Hardly an eyebrow rose on December 12 when the chairman of the Jewish Defence League (JDL) and another senior member were arrested in a plot to bomb a large mosque, the office of a congressman, and other targets. Irv Rubin, JDL chairman (56), and Earl Krugel, JDL West Coast coordinator (59), have been charged with conspiracy to bomb the King Fahd Mosque in Los Angeles, the office of representative Darrell Issa, and the offices of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) in Los Angeles. Their other targets included businesses that they believed were owned by white supremacists.
According to an affidavit filed in the US District Court in Los Angeles, each man faces one charge of conspiracy to use an explosive device to destroy a building and one of possession of a destructive device during and in relation to a violent crime. If convicted, each could spend up to 35 years in prison.
The 15-page affidavit against both men leaves no doubt that Rubin and Krugel meant to terrorize Arab and Muslim Americans. It says that the two men held a series of meetings with a third, a long-time JDL member who has turned informant, to plot the bombings. The third man tipped off the LA Joint Terrorism Task-Force on October 18 and agreed to wear a wire in future meetings with Rubin and Krugel. He had been instructed to photograph the MPAC offices, purchase bomb-components, and deliver them to Krugel, who would make the bombs at his home. The informant would then place them at the targets.
The trio last met on December 12 in Los Angeles. The informant arrived for the meeting with 2.2 kg of explosive powder in his car’s trunk, which he later unloaded at Krugel’s garage. Because he wore a wire, federal agents followed and arrested them a short while later. A search of Krugel’s home turned up bomb-making materials, including end caps, pipes and fuses, and about a dozen firearms, some loaded, officials said. Authorities said that the explosives were sufficient to cause “considerable damage and possibly fatalities”.
During the meeting on December 12, Rubin and Krugel described the intended bombings as “propaganda by the deed”. Krugel said that the bombings were important because “Arabs need a wake-up call” and the JDL needed to do something to one of their “filthy” mosques. Asked about the possibility of an Arab dying, Krugel responded: “C’est la vie” (‘such is life’): not surprising from a member of a group that holds that “a million Arabs are not worth one Jewish fingernail.” The court documents reveal that during a meeting on October 20 Rubin expressed “his desire to blow up an entire building”.
Rubin and Krugel made their initial appearance at the downtown Los Angeles Federal Building on December 13. US magistrate Victor B. Kenton ordered that both men be held without bail. They should appear for arraignment in a preliminary hearing on December 31.
Rubin, a former US Air Force sergeant known for his pugnacious views and volatile temper, has a long history of confrontations with those he considers enemies of Israel and the Jews. These include Arabs, Muslims, evangelist Christians, neo-Nazis and fellow Jews who do not share his militant extremism, whom he once described on the group’s website as having “no concept of righteous anger.” During the October 1973 war he served in Israel’s aremed forces. Last year he urged Jews across the US to arm themselves.
By his own count the Canadian-born JDL chairman has been arrested more than 40 times. In 1972 he was arrested in an investigation of attempted murder after someone fired three shots at an American Nazi Party leader. In 1978 he offered $500 to anyone who “kills, maims or seriously injures” a member of the American Nazi Party. Nearly 10 years ago police dropped murder-for-hire charges against him.
The JDL was founded in 1968 by Rabbi Meir Kahane to respond with violence to acts deemed by the group to be anti-Semitic. Kahane, who once publicly declared that “bombings and other forms of violent action” are legitimate acts of protest, moved to Israel in 1971 and founded the extremist Kach party, which openly advocated the “transfer” (now also known as ‘ethnic cleansing’) of all Arabs from Palestine. The party was later outlawed and is on the US state department’s list of terrorist organizations. Kahane was shot dead in New York on November 5, 1990. A 35-year-old Egyptian-born university graduate, El-Sayyid Nosair, was convicted in connection with the shooting. Although a Manhattan jury dropped the charges against Nosair on December 21, 1991, he was retried and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1996.
Kach has been linked with violence since its beginning. In the early 1970s its members were implicated in a series of bombings and physical attacks against Soviet targets in the US, ostensibly to focus public attention on the status of Soviet Jews. In 1971 Meir Kahane pleaded guilty to conspiring to manufacture a bomb, and was sentenced to a year for violating his probation. Years later Kahane admitted that Kach had “bombed the Russian mission in New York, the Russian cultural mission here [in Washington] in 1970, [and] the Soviet trade offices” (the Washington Post, September 11, 1984).
In 1981 the JDL claimed responsibility for the bombing of the Bank Melli Iran offices in San Francisco. The group is suspected of the bombing (1985) that killed Alex Odeh, 37, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) at his office in California. Odeh had appeared the previous night on a television show and described PLO leader Yasser Arafat as a “man of peace”. Another bomb in 1985 left two policemen seriously wounded at the ADC regional office in Boston.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has issued a statement in which it blames the JDL’s plot on what it calls the “atmosphere of Islamophobia” fomented by an “anti-Islamic smear campaign” by right-wing and pro-Israeli groups. Said Omar Ahmad, CAIR board chairman: “Since...September 11, a number of extremist conservative and pro-Israel groups and individuals, apparently alarmed at the growing prominence of American Muslims, orchestrated an ongoing anti-Islamic smear campaign seeking to marginalize our community and its leadership ...Words do have an impact... For the safety of our community, this malicious campaign must stop.”
The MPAC is a public service agency advocating the civil rights of American Muslims. It has called on the justice department to freeze the JDL’s assets, as has been done to three Islamic charities in the US. It is also urging the authorities to close down JDL offices because the group operates “alleged terrorist cells” in 11 countries and more than 20 American cities. MPAC vice-president Aslam Abdullah called on the authorities to profile those who “look like Rubin,” as Arabs, Muslims and dark-skinned people have been harassed throughout the US since September 11.
The MPAC’s pleas are falling on deaf ears. Instead of moving against the JDL, on December 14 the Bush administration ordered the assets of Global Relief Foundation, another Muslim charity, to be frozen. If this shows anything, it shows that the much-vaunted “mainstream”, “within the system” methods of the American Muslim lobby have so far been ill advised and misguided.