Riveting story of pro-Israel extremists whose 1985 terror bombing killed a Palestinian peace activist in California. Despite compelling evidence of their guilt – and their organization being identified as illegal in Israel – the Jewish State harbors the assassins while they live openly on an Israeli settlement.
by David Sheen, reposted from The Intercept
Alex Odeh was born in 1944 in British Mandate Palestine to a Christian family in the West Bank village of Jifna, near Ramallah, just four years before the founding of Israel. He immigrated in 1972 to the United States, where he became a spokesperson for the Arab American community, challenging negative portrayals of Middle Easterners and Muslims, which were back then at least as commonplace as they are today.
Odeh, the Southern California regional director at the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, or ADC, was known for his efforts to build bridges between Jews and Arabs, but his outreach was rejected by nationalist elements of the Jewish community, which saw him as an emerging threat.
ADC had become a target of the Jewish right after it began challenging the pro-Israel consensus in the U.S., organizing demonstrations against Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. In 1984, ADC members were regularly receiving threatening phone calls from an individual or individuals identifying as the leader of the Jewish Defense League, an anti-Arab movement led by Rabbi Meir Kahane. [Editor’s note: for background on Kahane and his followers, read this.] Physical attacks began the following year, after the ADC began taking out advertisements in the Washington Post attempting to convince American voters and public officials that Israel should no longer receive annual allotments of millions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid.
On October 11, 1985, Odeh was scheduled to speak at Congregation B’nai Tzedek, a Reform synagogue. As he entered the Santa Ana, California, office of the ADC that morning, however, a bomb exploded. He died on the operating table two hours later. It was the second bomb attack in just as many months against the ADC.
Hours after Odeh was killed, his slaying was justified by the Jewish Defense League. “I have no tears for Mr. Odeh,” said Irv Rubin, then the national chair of the JDL. “He got exactly what he deserved.”
No arrests were made. In April 1994, when Odeh would have celebrated his 50th birthday, the city of Santa Ana erected a statue of him to commemorate his life and his work. Two years later, the statue was defaced, and a few months later, it was again desecrated by vandals who doused it in buckets of blood-red paint.
That same year, the FBI announced a $1 million reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Odeh’s killers. It has so far gone unclaimed.
Baruch Ben-Yosef, who is 60 years old, lives in a Jewish-only settlement south of Bethlehem. He has practiced law as a member of the Israeli bar for a quarter-century, ringing up double-digit appearances in front of Israel’s Supreme Court over four decades — as client, lawyer, plaintiff, and defendant. In that time, he has also filed suit against multiple Israeli prime ministers, including the sitting premier, Benjamin Netanyahu.
After immigrating to Israel right out of high school in the Bronx, Ben-Yosef was among the first Jews to settle in the Palestinian territories that Israel occupied in June 1967. Months after his arrival, Ben-Yosef enlisted in Israel’s armed forces, serving in the now-defunct commando unit Sayeret Shaked, and he continued to perform regular reserve duty into his 30s. After Israel signed the Oslo Accord with the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1993, however, Ben-Yosef refused to show up for army reserve duty.
Ben-Yosef is also one of the founding fathers of Israel’s dominionist modern-day Temple movement, which seeks to replace Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock — a historic shrine revered by Muslims and among the most beautiful buildings in the country — with a Hebraic temple.
In the United States, where Ben-Yosef grew up and returned to live in the early ’80s, he was involved with the Jewish Defense League, the violent, racist group founded by Kahane. Ben-Yosef was also active with Kahane’s movement in Israel, as a result of which he was one of the only Jewish citizens subjected to administrative detention by the Israeli state, a draconian measure that is almost only used against Palestinians. He was detained for six months in 1980 with Kahane himself for plotting to blow up the Dome of the Rock. Ben-Yosef was detained for another six-month stretch in 1994, together with the rest of the leadership of the ultranationalist Kach movement, a political party founded by Kahane, after the Israeli government made membership in Kahanist groups illegal.
