Robert Manning, a former member of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), has been granted parole after serving 32 years in prison for an unrelated murder. Manning was a suspect in the 1980 bombing that killed Palestinian American activist Alex Odeh, but was never formally charged. The decision to grant parole was based on Manning’s age, health concerns, and his “almost spotless record” during his incarceration, according to the U.S. Parole Commission.
The JDL, an underground network of radical militants, gained notoriety for its violent form of Jewish nationalism. Manning, now 71, joined the JDL in 1971 and had previous run-ins with the law, including a conviction for the 1972 bombing of an Arab activist’s home. He was also suspected in four political bombings in 1985, but the murder he served time for was unrelated to politics.
The parole decision has stirred controversy among Arab American leaders, who believe that Manning should have cooperated with law enforcement and provided information about the individuals involved in Odeh’s assassination. Abed Ayoub, the national executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, expressed disappointment and called the decision a “gut punch.”
The JDL, founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1968, aimed to combat antisemitism but later engaged in terror campaigns against perceived enemies. The FBI warned Arab Americans in 1985 that they were in danger from an unnamed group targeting the “enemies of Israel.”
Manning’s parole is scheduled for July, and he plans to live with his sister in Los Angeles and sell his prison artwork online. The decision has reignited the painful wound of Odeh’s unsolved death for Arab American communities, raising concerns about the American judicial system’s handling of the case.