About 15 representatives of the Arab American community, including radio personality Casey Kasem, expressed their outrage Friday over the vandalism of the statue of slain activist Alex Odeh the day before.
The statue was similarly splattered with red paint on the eve of his death last October. Police have no suspects in either case, said Sgt. Bob Clark. The two hate crimes may be investigated together, “potentially with the same suspects, whomever they may be.”
Standing in front of the Santa Ana Central Library, where the statue stands and still showed traces of paint, Michel Shehadeh, the West Coast regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, advised law enforcement agencies that “threats against our community and its symbols be taken with the seriousness they deserve.”
Anaheim attorney Stephen Mashney believes that not enough is being done to solve violent crimes directed against Arab Americans: “Of course the objective of law enforcement is to protect citizens. But certain groups are not pursued as vigorously as others when it comes to investigating these crimes.”
However, Clark said that police are investigating the vandalism “as aggressively as possible. We would enlist the public support for anyone who may have knowledge of the perpetrators of these offenses.”
In 1985, Palestinian-born American Alex Odeh died shortly after triggering a bomb rigged to his office door at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee quarters in Santa Ana.
To some he was a political moderate. To others, a supporter of terrorism. On the night before his slaying, he appeared on a Los Angeles TV program praising Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat and criticizing the media for linking the PLO to the Achille Lauro hijacking.
Jewish Defense League Chairman Irv Rubin, who protested the statue when it was erected, disagrees with the image of Odeh as a civil rights leader.
“My God, he was so pro-PLO and pro-Arafat,” he said. “A statue of a PLO lover in front of that library was never a good role model for Orange County kids.”
The U.S. Department of Justice has offered a $1-million reward for information leading to whoever was responsible for Odeh’s death.
Kasem said that despite the vandalism, some good came from the situation. “This focuses attention on the statue of a man who was a peacemaker,” he said.
Standing quietly in front of the statue with her 16-year-old daughter, Samya, Odeh’s widow, Norma, was still visibly shaken.
“I just wish everyone would let him rest in peace,” she said.