Anti-Terrorism and Anti-Racism

The Jewish Defense League unconditionally and unequivocally condemns all forms of terrorism. Terrorism is never a legitimate means to the furtherance of political (or any other) goals.

Contrary to the claims of our detractors, the Jewish Defense League is an above-board, law-abiding organization. Terrorism has no place within this movement. JDL enforces a strict no-tolerance policy against terrorism and other felonious acts; any suggestion of such activity is a violation of this policy. Even when Jews are faced by regimes that violate those core Torah tenets that require the highest levels of Jewish self-sacrifice, terrorism is an unacceptable recourse.*

Regarding JDL’s Very Controversial Past

In the decade of the 1970s primarily, JDL undertook extraordinary efforts in its campaign to free Soviet Jewry. During that period JDL fought with all of its resources on behalf of Soviet Jews, threatening détente between the Superpowers to liberate Jews who could not fight for themselves. Many of the tactics employed in that period of time against the Soviets were definitely violent but not terroristic. A small number of other actions by JDL members went beyond the bounds of JDL activism and were defined as terrorism–certainly small in scale compared to the attacks and aims of wanton terrorists who seek only to destroy as many innocent lives and as much property as possible–but nonetheless acts defined as terrorism. Rarely did these acts involve multiple JDL personnel; more commonly loosely affiliated individuals took it upon themselves–without organizational knowledge or approval–to commit those serious violations of the law. With that said, JDL rejects any attempt to morally equate the small scale attacks from JDL’s distant past with the true forces of terrorism in the world that seek to cause massive death tolls and immense amounts of devastation.

It is also essential to note the following: It was most often never substantiated that any person connected to JDL was actually at fault for a sizable portion of the terrorist acts associated with JDL’s early history. In certain instances anonymous callers would phone in to give JDL credit for attacks. In other instances, the individuals committing the acts were involved with JDL but were not true JDL members: They were instead agents provocateurs sent into JDL by law enforcement who were committing crimes while attempting to ensnare JDL members in the process. Another category is one in which government authorities simply assumed JDL involvement baselessly because the allegation was easy to make. When crimes in those categories hit the headlines, JDL’s reputation was tarnished in a guilt-by-association or blind accusation fashion. (In a notorious case that falls into the third category, the Alex Odeh assassination, the FBI badly bungled its investigation and blamed JDL without any evidence just because the organization was a convenient target.)

To better understand JDL’s past one must gain some perspective on the historical setting involved. The late 1960s through the 1970s is well known for being the most politically turbulent time in American history. Many militant organizations were founded at this time along with JDL. In the early era of our movement, one of JDL’s primary objectives was to strike palpable fear in the hearts of Jew-haters. As a result the organization chose not to clearly denounce crimes that were rightly or wrongly associated with it. JDL wished to project a fierce image to the Soviet oppressor and all other enemies of the Jewish people who sought to do harm to us, but as a consequence JDL was unfairly targeted as essentially the sole scapegoat for any violent act that could possibly be attributed to Jews. It is a fact of the historical record that JDL members were sometimes involved in acts defined as terrorism, but that does not mean that any act blamed on Jews or anonymously attributed to JDL was necessarily the responsibility of any JDL member. In that tumultuous period many people were barred from JDL because they displayed irrationally violent tendencies. It’s unverifiable yet likely that some of those individuals who were rejected from JDL ended up acting out unilaterally and anonymously (as alluded to above), resulting in JDL taking the heat for their crimes.

Complicating matters is the fact that at times, our founder and martyred International Chairman Rabbi Meir Kahane, הי״ד זצ״ל, seemingly condoned some of those actions, while in other instances he spoke out against them just as openly. For all of his greatness as an authentic leader of the Jewish people, Rabbi Kahane set an inconsistent standard for how JDL leaders dealt with the public in response to illegal activities that could be associated with JDL. During that period JDL spokesmen would often respond to media inquires regarding certain events by saying things such as, “We didn’t do it, but we applaud the act.“ Those statements were made to bolster JDL’s militant image but could easily be used to impute guilt to the organization regardless of the facts surrounding those incidents. It also wrongly depicted JDL as an organization that approved of lawlessness. In contrast, the original JDL movement handbook demanded respect for the property of others without qualification, and Rabbi Kahane stated that he abided by the secular laws of the country in which he lived. In hindsight, while JDL was attempting to build a fearsome reputation, its strategy was attracting nefarious characters, unfounded accusations and far too much government scrutiny–making the League a prime target for unfounded government accusations and malicious, politically motivated prosecutions.

