In the U.S.
In 2004 congressional testimony, John S. Pistole, Executive Assistant Director for Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) described the JDL as "a known violent extremist Jewish organization." FBI statistics show that, from 1980 through 1985, there were 18 officially classified terrorist attacks in the U.S. committed by Jews; 15 of those by members of the JDL. According to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs,
In a 1986 study of domestic terrorism, theDepartment 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 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. 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." The JDL was specifically referenced by the FBI's Executive Assistant Director Counterterrorism/Counterintelligence, John S. Pistole, in his formal report before theNational Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States.
Initially, the League was connected to a series of violent attacks against the Soviet Union's interests in the United States, protesting that country's repression of Soviet Jews, who were often jailed and refused exit visas. 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 relationsby allowing more emigration to Israel. In 1970, according to Christopher Andrew andVasili Mitrokhin, agents of the Soviet KGBforged 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. One bomb attack, on January 8, 1971, outside of the Soviet cultural center in Washington, D.C., was followed by a phone call, including the JDL slogan "Never again"; a JDL spokesperson denied the group's involvement in the bombing, but refused to condemn it. In 1972, two JDL members were arrested and convicted of bomb possession and burglaryin an attempt to blow up the Long Islandresidence of the Soviet Mission to the United Nations. In 1972, a smoke bomb was planted in the Manhattan office of music impresarioSol Hurok, who organized Soviet performers' U.S. tours. Iris Kones, a Jewish secretary from Long Island, died of smoke inhalation, and Hurok and 12 others were injured and hospitalized. Jerome Zeller of the JDL was indicted for the bombing and in 1992 Kahane admitted his part in the attack. JDL activities were condemned by Moscowrefuseniks 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 – including Alexander Lerner,Anatoly Shcharansky, and Iosif Begun – condemned the JDL's anti-Soviet activities as terrorist acts, stating that their "actions constitute a danger for Soviet Jews [...] as they might be used by the [Soviet] authorities as a pretext for new repressions and for instigating anti-Semitic hostilities." 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 pipe bombings of rival JDL members' cars, the 1986 firebombing at a hall where theSoviet State Symphony Orchestra was performing, and two 1986 detonations of tear gas grenades to protest performances by Soviet dance troupes. In a 1984 interview, the JDL leader 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."
The attacks, which caused minor diplomatic crisis in relations between the U.S. and the USSR, prompted the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to infiltrate the group and one udercover officer discovered a chain of weapon caches across Brooklyn, containing "enough shotguns and rifles to arm a small militia." In 1975, JDL leader Meir Kahane was accused of conspiracy to kidnap a Soviet diplomat, bomb the Iraqi embassy in Washington, and ship arms abroad from Israel. A hearing was held to revoke Kahane'sprobation for a 1971 incendiary device-making incident. He was found guilty of violating probation and served a one year prison sentence. On December 31, 1975, 15 members of the League seized the office of the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in protest for Pope Paul VI's policy of support of Palestinian rights. The incident was over after one hour, as the activists left the place after being ordered to do so by the local police, and no arrests were made. 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, after an anonymous caller claimed responsibility on behalf of the JDL, the group's spokesman later denied his group's involvement, but said, "we support the act." JDL members had often been suspected of involvement in attacks against neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers and antisemites. On March 16, 1978, Irv Rubin, chairman of the JDL, said about the plannedAmerican 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 was acquitted in 1981.
On October 11, 1985, Alex Odeh, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), was killed in a mail bombing at his office in Santa Ana, California. 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. Irv Rubin immediately made several controversial public statements in reaction to the incident: "I have no tears for Mr. Odeh. He got exactly what he deserved. [...] My tears were used up crying for Leon Klinghoffer." The Anti-Defamation Leagueand 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 urban settlement of Kiryat Arba. In 1988, the FBI arrested Rochelle Manning as a suspect in the bombing, and also charged her husband, Robert Steven Manning, whom they considered a prime suspect in the attack; 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 the secretary of computer firm ProWest, Patricia Wilkerson, in another, unrelated mail bomb blast. In addition, he and other JDL members were also suspected in a string of other violent attacks through 1985, including the bombing ofBoston ADC office that seriously injured two police officers, the bomb killing of suspected Nazi war criminal Tscherim Soobzokov inPaterson, New Jersey, and a bombing in Long Island that maimed a passerby.William Ross, another JDL member, was also found guilty for his participation in the bombing that killed Wilkerson. 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.
