Jewish Defense League

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Jewish Defense League (JDL)
Jewish Defense League Fist and Star logo
Motto To protect Jews from antisemitism by whatever means necessary.
Formation 1968
Type Political, Religious
Headquarters Los Angeles, California, formerly New York City, New York,
CEO and Director Shelley Rubin
Key people Meir Kahane
Irv Rubin
Meir Weinstein

The Jewish Defense League or JDL is a Jewish organization whose stated goal is to "protect Jews from antisemitism by whatever means necessary".[1] While the group asserts that it "unequivocally condemns terrorism", and claims to have a "strict no-tolerance policy against terrorism and other felonious acts,"[2] it was characterized as "a right-wing terrorist group" by the Federal Bureau of Investigation[3] in 2001, and as a hate group involved in "anti-Arab terrorism" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.[4] According to the FBI, the JDL has been involved in plotting terrorist attacks within the United States.[3].

Founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York City in 1968, JDL's self-described purpose was to protect Jews from local manifestations of antisemitism.[1][5] Its criticism of the Soviet Union garnered support for the group, transforming it from a "vigilante club" to an activist organization with membership numbering over 15,000.[6] The group took to bombing Arab and Soviet properties in the United States,[7] and targeting various alleged "enemies of the Jewish people", ranging from Arab-American political activists to neo-Nazis, for assassination.[8] A number of JDL members have been linked to violent, and sometimes deadly, attacks in the United States, including the killing of American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee regional director Alex Odeh in 1985, and a plot to kill U.S. Congressman Darrell Issa in 2001.[9]

The 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre, in which dozens of Palestinians at prayer were massacred by a gunman in the West Bank city of Hebron, was perpetrated by a one-time JDL member who had emigrated from the United States, Baruch Goldstein.[10] The JDL maintains, on its website, "we are not ashamed to say that Goldstein was a charter member of the Jewish Defense League."[11]

Many Jewish groups have long been hostile to the group. According to one Anti-Defamation League official, the group consists only of "thugs and hooligans".[12]

Opposition to Soviet policies

Initially, the League was connected to a series of terrorist attacks against Soviet interests in the United States, protesting that country's repression of Soviet Jews, who were often jailed and refused exit visas.[13][14] The JDL decided that violence was necessary to draw attention to their plight, reasoning that Moscow would respond to the strain on Soviet–United States relations by allowing more emigration to Israel.[14]

On 29 November 1970, a bomb exploded outside the Manhattan offices of the Soviet airline, Aeroflot. An anonymous caller to the Associated Press claimed responsibility and used the JDL slogan Never again!. Another bomb attack, on January 8, 1971 outside of the Soviet cultural center in Washington, D.C., was followed by a similar phone call, including the JDL slogan. A JDL spokesperson denied JDL involvement in the bombing, but refused to condemn it.[1] In 1970, Soviet agents forged and sent threatening letters to Arab missions claiming to be from the JDL to discredit it. They also were ordered to bomb a target in the "Negro section of New York" and blame it on the JDL.[15]

In 1971, a JDL member allegedly fired a rifle into the Soviet Union's mission office at the United Nations. In 1972, two JDL members were arrested and charged with bomb possession and burglary in a conspiracy to blow up the Long Island residence of the Soviet Mission to the UN. The two JDL members pled guilty and were sentenced to serve three years in prison for one, and a year and a day for the other. In 1975, JDL leader Meir Kahane was accused of conspiring to kidnap a Soviet diplomat, bomb the Iraqi embassy in Washington, and ship arms abroad from Israel. A hearing was held to revoke Kahane's probation for a 1971 firebomb-making incident. He was found guilty of violating probation and served a one year prison sentence.[1]

The JDL was angry at music impresario Sol Hurok for bringing artists from the Soviet Union to the United States. In 1972, a bomb was planted in his Manhattan office, killing a secretary who happened to be Jewish.[16][17] Hurok and twelve others were injured. Jerome Zeller of the JDL was indicted for the bombing.

