bomb trip-wired to the front of his office in Santa Ana, California last October II.
But Oliver Revell, assistant executive director of the FBI, told the House Judiciary subcommittee on Criminal Justice, that there was not enough evidence yet to indict anyone.
While not naming names, Revell said “Jewish extremist elements” were responsible for Odeh’s death and possibly a bomb that exploded outside the ADC’s Boston office. But he stressed that “no particular group” was involved. Revell told reporters later that “we are dealing with a very few individuals who have come together on an ad hoc basis.” He was testifying before the subcommittee’s hearing on an increase in violence against Arab Americans.
“We are deeply concerned that the federal investigation of Odeh’s death and the Boston bombing have not produced a single indictment,” Rep. John Conyers (D. Mich.) said. But Revell said the Odeh case has the “highest priority” and “I truly believe we will solve it.”
CLAIM ANTI-ARAB HYSTERIA
Two Arab-American members of Congress, Reps. Nick Joe Rahall (D. W. Va.) and Mary Rose Oakar (D. Ohio), charged that stereotyping by the Administration, some members of Congress and especially the media have created an “anti-Arab hysteria.”
James Abourezk, ADC’s chairman, charged that when President Reagan “demagogues for three weeks about the murder of Leon Klinghoffer,” who was killed by Palestinian terrorists aboard the hijacked Achille Lauro, “and is absolutely silent about the murder of Alex Odeh” this “is a signal that it is alright to do this kind of physical violence” to Arab Americans.
RESPONSE BY JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS
David Gordis, executive vice president of the American Jewish Committee, stressed that his organization had condemned Odeh’s murder and has urged the FBI to find those responsible.
He said that after Odeh’s death there were threats to Jewish organizations and synagogues in Orange County where Santa Ana is located. “The American Jewish Committee and other Jewish organizations have attempted to repair the damage done by the bombing to relations between Arab Americans and Jewish Americans,” he said.
The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith distributed a statement in the hearing room in which its national director, Nathan Perlmutter, “deplored ethnically or racially motivated violence, harassment or defamation directed against any group of Americans.” Gordis noted that the AJCommittee has long worked “to counter ethnic stereotyping of any and all ethnic groups, including Arab Americans.” But he stressed that it is not ethnic stereotyping when any organization disagrees “with the merits of domestic and foreign policy questions of Arab-American.” Gordis warned that any campaign against stereotyping must not be used to defame another group or country.
“It is well-documented that one of the important policy goals of a number of Arab-American organizations has been to weaken American cooperation with and assistance to Israel,” he said. “In carrying out this campaign, these organizations have improperly sought to limit legitimate statements of positions by casting doubt on bona fides of Americans, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who support Israel.”
David Sadd, executive director of the National Association of Arab Americans, charged that Arab Americans have been prevented from getting their message to the public because of threats from Jews which forced newspapers and radio stations to reject their advertisements.
Conyer expressed satisfaction at the appearance of Abourezk, Sadd and Gordis together before the subcommittee.
NEED TO SIT DOWN AND TALK
Hyman Bookbinder, the retiring Washington representative of the American Jewish Committee, pointed out that he and other Jewish leaders and the Arab Americans have frequently appeared together and discussed their differences.
“I would like to see that habit also established by Arab leaders in the Middle East to sit down with Israelis and talk about their differences,” Bookbinder said. Abourezk interjected that “I would hope that his desire for a dialogue between Arab leaders and Israeli leaders would include the PLO.”
Gordis had asserted in his statement earlier that “It is also our strongly held conviction that those who support the PLO, without condemning its terrorist nature, encourage terrorism.” Perlmutter, in his statement, urged “Arab American groups to follow the lead of the major American Jewish organizations which have been quick to condemn violence and terrorism — no matter the source.”