Buck Stops at Prisoner Torture

Why am I not surprised at the news of the mistreatment of Iraqis in an American version of Saddam Hussein’s prisons, crimes, which in fact, occurred in the very same Baghdad prison that was notorious as a torture center in pre-occupation Iraq?

Take a group of American men and women in their 20s, mostly with high school educations, move them thousands of miles from their families, place them in dangerous situations amid an alien culture, provide them with little understanding of why they are there other than patriotic platitudes, surround them with a population that apparently hates them on sight and you have all the necessary conditions for what has been going on for some time behind the razor wire and the sandbags surrounding Abu Ghraib.

This is not intended to condone such conduct, but to explain it. Before joining in the deserved and universal condemnation that greeted the photographs and reports from Baghdad, it would behoove us to place them in context. And the most important context is that of war itself.

The purpose of war is to destroy the enemy by any means possible. It is not to die for your country but to make the enemy die for his. To this end, you bomb, shoot, explode, kill, maim and, in general, act in ways that would get you imprisoned or worse as a civilian.

Now, suddenly, you are expected to break all of the laws you were taught to respect back home and to do so with the full backing and approbation of the state, your friends and family.

The condition of war, in short, creates serious problems of cognitive dissonance in citizens of democratic societies. One of the reactions to this conundrum is to lash out in anger at the nearest targets available for blaming for the situation.

If they are helpless to strike back, and your superiors ignore or even encourage such behavior, so much the easier. My guess is that the offending troops slept well at night, much relieved of their anxieties.

I recall one incident from Israel’s War of Independence that occurred a few days after we wrested Beersheba from the Egyptians. Some of the Egyptians we had captured were kept in the courtyard of a mosque, and suddenly, one of our soldiers started tossing hand grenades over the fence and into the crowd.

No one moved to stop him, and when he used up his grenades, he walked away. I don’t know the toll of dead and wounded, but it must have been considerable.

It turned out that his brother, in another unit, had been captured by the Egyptians, cut up into pieces and left on a road for us to find. However inexcusable, one can understand the context of his action. I don’t think he was ever punished for it, and he was quietly discharged from the service.

The same happens in all armies. You need only read of the constant humiliations suffered by Palestinians at Israeli checkpoints, or the willful physical damage caused by soldiers breaking into Palestinian homes (the same complaint voiced by many Iraqis) to understand the mindless cruelties that even the most disciplined military units commit against the enemy, deserving or not.

The media are quoting the parents of the accused soldiers as refusing to believe that their sons and daughters could commit such atrocities. That is an understandable reaction, and they are probably right.

At home, they would never have acted in that way. They live in communities where everyone knows everyone else, community norms are respected, religion acts as a damper on aberrant behavior and from which they escaped by joining the military.

As of this writing, the Army has scheduled courts-martial for some of the easily identified of the troops and reprimands for others.

Harry Truman had a plaque on his desk that read "The buck stops here." In these situations, the responsibility for such behavior lies first with those who committed the indecencies. More goes to the unit’s commanding officers who condoned them. But beyond that, the blame must be shared by those political leaders who sent men and women into situations for which they were culturally unprepared, poorly motivated and badly trained.

The rest of us should be asking ourselves how we elected such people to office. In the end, the buck stops with us.

Yehuda Lev is a former associate editor of The Jewish Journal.

Rudolph Linked to Anti-Jewish Ideology

Eric Rudolph, the U.S. white supremacist arrested over the weekend for four bombings, including an attack at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, was apparently motivated by an anti-Semitic ideology known as Christian Identity.

Rudolph, 36, also wrote a paper espousing Holocaust denial while in high school.

Although it is unknown whether Rudolph considers himself a formal follower of the group, in 1984 his family spent four months at a Christian Identity camp in Missouri and the family was friendly with Christian Identity preachers.

In addition, his belief system seems to coincide with what Identity followers espouse, according to experts on U.S. hate groups. Christian Identity has its origins in Great Britain in the 1800s. During that time, an ideology known as British Israelism developed: Its followers believed that the British were descended from the ancient Israelites. But only when Christian Identity migrated to North America at the end of the 19th and the early 20th centuries — where it found a home in New England, the Midwest and West — did the ideology take on anti-Semitic and racist overtones.

Adherents to Christian Identity on this continent believe that non- Jewish "white Europeans and their descendants elsewhere are descended from the lost tribes of Israel. Therefore, they’re God’s chosen people," said Mark Pitcavage, director of fact-finding for the Anti-Defamation League.