JDL activities were condemned by Moscow refuseniks who felt that the group's actions were making it less likely that the Soviet Union would relax restrictions on Jewish emigration. On April 6, 1976, six prominent refuseniks — Vladimir Slepak, Alexander Lerner, Anatoly Shcharansky, and Iosif Begun — condemned the JDL's activities as terrorist acts, stating that their "actions constitute a danger for Soviet Jews... as they might be used by the authorities as a pretext for new repressions and for instigating anti-Semitic hostilities."[1]

During the 1980s, past-JDL member Victor Vancier (who later founded the Jewish Task Force), and two other former JDL members were arrested in connection with six incidents; a 1984 firebombing of an automobile at a Soviet diplomatic residence, the 1985 and 1986 fire and pipe bombings of a rival JDL member's cars, the 1986 firebombing at a hall where the Soviet State Symphony Orchestra was performing, and two 1986 detonations of tear gas grenades to protest performances by Soviet dance companies.[1] In a 1984 interview with Washington Post correspondent Carla Hall, Meir Kahane admitted that the JDL "bombed the Russian mission in New York, the Russian cultural mission here [Washington] in 1971, the Soviet trade offices."[14][18]

Solicitation of murder trial

On March 16, 1978 Irv Rubin said about the planned American Nazi Party march in Skokie, Illinois: "We are offering $500, that I have in my hand, to any member of the community... who kills, maims or seriously injures a member of the American Nazi party." Rubin was charged with solicitation of murder but acquitted in 1981.[19]

JDL members had often been suspected of involvement in attacks against neo-Nazis and other Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites. In 1995, when the Toronto residence of Ernst Zündel was the target of an arson attack, a group calling itself the "Jewish Armed Resistance Movement" claimed responsibility; according to the Toronto Sun, the group had ties to the Jewish Defense League and to Kahane Chai.[20] The leader of the Toronto wing of the Jewish Defense League, Meir Halevi, denied involvement in the attack, although, just five days later, Halevi was caught trying to break into the Zündel property, where he was apprehended by police.[20][21] Later the same month Zündel was the recipient of a parcel bomb that was detonated by the Toronto Police Service's bomb squad.[22]

Accused of murder of Alex Odeh

Alex Odeh was an Arab-American who was killed on October 11, 1985 in a bombing at his office in Santa Ana, California. Odeh was regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Shortly before his killing, Odeh had appeared on the television show Nightline, where he engaged in a tense dialogue with a representative from the Jewish Defense League.[23]

Irv Rubin, chairman of the JDL, immediately made several controversial public statements in reaction to the incident: "I have no tears for Mr. Odeh," Rubin said. "He got exactly what he deserved." He also said: "My tears were used up crying for Leon Klinghoffer."[13] The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee both condemned the murder.

Four weeks after Odeh's death, FBI spokesperson Lane Bonner stated the FBI attributed the bombing and two others to the JDL. In February 1986, the FBI classified the bombing that killed Alex Odeh as a terrorist act. Rubin denied JDL involvement: "What the FBI is doing is simple... Some character calls up a news agency or whatever and uses the phrase Never Again... and on that assumption they can go and slander a whole group. That's tragic."

In 1987 Floyd Clarke, then assistant director of the FBI, wrote in an internal memo that key suspects had fled to Israel and were living in the West Bank town of Kiryat Arba. In 1988, the FBI arrested Rochelle Manning as a suspect in a mail bombing, and also charged her husband, Robert Manning, whom they considered a prime suspect in the Odeh bombing. Both were members of the JDL. Rochelle's jury deadlocked, and after the mistrial, she left for Israel to join her husband.

Robert Manning was extradited from Israel to the U.S. in 1993.[13] He was subsequently found guilty of involvement in the killing of Patricia Wilkerson in another, unrelated bomb blast.[24][25] William Ross, another JDL member, was also found guilty for his participation in the bombing that killed Wilkerson.[24] Rochelle Manning was re-indicted for her alleged involvement, and was detained in Israel, pending extradition, when she died of a heart attack in 1994.[24]

Mosque bombing and US Congressman assassination plot

On December 12, 2001, JDL leader Irv Rubin and JDL member Earl Krugel were charged with planning a terror attack against the office of Arab-American Congressman Darrell Issa, in the wake of the September 11 attacks.[26] The two also planned attacks on the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, California.

