Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September/October 1993, Page 60

California Chronicle

Accused Letter-bomb Murderer Extradited to U.S. from Israel

By Pat and Samir Twair

Robert Steven Manning, the prime suspect in the 1985 pipe-bomb murder of American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) director Alex Odeh, has been extradited from Israel to California to stand trial for the 1980 mail-bomb killing of Patricia Wilkerson, a Manhattan Beach secretary who opened a booby-trapped package on which fingerprints of Manning and his wife Rochelle subsequently were identified.

Under extradition conditions set by Israel, Manning cannot be tried for the murder of the ADC official, or for three other politically motivated bombings in which he is a prime suspect, because they occurred after he became an Israeli citizen. These 1985 incidents include the Patterson, NJ murder of an immigrant to the U.S. suspected by Jewish Defense Organization members of World War II Nazi activities in Europe; the wounding with a bomb of another suspected ex-Nazi in Brentwood, NY; and injuries to two police officers trying to defuse a bomb placed outside the ADC office in Boston. In 1972, Manning was convicted of bombing the Hollywood home of Palestinian activist Mohammed Shaath. The 1980 murder for which he will be tried allegedly stems from a business dispute between a Jewish Defense Organization colleague of the Mannings and a real estate executive who employed Mrs. Wilkerson as his secretary.

A high school drop-out, Manning claims to have received ballistics training in the U.S. Army. However, according to the Los Angeles Times, he was a water supply technician before the Army discharged him after less than one year's service because he was mentally unstable. Immediately after the murder of Odeh, who was killed by a bomb attached to the door of his office, Manning fled to Israel. There he was linked with the ultra-right Kach movement, founded by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane. During the more than seven years he lived in the Kiryat Arba Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Manning and his attorneys used delaying tactics to avoid extradition. One court-ordered delay was based on his statement that he could not be assured of receiving kosher food in American prisons. In his final effort, Manning swallowed 20 sleeping pills just before he was scheduled to board a U.S.-bound plane. TWA refused to transport him for several days until he recovered from the overdose.

After his July 18 arrival in the U.S., Manning was denied bail on the grounds that he might flee and is a danger to the community. In jail he is segregated from other prisoners because bobby pins he uses to attach his yarmulke might be used as weapons.

An extradition request also has been made for Manning's wife, Rochelle, who was arrested during a visit to the U.S. and tried for the Wilkerson murder in 1989. The California jury deadlocked, and she returned to Israel.

Extradition Conditions

Israeli handling of Cleveland, Ohio worker John Demjanjuk, extradited from the U.S. to Israel on charges that he was a sadistic killer called "Ivan the Terrible" at the Treblinka death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in World War II, could set a precedent for U.S. handling of Robert Manning.

Demjanjuk was acquitted of the Treblinka charge in July, after seven years of detention in Israel, but was not immediately released. If the Israeli Supreme Court charges Demjanjuk with other crimes for which he was not extradited, this could set a precedent for U.S. courts to charge Manning with other bombing deaths, including the 1985 murder of Alex Odeh.

Multicultural Demonstration Against ADL Spying in Los Angeles

Young Koreans United of Los Angeles dressed in national costumes, pounding large oriental drums and striking gongs, members of the Coalition Against Black Exploitation and Friends of the African National Congress, and members of other widely divergent organizations carried banners and shouted slogans protesting spying by B'nai B'rith's Anti-Defamation League at a June 22 demonstration in front of ADL headquarters in Los Angeles.

As 100-plus protesters marched in front of the three-story building, a group of plainclothes police observed them with binoculars from the crest of a weedy knoll across Santa Monica Boulevard. With them was a photographer wearing a police badge and plain clothes. Two of the demonstrators approached the police and took a photo of the police photographer, who earlier had explained he was taking photos of the protesters for his files.

"Don't take my photo," the police cameraman shouted at Yusef Haddad, president of the Arab American Press Guild. "Why are you taking my photo?"

Replied Haddad: "For my files."

As the rally began, speakers stood on a street-corner bus bench. ADC chapter President Don Bustany introduced himself and explained that the group was protesting because the ADL had illegally compiled the names of 10,000 citizens.

Entertainer Casey Kasem then spoke to the crowd, saying it was time for the ADL to return to its original purpose of protecting the rights of Jews and to publicly apologize to Arab Americans, African Americans, Greenpeace, the ACLU, Asian Caucus, United Farm Workers, Accuracy in Media and other groups upon which ADL had spied and compiled files.

Former Los Angeles City Councilman Robert Farrell commented: "It saddens us all when an organization like the ADL violates the law by making police information available to others. " He pledged to file a complaint the next day with Joe Rouzan Jr., executive director of the Los Angeles Police Commission, about the police officer who photographed demonstrators.

