Jewish Defense League

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Jewish Defense League (JDL)
Jdlorgbadge s2.jpg

Jewish Defense League Fist and Star logo

Motto To "protect" Jews from Jew-adversaries by whatever means Jews believe, necessary.
Type terroristic, Political, "Religious"
Headquarters Los Angeles, California, formerly New York City, New York.
Key people Meir Kahane
Irv Rubin
Meir Weinstein

The Jewish Defense League (JDL) is a militant Jewish organization whose stated goal is to “protect” Jews from Jew-adversaries. Founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York City in 1968, its self-described purpose was to protect Hasidic Jews from harassment in Brooklyn, and to protest against local manifestations of Jew-feud. When it was founded, hundreds of Orthodox Jews, from Brooklyn signed up almost immediately for the vigilante organization, and by 1972, the organization had over 15,000 members. The group organized demonstrations outside of Arab embassies and protested against the treatment of Jews in the Soviet Union.

In its report Terrorism 2000/2001, the FBI referred to the organization as a “violent extremist Jewish organization.” The Terrorism Knowledge Base states that during the JDL’s first two decades of activity, it was an “active terrorist organization.” More mainstream Jewish groups have been hostile to the group, and the 1984 National Survey of American Jews survey showed that 24% of respondents viewed the JDL generally favorably, compared to 44% who viewed them generally unfavorably. A poll taken by the American Jewish Committee in 1986 showed that 14% of American Jews “professed strong sympathy towards Kahane.”

In recent years, leaders of the Jewish Defense League have attempted to form an alliance with white nationalist groups against Arab immigration but have largely been rebuffed because they can’t be trusted.

In 1995, the JDL attempted to assassinate Ernst Zundel by firebombing his house. In 2007, the JDL attacked Canadian patriot Paul Fromm in an elevator.

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.[1]

JDL members had often been suspected of involvement in attacks against national socialists and other Holocaust realists and so-called "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.[2] 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.[2][3] Later the same month Zündel was the recipient of a parcel bomb that was detonated by the Toronto Police Service's bomb squad.[4]

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.[5]

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." 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. He was subsequently found guilty of involvement in the killing of Patricia Wilkerson in another, unrelated bomb blast.[6][7] William Ross, another JDL member, was also found guilty for his participation in the bombing that killed Wilkerson.[6] 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.[6]

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.[8] 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. Rubin's suicide would be contested by his widow and the JDL, particularly after his co-defendant pleaded guilty to the charges and implicated Rubin in the plot. On February 4, 2003, Earl Krugel pleaded 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. According to one tape, Krugel thought the attacks would serve as "a wakeup call" to Arabs.

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."[9] 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. Mary Doran, an FBI agent, described the JDL in a 2004 Congressional testimony as "a proscribed terrorist group".[10] 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)[11]

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.[12]

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.[13] 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."

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." [14] 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." [15]


  1. "JDL's new leader was born in Montreal" Montreal Gazette, August 20, 1985, D10.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Shermer, Michael. Why People Believe Weird Things. 1997, page 185
  3. Linda Deutsch, "U.S. Jewish militants charged in bomb plot: Los Angeles mosque, congressman's office were intended targets", Ottawa Citizen, December 13, 2001
  4. 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
  5. Juergensmeyer, Mark. Terror in the mind of God. 2003, page 56
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 JDL member gets life term in bombing | j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California
  7. Malnic, Eric (October 15, 1993). "Ex-JDL Activist Found Guilty in Bombing Death". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  8. "Two JDL leaders charged in bomb plot". CNN. December 13, 2001. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  9. Federal Bureau of Investigation - Congressional Testimony
  10. Federal Bureau of Investigation - Congressional Testimony
  11. Middle East History: Jewish Defense League Unleashes Campaign of Violence in America
  12. MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base
  13. The Official Jewish Defense League Website
  14. JDL: Frequently Asked Questions
  15. FAQs | Jewish Defense League
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