Another member of the Jewish Defense League was Keith Israel Fuchs, who was raised in Brooklyn, New York, before moving to Santa Monica, California. After high school, Fuchs moved to the West Bank settlement Kiryat Arba, where Rabbi Meir Kahane and his followers had created a community within a community.
On the Jewish holiday of Purim in February 1983, Fuchs fired bullets from a Kalashnikov rifle at a passing Palestinian car on the road outside Kiryat Arba. The New York Times reported that Fuchs was arrested for “firing into an Arab’s automobile that had splashed him going through a puddle.”
A report by Israel’s Deputy Attorney General Yehudit Karp published the previous year noted that Jewish settlers had long meted out violence to local Palestinians without repercussions, but attacks by Fuchs and other settlers the same week disturbed top Israeli officials because they involved the use of firearms.
As a result, Israel’s new Defense Minister Moshe Arens ordered the demolition of the new Kahanist neighborhood, and Fuchs was sentenced to 39 months in jail, which one media report noted was, up to that point in time, “the longest sentence ever for a Jewish vigilante.” His sentence was ultimately reduced to 22 months, on the condition that he spend the remaining months of his original sentence outside of Israel.
In December 1984, Fuchs returned to the United States as a condition of his parole. He remained there until September 1986 — about one year after Odeh was assassinated.
Nearly 35 years later, neither he nor Ben-Yosef has faced charges for a crime that at least three law enforcement officials suspect they committed in the United States: the murder of Alex Odeh.
One Assassin’s Dual Identity
Ben-Yosef was born in the United States as Andy Green, and has long been wanted by the FBI for questioning in relation to Odeh’s murder.
Ben-Yosef and Fuchs (who is known in Israel by his Hebrew name, Israel) were identified as suspects in the immediate aftermath of Odeh’s assassination, according to three retired law enforcement officers who worked on the case and were interviewed by The Intercept, as well as several news reports from the time. The law enforcement officers — local police, two of whom served on the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force — spoke to The Intercept on the condition of anonymity, because the investigation remains open.
“It’s an open case. We had lots of open murder cases and stuff. But this one was frustrating because we had named suspects,” a retired police officer who worked the Odeh case for more than a decade told The Intercept, naming Ben-Yosef as a suspect, along with two fellow followers of Kahane: Keith Israel Fuchs and Robert Manning. “We know who did it. We know where they lived. We know why they did it, how they did it.”
In the decades since Odeh’s killing, ample evidence has emerged in the public domain that the American-born Andy Green is the same person as the Israeli citizen Baruch Ben-Yosef. Four Israeli newspapers reporting on his detention in 1980 referred to him as Baruch Green Ben-Yosef. He is identified by both names in 1994 records from the Knesset and the U.S. Senate. A Wall Street Journal article published May 18, 1994, and entered into Volume 140, Number 62 of the congressional record, includes reportage on the Temple movement activities of Keith Fuchs and “Baruch Ben-Yosef, born Andy Green.” The Wall Street Journal also reported that Fuchs had been “investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but never charged, in connection with several bombings in the U.S., including the deaths of an Arab-American activist and a suspected Nazi war criminal.” In American and Israeli news reports about the same events, such as his 1983 arrest in Israel and the Odeh assassination, Fuchs has been identified as Keith Fuchs, Israel “Keith” Fuchs, Yisrael Fuchs, and Israel Fox.
A quarter-century ago, Ben-Yosef himself admitted at a meeting of settlement supporters that the FBI sought him in connection with Alex Odeh’s assassination, the Jerusalem Post reported in January 1993. According to the Post, Ben-Yosef said that the FBI had unfairly gone after Manning for Odeh’s murder and the killing of an alleged Nazi war criminal in 1985, and Ben-Yosef maintained Manning’s innocence. The article went on: “Ben-Yosef said he too was wanted by the FBI” in connection with those killings, and that he had been “roughed up” by an FBI officer in the U.S. The Post also noted that Ben Yosef was “known in the US as Andy Green.”