Others, including Jews, Asians and blacks, therefore, were inferior and sinister.

There are an estimated 25,000-50,000 Christian Identity followers in North America, according to Pitcavage. Among these are members of the Aryan Nations, whose leader, Richard Butler, ran a 20-acre compound in Idaho until it was taken away from the group following a 1998 incident in which a teenager and his mother were beaten there.

Buford Furrow Jr., who is serving a life sentence in jail for killing a Filipino American postman and wounding five people at a North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills in a 1999 shooting spree in Los Angeles, was a member of the Aryan Nations.

Some of the more theologically inclined Christian Identity followers believe that Jews are descended from a union between Eve and the biblical serpent that they say created Cain — and that Jews are descended from Cain, Pitcavage said. They also believe in more than one biblical creation and that blacks and Asians — whom they call "mud people" — were created during "practice" creations.

But for all Christian Identity followers, anti-Semitism "is absolutely critical. Everything about Christian Identity is that Jews are Satanic and need to be eradicated," said Heidi Beirich, a spokeswoman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, a watchdog group.

Rudolph was arrested Saturday in western North Carolina after a five-year search by investigators. In total, he is believed to be responsible for four bombings, in which two people were killed and 150 people injured. This week, he agreed to be transferred to Alabama to face charges in one of the attacks, a 1998 bombing at an abortion clinic in Birmingham in which an off-duty police officer was killed.

He also allegedly bombed a gay nightclub and an office building housing another abortion clinic.

But Jews came in for particular hatred, said his former sister-in-law.

"[Rudolph] hated Jews more than probably any other race," Deborah Rudolph, who is divorced from Rudolph’s brother, Joel, told ABC’s "Good Morning America."

He "felt that, you know, they’ve been run out of every country they’ve ever been in. They’ve destroyed every country they’ve ever been in. They have too much control in our country," she said.

He considered the TV "The Electronic Jew," she said in an interview a few years ago.

"You could be watching a 30-minute sitcom and the credits would roll and there’d be Jewish names and, excuse my expression, but he would say, ‘You f——- Yids.’ Any little thing and he would start," she said.

Rudolph’s formal introduction into white supremacism seems to have started in 1981, after his father died in South Florida from cancer. Rudolph’s mother was upset that laetrile, a drug sometimes used to treat cancer, was made illegal. Her anger helped transform her and her family into staunch anti- government ideologues — often a pathway into white supremacism. With the help of Tom Branham, a sawmill owner arrested in 1984 for possessing illegal explosives, Pat Rudolph moved the family to western North Carolina.

There, as a ninth-grader, he wrote the paper denying the Holocaust.

"Eric’s paper saying that the Holocaust never happened, this was Eric’s and Joel’s and the whole family’s deal," Deborah Rudolph said in the interview.

Community Briefs

Daniel Pearl Laid to Rest

Family and close friends buried slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl Sunday morning and vowed that his example would continue to inspire “millions of friends and strangers touched by his life and death.”

Pearl, 38, was kidnapped and killed last January in Pakistan while working on a story on Islamic extremists. His body, in an oak casket covered with red flowers, was returned to the United States from Karachi on Thursday. The private funeral service and burial were held Aug. 11 at Mount Sinai Memorial Park.

Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino conducted the service, during which he praised “the heroism of a man, who, when confronted by the killers of the dream, responded by saying, ‘I am a Jew, my father is a Jew and my ancestors were Jewish.'”

Professor Judea Pearl, Daniel’s father, chanted “Kaddish” and a friend, violinist Mitchell Newman, played Bach’s “Partita.”

Pearl’s family released the following statement: “We finally laid to rest our beloved son, husband, brother and father in his hometown, overlooking the concert hall where he loved to perform with his youth orchestra. Danny will continue to inspire his family and the millions of friends and strangers who were touched by his life and death.

“He will always be remembered for his pursuit of truth and dialogue, his respect for people of all backgrounds and his love of music, humor and friendship. This legacy will be preserved through the Daniel Pearl Foundation, and will forever fuel our resolve to see humanity triumphant.”

The family requested that in tribute to Daniel and his love of music, well-wishers initiate and support musical events in their communities on Oct. 10, Daniel’s birthday. Such events will be coordinated on the Web site of the Daniel Pearl Foundation (www.danielpearl.org). A collection of Pearl’s stories, “At Home in the World,” was published last month by Simon and Schuster.

