Far-right French Jews assault BuzzFeed journalist

Members of the French branch of the far-right Jewish Defense League attacked a prominent French journalist outside the Paris offices of the Agence France Presse news agency.

Armed with batons, dozens of violent Jewish activists who had gathered to protest the news agency’s Israel coverage, assaulted David Perrotin, a reporter for BuzzFeed, on Thursday evening, the Guardian reported.

Protesters threw eggs and other objects at the AFP building, yelled out insults and tried to storm the offices, according to the Guardian. They threatened journalists, saying “We’re coming to get you” and “Islamic terrorists.” Riot police sprayed them with tear gas.

The International Business Times reported that Perrotin, who was covering the protests on Twitter, was “set upon by a gang of about a dozen masked demonstrators,” receiving blows to the back and head.

One demonstrator said: “We are here to show our support for Israel in our war against the Arabs.” He added: “Journalists working for organizations like AFP support the Islamic terrorists and that’s why we have to fight back.”

Perrotin “has frequently exposed the work” of the French Jewish Defense League, according to the Guardian.

Founded by Meir Kahane, who was assassinated in 1990, the league is radical Jewish nationalist organization banned in both the United States and Israel.

Q&A with Yossi Klein Halevi: Jewish extremists endanger Israel’s control of Jerusalem

In 1972, when Yossi Klein Halevi began writing a book that 23 years later would become his “Memoirs of a Jewish Extremist, he was just 19 and allied with the extremist right wing of the Free Soviet Jewry movement. 

As a follower of Rabbi Meir Kahane (assassinated in 1990) and a member of Kahane’s Jewish Defense League (JDL), Halevi used his journalistic ability to clarify world events on behalf of the JDL. At the time, he still lived in his native New York City, so his role was to filter news about Israel and Jews through a prism largely shaped by the fear of another Holocaust, in which Jews and Israelis felt themselves unwelcome neighbors in a hostile gentile world.

The young Halevi likely never could have imagined that one day he would write a rebuke of Jewish extremism, saying it preaches ideas that are anathema to Judaism. 

Halevi’s memoir was first published in 1995, almost to the day of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by the Jewish extremist Yigal Amir. “Memoirs of a Jewish Extremist” chronicles Halevi’s evolution from his teens into his late 20s. His other books, “At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden” and, most recently, the National Jewish Book award-winning “Like Dreamers,” have become known not for extremism, but rather for thoughtful moderation steeped in the author’s love for Judaism and Israel.

The re-release of “Memoirs” in October could not have come at a more appropriate time, as a new brand of Palestinian terrorism of cars and knives shakes Israel, and vandalism, assaults and the murder of an Arab teen by three Jewish extremists all have made Jerusalem feel in recent months like a city waiting to explode into a war of neighbor versus neighbor. 

On Nov. 29, extremist Jews lit a Jerusalem bilingual Jewish-Arab school on fire and spray-painted inciteful anti-Arab messages, including one that read, “Kahane was right.”

In a Nov. 19 interview with the Jewish Journal, one day after a brutal terrorist attack at a Har Nof synagogue just outside Jerusalem, where four Jews were murdered during morning prayers, Halevi described the feeling among Israelis as, “Anything can happen at any moment.”

What follows is an edited transcript of the interview: 

Jewish Journal: There are some calls now to cede Arab parts of Jerusalem to the Palestinians so as to separate Jews and Muslims. Would that help ease tensions in the city?

Yossi Klein Halevi: It’s a very understandable reaction and a very dangerous one. There is no vacuum in Jerusalem [that wouldn’t] be filled by Hamas. As traumatic as the status quo is, there’s no alternative. The status quo needs to be improved. We need to make sure that, first of all, serious security efforts are being imposed on the ground, and at the same time, we need to start listening to the grievances of mainstream Palestinians in Jerusalem who don’t want the city to be torn apart  — and, in my experience, that’s a majority of Palestinians in the city. 

This latest round of rioting and violence and terror happened for two reasons: One, because of the burning of the 16-year-old Palestinian boy [Mohammed Abu Khdeir] this summer — that triggered the initial wave of violence and that was an act committed by Jewish extremists. And then feeding on that momentum was the return of the Palestinian lie that Israel intends to change the status quo on the Temple Mount. This is a lie that has persisted since 1929, when hundreds of Jews were massacred because Palestinian leaders spread a false rumor that Jews were intending to take over the Temple Mount. There’s no chance that this government will change the status quo on the Temple Mount. The danger comes from provocative acts by small groups of Jews, by far-right Knesset members who feed the big lie about an Israeli intention to change the status quo — Moshe Feiglin in particular, but he’s not the only one.