According to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency report published that same year, Ben-Yosef publicly acknowledged that he had been sought by U.S. law enforcement, though his comments did not explicitly reference the Odeh killing.
“Ben-Yosef, the executive director of the Temple Mount Yeshiva and a central figure in the Kach organization, admitted that he is wanted by the FBI in the United States for his involvement in the militant Jewish Defense League during the 1970s and 1980s,” the JTA reported in 1993, after Ben-Yosef and Fuchs were arrested in Israel on suspicion of planning attacks on Palestinians.
Ben-Yosef/Green, Fuchs, and Manning were identified as suspects in Odeh’s murder by journalist Robert Friedman, writing in the Village Voice in 1988 and in the Los Angeles Times in 1990. A 1994 in-depth portrait of Ben-Yosef published in the Jerusalem Post restated the allegations against him.
According to Friedman’s article in the Los Angeles Times, the FBI identified Fuchs, Ben-Yosef/Green, and Manning as the top suspects in Odeh’s slaying, before the twisted wreckage of the ADC offices had even been cleared. “The names of Fuchs, Green and Manning were mentioned as the bombers while we were still in front of the bombed-out building,” a California police official told the LA Times in 1990.
Manning was extradited to the United States in 1994 for another murder, not directly related to far-right activities or to Jewish power politics and is currently serving a life sentence for that crime in an Arizona federal penitentiary. Fuchs, meanwhile, has maintained a low profile for the last quarter-century, but The Intercept confirmed he lives in a small settlement south of Bethlehem, continuing to participate in private political meetings of the Israeli far-right. The street that he lives on is the only one in the country named after the village of Jifna, where Alex Odeh was born and raised.
Assassins “Believed to Have Fled to Israel”
In 1986, Ben-Yosef and Fuchs left the United States for Israel, and the following year, the Justice Department asked the Israeli government for help investigating Odeh’s murder. Twenty years after Odeh’s death, the Justice Department continued to chase leads. In 2006, then-U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales traveled to Tel Aviv and asked his Israeli counterpart, then-Justice Minister Haim Ramon, for his help with the case.
“The responsible parties are believed to have fled to Israel. A Mutual Legal Assistance request” — a procedure that allows for the exchange of information in the course of a criminal investigation — “has been submitted to the GOI [Government of Israel], and the lack of response remains an issue of concern for the FBI,” noted a diplomatic cable filed two days after the June 28 meeting.
The cable, published by WikiLeaks in 2011, notes that Ramon committed “to look into the case of Alex Odeh.” Ramon resigned from his post about two months after his meeting with Gonzales, and it is unclear what happened with the investigation in Israel afterward. In a recent interview, Ramon told The Intercept he does not remember anything about the Odeh case. “It is one of the issues that I was not really was involved too much,” he said, “and I cannot respond, and I don’t know what happened with this case.” Gonzalez declined to comment.
Ben-Yosef’s own statements in videos uploaded to YouTube in recent years by a Kahanist activist also indicate he is Andy Green. Ben-Yosef’s recounting of his arrest record parallel the journalist Robert Friedman’s narration of the same incidents, attributed to Andy Green in Friedman’s biography of Kahane, “The False Prophet.”
A spokesperson for the Santa Ana Police Department told The Intercept that the department’s files for the still-open case had been transferred to the FBI, which is the agency handling it. The FBI did not respond to requests for comment about the status of the investigation into Odeh’s killing. Asked to comment on the findings of The Intercept’s investigation, Ben-Yosef said, “I categorically deny any connection to the matters mentioned in your letter,” and he did not respond to further questions. Reached for comment by phone, Fuchs told The Intercept that he does not give interviews. He later confirmed receipt of a detailed query sent via WhatsApp, but did not respond to questions.