Pearl’s family is considering a more public memorial service at the end of sheloshim (the traditional 30-day mourning period) and the unveiling of a headstone. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Kosher Businesses Burglarized in WestValley

A series of burglaries affecting several West Valley kosher restaurants and markets has concerned patrons wondering if they were hate crimes.

Los Angeles police said the burglaries are part of a general crime wave and so far there has been no evidence that Jewish-owned establishments are being targeted.

Rami’s Pizza in Canoga Park, Encino Grill & Wok and Super Sal Kosher Market, also in Encino, were all hit within a five-day period between July 30 and Aug. 3. The crimes were of the “smash and grab” type, with thieves breaking in through store windows sometime between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. to steal cash and other valuables. The market experienced a loss of $300 in cash, according to police records, but proprietor Yossi Rabinov of the Encino Grill said his losses were minimal.

“They took a pushke. I guess it looked like a money thing, so they took it,” Rabinov said.

This was the second break-in for Rami’s Pizza this year, according to owner Uziel Gluska. After the first incident, back in April, Gluska said he stopped leaving bills in the cash register overnight “so this time, they only got the coins, about $5 at most.”

Neither of the restaurant owners felt the crimes were aimed at kosher places in particular.

“My neighbor across the street is Persian and the man who owns the cleaners [nearby] is either Persian or Armenian and they also got broken into, so if anything it’s anti-foreigner,” Gluska said.

The first weekend in August saw an unusually high number of burglaries, according to Detective Steve Galeria of the Los Angeles Police Department’s West Valley Division.

“They [the thieves] are targeting businesses along Ventura Boulevard and on Sherman Way right around Reseda Boulevard,” Galeria said in an Aug. 12 interview.

Detectives caution business owners in the Encino, Van Nuys and Canoga Park areas to take precautions. — Wendy J. Madnick, Contributing Writer

Davis Against Divestment

Gov. Gray Davis has spoken out sharply against petitions launched at UC Berkeley and UCLA calling for the divestment of state-held stocks in corporations doing business with Israel.

“As long as I am governor of this state, we will continue to stand side by side with our friends in Israel, both in business and friendship,” Davis pledged in a written statement. “The people of Israel are going through tremendous difficulties right now. They live with daily unrest, violence and death. California will not abandon its friends in their time of need.”

Faculty and student advocates of divestment cite Israel’s alleged human rights violations against Palestinians as the basis of their demands. Davis, who is running for reelection, noted that California exported $818.2 million worth of products and services to Israel in 2001, making Israel the state’s 22nd largest trade partner. Leading exports included industrial machinery, computers and electronic and electrical equipment.

In addition, Israeli investments in California, mainly in Silicon Valley high-tech companies, grew from $4 million in 1990 to more than $162 million in 1998, the latest figures available.

The value of Israeli exports to California is harder to pin down, because figures are available only for the United States as a whole and are not broken down by individual states.

But Doron Abrahami, Israel’s consul for economic affairs in Los Angeles, estimates that the two-way trade between California and Israel averages out at $2 billion a year, thus giving Israel a slight edge in exports over imports.

Some 200 offices representing Israeli companies operate in California, mostly in the Silicon Valley, said Abrahami. He noted that the biggest Israeli exporter is Intel, whose plants in Kiryat Gat and Jerusalem annually export $2 billion in computer chips to the world.

The single largest American investor in Israel is Burbank-based Shamrock Holdings, which has invested between $700 million and $800 million in Israel over the past 15 years. — TT

Milosevic in The Hague

"A triumph for the civilized world." So characterized The New York Times about the war crimes trial of Slobodan Milosevic that started this past week in The Hague.

Certainly there is cause in the international legal community for such triumphalist sentiment. When the United Nations Security Council created the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in 1993, few could have possibly foreseen that Milosevic would ever stand trial.

As Richard Dicker, a lawyer for Human Rights Watch, put it: "When I was here in 1996, it was derided as the international tribunal for small fry. Tomorrow the biggest fish of them all goes on trial."

Yet in trying the "biggest fish," the tribunal also faces several risks. A first set of concerns involves the nature of the charges and the character of the defendant.

The political thinker Otto Kirchheimer argued that all trials, at least those that are fairly conducted, must be characterized by an "irreducible risk" — the chance that the prosecution will fail to shoulder its burden of proving guilt, and that the accused will consequently be acquitted. In the case of Milosevic’s trial, this risk is not entirely negligible.

Proof that might be persuasive to a historian or neutral observer might run afoul of the court’s rules of evidence. However else one might characterize Milosevic, none gainsay his cunning, and to create a legally compelling case against him will require both a solid prosecutorial strategy and acts of great courage on the part of witnesses called to testify against their former president.

