Should Montreal have a Jewish Defense League chapter? Should tough Jews go out and break the heads of the Jew haters? Will this accomplish anything or will it be for naught?
These are the questions that have been running through my head since I found out that Meir Halevi was coming to Montreal to discuss setting up a chapter of his organization. The answer isn’t simple, in fact it is very complicated.
First, we have to understand the Jewish Defense League. Founded in the late 1960s, the JDL was modelled after many of the other “defense” organizations of the time. It’s clenched fist logo was a direct copy of the Black Panthers, its described purpose of “protecting Jews from local manifestations of anti-Semitism” was a response to Jews being attacked in certain New York neighbourhoods.
The JDL was very active in bringing the Soviet Jewry issue to the forefront of the Jewish agenda. Along with many attacks on Soviet dignitaries, ballets and plays, JDL members stormed the Soviet Embassy in New York and took the Ambassador hostage. In the melee, the Ambassador lost his fingers when a drawer was slammed on them. In 1972, two JDL members were arrested and convicted of bomb possession and burglary in an attempt to blow up the Long Island resident of the Soviet Mission to the United Nations. Also in 1972, a smoke bomb was planted in the office of music impresario Sol Hurok, who organized Soviet performers US tours. Iris Kones, a Jewish secretary died of smoke inhalation and 12 others were hospitalized. Jerome Zeller, a JDL member was convicted for the attack. The refusniks condemed the JDL’s violence. There were many other attacks on Soviet interests.
JDL members Rochelle and Robert Manning were indicted in the 1985 murder of a computer company’s secretary. Robert, was convicted in 1972 of bombing an Arab activist’s house, was the first Jew in history extradited from Israel to the US to be tried for the murder. He was convicted and is serving a 30 year sentence. In 1994, Rochelle Manning died of a heart attack while fighting her extradition.
Arab Anti-Defamation League Executive Director Alex Odeh was murdered in 1985. Odeh was murdered a day after the ending of the Palestinian Liberation Front’s attack on the cruise ship Achille Lauro, which saw the murder of wheelchair bound Jewish passenger Leon Klinghoffer. The night before his murder, Odeh appeared on Nightline debating a JDL representative. According to the FBI, Robert Manning is the prime suspect in the murder.
Irv Rubin, who had recently taken over as chairman of the JDL denied JDL involvement but said that Mr. Odeh “got exactly what he deserved.”
According to a 2011 Haaretz article, FBI files show that murdered rapper Tupac Shakur received death threats from the JDL.
” ‘The JDL… have been extorting money from various rap music stars via death threats,’ the FBI file on the case states. The report then goes on to describe how the group would make the death threats, and then call the rap star and offer protection for a fee.’ ”
According to the documents, both Tupac Shakur and another dead rapper, Easy-E were victims of the scheme.
Although the documents refer to the JDL extortion scheme, they do not implicate the JDL in the murder of Tupac Shakur or in the death of Easy-E.
In 1995, the Toronto residence of Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel was set on fire. A group calling themselves “The Jewish Resistance Movement” claimed responsibility. According to the Toronto Sun, the group had connections to the JDL and to the Israeli group Kahane Chai. Meir Halevi, the leader of the Canadian JDL denied his groups involvement in the attack.
Five days later, Halevi and Irv Rubin were caught trying to break into Zundel’s property. They were arrested. Later that same month, Zundel received a parcel bomb which was detonated by the police.
In 2001, Irv Rubin and JDL member Earl Krugel were arrested and charged with planning a series of bomb attacks against the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles, the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, California and the San Clemete office of Arab-American Congressman Darrell Issa as a retaliation for the 9/11 attacks. Rubin was charged with unlawful possession of an automatic firearm. Both men claimed they were innocent and setup by the FBI.
Irv Rubin died on November 4, 2002 at the Federal Detention Center in Los Angeles. According to corrections officials, Rubin sliced his throat with a safety razor and then jumped out of a third story window, just hours before he was to appear in court to plead his case.
On February 4, 2003, Earl Krugel plead guilty to conspiracy and weapons charges stemming from the plot and was expected to serve up to 20 years in prison. The damning evidence came from a former JDL member, Danny Gillis who was hired by the men to plant the bombs but went to the FBI instead. Krugel stated that he thought the attacks would serve as a “wakeup call” foto the Arabs.
On November 4, 2005, Earl Krugel was murdered in prison by a fellow inmate.
In 2004, during Congressional testimony, John S. Pistole, Executive Assistant Director for Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence for the FBI described the JDL as “a known violent extremist Jewish organization:” FBI statistics show that from 1980-1985 there were 18 officially classified terror attacks in the US committed by Jews, 15 of them were by the JDL.
” 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)”
In 2011, the RCMP launced an investigation into nine members of the Canadian JDL in response to an anonymous tip that the JDL was planning on bombing the Palestine House in Mississauga Ontario.
For more information on the history of the JDL, I strongly urge you to read Rabbi Meir Kahane’s book “The Story of the JDL” and various news articles on the activities of the group.
In recent weeks, since the beginning of the Israeli campaign to end Hamas terror from Gaza, Jews in Montreal have been subjected to various anti-Jewish acts. Do all of these acts warrant the creation of a chapter of the JDL, I don’t think so.
I was friends with Irv Rubin, I spent many hours talking to him and we spent time together when he came to visit family in Montreal. It has been 11 years since Irv’s untimely passing, but I don’t think the situation today is any different than it was 11 years ago and I don’t think a violent extremist organization is the answer. That goes to say, I don’t think Federation’s back door diplomacy and indoor rallies is the answer either.
What I would like to see is a cross between the two, and if the JDL fit that bill, I would welcome them with open arms.
I think our city needs a Jewish organization that is not afraid to rally outdoors in support of Israel and who is not afraid to tell the truth publicly. I believe we have nothing to be ashamed of and hiding inside “for security” reasons is a lame excuse for not taking our support of Israel to the streets. I don’t believe violence is the answer, I believe strong Israel supporting non-violent, loud, proud organization is what we need.
The JDL, unfortunately, has too much baggage, therefore I implore the community to reject their bid to setup shop here and let’s work on creating something that will work within the framework of our Jewish Canadian ideals.
Howie Silbiger is the host of The Howie Silbiger Show, heard live every Sunday 6-9pm on 1650 AM Radio Shalom Montreal and he serves as the Editor of montrealjewishnews.com –