Despite the substantial documentation that has appeared in the Israeli press, one of the world’s leading intelligence apparatuses has allowed Ben-Yosef and Fuchs to run free, evading U.S. authorities.
“Our Policy Is to Cooperate Fully With the Murderers”
In the years that immediately followed the Odeh murder, the U.S. government’s persistent appeals to Israeli law enforcement for help in cracking the case came up short. In 1987, the FBI’s then-Assistant Director Floyd Clarke sent an internal memo to the bureau’s then-Executive Assistant Director Oliver Revell, complaining that his repeated efforts to learn what Israel knew about the bombing suspects were running into brick walls, according to a Washington Post report published that year.
“Numerous leads have been forwarded through FBIHQ to the Israeli Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS) in Washington, DC,” Clark wrote in his memo to Revell, excerpts of which were first published in the Village Voice. “The Terrorism Section has had numerous meetings with [Israeli] representatives in Washington, DC, during which our concerns relative to their handling of our requests were raised. Although these discussions have sometimes resulted in a temporary ‘flurry’ of activity on their part, no sustained improvement in the flow of information has been realized.”
During an official state visit to Washington, D.C., a decade later, Netanyahu was questioned directly about the Odeh case. At a January 21, 1998, event at the National Press Club, Netanyahu — then serving his first term as Israeli prime minister — claimed that Israel had received no official request from U.S. authorities to investigate the matter.
“I am not familiar with extradition requests concerning the murder of Alex Odeh. But I am sure that if those would be brought before me, I would look into them,” said Netanyahu. By framing his answer in terms of an extradition request, Netanyahu inaccurately equated participating in an investigation by sharing information to handing suspects over to the United States for prosecution, something law enforcement officials likely did not yet have enough evidence to do.
“Keith Fuchs and Andy Green are, apparently, still in Kiryat Arba,” retorted the ADC’s Sam Husseini, referring to the Hebron-area West Bank settlement and hotbed of Kahanist activity. “And what we’ve been told — since we’re the organization involved in this — is that the Justice Department has not received full cooperation at all from the Israeli government on this matter.”
In what could be something of a Freudian slip, Netanyahu bizarrely said to Husseini, “I assure you that our policy is to cooperate fully with the murderers.”
The Israeli prime minister quickly corrected himself by making a boilerplate assurance that Israeli law enforcement officials would handle the case without any anti-Palestinian prejudice.
In the weeks immediately preceding Netanyahu’s appearance at the National Press Club, Baruch Ben-Yosef had appeared multiple times in front of Israel’s Supreme Court. Once again in November 1998, 10 months after Netanyahu’s D.C. press conference, Ben-Yosef represented convicted U.S. spy Jonathan Pollard in a Supreme Court action against Netanyahu himself, then still Israeli prime minister.
Being one of Israel’s most reactionary Jewish militants, Ben-Yosef’s activities on both sides of the Atlantic would likely have been well-known to the chiefs of the Shin Bet and the Mossad, Israel’s internal and external security services, both of whom report directly to Netanyahu.
Two of Netanyahu’s fellow Likud party lawmakers at that time, Limor Livnat and Uzi Landau — then-communications minister and chair of the foreign affairs and defense committee, respectively — also should have been aware of Ben-Yosef’s dual identity and his location. During a Knesset debate on April 26, 1994, about administrative detention being used against Ben-Yosef, as well as the rest of the Kahanist leadership, Israel’s then-Police Minister Moshe Shahal told Livnat and Landau that the measure had in fact already been applied against Ben-Yosef more than a decade ago. It was done by a government headed by their own Likud party, he said, “In 1980, against Rabbi Kahane, against Rabbi Baruch Ben Yosef Green.”