But even if Milosevic should be convicted, the trial could founder in other respects. Spectacular trials of international crimes — such as the Nuremberg, Eichmann and, now, Milosevic trials — are inevitably asked to do more than simply render justice to the accused in a conventional legal sense.

These trials are asked to clarify the historical record and to demonstrate to the world community the sober and grand neutrality of the law. In his self-pitying, yet intelligently prepared, harangues before the tribunal, Milosevic threatens these aims.

The trial promises to be long — lasting for two years, by most estimates — and the court will have to work hard to make sure that Milosevic’s attacks on its jurisdiction and self-serving presentation of history do not end up hijacking the didactic aims of the trial.

A second set of concerns implicates the larger trend of judging international politics by the standards of criminal law. Until Nuremberg, the notion that a statesman could be treated as a criminal in international law was unthinkable.

The act of state doctrine and the principle of sovereign immunity — basic norms of international diplomacy and law — barred foreign courts from subjecting independent states and their representatives to criminal proceedings. This arrangement long left international criminal law something of an oxymoron. A nation found in violation of an international convention could be punished — but only collectively through the kind of reparations disastrously imposed upon Germany following its defeat in World War I.

Nuremberg changed much of this. The charter of the ground-breaking trial of Hermann Göring and other leading Nazi functionaries adopted the radical idea that statesmen could be held personally responsible for the criminal acts of their regime, even acts committed against their own domestic population.

For years, however, Nuremberg’s legacy remained more conceptual than practical. Decades of Cold War struggle cynically cast international law as a partisan tool of geopolitics, to be championed when advantageous and ignored when not. Only with the explosion of regional violence unleashed by the demise of the Cold War’s strategic equipoise has the world community rededicated itself to the enforcement of international criminal law.

The trial of Milosevic stands as the greatest achievement of this redoubled commitment. Unfortunately, some international legal activists have aggressively sought to push the Milosevic precedent in directions that are far from salutary.

In Belgium, a nation that has adopted a remarkably liberal approach to matters of jurisdiction, legal groups have prepared cases against everyone from Ariel Sharon to Yasser Arafat and Fidel Castro. And no less a writer than Christopher Hitchens has passionately argued in favor of trying Henry Kissinger as a war criminal.

These agitations, however well-meaning, are to be regretted. For better or worse, the law is not generally concerned with political complexity; it remains oblivious to the nuances of diplomacy and realpolitik and cares only that violators of its norms receive punishment.

Long after emerging as a suspect in international crimes, Milosevic apparently received personal calls from President Bill Clinton, the tenor of which was intimate, and, on the Serb’s part, avuncular. To the legal crusader, this no doubt stands as an odious example of Clinton’s spineless kowtowing to an international thug; to others, however, it signals a politically sensitive gesture to prod a bellicose foreign leader to respect a precarious peace (in this case, the Dayton Accords).

In this regard, of equal importance to the future of international law as the opening of the Milosevic trial was the recent decision (Feb. 14) handed down by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also housed in The Hague, though institutionally autonomous from the Milosevic tribunal. In a case involving an arrest warrant issued by a Belgium magistrate for Aboulay Yerodia Ndombasi, the Congolese foreign minister at the time of the warrant’s issuance, the ICJ concluded that serving statesmen were shielded from criminal prosecution in foreign national courts.

On first blush, this decision seems to contradict the spirit of the Milosevic trial: it appears to defend the very prerogatives of statesmen that have long permitted them to flaunt international law with impunity. But in fact, the decision simply places a necessary corrective on the agitations of overzealous international lawyers, a corrective that points international law in a direction both practical and wise.

The decision, which effectively ends any effort to put Sharon on trial in Belgium, guarantees that international law is not turned into the mouthpiece of global political grievance. By limiting the opportunities to turn the law into an all-purpose tool of political harassment, the ICJ has properly increased the likelihood that international trials will be reserved for the perpetrators of only the most extreme abuses and atrocities. In so doing, it has preserved and enhanced the ultimate efficacy of international justice.

The trial of Milosevic goes forward, but not that of Sharon. And so it should be. To treat Sharon as a Milosevic would not demonstrate that such law binds the strong as well as the weak, the triumphant as well as the conquered. It would simply demonstrate that a fervid breed of legal crusaders had placed diplomacy under the majestic tyranny of the law.

Madeleine’s War

The trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic got underway at the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague this week. Milosevic reportedly plans to call 35 witnesses in his defense, including former President Bill Clinton; British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright.

