the charges currently leveled
at Rubin and Krugel can carry
a 35-year prison sentence, few
knowledgeable lawyers will bet
on their conviction. Rubin has
never been convicted of even a
Jerusalem, December 27, 2001
say never again
By Tom Tugend
(December 27) - He's
been arrested 40 times, and never
convicted once, but Jewish Defense League
head Irv Rubin may be facing his
toughest battle yet, as Tom Tugend reports
from Los Angeles
the FBI's dossier he is listed as Irving
Rubin, 56, a self-described
conservative Republican, Air Force
veteran, married for 21 years and the
father of two children.
To everyone else he is Irv Rubin,
chairman of the Jewish Defense League, an
acute embarrassment to most mainstream
Jewish organizations, whose "contemptible
activities," in the words of the Anti-Defamation
League, have cumulated in "a long
track record of intimidation and bullying
By his own count, Rubin has been
arrested 40 times, and now he and his
associate Earl Krugel are sitting
in a federal detention center in downtown
Los Angeles. They are charged with
conspiracy to blow up a mosque, the
building housing a Muslim organization,
and the offices of a congressman of
"My husband has been fighting terrorism
all his life," said Rubin's wife,
Shelley. "This is a travesty. He is
a good upstanding man who speaks his mind
-- and that has gotten him in trouble in
Jewish community representatives said
they were shocked only at the
contemptible nature of the alleged
"Rubin has never shied away from
violent rhetoric against Arabs and
Muslims," said Brian Levin,
director of the Center for the Study of
Hate and Extremism at California State
University, San Bernardino. "What
surprises me is that it took this long for
Rubin's actions to match his violent
rhetoric," said Levin, a former New York
City police officer.
John Fishel, president of the
Los Angeles Jewish Federation, said the
alleged plot was just as abhorrent as the
terrorist attacks in New York and
"At a time in our history when it has
never been more important to unite all
American citizens, acts of terrorism of
any kind only divide us," Fishel said.
The alleged plot also drew strong
condemnation from the purported targets,
who were not notified about the threats,
authorities say, because they were
identified only minutes before Rubin and
Krugel were arrested.
"As you can imagine, this is shocking
news to receive," said Issa, a
Lebanese-American. "Like most Americans,
my hope is for a peaceful resolution to
the Middle East conflict. Unfortunately,
there are extremists on both sides who
oppose a peaceful resolution, and instead
Usman Mahda, community liaison
for King Fahd Mosque, also said he was
shocked to learn of the alleged plot,
which comes during Ramadan, the holiest
time of the year for Muslims.
"There would have been hundreds and
hundreds of people, men women and
children, mostly American citizens," Mahda
said. "It is scary. It's sad and it's
disgusting. No Muslims, Jews or Christians
should suffer like that."
The roots of Rubin's aggressive stance
and militant outlook can perhaps be traced
to his Montreal childhood, where, he says,
his mother told him to get out and fight a
kid who had called him a dirty Jew.
At age 16, he and his family moved to
Los Angeles, and five years later he
signed up with the US Air Force.
Discharged, he proudly served as a page at
the 1964 Republican convention in San
Francisco, which nominated Barry
Goldwater as its presidential standard
Rubin's life took another turn --
permanently -- when he heard a speech by
Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1971, and was
enthralled when the rabbi declared, "Don't
sit down and have a cup of coffee with a
Nazi. Don't try to be a nice guy. Smash
him." Kahane also perceived the United
States as the likely site of a future
The tall, husky Rubin loved the
message. He joined Kahane's Jewish Defense
League and soon participated in protests
on behalf of Soviet Jews, duked it out
with neo-Nazis, and just as quickly was
arrested for the attempted murder of a
Nazi he had confronted in a Hollywood
In 1978, he had his first national
exposure at a news conference protesting a
neo-Nazi march in Skokie, Illinois. In a
gesture, Rubin held up five $100 bills as
the proffered reward to anyone who maimed
or killed a member of the Nazi party.
With a keen ear for the effective sound
bite, Rubin offered to raise the reward to
$1,000, "If they bring us [a
Nazi's] ears. This is not said in
jest, we are deadly serious." Kahane,
Rubin's role model, resigned as head of
JDL in 1974, after moving to Israel, where
he formed the Kach Party. He was elected
to the Knesset in 1984, on a platform
which included the plan of transferring or
expelling all Arabs from Israel.
Kahane was designated a racist by
Israeli authorities and forbidden to run
in the 1988 elections. In November 1990,
Kahane was assassinated in New York by
Egyptian-born El Sayyid Nosair.
(In an odd twist, a 1998
Associated Press report has surfaced
linking tapes and books on military
techniques found in Nosair's apartment
to Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.
The AP story noted that "the killing of
Kahane was at first viewed as an
isolated attack, but now is seen as the
kickoff of a US terrorism campaign by
militant Islamic fundamentalists.")
When Kahane moved to Israel, Rubin
stepped into the JDL power vacuum and
became its "national chairman" in
The title was a bit grandiose, for the
JDL, with modest membership in the best of
times, had split into two. The New York
wing, renamed the Jewish Defense
Organization, was led by Mordechai
Levy. Rubin and Levy have become
bitter enemies, exchanging rifle shots,
spittle and subpoenas over the years.
Currently, Rubin goes by the title
"chairman" of the JDL.
Over the past decades, the JDL has
struck out against perceived "softness" in
the Israeli government and American Jewish
organizations as much as against Nazis and
For instance, the JDL Web site marked
the assassination of prime minister
Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish extremist
by stating that "We feel Yigal Amir
wasted his precious life. Taking the life
of Rabin was not worth Amir spending the
rest of his life in an Israeli prison. The
Israeli people would have taken Rabin out
the same vein, the JDL hailed Dr.