JJ: What’s the end game for Jerusalem if Jewish extremists grow in number and in impact?

YKH: I’m speaking as someone who believes we have no alternative but to maintain Israeli control of united Jerusalem. Of course, most of the terrorism being committed these days in Jerusalem is by Arabs against Jews. But Jewish street violence against Arabs is growing, too. It’s hard to talk about this, given the pathological nature of the Palestinian attacks against us in recent weeks. But I have a deep concern for our ability to continue holding Jerusalem. The more attacks there are against Arabs, the more expressions of Jewish extremism, the greater the international pressure will be on Israel to leave parts of Jerusalem. 


JJ: What are some examples you’ve encountered in recent months of Jewish extremism in Jerusalem?

YKH: Outbursts against Arabs; physical attacks on the streets. It’s not only Jews now who are afraid to go into Arab neighborhoods. Arabs are afraid to go into Jewish neighborhoods. I was in downtown Jerusalem the day after Abu Khdeir was murdered, and there was a demonstration by Jews to protest the murder of the three kidnapped Jewish boys, and they arranged memorial candles on the pavement to spell out “Death to Arabs.” As if that burned body wasn’t enough.


JJ: What is the mindset, the worldview, of the Jewish extremist?

YKH: In the ’60s and ’70s in New York, we were mainly concerned with saving Soviet Jewry and opposing the Soviet Union, and the Holocaust was our primary emotional motive. But what we do share in common — the Israeli extremist of today and my generation of American-Jewish extremists — is the sense of the radical aloneness of the Jewish people. And this is something that Israel’s critics need to internalize: that by pushing Israel into a corner, by isolating Israel and boycotting us and turning us into the world’s criminals, they are reinforcing the argument of the radical right in Israel. The radical right is the greatest beneficiary of BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions], because it just reinforces everything that they’re saying: “The world hates us; we have no friends.” And if you have no friends, you might as well just do what you need to do and not be squeamish about it.


JJ: So are you saying there’s a feedback effect between Israel’s isolation and the rise in Jewish extremism? Does one lead to the other?

YKH: Absolutely; there’s a cycle. What I’m really worried about right now as a citizen of Jerusalem is, God forbid, some Jewish lunatic attacking a mosque. We’ve had a fair number of arson attacks and desecration of mosques in the last few years in the West Bank, and if that happens in Jerusalem — well, I’ll just leave it at that.


JJ: Are today’s Jewish extremists yesterday’s Yossi Klein Halevis?

YKH: I think there are levels of extremism, and I was prepared as a teenager to go pretty far, but not that far [murder]. I don’t know anyone from those years who would’ve been capable of burning alive a 16-year-old boy. There’s been a loosening of constraints, and the result is that, on the far fringes of the Jewish people, we have Jews who are apparently capable of doing absolutely anything. To my mind, this is new. 

I understand Jewish rage, but there’s a line that has been crossed that I don’t believe was possible, was conceivable in the past, and that worries me. It worries me because of its effect on us, its effect politically but also spiritually. It weakens our spiritual resistance to evil, it compromises us fundamentally, and it divides us. It opens up a counter-reaction from the far left, and then you have this pathology of far left and far right feeding off of each other, pointing at each other as validations for their own distorted positions. What makes me a centrist is a deep belief that the center is the place to hold the conflicting truths of Jewish history that we are struggling with now, the conflicting voices, commanding voices of Jewish history to our generation. The voice of the command to remember that we were strangers in the land of Egypt — don’t be brutal. The command to remember what Amalek did to us when we were leaving Egypt, another biblical commandment, and that message is, don’t be naïve. We’re struggling between these two imperatives. The extremists of right and left can’t hear both of those. For them, it’s either/or.


JJ: What prompted your transformation?