Rubin claimed that he was innocent. On November 4, 2002, at the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles, California, Rubin slit his throat with a safety razor and jumped out of a third story window.[12][27] Rubin's suicide would be contested by his widow and the JDL, particularly after his co-defendant plead guilty to the charges and implicated Rubin in the plot.[12] On February 4, 2003, Earl Krugel plead guilty to conspiracy and weapons charges stemming from the terrorist plot, and was expected to serve up to 20 years in prison. The core of the evidence against Krugel and Rubin was in a number of conversations taped by an informant, Jewish pride activist Danny Gillis, who was hired by the men to plant the bombs but who turned to the FBI instead.[12][28] According to one tape, Krugel thought the attacks would serve as "a wakeup call" to Arabs.[12]

Krugel was subsequently killed in prison by another inmate, on November 4, 2005.


In 2004 congressional testimony, John S. Pistole, Executive Assistant Director for Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence for the Federal Bureau of Investigation described the JDL as "a known violent extremist Jewish Organization."[29] FBI statistics show that, from 1980 through 1985, there were 18 terrorist attacks in the U.S. committed by Jews; 15 of those by members of the JDL.[13] Mary Doran, an FBI agent, described the JDL in a 2004 Congressional testimony as "a proscribed terrorist group".[30] According to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs,

In a 1986 study of domestic terrorism, the Department of Energy concluded: "For more than a decade, the Jewish Defense League (JDL) has been one of the most active terrorist groups in the United States....Since 1968, JDL operations have killed 7 persons and wounded at least 22. Thirty-nine percent of the targets were connected with the Soviet Union; 9 percent were Palestinian; 8 percent were Lebanese; 6 percent, Egyptian; 4 percent, French, Iranian, and Iraqi; 1 percent, Polish and German; and 23 percent were not connected with any states. Sixty-two percent of all JDL actions are directed against property; 30 percent against businesses; 4 percent against academics and academic institutions; and 2 percent against religious targets." (Department of Energy, Terrorism in the United States and the Potential Threat to Nuclear Facilities, R-3351-DOE, January 1986, pp. 11-16)[31]

The National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism's database of identified terrorist organizations, which is compiled by official contractors and consultants to the United States government and is officially a project supported by the Department of Homeland Security, identifies the JDL as a former terrorist organization.[32]

While the JDL's website explicitly rejects terrorism, it has often expressed support for acts of vengeance in reprisal to Arab terrorist attacks on Jews.[33] On October 26, 1981, after two firebombs damaged the Egyptian Tourist Office at Rockefeller Center, JDL Chairman Meir Kahane said at a press conference: "I'm not going to say that the JDL bombed that office. There are laws against that in this country. But I'm not going to say I mourn for it either." The next day, an anonymous caller claimed responsibility on behalf of the JDL. A JDL spokesman later denied his group's involvement, but said "We support the act."[1]

On 25 February 1994, Baruch Goldstein, a "charter member" of the JDL, opened fire on Palestinian Muslims kneeling in prayer at mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron, killing 29. On its website, the JDL writes "we are not ashamed to say that Goldstein was a charter member of the Jewish Defense League." [34] It is also important to note that the JDL defends its stance by saying that "we feel that Goldstein took a preventative measure against yet another Arab attack on Jews. We understand his motivation, his grief and his actions. We do not consider his assault to qualify under the label of terrorism because Dr. Goldstein was a soldier in a war zone who was faced by an imminent terrorist threat." [35]

Relationship with Death Row Records

During Dr. Dre’s defection from Ruthless Records (during which time Eazy-E was allegedly physically harmed by Suge Knight), there was a fear of further violence. Ruthless Records executives, Mike Klein and Jerry Heller sought assistance from the JDL.[36] Mike Klein, former Ruthless Records director of business affairs said "The Defense League offered to provide bodyguards to Eazy-E when Knight allegedly threatened him in the early 1990s." This provided Ruthless Records with muscle to enter into negotiations with Death Row Records over Dr. Dre’s departure. While Suge Knight violently sought an outright release from Ruthless Records for Dr. Dre, the JDL and Ruthless records management were able to sit down with Death Row and negotiate a release in which the record label would continue to receive money and publishing rights from future Dr. Dre projects. It was under these terms Dr. Dre left Ruthless Records and formed Death Row Records with Suge Knight.

The FBI launched a money laundering investigation, on the presumption that the JDL was extorting money from Ruthless Records. This led to JDL spokesperson Irv Rubin to issue a press release stating "there was nothing but a close, tight relationship" between Eazy-E and the League.

