Alex Odeh and the Indomitable Palestinian Spirit

The Palestinian people have been resisting the colonization of our homeland for almost 7 decades now, and the dream of freedom, human rights, and justice is still in sight. The colonizing force, state Zionism, will hold no punches as it seeks to obliterate the very foundation of Palestinian life, culture and history. The people of Palestine have despite it all shown to have a truly indomitable Palestinian spirit and continue to resist both in Palestine and abroad. 

And yet, while the spirit has been maintained, we have lost the lives of some remarkable leaders. When I first read about Alex Odeh, his work, and the tragedy that ultimately befell him, I first marveled at what he was able to accomplish at a time of extreme hostility to the Palestinian cause and Palestinian lives. I then began to think to myself that as Palestinians we have no safe place to exist, not back home, not as citizens of other nations. As I write this post I cannot get out of my head the 65 Palestinians killed by Israel this month, including 14 children Palestinians who were killed in the last week alone. So why should we pay special attention to Alex Odeh and his murder?

Alex Odeh was America’s perfect son and at the same time, Zionism’s worst nightmare. He was a leader, organizer and advocate with the ADC who embraced the very best of America, and looked to rectify the worst of it, working with his counterparts in many different communities to advance a vision of justice for all. How ironic is it that on the day he was murdered, he was scheduled to speak at a synagogue in Los Angeles? Perhaps he was getting too close to breaking the divides that kept us on our “sides,” maybe the thought of Jewish Americans united with Palestinians against Zionism and Israel’s brutal occupation was too much to stomach. But as the late, great, Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party - another proponent for Palestinian liberation - once said, “You can kill a revolutionary but you cannot kill the revolution.” 


Alex was a human being, a son, a father, a husband, and most of all, a friend to so many. But beyond that, Alex was a Palestinian-American. That 2nd designation after the hyphen is supposed to mean something to the most powerful government in the world. As Palestinian-Americans, we are told that here, in the U.S., we are equal, we are deserving of all of the protections and rights under the color of law that any other American should have. Alex, like Fred Hampton, was taken away from us by powerful bodies that feel threatened by our quest for true justice.

 Alex Odehs family, like so many others in this country and others across the world, are still searching for justice. It has been 30 years since the murder of Odeh, and not one person has been prosecuted for the crimes. This is the reality even though many links exist between that crime and other crimes that were committed by the Jewish Defense League in addition to other Israeli Zionist-linked extremist groups. As we at this moment call for justice for this brother, and his family, the murderers continue to live in illegal settlements in the West Bank, protected by their dear Israeli government and billions of U.S. dollars. This reality dawned upon me on my last visit home to Palestine in August. Most of my family is living near those settlements. The settlements are fixtures, but they move, slowly encroaching more and more until they have every bit of historic Palestine and its resources. After this attack and others, organizers were afraid, some even ended their work or severely limited it as they feared the worst for themselves and their families. Life is fragile, but freedom is priceless. 

With the spirit of those who have come before us, we will fight, we do what Alex did, we demand justice. We must create a vision for what the world should look like and go after it with ever fiber in our bodies. There is a new generation taking the mantle unafraid.  On college campuses or in communities across this country, across the world, there are Palestinians with the same dream as Alex, and one day that dream will come true.