Baruch Goldstein, who killed 29 Arabs
praying in a Hebron mosque in 1994, as one
of its charter members.
One of the closest observers of Kahane
and Rubin has been the ADL, which compiled
a report of 21 pages listing the JDL's
violent acts in Israel and the United
States between 1969 and 1995.
Rubin, in return, has frequently
attacked the ADL in its leaflets and
One of the
most controversial JDL incidents
involved the bounty Rubin announced at
a Los Angeles news conference on March
16, 1978. "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 said. "We
are deadly serious."
The case made Rubin a familiar name,
enough so that he sought, but failed to
win, a Republican Assembly nomination on
the Westside in 1982. For several years,
his hulking figure was a familiar one on
the evening news, throwing fists at
neo-Nazis, threatening Arab activists and
being dragged off to jail.
In October 1985, a few months after
Rubin was named leader of the JDL, a
powerful pipe bomb exploded at the West
Coast headquarters of the Arab-American
Anti-Discrimination Committee in Santa
Ana, killing its Palestinian-American
regional director, Alex Odeh, and
injuring seven others.
No arrests were made, but the FBI
questioned several people connected with
the JDL. One year after Odeh's murder, an
FBI analysis said "certain evidence"
implicated former associates of Rubin's
who have since emigrated to Israel.
Although Rubin has always denied any
involvement in that killing, he has said:
"I have no tears for Mr. Odeh. He got
exactly what he deserved."
As leader of the JDL, Rubin eventually
tried to strike a more moderate pose,
donning three-piece suits and offering his
services as a security consultant to local
businesses, including an Arab-owned Middle
He said that some of his earlier
stances -- applauding violent acts and
teaching children to use guns -- had been
a mistake and a public relations
"Not only did it give Gentiles the idea
that we were violent, it turned off many
Jews and closed tens of thousands of doors
to us," he said. "We became the black
sheep of the family.... Militancy, in
people's minds, is one step removed from
But his carefully crafted image of
moderation eroded in 1992, when he was
arrested again, this time on conspiracy to
commit murder for hire.
According to prosecutors, Rubin had
been moonlighting as a private detective,
applying his trademark in-your-face
political tactics to a far less
ideological task -- collecting money for
Police said he hired an associate to
terrorize an unidentified man who owed
money to one of Rubin's business clients.
Detectives said the associate fired
bullets through the man's windows and
threatened to kill him.
Four days later, the charges against
Rubin were dropped when police admitted
they lacked the evidence to hold him.
Rubin's attorney, Steve Goldberg,
said his client had been vindicated.
Prosecutors said they didn't have enough
evidence to put Rubin on trial.
For the next several years, Rubin kept
a relatively low profile, last making news
in 1998, when his plans to stage a
concurrent protest march prompted the
Aryan Nations to cancel its parade in
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
IN HER affidavit
relating to the current charges against
Rubin, FBI Special Agent Mary P.
Hogan said she was first contacted by
an informant on October 18 about the death
of Odeh. The FBI agent says she was
contacted by the informant again on
October 20. The informant had made a tape
recording of a meeting with Krugel and
Rubin where the two men allegedly
discussed various potential targets,
including mosques, she said.
During that discussion, according to
the affidavit, "Rubin stated that it was
his desire to blow up an entire building,
but that the JDL did not have the
technology to accomplish such a bombing,
apparently alluding to the September 11
"Rubin also said that the JDL should
not go after a human target because they
still had not heard the end of the Alex
Odeh incident ..." the affidavit adds.
Hogan said the alleged plotting
continued until Tuesday when the informant
met with Rubin and Krugel "to finalize
plans for the bombing."
At that meeting, Hogan said, Rubin
specifically identified Issa's
congressional office and the King Fahd
mosque as targets, and plans were made for
the informant to drop off explosive powder
at Krugel's garage so the bomb could be
After the powder was loaded into
Krugel's garage, FBI agents and Los
Angeles police served a search warrant.
They recovered five pounds of explosive
powder, fuses, pipes, end caps and a dozen
rifles and handguns, some loaded,
Whether it's middle age or a change in
tactics, in the last few years Rubin seems
to have become less publicly aggressive
and has appeared at public forums hosted
by such institutions as the liberal
One who got to know both Kahane and
Rubin in the 1960s and '70s was Si
Frumkin, when all three were involved
in protests and demonstrations on behalf
of Soviet Jews.
"You can approach a problem with a
rapier or a club," observes Frumkin. "We
[the National Council for Soviet
Jews] used the rapier, JDL used a
club. I can't say which method was more
Comparing the two JDL leaders, Frumkin
says that Kahane "was a PR genius. Rubin
had the same fire in the belly as Kahane,
but is not as charismatic."
With the name recognition created by
Kahane, "The JDL should have become a
well-known, large and well-financed
organization, but now it seems to have
trouble even attracting young people,"
Although the charges currently leveled
at Rubin and Krugel can carry a 35-year
prison sentence, few knowledgeable lawyers
will bet on their conviction.
Rubin has never been
convicted of even a felony.
"He [Rubin] has the uncanny
ability to come right to the line, and he
doesn't cross it," Roger J.
Diamond, one of Rubin's previous
lawyers, told The New York Times.
"If he didn't come close, he wouldn't
have been charged."
The latest posting on the JDL Web site
calls the current charges an "obvious act
of governmental appeasement of the Muslim
community. Please rest assured that Irv
and Earl will be cleared of any wrongdoing
when they have their day in
(With reporting by Eric Malnic and
Richard Winton, The Los Angeles Times)
© 1995-2002 The
items on this website:
Angeles Times: Militant JDL Members
Arrested by FBI
dossier: Origins of
recalls JDL's record