A Meeting With the Police

Farrell followed up with a June 29 meeting with the Los Angeles Police Commission. The city councilman told Los Angeles Police Chief Willie Williams and newly installed Police Commission President Jess A. Brewer that data on anti-apartheid activities could have been passed to the ADL as a result of closed sessions of the Los Angeles City Council at which such information was discussed in the presence of ADL infiltrators.

"Anti-apartheid leaders from South Africa who talked to me in City Hall have been violated," Farrell complained. "It is terrible to think the ADL has been spying on progressive liberation movements while all this time it appeared the ADL was in the forefront of the struggle against racism."

Dr. Yigal Arens, an Israeli-American peace activist, testified that Arab Americans had been endangered when traveling to the occupied territories by information the ADL had gathered illegally. Brewer and Chief Williams said they would take the charges against the ADL seriously and look into the picture-taking by the police photographer as well. This was the first time the LAPD publicly agreed to probe charges that at least one officer may have turned over confidential information to the ADL.

NAAA Members Meet Rep. Jay Kim

It was an educational session for both Rep. Jay Kim and more than 25 members of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the National Association of Arab Americans when they met June 19 in the Upland home of Samir and Aida Mansour. Kim, who was elected to represent the 41st Congressional District in a landslide victory last November, serves on the House Public Works and Transportation Committee and the Small Business Committee.

Rep. Kim, an immigrant to the United States from Korea as a young man, said Arab Americans are the most misunderstood people in the U.S. He added that this is changing rapidly in Congress as Arab Americans become better organized and speak up on issues.

Prior to his election to Congress, Rep. Kim served on the City Council of Diamond Bar and was president and founder of Jaykim Engineers, one of the top 500 engineering design firms in the U.S.

NAAA members warned the freshman congressman against being misled by congressional committee members who fail to mention that innocent-sounding allocations they tuck into the federal budget send millions of dollars to Israel. While shipyards and Naval facilities are being closed on the West Coast, another stressed, Israel's supporters in Congress are seeking to set a up U.S. Sixth Fleet home port and repair facility in Haifa.

Interjected another member: "Israel claims it has never defaulted on a U.S. loan, but that is because of the Cranston Amendment that pays the annual interest on Israel's debt."

Another said she had been in Jordan when an Israeli nuclear reactor leaked. Although neighboring Middle Eastern states were alarmed, the American media did not report the incident nor mention the dangerous situation caused by nuclear weapons development by Israel, which refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Another NAAA member asked Representative Kim to look into Amnesty International's latest report on Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights which, if verified by the State Department, should disqualify the Jewish state from receiving U.S. foreign aid. All of this appeared to be news to Rep. Kim, who promised to bone up on the Cranston Amendment and Amnesty International reports on human rights violations in the Middle East.

Less than four weeks after Rep. Kim's meeting with his NAAA constituents, the Los Angeles Times published several fullpage articles accusing him of illegally using funds from his engineering corporation to finance his campaign. Sandra Garner, his chief of staff, said the congressman has turned his company books over to two prominent Republican consultants to review his campaign expenditures.

"He's put the records into the hands of the pros and he wants only to stay focused on his work in Congress," Garner said. She added that Los Angeles Times reporter Claire Spiegel, who launched the illegal campaign financing charge, initially called at Kim's office stating she wanted to "write about the American dream come true. "

Showdown Nears on Purchase of Israeli Bonds With California Pension Funds

California activists have been doing their utmost to discuss with state senators Assembly Bill 216, which would authorize purchase of Israeli bonds with California pension funds. The state senate is scheduled to vote on the controversial bill sometime after its return from its August recess.

AB 216 was introduced April 12 to the state assembly by Assemblymen Burt Margolin, Terry Friedman, Barbara Friedman and Terry Farr. It was passed unanimously on April 21 by the assembly's Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security (PER&SS) committee. On May 3, it was approved 62 to 8 on the assembly floor.

It might also have sailed through the senate, except that the upcoming assembly vote was publicized in the Los Angeles Times and a member of the National Association of Arab Americans spotted the item. NAAA and Arab American Institute (AAI) activists called senate PER&SS committee members and pointed out the risk of investing California pension funds in Israeli bonds, which have an extremely low BBB status.

Apparently due to the hue and cry over Israeli bonds, PER&SS chairwoman Teresa Hughes amended the bill to include Canadian and Mexican bonds. During the July 21 PER&SS hearing on AB 216, State Sen. Patrick Johnston asked why AB 216 was becoming a Middle Eastern issue. He was referring to testimony in favor of the bill by the Jewish Public Affairs Council, and against it by AAI and the Arab American Caucus for the California Democratic Party. No Mexican or Canadian proponents were present.

The senate PER&SS committee vote was three Democrats for and two Republicans against AB 216. Before the state senate voted on the bill, however, it was adjourned for a one-month recess.

During the recess the NAAA has mailed out information on AB 216 and arranged for meetings with state senators to ask them to invest California pension funds in California, and not in the bonds of any foreign power.

Pat and Samir Twair are free-lance writers from Southern California.