Jerry Heller explained JDL’s involvement with Ruthless Records as involving reasons additional to those the FBI investigated. According to Heller, Eazy E received death threats, and it was discovered that he was on a hit list by white power skinheads[citation needed]. Heller has speculated that the FBI did not investigate these threats because of the song "Fuck Tha Police". Heller said, "It was no secret that in the aftermath of the Suge Knight shake down incident where Eazy was forced to sign over Dr. Dre, Michel'le and The D.O.C., that Ruthless was protected by Israeli trained/connected security forces."[37] Heller maintains that Eazy E admired the group for their slogan Never Again, and that he had plans to do a movie about the group.

Schism: October 2004-April 2006

After Rubin's death in November 2002, Bill Maniaci was appointed interim chairman by Shelley Rubin. Two years later, the Jewish Defense League became mired in a state of upheaval over legal control of the organization. In October 2004, Maniaci rejected Shelley Rubin's call for him to resign; as a result, Maniaci was stripped of his title and membership. At that point, the JDL split into two separate factions, each vying for legal control of the associated "intellectual property." The two operated as separate organizations with the same name while a lengthy legal battle ensued. In April 2005, the original domain name of the organization,, was suspended by Network Solutions due to allegation of infringement; the organization went back online soon thereafter at domain name

In April 2006, news of a settlement was announced in which signatories agreed to not object to "Shelley Rubin's titles of permanent chairman and CEO of JDL."[38] The agreement also confirmed that "the name 'Jewish Defense League,' the acronym 'JDL,' and the 'Fist and Star' logo are the exclusive intellectual property of JDL." (Opponents of both groups claim that these are Kahanist symbols and not the exclusive property of JDL. At this time, however, the logo is no longer in general use by the Kahanist groups.) The agreement also states: "Domain names registered on behalf of JDL, including but not limited to and, are owned and operated by JDL." Meanwhile, the opposing group formed B'nai Elim, which is the latest of many JDL splinter groups to have formed over the years.


JDL's Five Principles

The JDL upholds five fundamental principles, which as of July 2007 were listed on its website as:

pride in and knowledge of Jewish tradition, faith, culture, land, history, strength, pain and peoplehood
the need to both move to help Jews everywhere and to change the Jewish image through sacrifice and all necessary means—even strength, force and violence.
the need to both move to help Jews everywhere and to change the Jewish image through sacrifice and all necessary means—even strength, force and violence.
the knowledge that he (or she) can and will do whatever must be done, and the unity and strength of willpower to bring this into reality.
Faith in the greatness and indestructibility of the Jewish people, our religion and our Land of Israel.

The JDL encourages, per its principle of the "Love of Jewry", that "...[I]n the end...the Jew can look to no one but another Jew for help and that the true solution to the Jewish problem is the liquidation of the Exile and the return of all Jews to Eretz Yisroel -- the land of Israel."[39] The JDL elaborates on this fundamental principle by insisting upon an "immediate need to place Judaism over any other 'ism' and ideology and...use of the yardstick: 'Is it good for Jews?'"[39]

The JDL argues that, outside of Jews, there are historically no people corresponding to the Palestinian ethnicity. Writing on its official website, the JDL claims: "[T]he first mention of a "Palestinian people" dates from the aftermath of the 1967 war, when the local Arabic-speaking communities...were retrospectively endowed with a contrived "nationhood"...taken from Jewish history..." and that "Clearly, since Roman times "Palestinian" had meant Jews until the Arab's recent adoption of this identity in order to claim it as their land."[40] On this basis, the JDL argues that "Zionism [should be] under no obligation to accommodate a separate "Palestinian" claim, there being no historical evidence or witness for any such Arab category," and considers Palestinian claims to be "Arab usurpation" of proper Jewish title.[40]

Criticism of the JDL

The JDL has been criticized by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for presenting a "gross distortion" of the real situation of American Jews.[1] The ADL states that JDL's founder, Meir Kahane, "preached a radical form of Jewish nationalism which reflected racism, violence and political extremism".[1] The ADL says that those attitudes were replicated by Irv Rubin, the successor to Kahane.[41] The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has added the JDL to its list of watched hate groups.[42][43]

In its report, Terrorism 2000/2001, the FBI referred to the JDL as a "violent extremist Jewish organization" and stated that the FBI was responsible for thwarting at least one of its terrorist acts.[44] The National Consortium for the Study of Terror and Responses to Terrorism states that, during the JDL's first two decades of activity, it was an "active terrorist organization."[5] The JDL was specifically referenced by the FBI's Executive Assistant Director Counterterrorism/Counterintelligence, John S. Pistole, in his formal report before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States.[5]

