|~ The JDL's motto.|
The Jewish Defense League (JDL) is a Jewish far-right ultranationalist religious-political organization in the United States that adheres to Militant Judaism, whose stated goal is to "protect Jews from anti-semitism by whatever means necessary". It was classified as "a right wing terrorist group" by the FBI in 2001 and is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. According to the FBI, the JDL has been involved in plotting and executing acts of terrorism within the United States. Most terrorism watch groups classify the group as inactive. The JDL's website states that it rejects terrorism.
Founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York City in 1968, the JDL's self-described purpose was to protect Jews from local manifestations of antisemitism. Its criticism of the Soviet Union increased support for the group, transforming it from a "vigilante club" into an organization with a stated membership numbering over 15,000 at one point. The group took to bombing Arab and Soviet properties in the United States, and targeting various alleged "enemies of the Jewish people", ranging from Arab-American political activists to neo-Nazis, for assassination. A number of JDL members have been linked to violent, and sometimes deadly, attacks in the United States and in other countries, including the murder of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee regional director Alex Odeh in 1985, the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in 1994, and a plot to assassinate Congressman Darrell Issa in 2001. Several JDL members and leaders died violent deaths, including Kahane himself, who was assassinated by an Arab-American gunman.
The JDL was connected to the Kach and Kahane Chai political movement (also founded by Kahane), which briefly held a seat in the Israeli Knesset from 1985 to 1988.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the JDL consists only of "thugs and hooligans". The group's founder, Meir Kahane, "preached a radical form of Jewish ultranationalism which reflected racism, violence and political extremism," attitudes that were replicated by Irv Rubin, the successor to Kahane.
In 1971, Kahane aligned the JDL with the Italian-American Civil Rights League, created the previous year by the Italian American mob boss Joseph Colombo, head of the Colombo crime family. In 2011, the Canadian JDL organized a "support rally" for the English Defence League (EDL) featuring a live speech, via Skype, by EDL leader Tommy Robinson. The event was denounced and condemned by the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) leader Bernie Farber and general counsel Benjamin Shinewald. The rally, held at the Toronto Zionist Centre, attracted a counter-protest organized by Anti-Racist Action (ARA) resulting in four ARA members being arrested. The JDL Canada has also organized rallies in support of right-wing Israeli politician Moshe Feiglin and Dutch politician and well-known Islam critic Geert Wilders of the Party for Freedom, and announced its support for the increasingly anti-Islamic Freedom Party of Austria.
In a 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.
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 the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States.
JDL is suspected of being behind the 1972 bombing of the Manhattan offices of theater empresario Sol Hurok in which 2 employees were killed