When Ruthless Records recording artist and former N.W.A member Dr. Dre sought to work instead with Death Row Records, Ruthless Records executives, Mike Klein and Jerry Heller were fearful of possible physical intimidation from Death Row Entertainment executives including chief executive officerSuge Knight and requested security assistance from the violent JDL. The FBI launched a money laundering investigation, on the presumption that the JDL was extorting money from Ruthless Records and several rap artists, including Tupac Shakurand Eazy-E. 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 andThe D.O.C., that Ruthless was protected by Israeli trained/connected security forces."The FBI documents refer to the JDL death threats and extortion scheme but do not make a direct connection between the group and the 1996 murder of Tupac Shakur.
On December 12, 2001, JDL leader Irv Rubin and JDL member Earl Krugel were 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 Clemente office of Arab-American Congressman Darrell Issa, in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Rubin, who also was charged with unlawful possession of an automatic firearm, claimed that he was innocent. On November 4, 2002, at the federalMetropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles, 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, Krugel pleaded guilty to conspiracy and weapons charges stemming from the 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, 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 murdered in prison by a fellow inmate in 2005.
Outside the U.S.
On February 25, 1994, Baruch Goldstein, an American-born Israeli member of the JDL,opened fire on Muslims kneeling in prayer at the revered Cave of the Patriarchs mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron, killing 29 worshippers and injuring 125 before he run out of ammunition and was himself killed. The attack set off riots and protests throughout the West Bank and 19 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli Defense Forces within 48 hours of the massacre. On its website, the JDL described the massacre as a "preventative measure against yet another Arab attack on Jews" and noted that they "do not consider his assault to qualify under the label of terrorism". Furthermore, they noted that "we teach that violence is never a good solution but is unfortunately sometimes necessary as a last resort when innocent lives are threatened; we therefore view Dr. Goldstein as a martyr in Judaism's protracted struggle against Arab terrorism. And we are not ashamed to say that Goldstein was a charter member of the Jewish Defense League." In a similar attack nearly twelve years earlier, on April 11, 1982, an American-born JDL member and immigrant to Israel, Allan H. Goodman, opened fire with his military-issue rifle at the Al-Aqsa Mosqueon the sacred Temple Mount in Jerusalem, killing one Palestinian Arab and injuring four others. The 1982 shooting sparked an Arab riot in which another Palestinian was shot dead by the police. In 1983, Goodman was sentenced by an Israeli court to life in prison (which usually means 25 years in Israel); he was released after serving 15 1/2 years on the condition of returning to the United States.
In 1995, when the Toronto residence of theHolocaust denier Ernst Zündel was the target of an arson attack, a group calling itself the "Jewish Armed Resistance Movement" claimed responsibility; according to theToronto Sun, the group had ties to the JDL and to Kahane Chai. 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 Zündel's property, where he was apprehended by police.Later the same month Zündel was the recipient of a parcel bomb that was detonated by the Toronto police bomb squad. In 2011, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had launched an investigation against at least nine members of the JDL in regards to an anonymous tip that the JDL was plotting to bomb the Palestine House in Mississauga.
In 2002, in France, attackers from Betar and Ligue de Défense Juive (LDJ) violently assaulted Jewish demonstrators from Peace Now, journalists, police officers (one of whom was stabbed), and passersby Arabs. At least two of the suspects in the 2010 murder of a French Muslim Saïd Bourarach appeared to have ties to the French chapter of the JDL. In 2011, Israeli daily Haaretz reported members of the "French branch of Jewish terror group coming to Israel 'to defendsettlements'." In 2013, a French Arab man was critically injured in a "revenge attack" by LDJ, sparking calls for further attacks against the Jews and a condemnation of the militant group by the French Jewry umbrella groupCRIF; as of 2013, there have been least 115 violent incidents were attributed to LDJ "soldiers" since the group's registration in France in 2001, including many vigilante reprisals to antisemitic attacks. Earlier that year, two LDJ members were sentenced for an attack at a pro-Palestinian bookstore that injured two people and a LDJ propaganda video called for "five cops for every Jew, 10 Arabs for each rabbi." LDJ continues to be legal in France.