Leon Klinghoffer is by now a familiar name; his death at the hand of terrorists precipitated a chain of events of international consequence. Mr. Klinghoffer, however, was but one of two Americans with some sort of Middle East connection killed savagely in recent days. The other was Alex Odeh of Santa Ana, 41, an American citizen born in a village on the Palestinian West Bank where his father still lives. The West Coast director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Mr. Odeh was killed when a bomb exploded as he opened his office door last Friday.
In important ways Mr. Odeh's death was different. He was not an incidental figure picked out for brutal murder simply because he was an American, as was Mr. Klinghoffer. He was evidently an intended victim, killed -- assassinated may be a more precise word -- by a person or persons who wanted him dead.
It is conceivable, moreover, that he was assassinated for engaging in the constitutionally protected exercise of his right of free speech. This is suggested by those who point out that the day before in a television interview he had spoken sympathetically of Yasser Arafat of the PLO. (Friends report that in the interview he had also condemned the ship hijacking, although that part of the interview was not broadcast.)
There is no reported suspect in the case so far. It is important to remember that. But, predictably, there have been suspicions and allegations, one of which was denied in the most graceless possible way by a spokesman for the Jewish Defense League. In denying that the JDL had committed this crime, the spokesman said, "I have no tears for Mr. Odeh. He got exactly what he deserves."
Suppositions and rumors, of course, are no substitute for facts. There is a very powerful public interest in the most vigorous police inquiry into this shocking murder. The full resources of the law must be brought to bear to locate and prosecute the killer of Alex Odeh.