Chances are it won’t happen, but an Albright-Milosevic smackdown on C-SPAN would give Pay-Per-View some stiff competition.

Albright was in town Monday evening addressing an audience of 6,000 at the Universal Amphitheater as part of the University of Judaism’s (UJ) Department of Continuing Education lecture series. She appears to be very grandmotherly, and I’m sure she is just that to her five grandchildren. But in her remarks and her answers afterwards to questions from UJ President Robert Wexler, Albright demonstrated her much-remarked-upon bluntness, intellect and humor.

It was Albright who pushed for American military involvement to stop the genocide in Bosnia. Over the objections of Colin Powell, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Albright persuaded a reluctant Clinton administration into leading NATOs air assault against the Milosevic regime. Other prominent Americans and Europeans had voiced concern over Milosevic for years — former Sen. Bob Dole sounded strident and unheeded warnings.

But Albright ran the ball into the goal posts, and withstood the boos of the crowd. As she recounted, the bombing campaign, initially hampered by bad weather and tragic foul-ups, led to public calls for an end to what pundits took to calling "Madeleine’s War." Witness Camille Paglia, writing in the spring of 1999: "Albright’s conceit and deceit have damaged the cause of women everywhere who aspire to high office and public responsibility."

The U.S. involvement worked. Milosevic fell from power. Instead of saying "I told you so," Albright expressed regret at letting the genocide in Bosnia (and Rwanda) go unpunished for so long. But, she said, "On my watch we were not going to have ethnic cleansing."

Of course, coming from Albright, that remark resonates. Born in Czechoslovakia, her father was Josef Korbel, a high-ranking Czech diplomat serving in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, when World War II began. Albright, then age 11, and her parents escaped to England, but numerous relatives (including three grandparents) were murdered by the Nazis. Raised a Catholic in England, Albright was never told her about her Jewish heritage or her family’s Holocaust tragedy. Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs revealed the facts as Albright became secretary of state, and raised questions over whether she knowingly suppressed her Jewish heritage. (As one skeptic in the audience put it, "Didn’t she ever look into a mirror? Didn’t she ever wonder why all her friends were tall and blond and she looked like Golda Meir?")

In the evening’s most moving moments, she addressed her critics head on. "There are lots of people who don’t believe me and I can’t do anything about that," Albright said. "I have to say I resented the people who did not experience what my parents experienced and criticized them. The most hurtful part to me were the attacks on my father."

Albright said she is still coming to terms with her background. She returned to her grandparents’ synagogue and found their names inscribed on the wall.

She went to Terezin (Theresienstadt), the camp where they were murdered. "It was a very moving trip," she said. Though eventually Albright herself became an Episcopalian, she reflected on her Jewishness in words that — let’s be honest — most lifelong Jews would themselves use. "I feel it makes my background richer. I’m proud of the values inculcated in me. It puts me into a stream of very remarkable people that care for one another and for others."

Albright herself is part of that stream. It is her life as a refugee, as a child sleeping in a London bomb shelter, as a child of parents whom, she said, "subliminally" conveyed to her the enormous horror of the Holocaust, that compelled her to push her government to stand up to Milosevic.

His trial will be long and complicated. "It will not be simple," she told the audience. But think about it: a woman whose family was killed by the criminals brought to justice at Nuremberg helped bring their heir to trial at The Hague. Very remarkable, indeed.

The Man Behind the JDL

In the FBI’s dossier he is listed as Irving David 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 he and his associate, Earl Krugel, are now 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.

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 the San Fernando Valley, and five years later, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. Discharged, he proudly served as a page at the 1964 Republican Convention in San Francisco, which nominated Sen. 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 on an attempted murder charge in the case of a Nazi he had confronted in a Hollywood television studio.

In 1978, he got his first national exposure at a news conference protesting a neo-Nazi march in Skokie, Ill. In a typically flamboyant gesture, Rubin held up five $100 bills as the proffered reward to anyone who maimed or killed a Nazi party member.

With a keen ear for the effective soundbite, 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 the JDL in 1974, after moving to Israel, where he formed the Kach Party. He was elected to the Knesset in 1984 on a platform that included the incendiary 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 extremist 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 U.S. terrorism campaign by militant Islamic fundamentalists.”)

The slain rabbi’s son, Binyamin Ze’ev Kahane, took over leadership of the Kach Party and formed another organization, Kahane Chai.

Both organizations were labeled “terrorist” by the Israeli government and outlawed. The younger Kahane and his wife were killed Dec. 31, 2000, in a West Bank ambush.

