"It ought to go without saying that the murder of Alex Odeh was as heinous as that of Leon Klinghoffer . . ."
-- From the "Notebook" section of The New Republic
Two tales of terror against American citizens -- one a Jew, the other a Palestinian Arab born to Catholic parents on what is now the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Two equally heinous crimes -- "It ought to go without saying." And yet The New Republic saw a need to say it. The point is that, with some notable exceptions, nobody had.
Why? Part of it has to do with the drama of the ship- jacking. The slaying of Klinghoffer also fits a familiar pattern: violence in far-off places directed against Americans caught up in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Odeh's murder, on the other hand, had the look of an isolated incident, an "assassination" carried out by a lone crazy, inflamed by Odeh's sympathy with the Palestinian cause. But talks wth representatives of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and others in the Santa Ana area suggest there is a "Terror Double Standard," as The New Republic capsuled its comment.
Odeh, the ADC West Coast regional director, might not have been chosen at random for cold-blooded killing, as Klinghoffer was. But he was no less a random victim. Only by sheer chance was he killed by a bomb, which, according to preliminary findings by authorities, was triggered by a fishing line attached to his office's front door: it was not Odeh's habit to be the first to arrive in the morning.
For the past two months the responsibility for opening up the office at an early hour had fallen to a staff member, Hind Baki, who was born in Syria, immigrated to the United States nine years ago, and became a naturalized citizen in June. Only an earlier-than-usual 9 a.m. appointment brought Odeh to the booby-trapped office door on the morning of Oct. 11 instead of Baki.
Thus do the circumstances undercut another theory: that Odeh had been singled out for killing as retaliation for a televised interview the night before in which he called for greater recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its chairman, Yasser Arafat. He had apparently denounced the Achille Lauro hijacking in particular and terrorism in general in a segment that was not broadcast.
In any case, there is evidence that ADC was the target and intimidation the aim. A bomb was removed last summer from ADC's Boston office. Hind Baki tells of a rash of bomb threats against the following: the Santa Ana ADC office even after Odeh's death; the church where Odeh's funeral was held; the Arab Community Center in Los Angeles; the Islamic Center of Southern California. The ADC is a respectable organization, headed by a former U.S. senator, James Abourezk of South Dakota, and dedicated to improving public understanding of American interests in the Middle East, as ADC sees them.
That this sort of thing can happen in Santa Ana, Calif., as well as on an Italian cruise ship in the Mediterranean is answer enough to those who would wish away the Mideast problem with "benign neglect."