At least two of the suspects in the 2010 murder of Said Bourarach appear to have ties to the French chapter of the JDL.[45]

JDL Chairmen

According to the organization's official list of Chairmen or Highest Ranking Directors[46]:

See also

External links


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da:Jewish Defense League

de:Jewish Defense League es:Jewish Defense League fr:Ligue de défense juive he:הליגה להגנה יהודית nl:Jewish Defense League ja:ユダヤ防衛同盟 no:Jewish Defence League ru:Лига защиты евреев simple:Jewish Defense League

sv:Jewish Defense League
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Anti-Defamation League on JDL
  3. 3.0 3.1
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 JDL group profile from National Consortium for the Study of Terror and Responses to Terrorism
  6. Hewitt, Christopher (2002). Understanding Terrorism in America: From the Klan to Al Qaeda. Routledge. pp. 35f. ISBN 0415277655. 
  7. Hewitt, page 65
  8. Nasseph McCarus, Ernest. The Development of Arab-American Identity. 1994, p. 180-3
  9. Kushner, Harvey W. Encyclopedia of Terrorism. 2003, page 192-3
  10. BBC NEWS "Goldstein had been a member of the Jewish Defense League."
  11. JDL: Frequently Asked Questions
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Bohn, Michael K. The Achille Lauro Hijacking. 2004, page 176-7
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Bohn, Michael K. (2004). The Achille Lauro Hijacking: Lessons in the Politics and Prejudice of Terrorism. Brassey's Inc. p. 67. ISBN 1574887793. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Harvey W. Kushner, Encyclopedia of Terrorism, SAGE, 2003, 192-193 ISBN 0-7619-2408-6
  15. Christopher Andrew, Vasili Mitrokhin, The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World, Basic Books, 2005, 237–238 ISBN0465003117
  16. Harlow Robinson (November 1994). "Sol Hurok: America's dance impresario". Dance Magazine. 
  17. Richard Rosenthal (2000). "Chapter One, excerpt: Rookie Cop: Deep Undercover in the Jewish Defense League". Leapfrog Press. ISBN 0-9654578-4-5. 
  18. Hall, Carla (1984-09-11). "The Message of Meir Kahane: In Silver Spring, Boos and Applause for the Knesset Member Knesset Member Meir Kahane". The Washington Post. 
  19. "JDL's new leader was born in Montreal" Montreal Gazette, August 20, 1985, D10.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Shermer, Michael. Why People Believe Weird Things. 1997, page 185
  21. Linda Deutsch, "U.S. Jewish militants charged in bomb plot: Los Angeles mosque, congressman's office were intended targets", Ottawa Citizen, December 13, 2001
  22. Henry Stancu, "Police detonate bomb sent to Zündel's home 'Just another day in life of Ernst Zundel,' he says", Toronto Star, May 21, 1995
  23. Juergensmeyer, Mark. Terror in the mind of God. 2003, page 56
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2
  25. Malnic, Eric (October 15, 1993). "Ex-JDL Activist Found Guilty in Bombing Death". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  26. "Two JDL leaders charged in bomb plot". CNN. December 13, 2001. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  27. "JDL chairman Rubin dies". CNN. November 14, 2002. [dead link]
  29. Federal Bureau of Investigation - Congressional Testimony
  30. Federal Bureau of Investigation - Congressional Testimony
  31. Middle East History: Jewish Defense League Unleashes Campaign of Violence in America
  32. MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base
  33. The Official Jewish Defense League Website
  34. JDL: Frequently Asked Questions
  36. JDL: The FBI Screws Up Again
  37. Breakdown FM: Still Ruthless-Interview w/ Jerry Heller pt1 on Odeo
  39. 39.0 39.1 The Five Principles of the Jewish Defense League
  40. 40.0 40.1 Israel Today & Always: Palestine or Eretz Yisrael - To Whom Does It Belong?
  41. ADL Commends FBI for Thwarting Alleged Bombing Plot By Jewish Extremists
  42. Anti-Arab Terrorism
  43. Hate Groups Map
  44. Terrorism 2000/2001
  45. "'French Jews killed Muslim out of racist motives'". Ynetnews. Retrieved May 15, 2010.