Netanyahu’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Pioneering Settler, Anti-Arab Militant, and Far-Right Attorney
In recent years, Fuchs, who works as a security guard in the settlements, has been involved in attempts to craft right-wing legislation. In 2013, along with several affiliates of Komemiut, a far-right group sympathetic to the teachings of Meir Kahane, he co-founded the influential NGO Meshilut, the Movement for Governance and Democracy. Meshilut has authored various bills that have been tabled by Israeli government lawmakers. In 2015, Fuchs attended a meeting of the Israeli parliament’s interior committee, along with Meshilut’s director and legal adviser.
Meshilut contends that it aims to reform the country’s bureaucracy and make it more responsive to the desires of Israeli citizens. However, critics question whether Meshilut, like Kahane himself and the Komemiut group that half of Meshilut’s founders have been affiliated with, is attempting to weaken Israel’s judiciary, so that its mainly secular regime can be transformed by a strictly religious one.
Ben-Yosef, meanwhile, still labors to replace the Muslim religious shrine at the center of the Old City of Jerusalem with a Jewish one, but he now does so as an activist-attorney.
Ever since he graduated from Bar Ilan University with a law degree in the early 1990s, Ben-Yosef has represented himself and other followers of Kahane in Israeli courts, defending them from various criminal charges and suing the state to demand Jewish rights on Haram al-Sharif, including the right to sacrifice animals there.
Known by Jews as the Temple Mount, the site was the location of Jewish temples in the distant past, the last one destroyed by Roman forces about 2,000 years ago. Six hundred years later, the golden-domed Qubbat al-Sakhrah, or Dome of the Rock, was built on the same spot, and the adjacent Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site to Muslims, added a few years afterwards. The two buildings and the 36-acre Al-Aqsa compound that contains them are a potent symbol of Palestinian nationalism.
Ben-Yosef has worked on the legal defense teams of other American-born followers of Meir Kahane who plotted armed attacks on Haram al-Sharif: Yoel Lerner and Alan Goodman. In 1975, 1978, and 1982, Yoel Lerner’s plans to explode the Dome of the Rock were stopped in time by Israeli police. But later in 1982, Alan Goodman managed to make his way into the holy shrine and rip through it with his Israeli army-issued machine gun. His rampage left two Palestinians dead and 11 wounded. (Ben-Yosef represented Goodman in his successful attempt to reduce his sentence in relation to those killings. He represented Lerner in an unrelated matter.)
Lerner was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail for his attempted 1982 attack, and Goodman was sentenced to life in prison, but his sentence was commuted after 15 years behind bars.
In lectures uploaded in recent years to a Kahanist YouTube channel, before the channel was deleted in December, Ben-Yosef continued to advocate for a critical mass of Jews to take control of the Temple Mount, drive out the Muslims, and demolish their mosques.
Speaking to fellow followers of Meir Kahane in 2015, on the 25th anniversary of Kahane’s assassination, Ben-Yosef delivered a lecture at the Yeshiva of the Jewish Idea, the religious seminary Kahane founded in Jerusalem. “The whole thing boils down to one thing and one thing only, which is called the Temple Mount, HAR HABAYIT. The AM HA’HAMOR, the nation of donkeys that is sitting there, they understand that it’s coming to a boil,” said Ben-Yosef of the Palestinian people. “So all the things that the government, the police and everybody is trying to do to calm things down, that’s not what we want. We don’t want anything to calm down here! Just the opposite!”
In another lecture by Ben-Yosef posted on YouTube, he elaborates on the same theme: “How do we show our faith in Hashem [God]? How do we sanctify his name and show our faith? B’GERUSH HA’ARAVIM — expelling the Arabs — and TIHUR HAR HABAYIT [purifying the Temple Mount]! Removing the mosques from the Temple Mount! If you really believe in Hashem, that’s what you have to do!”
Today, Ben-Yosef continues to practice law, working out of an office in downtown Jerusalem, and make regular pilgrimages to the Haram al-Sharif, or Temple Mount, the focus of his political and religious aspirations.