Given Rabbi Kahane’s somewhat inconsistent stance on these issues, we do not believe JDL departed from his teachings by taking this much stronger stance against serious infractions of the law. Our other martyred International Chairman Irv Rubin, הי״ד, worked throughout his career to stress that JDL is an “above board, law abiding organization.“ Yet, much like Rabbi Kahane, some of Irv’s public statements on certain occasions proved too hot and too politically incorrect, which when coupled with JDL’s controversial past, contributed substantially to his unjust demise.

Hard Lessons Learned

History has taught us that it is neither appropriate nor efficacious to equivocate when individuals are clearly guilty of serious crimes, or when such acts are done anonymously and then attributed to JDL by the perpetrator, authorities or the public at large. It is a fact that JDL accomplished a tremendous amount on behalf of Soviet Jewry, making their previously unknown plight a front page story and ultimately freeing hundreds of thousands of Jews from destruction at the hands of communism. However, the choice made by JDL leadership in the past not to clearly denounce terrorism tarnished those great accomplishments, opening the organization up to subsequent blind accusations and guilt-by-association due to the misconduct of rogue ex-members like the despicable convicted terrorist, racist, coward and inveterate liar Victor Vancier. More importantly, the policy helped set the stage for a number of false arrests and malicious prosecutions. We must always remember that Rabbi Kahane taught that Jews must have strong fists connected to sane minds. Those who were, or who may in the future be, attracted to JDL primarily to do harm are almost invariably not in that category. The policy of not clearly rejecting terrorism proved to be shortsighted and destructive to JDL and was abandoned long ago. Unfortunately, the negative reputation garnered as a result of those early activities and associations persisted long after JDL sought to leave it behind.

JDL has learned a lot from the triumphs and tragedies of its forty year history. JDL members are commanded to expel any person who violates our aforementioned no-tolerance policy. If our organization had always taken this uncompromising stance, JDL may have been able to save itself from a considerable amount of harm. Indeed, an agent provocateur’s conspiracy with a low-level JDL member brought about the false arrest, imprisonment and death of our chairman Irv, in spite of his innocence. JDL’s past associations made it easier for elements within the federal government to unjustly martyr Irv, who had worked for many years to keep people in line and rehabilitate JDL’s image.

We are determined to never again allow for such a scenario to play out. One of our highest priorities is the protection of our supporters, members, leaders and organization as a whole from the threats posed by misguided individuals, bad actors, and their evil intent. We intend to guard against corrupt government officials who may seek any pretext to silence Jews who refuse to be victims. We also want to shield JDL’s reputation from any further debasement, including from those who continue to falsely call JDL a terrorist organization. Those who do so are usually motivated by Jew-hatred and a desire to whitewash the evil agendas they promote. While JDL was unjustly labeled as a terrorist organization for limited durations within isolated periods of the past, no less an authority than the United States Department of Homeland Security confirms through the MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base that JDL is not a terrorist organization. We intend to do everything in our power to never again be lumped into that inauspicious and crippling category; we are confident that we have taken the steps necessary to prevent it.

The Jewish Defense League unconditionally and unequivocally condemns all forms of racism.

Along with our ban on terrorist or felonious activity, it is important to express that racism is also antithetical to the ideology of the Jewish Defense League. The Jewish nation is made up of many races and ethnicities, so there is no truth to the Jew-hating claim that Jews consider themselves racially superior. It is absurd to either elevate or denigrate anyone based on physical characteristics over which a person has no control. JDL works to combat both racism and terrorism, so there is no room for either of those pernicious elements within our organization. On a related note, JDL also opposes the denigration of non-Jews based on their religious affiliations.


Given that some individuals and entities are apt to mislabel as terrorism any form of violence that is committed by those they dislike, it is necessary to explicitly recognize some self-evident distinctions between violence and terrorism, and to strenuously oppose those who purposely abuse hot-button labels against their adversaries in order to support their own agendas. Obviously, violence that is committed in self-defense is legitimate, but those who lack moral clarity or intellectual honesty may find it difficult to distinguish between self-defense and terrorism.

Posted by JDL April 2009; Updated July 30th, 2009




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