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College professors support killer of college students

Convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh speaks in March 2016. Credit: YouTube screenshot.
Convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh speaks in March 2016. Credit: YouTube screenshot.

By Stephen M. Flatow/

Professors at a number of American universities have found a new cause: demanding the release of a terrorist who murdered two college students.

This disturbing story begins on Feb. 21, 1969. That was the day a powerful bomb exploded in a Jerusalem supermarket. Two Hebrew University students (and roommates), Edward Jaffe and Leon Kanner, were killed. “They had been buying canned food for a botanical field trip when they were blown to bits,” the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported. “Many housewives brought bouquets of flowers to the employees of [the grocery store], but the bright spring colors could not overcome the evidence of grisly destruction wrought by a terrorist bomb….”

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed responsibility for the attack. A 20-year-old PFLP member named Rasmea Odeh and an accomplice were quickly captured.

The PFLP, which is the second-largest member-organization of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), is included in the official U.S. list of terrorist groups. It was responsible for many of the most notorious airplane hijackings of the 1970s and the 1972 Lod Airport massacre (26 dead, including 11 American citizens from Puerto Rico), as well as numerous suicide bombings and other attacks in recent years.

When Ms. Rasmea Odeh went on trial for the 1969 supermarket bombing, the evidence against her was overwhelming. Bomb-making materials, including explosives, were found in her home. She confessed to the supermarket bombing within a day of her arrest. The confession was detailed, and she also made a video-taped reconstruction of how she planted the bombs. Her co-conspirators also confessed, and they all implicated each other. (In a later documentary film, one of her comrades named Odeh as the mastermind of the attack.) And her connection to the PFLP terror group was undeniable.

Odeh was convicted of the two murders and membership in a terrorist organization, and was sentenced to life imprisonment, but in 1980 she was released in a prisoner exchange deal. In 1995, she relocated to the U.S., and in 2004 she received American citizenship. Yet in 2013, Odeh was arrested for lying on her immigration form. The form asked if she had ever been convicted of a crime; she wrote, “No.”

The Arab-American Action Network (AAAN), for which Odeh works, immediately launched a campaign to demand her release. The AAAN claimed Odeh had “misunderstood” the question on the form, and in any event only confessed to the bombings after weeks of “torture” and “sexual abuse” by Israeli interrogators.

The weeks-of-torture argument obviously conflicts with the fact that Odeh confessed after just one day in jail. Moreover, the AAAN and their cohorts have no way to explain the bombs found in Odeh’s apartment, the statements of her co-conspirators, or her undisputed involvement with a terrorist group.

All of that should be enough to keep any rational person far away from the campaign to free Rasmea Odeh. The sponsors of the upcoming series of nationwide pro-Odeh rallies—scheduled for Nov. 29, the date of her next court appearance—include organizations with names such as the “Committee to Stop FBI Repression” and the “International League of Peoples’ Struggles.” No surprise there; fringe groups often flock together.

Yet if one looks at the ranks of Odeh’s defenders, one also finds a number of American college professors. That’s right: college professors supporting the murderer of two college students.

Prof. Nadine Naber, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, regularly speaks at rallies for Odeh and even appeared as a character witness in one of her court appearances. Prof. Marc Lamont Hill, of Morehouse College, has authored an impassioned appeal to African-Americans to support Odeh. Professors Laila Farah (Depaul University), Mona Khalidi (Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs), and Louise Cainkar-Mashrah (Marquette University) are three of the five board members of the AAAN, Odeh’s primary champion.

College professors have doctorates. They’re educated. We expect them to be rational and enlightened. That’s why we entrust our children’s education to them. And we expect universities to properly vet prospective faculty members. That’s why we pay tuition to them.

I am not saying that these terrorist-defending professors are typical of the entire academic community. And I am certainly not suggesting that they should be deprived of their legal right to adopt immoral positions. But parents have rights, too—including the right to refrain from sending their sons and daughters to colleges whose faculties include defenders of a murderer of college students.

Stephen M. Flatow, vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.

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