YKH: My father raised me with the idea that the Jews have no friends. That was his lesson from the Shoah, and he was trying to prepare me — as a Jew in a hostile world — for survival. My father’s great fear was that his American-born children would not have the savvy to survive another Holocaust, that Americans were too naïve, too soft, and he was trying to raise his children with a sense of alertness. As my father put it, “Nobody likes the Jews. When Christians speak of love, they mean [for] everybody but the Jews.” The problem with that teaching was that my father was saved by a non-Jew [in the Holocaust]. My father survived the war in a hole, in a forest with two friends. What I began to realize as I grew older was that my father wanted me to know that his black-and-white view of the non-Jewish world was inadequate, and so he repeatedly told me the story of this non-Jew who saved him, who used to bring food to him during the Holocaust.


JJ: In “Like Dreamers,” are there any heroes that stake out the center ground?

YKH: For me, the heroes of the book are those who ended up in the center. Yoel Bin Nun, first of all, was one of the founders of the settlement movement. From the left, his friend Avital Geva, who was a fellow paratrooper and one of the founders of the anti-settlement Peace Now movement, realized that there was a naiveté in his camp, that we really don’t have a credible partner [for peace] on the other side. I would also put Arik Achmon in that camp. He grew up on a kibbutz and became the first privatizer of an Israeli company. I would divide the heroes of “Like Dreamers” into two camps, and it’s not left and right. There are those who are in the camp who evolve as the book tells their story, and there are those who stay the same. For me, the heroes of “Like Dreamers” were those who struggled with the limitations of their youthful ideas and were able to grow.


JJ: How can today’s Jewish extremists be changed? Or can they only be contained?

YKH: Anyone can be changed, and the question of human change, of evolution, of growth is in some sense my life’s work as a writer. That’s the story that I’ve been trying to tell in my books, and it’s a story that I tried to tell in “Like Dreamers” — the evolution of the Israeli story through the evolution of several leading figures in Israel. I am an optimist, to some extent, about human nature. I think we are here in this world to grow, to evolve — I’m speaking now as a believing person. We are here in order to help our souls grow. Evolution is at the heart of the divine unfolding of this world. That’s an insight I learned from Rav Kook, the great 20th- century mystic. 


JJ: Do you believe the mindsets and motivations of all extremists are similar, whether they are Muslim or Jewish?

YKH: In my generation, the motivation for Jewish extremism was much less religious. Today’s Jewish extremists are coming from a complicated mix of nationalism, historic grievance and rage, along with some poisonous ideological ideas of Jewish superiority, which are floating around the fringes of the Orthodox world in Israel. And that mix of historical grievance and notions of religious superiority make them the Jewish equivalent of Islamist extremists. So, today’s Jewish extremists are much closer to the model of Islamist extremists than my generation was. When you bring in the element of religion, you’re adding a very potent level of explosive to the mix.


JJ: How can someone be prevented from becoming an extremist?

YKH: I don’t know how to stop someone else. I know how the process happened for me, and I wrote this book in part because I’m hoping that young people of any religion or nationality or inclination who are tempted by their own extremist direction will have an example of someone who healed himself, who pulled back from the abyss. My story involves discovering that the non-Jewish world wasn’t a monolithic world of anti-Semites. I fell in love with a non-Jewish young woman who converted to Judaism and has been my wife and partner for the last 30 years. For me, the defining transition from extremist to someone able to hear more complicated ideas about the world is empathy. Are you able to have empathy for people who are outside of your closed circle? Are you able to have empathy for those whose ideas you find deeply problematic? That’s true for extremists on the left as well as on the right. This is not only a right-wing problem; this is an extremist problem. 

Right-wingers are not the only extremists. Look at Jewish Voice for Peace, whose members marched in pro-Hamas rallies this summer. Look where extremism can lead people. Extremists are in danger of losing their Jewish soul, either by turning too far left or too far right. One way leads to betrayal, the other to brutality. That, for me, is really the warning to our generation of “Memoirs of a Jewish Extremist.”

Yossi Klein Halevi is a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute and the author of, most recently, the National Jewish Book Award-winning “Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation.” With this article, he joins the Journal as columnist and contributing editor.  

JDL looks to establish Montreal chapter after increase in attacks on Jews

The Jewish Defense League of Canada wants to set up a chapter in Montreal, citing an increase in attacks on Jews.

The national director of the Toronto-based JDL, Meir Weinstein, told local media he has been contacted by Montreal residents who would like to see a chapter set up in the city.

In interviews, Weinstein denied his group is controversial or militant.

“We have a very serious history in Canada – fighting anti-Semitism, exposing Nazi war criminals and a variety of neo-Nazi groups in the city. … We’ve worked very hard in this country against physical threats to the community, and I’m very proud of my history with the organization.”

