May 21 2014

Death in the Supermarket

National Review Online

Jillian Kay Melchior

On February 21, 1969, Eddie Joffe, 21, and his best friend, Leon Kanner, stopped at an upscale grocery store in central Jerusalem. A recent immigrant and avid hiker who aspired to explore every mile of his new country, Eddie wanted to grab a few supplies for a foray in the nearby hills. But Palestinian terrorists had rigged a can of sweets with dynamite, leaving it on a shelf in the supermarket. The bomb detonated just as the two college students approached, killing both and injuring nine or ten other bystanders.

Eddie’s little brother, Harold, 19, had to accompany his shocked parents and Israeli officials to identify the body, says Basil, the eldest Joffe son. “I remember him telling me the body was so badly burned and blackened from the explosion that they could barely recognize it,” Basil tells me. “It was a pretty devastating thing for Harold to have to endure. . . . The grief that my family, and especially my parents, experienced was immense. . . . When I arrived in Jerusalem, we all just held each other and wept. There’s nothing that anybody could say. . . . My parents’ lives were also devastated, definitely, and they never recovered until they died.

Forty-five years later, the woman convicted for her central role in the bombing that killed Joffe and Kanner is facing trial for immigration fraud in Detroit, Mich.

Though Rasmieh Yousef Odeh was sentenced to life in prison in Israel for her role in the bombing, she was released after a decade as part of a prisoner swap. She allegedly lied on her immigration papers, moving to the United States, gaining prominence in Chicago as an activist for the Arab community, and eventually becoming a citizen. (As National Review Online reported earlier this year, she also worked as an Obamacare navigator.)

The Associated Press reported last week that Odeh may plead guilty at her court hearing today, which could result in her deportation but allow her to avoid years in an American prison for falsifying her immigration papers. The charges against Odeh have been vocally disputed by the Muslim community — including the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), which employs her as an associate director — and other groups in the region.

Basil says that although he has lived in Houston for the past 35 years, he found out only last week that Odeh had moved to the United States and become an American citizen. That knowledge — as well as the fact that Odeh continues to receive public support, despite appearing unrepentant for her crimes — is deeply painful to the surviving Joffe family, Basil says.

In a news conference last year, Hatem Abudayyeh, AAAN’s executive director, described Odeh as a women’s-rights activist who “has dedicated her whole life to social justice” and “who has come under attack by federal law enforcement in this country.”

Margaret Jackson, the interim regional director of the American Friends Service Committee, voiced her support for Odeh and said, “It just infuriates me that this country continues to discriminate on color and religion and they’re so desperate that they go back into the past to do that. . . . As an organization that is almost 100 years old and committed to non-violence, I’m just appalled by this situation.”

Odeh’s supporters have attended her court dates and started petitions online demanding that charges against her be dropped.

Jillian Kay Melchior writes for National Review as a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center. She is also a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum. 

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