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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.


Jerusalem, December 27, 2001



Never 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

Mr RubinIn the FBI's dossier he is listed as Irving David [aaargh!!] 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 tactics."

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 Lebanese descent.

"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 the past."

Muslim and Jewish community representatives said they were shocked only at the contemptible nature of the alleged plot.

"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 Washington.

"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 choose violence."

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 bearer.

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 Holocaust.

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 television studio.

In 1978, he had his first national exposure at a news conference protesting a neo-Nazi march in Skokie, Illinois. In a typically flamboyant 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 1985.

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 other anti-Semites.

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 of office."

In 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 public meetings.

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 Eastern restaurant.

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 disaster.

"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 terrorism."

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 creditors.

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 terrorist attacks.

"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 assembled.

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, officials said.

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 University Synagogue.

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 effective."

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," says Frumkin.

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 court."

(With reporting by Eric Malnic and Richard Winton, The Los Angeles Times)


Copyright © 1995-2002 The Jerusalem Post


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IHR recalls JDL's record

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