The FBI identified the JDL as a “right-wing terrorist group” in reports on terrorism in 2000 and 2001, citing a thwarted bomb plot in 2001 against a California mosque that involved members of the organization, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

In Canada, the JDL has not been identified as a terrorist group.

But since the start of the current round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, the group has been on the front lines of both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protests, with one of its members bloodied in a recent scuffle in Toronto.

Some observers have noted that the JDL has signified a return to the in-your-face, sometimes violent, street protests the group staged in the late 1960s and through the 1970s.

“For anyone who says we are ultra-nationalist, I’m not exactly sure what they mean,” Weinstein told Montreal radio station CJAD. “We’re proud to be Canadians, and we uphold Canadian law, and we support the state of Israel. Confrontation is part of it.”

David Ouellette of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs  said that for the first time in years the conflict in the Middle East has led to a rise in anti-Jewish sentiment in Montreal.

“I would expect that JDL is making this calculation, knowing this is a time when many in the Jewish community are concerned with their safety, that the time is right to try and make inroads,” he told CBC.

Ouellette said the JDL hasn’t had a presence in Quebec in years and has had a difficult time establishing itself in any significant way.  “They really stand on the fringes of our community,” he said.

Montreal Rabbi Reuben Poupko agreed, saying the local community already has a good working relationship with police and doesn’t need an outside group to agitate.

“There is nothing to be gained from a street confrontation,” Poupko told Montreal’s  CJAD radio news.

Police investigate false bomb threat against comedian Dieudonne

French comedian Diedonne M’bala M’bala complained to police about threats to blow up the theater in which he performs.

The bomb threat was made Thursday against the Main D’Or theater, which Dieudonne operates, in Paris’ 11th arrondissement, according to MetroNews.fr. Police rushed to the scene but found no explosives.

Performances by Dieudonne, a professed anti-Semite and inventor of the quenelle anti-Semitic salute, have been targeted in the past by activists of the Ligue de Defense Juive, the local branch of the JDL.

Last week, six men believed to be linked to JDL were arrested in Lyon for allegedly assaulting two individuals who posted online pictures of themselves performing the quenelle, a quasi-Nazi salute which French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said Tuesday was a gesture of hate and anti-Semitism.

In recent months, several athletes in France and beyond were seen performing the quenelle, which is believed to be gaining traction in French society.

On Dec. 28, West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka performed the salute during a match, prompting strongly worded condemnations from anti-racism campaigners.

But Kick it Out, a prominent British organization working to curb soccer racism, issued a guarded statement saying only that it will assist Britain’s Football Association in investigating Anelka’s behavior. Anelka has ignored calls to apologize, saying the salute was a gesture to his friend Dieudonne.

John Mann, chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism at the European Parliament, blasted Kick it Out for not using stronger language.

“Not good enough,” Mann wrote on Twitter last week. “You should be leading on challenging this racism. Your statement is weak and puny.”

Ari Rubin suicide continues pattern of violent JDL deaths

Ari Ephraim Rubin, vice chairman of the Jewish Defense League long led by his father, Irving (Irv) Rubin, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on July 20. He was 30.

Ari Rubin had been active since his youth in the militant JDL, which has long been rejected by mainstream Jewish organizations for its violent tactics, and he became vice chairman in 2006.

His death was ruled a suicide by the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, whose spokesman, Craig Harvey, said that a neighbor found Rubin in his car with the self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head.


Feds Indict Suspect in Murder of JDL’s Krugel

Almost nine months after the brutal prison-yard slaying of Earl Krugel, the longtime No. 2 man in the Jewish Defense League (JDL), federal authorities have indicted an inmate with no apparent ties to Krugel.

The suspect, David Frank Jennings, 30, allegedly attacked Krugel from behind with a piece of concrete hidden in a bag while Krugel was using an exercise machine at a federal prison in Phoenix.

The indictment, issued by a federal grand jury on July 19, offers neither details nor motive, asserting that Jennings “with premeditation and malice aforethought willfully kill and murder Earl Leslie Krugel.”

Jennings is the only person charged in the killing that took place in plain view. Authorities contend that Jennings acted alone.

