As Palestinian Killer Receives Standing Ovation, Terror Victims Get ‘Last Word’
JNS.org – Anti-Israel activists gathered on Sunday at a Hyatt hotel in Chicago to hear a discussion featuring convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmeah Odeh. Yet unbeknownst to Odeh and the attendees of the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) conference, a memorial service for her victims was being held at the same time in the same hotel.
The secret event honored and remembered Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner, two friends at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who were killed in a February 1969 Jerusalem supermarket bombing masterminded by Odeh. The attack was carried out on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group.
Recently, Odeh’s star has been on the rise in some left-wing political circles.
In January, she shared a stage with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) during an immigration travel ban protest at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Odeh was also a co-organizer of the “Day Without a Woman” march.
When the pro-Israel group StandWithUs initially tried to rent a space at the Hyatt for its event to honor the victims, the hotel responded, “Your request has been denied,” claiming that the group needed permission from JVP.
Refusing to take no for an answer, StandWithUs Midwest Director Peggy Shapiro took matters into her own hands.
“Sometimes things are just too important,” Shapiro told the Haym Salomon Center. “When something really matters, you don’t just give up. If you allow history and memory to be distorted or erased — and not just the story of these two boys, which is tragic enough — it dishonors the memory of all terror victims in the past, and increases the threat to all terror victims in the future.”
After the Hyatt refused to rent them space, StandWithUs began exploring other options. Shapiro and her staff secretly booked a suite at the hotel and began inviting clergy of different faiths, as well as local supporters to attend. An exact location and room number were not made available to attendees until two hours before the start.
About 40 people attended the service — near capacity for the room. Attendees were greeted by private security professionals and StandWithUs staffers.
“Today we gather to remember Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner, their lives cut short and their futures denied,” Shapiro said. “We will hear from their siblings, who today are grandparents. Who knows what Edward and Leon would have been, who knows what gifts they and their children could have given to the world. They were robbed of their lives and futures by a killer who is speaking at this very moment, and at this very venue.
Shapiro continued, “Let me tell you a bit about Jewish Voice for Peace, whose conference is taking place next to us. This group, funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, is listed as one of the 10 most anti-Israel groups in the nation. They and the killer they are featuring are now trying to repress our memories of the victims. In fact, they tried to prevent this memorial. That is why we must remember the [victims] for their sake and for ours. Simply put, there is too much at stake. This is not only about the memory of two young men, but about the memory of a people. In remembering Leon and Edward, we are defending memory itself.”
Clergy from various Christian denominations also took part in the service.
Pentecostal Pastor Wesley Shaw recited Psalm 116 and declared, “Israel, we have your back. There are millions of Pentecostals worldwide, saying in unison, ‘Never again.’”
Evangelical Pastor Levi Velasco offered the Prayer for the Soul of the Departed. He affirmed, “I am solemnly behind the Jewish people and Israel.”
“I came out to show my support because these days, we see less and less support for Israel,” Rev. Jerry Caesar of Addison, Illinois, told the Haym Salomon Center. “I came out to support these two young men, whose lives were taken way before their time.”
Capturing the essence of the service in her final words, Shapiro said, “I thank you for being here today to help us remember, to remember and honor the stories of two beautiful young men. … Let’s remember, so the executioner doesn’t get the last word. The last word belongs to the victims.”
JVP did not respond to requests for comment.
Last month, Odeh pled guilty to lying on her naturalization forms when she applied to become a US citizen. She is being stripped of her US citizenship, and will be deported to Jordan.
Paul Miller is president and executive director of the Haym Salomon Center news and public policy group.