The Jewish Defense League, which saw two of its leaders arrested last week in a bombing plot against Arab Americans, is described by law enforcement authorities as a militant group with a history of confrontations against those it considers “enemies of Israel.”
The JDL has been particularly critical of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, calling it “suicide,” and JDL leader Irv Rubin, now being held without bond in the suspected bombing scheme, has been arrested more than 45 times since he joined the organization in 1971.
“Those critics of JDL’s action have no concept of righteous anger,” Mr. Rubin is quoted on the organization’s Web site. “They prefer to be targets; they love tears and sympathy; they stand up for the rights of their killers.”
The site describes Mr. Rubin as “the foremost Jewish activist in America,” adding that his “ardent dedication” to the Jewish people, “albeit through occasional controversial and unorthodox methods,” has made him a “respected and recognized leader” of the American Jewish community.
“On the other hand, Mr. Rubin also has earned the fear and wrath of the enemies of the Jewish people. For this he is most proud,” the site says.
Mr. Rubin, 56, and Earl Krugel, 59, described by authorities as a “high-ranking” member of the organization, have been held without bail since their arrest on charges of conspiring to blow up a mosque, the office of a U.S. congressman and the headquarters of an Arab-American group in Los Angeles.
They were taken into custody Tuesday night by members of the Justice Department’s anti-terrorism task force in Los Angeles after an informant reportedly told investigators about the plot.
While the JDL boasts of a membership of more than 13,000, authorities say it probably has only a few dozen active members. It was created in 1968 with the stated purpose of protecting Jews by whatever means necessary. Its founder was a 38-year-old ordained rabbi from New York, Meir Kahane, who was assassinated in 1990 by an Arab extremist.
According to the FBI, the JDL was responsible for at least 37 terrorist acts in the United States between 1968 and 1983. It is, however, a legally incorporated political action group and has officially disavowed responsibility for any violent actions carried out by its members.
Beginning late in 1985, authorities said, the JDL shifted its focus to individuals suspected of being anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic. On Oct. 11, 1985, the Los Angeles office of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee was bombed, killing ADC Director Alex Odeh. He had sought to rationalize the actions of the hijackers of the Achille Lauro on a local newscast the previous evening.
In 1987, several JDL members were convicted on a variety of criminal charges, and since then there has been no record of JDL terrorist activity.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, Mr. Kahane believed that the major Jewish organizations in the United States had failed to protect America’s Jews from anti-Semitism, which he saw as “exploding” all over the country. The ADL said Mr. Kahane sought to instill fear in his followers, an attitude “replicated by his successor,” Mr. Rubin.
Mr. Rubin frequently has been in violent confrontations, although his arrests have mainly been for illegal protests. He was taken into custody in 1972 for attempted murder after someone fired shots at an American Nazi Party leader in El Monte, Calif. The charges were dismissed. In 1978, he proclaimed a $500 bounty for anyone who killed or seriously injured a member of the American Nazi Party.
In 1999, he fought with skinheads and Ku Klux Klan members in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. A similar fight erupted that same year with Klansmen on “The Jerry Springer Show.” Last year, he burned Nazi and Confederate flags in Reno, Nev., after five white supremacists pleaded guilty to the attempted firebombing of a synagogue.
In a statement yesterday, the ADL commended the FBI for “its diligence in thwarting alleged bombing attacks planned by members of the Jewish Defense League.” It said the ADL had been monitoring the JDL’s “contemptible activities” for more than 25 years.
“If the current allegations about the JDL are true, ADL abhors and condemns this potential terrorist plot to attack members of the Los Angeles community,” said David A. Lehrer, ADL regional director. “This incident is one more example of how organizations expressing hatred often turn to violence. We have full confidence this case will be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.”
U.S. Magistrate Judge Victor Kenton in Los Angeles ordered the men held without bail. They are accused in a criminal complaint of conspiring to destroy a building by means of an explosive, which carries up to five years in prison, and of possessing a destructive device related to a crime of violence, which carries a 30-year mandatory sentence.
Peter Morris, Mr. Rubin’s attorney, denied that his client was involved in any wrongdoing.
Court documents do not disclose when the suspected scheme began or why the three targets had been chosen. During one secretly taped meeting, Mr. Krugel reportedly said Arabs “need a wake-up call” and the JDL needed to do something to one of their “filthy” mosques, according to an affidavit.