Back in the United States, Rubin stepped into the JDL power vacuum and became its “national chairman” in 1985. The title was a bit grandiose, because the JDL, with modest membership in the best of times, had split into two groups.

The New York wing, renamed the Jewish Defense Organization, was led by Mordechai Levy. Rubin and Levy have become bitter enemies, exchanging accusations and subpoenas over the years.

In 1989, Levy was convicted of firing an AR-25 aimed at Rubin in Manhattan.

Currently, Rubin goes by the title “chairman” of the JDL. In his first year as JDL leader, the organization came under investigation in the Oct. 11, 1985, murder of Alex Odeh, an Arab American activist killed in a bomb blast at his Santa Ana office.

Rubin denied responsibility but said that Odeh “got exactly what he deserved.” The JDL leader has since said repeatedly that he regretted making the statement, because it alienated would-be supporters and lessened his credibility.

When Rubin’s arrest was initially announced last week without the charges being specified, there was widespread speculation that it was connected with the Odeh case. The belief was shared by Sammy Odeh, the victim’s brother, who told The Journal that the killers of his brother would finally be brought to justice.

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, “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 densely packed 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 JDL leaflets and at public meetings.

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 in three-piece suits 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. All three were involved in protests and demonstrations on behalf of Soviet Jews.

“You can approach a problem with a rapier or a club,” Frumkin observed. 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 said 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,” Frumkin said.

Although the charges currently leveled at Rubin and Krugel can carry a 35-year prison sentence, few knowledgeable lawyers expect their conviction.

While the JDL has been investigated on murder and attempted murder charges a number of times, Rubin has never been convicted of 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.”

Motivated by Hate

Some Jewish facilities in Pittsburgh are under increased security following last week’s shooting rampage that killed five minorities, including one Jewish woman.

Police are adding patrols and keeping marked police cars parked near some Pittsburgh Jewish institutions.

“We live in an era of random risk, and I’m watching Jewish institutions take increased precautions,” said Brian Schreiber, executive director of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh.

“But we don’t want this to become Ft. Knox,” said Schreiber, who added that he supports the security measures.

On Monday, police were patrolling the parking lot of Congregation Beth El of South Hills, which was one of two synagogues shot at during the rampage. Windows were boarded, and the anti-Semitic graffiti spray-painted there during the rampage was covered, according to a synagogue employee.

The tragedy is spurring calls for increased gun safety laws and passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which has been stalled in Congress.

President Clinton called for national legislation against hate crimes in an address Sunday at a fundraiser for the NAACP in Detroit.

The incident, Clinton said, shows that “there are still people in the country who are shot, who are abused, who are killed because of their race, their religion, just because they’re gay.”

He added, “It is simply not true that we do not need national legislation. We do. It is who we are. It is who we stand for.”

Some congressional Republicans oppose the bill in part because they don’t want to create special classes of victims.

The rampage was the second apparently racially motivated crime in the Pittsburgh area in the past two months.

In March, a black man allegedly killed three whites in the working-class suburb of Wilkinsburg.

“These incidents are becoming less shocking, and that’s shocking in and of itself,” said Schreiber.

Last Friday, Richard Scott Baumhammers, 34, allegedly began his spree by killing Anita Gordon, a Jewish woman who was one of his next-door neighbors and a family friend.

Gordon, a 63-year-old native of Pittsburgh who was the married mother of three daughters, held a bachelor’s degree in interior design.

She was known for her work as a volunteer at Beth El and once designed the cover of the synagogue directory.

“Many members talked of her as if she were a second mother,” said Beth El’s rabbi, Neal Scheindlin.

A standing-room-only funeral for Gordon, who had known Baumhammers since he was a young boy, was held Monday.

The other four people killed last Friday were also minorities: an Indian man, Anil Thakur, was killed at a grocery; two Asian men, Thao Pham and Ji-Ye Sun, at a Chinese restaurant; and an African American man, Garry Lee, was shot and killed at a karate school.

Another Indian man shot in the rampage, Sandip Patel, remained in critical condition Sunday in a Pittsburgh hospital.

Furrow, Security and Hate

Buford O. Furrow Jr. will be tried first in federal court on charges of murdering a U.S. postal carrier. The state trial of the confessed gunman for the alleged shooting spree at the North Valley Jewish Community Center will be delayed until after the federal case is concluded.

A federal grand jury indicted Furrow Aug. 19 on two charges — the murder of mail carrier Joseph Ileto and the use of firearms to commit the alleged slaying. Both carry a possible death penalty.

