The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI have offered a $1 million reward to solve the 11-year-old bombing death of a local Arab American activist.
The reward would be given to anyone who provides information leading to a conviction in the 1985 slaying.
The FBI has taken the unusual step of inserting sizable paid ads in Jewish newspapers to publicize the reward in the Jewish community.
Alexander Michel Odeh, the Western regional director of the American-Arab Anti- Discrimination Committee, was killed by a booby trap when he opened the door to his office Oct. 11, 1985, in Santa Ana, Calif.
Odeh had appeared the previous day on a television program during which he condemned terrorism but praised Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat as “a man of peace.”
Odeh, 41, a Palestinian who came to the United States in 1972, was generally considered a moderate voice within the Arab American community.
Orders to track down the perpetrators of the killing with renewed vigor came from the highest authorities in Washington, with U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno declaring, “We hope that this reward will lead to justice in this case, and I encourage anyone with information to come forward.”
Over the years, federal authorities have frequently cited Robert Manning, a Los Angeles-born Israeli and veteran Jewish Defense League member, as a key suspect in the Odeh case.
Manning, then a resident of Kiryat Arba in the West Bank, was extradited by Israel to stand trial in Los Angeles on an unrelated and non-political charge involving the 1980 mail bomb death of a secretary at a local computer firm.
He was found guilty and is now serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison. However, under the terms of the U.S.-Israel extradition treaty, Manning could only be tried for the specific 1980 killing and cannot be prosecuted for any other alleged crimes.
Three other Americans living in Israel have been mentioned as suspects. At least two of them are former JDL members, said JDL national chairman Irv Rubin.
Rubin was among the protesters last week at a high-profile news conference at which the two top federal law enforcement officials in Los Angeles, U.S. Attorney Nora Manella and FBI Bureau Chief Charlie Parsons, announced the $1 million reward.
The event took place near a 9-foot statue of Odeh that was erected two years ago outside the main Santa Ana library in Orange County.
Sami Odeh, the victim’s brother, announced an additional $100,000 reward that was raised by the local Arab American community.
Rubin charged that the Odeh case was part of “an ongoing vendetta sponsored by the Arab community to get the Jews.”
He likened the accusations against Manning to the treatment meted out to Richard Jewell, a security guard during the recent Olympic Games in Atlanta who was identified by the FBI as a chief suspect — but never charged — in the explosion at Centennial Olympic Park.
Another protester, Howard Garber, said he was establishing a $1,000 trust fund to remove the Odeh statue and replace it with one of Richard Nixon or another distinguished Orange County resident.
Joyce Greenspan, Anti-Defamation League director for Orange County, endorsed the government’s move.
“We oppose all violence and hate crimes, whether the victim is Jewish or not,” she said.
In addition to the newspaper ads, the reward information has been posted on the FBI Home Page on the Internet (www.fbi.gov).
The FBI has asked anyone with information on the “person or persons responsible for the murder of Odeh” to call (800) 705-6639.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.