Furrow is due to answer the indictment in court on Monday, Aug. 30.

State prosecutors will not be able to try Furrow on the same charges, but will put him on trial for the attempted murder of five persons, including three children, in the Aug. 10 shooting spree at the North Valley JCC in Granada Hills.

Furrow could get life sentences in the attempted-murder cases because Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti plans to charge that the crimes were based on hatred of Jews.

The decision to go first with the federal trial ended a week-long debate between federal and state prosecutors, with the latter citing their greater experience in prosecuting murder charges.

However, law professor and media analyst Laurie Levenson endorsed the order of precedence. She told the Los Angeles Times that, in federal courts, prosecutors automatically win the death penalty if they secure a conviction, while, in state courts, a subsequent penalty trial is required.

The national attention on hate crimes, gun control and terrorism aroused by the Furrow case, the fire bombing of three Sacramento-area synagogues, and the murderous attacks by a white supremacist in the Midwest found expression at a security conference in Sacramento last week.

Speakers at the meeting, convened by the Anti-Defamation League, advised synagogue leaders on basic security precautions and warned of likely future attacks.

Calling for a high degree of alertness, Mike Garner, a Sacramento Police Department bomb technician, said: “This isn’t Israel. This isn’t Ireland. But a little bit of paranoia is healthy.”

The audience also heard warnings by federal experts that hate groups may use the Y2K anxiety and apocalyptic end-of-the- millennium visions as excuses to assault Jews, minorities and homosexuals, the Times reported.

At another event last week, dramatically held at the Orange County jail in Santa Ana, ADL officials released a report that focused on the reportedly fastest-growing white supremacist gang in California.

The Nazi Lowriders are a rapidly rising force in both street crimes and the methamphetamine drug trade, the study warned.

Starting with 28 members in Orange County in 1996, the Nazi Lowriders, within two years, grew to an estimated 1,300 adherents nationwide.

Although gang members hate Jews, Asians and other minorities, their most vicious attacks have been against African-Americans, according to the ADL report.

As a result, Nazi Lowriders are segregated in county jails after repeated violence against black inmates, said Sheriffs Lee Baca of Los Angeles County and Mike Carona of Orange County.

The Times reported that Tom Leyden, a former neo-Nazi skinhead now working for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, described the Lowriders’ operations as unique, combining drug-selling expertise with the white supremacist credo of skinhead groups.

White Hate Group Strongly Suspected in Synagogue Fires

As investigators hone in on an “abundance of evidence” culled from the scenes of the June 18 arson attacks on three Sacramento-area synagogues, signs point increasingly to a white supremacist group.

Federal agents are tracking a number of hate groups with chapters in the area. High on the list is an Illinois-based organization called the World Church of the Creator, which has five active units operating out of Sacramento.

World Church fliers were left at two of the three torched sites, according to FBI officials. During Yom HaShoah services in April, similar fliers were left at one of the burned synagogues, Reform Congregation Beth Shalom in nearby Carmichael.

At 3:24 a.m. on Friday, June 18, flames tore through the library of Sacramento’s Congregation B’nai Israel, destroying 5,000 books and 300 videos on Jewish culture and history. Minutes later, arsonists struck Beth Shalom and Kenesset Israel Torah Center. Combined damages may top $1 million.

FBI officials refused to comment on the role of the white supremacist group in this investigation or on possible connections to other reported hate crimes in Sacramento. But agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said they have not ruled out the World Church or two other groups, the Posse Comitatus and the National Alliance, which the Anti-Defamation League has tagged “the most dangerous hate group in the U.S. today.”

However, according to Jonathan Bernstein, director of the ADL’s Central Pacific region, the World Church is “directly linked. They left their fliers there.”

While ADL officials stopped short of accusing World Church members of perpetrating the predawn arsons, they point out that the literature recovered from the crime scene blames the “International Jewsmedia” for the war in Kosovo — a current theme among white supremacist groups.

Although he denied responsibility for the attacks, World Church leader Matt Hale told a Sacramento Bee reporter: “We can’t condemn it. We believe the Jews have perpetrated far more atrocities on non-Jews than the other way around. Our response is they should look in the mirror to see who is responsible.”

Hale insisted that his organization does not “persuade people by burning buildings. It’s counterproductive,” he told the Sacramento Bee.

But Bernstein said the group “has been tied to some very serious incidents.” The ADL’s Internet Monitoring Unit has been tracking the group for several months.

Those incidents include the murder of an African-American serviceman in 1991 and the vicious beating of a father and his son by 11 skinheads in Miami last year.

A World Church flier found Friday at the Kenesset Israel Torah Center claims: “We are Slavs, we will never allow the International Jew World Order to take our Land [sic]. The fake Albanian refugee crisis was manufactured by the International Jewsmedia to justify the terrorizing, the bestial bombing of our Yugoslavia back into the dark ages.”

In an April 1999 issue of the World Church’s monthly newsletter, Hale decried the NATO bombing of Kosovo as part of a Jewish campaign for world domination.

The World Church has active members in Auburn, Bakersfield, Carmichael, Citrus Heights, Hayward, Napa and Sacramento, including the Frontier Women, a Sacramento-based auxiliary unit, according to an extensive ADL investigative report.

Although Hale, 27, has said, “We neither condone violence or unlawful activities, promote or incite them,” the group’s own Web site describes World Church as an organization of “skinheads,” whose “battle cry” is “Rahowa,” an acronym for racial holy war.

Members of the same group left anti-Semitic fliers on cars at UC Davis and area high schools in April 1998, and “about 30 skinheads in this area have been linked with some very violent acts,” Bernstein said.

The World Church actually rejects Christianity; the World Church’s founder, Ben Klassen, has said Christianity was “concocted” by Jews “for the very purpose of mongreling and destroying the white race.”

As part of the investigation into the arson, agents are tracking individuals who are known to have visited numerous area synagogues in recent weeks.

“We had a visit,” said Kenesset Israel’s president, Steve Haberfeld. “A dark-haired guy, ruddy complexion. None of us were sure what to make of it.”

Two men, one in his 50s and the other around 20, also paid a call on a nearby Orthodox synagogue.

“They were asking funny questions like, ‘Where are the services? When is this, where is that?'” said Rabbi Yosef Langer, leader of Chabad of San Francisco, discussing two mysterious visitors who showed up at a Sacramento Orthodox congregation when he visited on Shavuot. They also asked, “So, where’s the Jewish flag?”

FBI Special Agent Nick Rossi cautioned against making too swift an assumption of guilt: “Even though they may eventually be proven to be connected to the individuals responsible for the fires, [the fliers] may contain misstatements about the group or its motives.”

More than 100 agents from six agencies are working on the case, including the FBI, the ATF and Sacramento’s police, sheriff’s and fire departments, as well as the American River Fire District.

Damage to the Reform B’nai Israel has been estimated at $800,000. The Reform Beth Shalom, where perpetrators broke in and set fire to the bimah, suffered $100,000 in damages. It appears the attackers tried to burn the temple down, but a sprinkler system halted the blaze from spreading. Damage to the smaller Orthodox Kenesset Israel has been set at $30,000.

How to aid Sacramento-area

synagogues hit by arson

A number of civic and community organizations are collecting funds for the three damaged Sacramento-area synagogues. In addition, agencies are seeking information about the perpetrators:

* The North American Board of Rabbis, through its Northern California affiliate, is posting a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the arson attacks.

* In addition, Sacramento bounty hunter Leonard Padilla is offering $25,000, and businessman Michael Swebner, an Israeli immigrant, is offering $10,000.

* To contribute to a reward fund, send checks payable to “KOVR 13 Hates Crimes Fund” to Hate Crimes Reward Fund, c/o KOVR 13, 2713 KOVR Dr., West Sacramento, CA 95605. Information: (916) 374-1313.

Those with information about the fires are encouraged to call one of two toll-free hot lines:

* FBI hot line: (800) 435-7883.

* Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms hot line: (888) ATF-FIRE.

The following organizations are seeking donations:

* Checks payable to the Unity Fund can be sent to the Jewish Federation of the Sacramento Region, 2351 Wyda Way, Sacramento, CA 95825. (916) 486-0906.

* B’nai B’rith has established a fund to help with the restoration. Write to Sacramento Synagogues, Disaster Relief, B’nai B’rith International, 1640 Rhode Island Ave., N.W., Washington, DC, 20036.

* Donations or expressions of good will can be sent directly to the three affected synagogues. Do not call, since the buildings remain closed.

Congregation Beth Shalom, 4746 El Camino Ave., Carmichael, CA 95608. Attn: Rabbi Joseph Melamed.

Congregation B’nai Israel, 3600 Riverside Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95818. Attn: Rabbi Brad Bloom

Kenesset Israel Torah Center, 1024 Morse Ave., Sacramento, CA 95864. Attn: Rabbi Stuart Rosen.

Rebecca Rosen Lum writes for the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California.