“He was the only one charged. There was no conspiracy,” said Ann Harwood, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Phoenix,
Authorities would say little else, including anything about the motive of the alleged killer, a small-time repeat offender with nothing in his rap sheet to suggest either this level of violence or any particular animosity toward the 62-year-old Krugel.

Krugel had been transferred to the Federal Corrections Institute (FCI) Phoenix, a medium security prison, just three days before the assault. To date, there is no indication that Krugel and Jennings knew each other.
“My husband was brutally murdered just a few days after he was sent to that prison,” Lola Krugel said. “He wasn’t there long enough to make any deadly enemies.”

At the time of Krugel’s attack, Jennings was serving a 70-month sentence at FCI Phoenix for a 2003 bank robbery in Las Vegas, which netted him $1,040. Because Jennings had threatened the teller during the robbery, authorities eventually extended his plea bargain sentence from 63 months to 70 months.

Jennings, who lived in Oregon before moving to Nevada, has multiple convictions, but court records reviewed by The Journal did not indicate any association with racist or anti-Semitic groups in or out of prison.

In 1993,Jennings was convicted in Oregon on an Assault III charge; a “class C” state felony, which resulted in an 18-month state prison sentence. In 1994 he was arrested and convicted for unauthorized use of a vehicle and sentenced to six months in jail. In 1995, a probation violation cost him another six months.

He had apparently moved to Nevada by 1996. That same year he was arrested and pleaded guilty to state charges of grand larceny and unlawful possession of a credit card, for which he received a sentence of 16 to 72 months in state prison.

Krugel was transferred to the Phoenix facility to serve out the balance of a 20-year sentence, following his negotiated guilty plea to conspiracy, weapons and explosives charges. The high-profile case against Krugel and the JDL involved an abortive bombing plot against possible targets that included a Culver City mosque and the field office of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), an Arab-American of Lebanese descent.

A fitness fanatic, Krugel was using exercise equipment when he was blind-sided between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Nov. 4, 2005. Details of the assault did not emerge in previous reports; a review of the autopsy depicts a vicious attack.

His main injury was the initial blow to the back of his head, which crushed the left side of his skull and severely damaged his brain and brain stem. But his attacker also delivered multiple blows to Krugel’s skull, face and neck, according to the autopsy, which was performed by the Maricopa County medical examiner and obtained by The Journal. Krugel suffered multiple skull fractures, internal bleeding and multiple lacerations to his head, face and brain. The beating knocked out teeth and also fractured one of his eye sockets.
Krugel was pronounced dead at the scene.

His death marked the violent end, in prison, for both local leaders of an organization that advocated the use of violence, as necessary, in defending the interests of Jews. JDL head Irv Rubin died in 2002, at 57, from injuries he suffered after jumping or falling from a railing inside the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles. Authorities ruled Rubin’s death a suicide, though family members contested that finding. Krugel, a dental technician by trade, was Rubin’s longtime close friend and second-in-command.

Krugel and Rubin were arrested in late 2001. They were accused, in the months following the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes, of plotting violent revenge against Muslims and Arabs. No attack was carried out. Krugel spent four years in federal lock-up in Los Angeles. It was the resolution of his case, with the guilty plea to reduced charges, that landed him in Phoenix.

Lola Krugel said she’s relieved that someone has finally been charged in her husband’s murder. But she and Krugel’s sister, Linda, both expressed frustration and anger over the time it took to make an arrest, as well as the FBI’s unwillingness to share information with the family.

“He did it right there in the open,” said Lola Krugel, referring to the attacker. “There had to be witnesses and cameras. So why did it take so long for them to charge this man?”

The delay was not foot-dragging but a desire to get it right, said Patrick Snyder, assistant U.S. Attorney in charge of the criminal division in the Phoenix office: “Since the murder occurred in prison, we know the assailant is already in custody. So we’re not under the same kind of time pressure to make an arrest that we are when a killer is still at large.”

Lola Krugel filed a wrongful-death claim against the federal government in February, which has since been denied. The family says it’s now preparing to file a civil lawsuit. The rejected claim had asked for $10 million for personal injury and $10 million for Krugel’s wrongful death.

“It’s an ‘outrage figure,'” said family attorney Benjamin Schonbrun, a partner in the Venice-area firm of Schonbrun, DeSimone, Seplow, Harris and Hoffman. “A figure to illustrate the outrage Lola Krugel feels over the murder of her husband, plus the anger she felt over her inability to get any information from the government.”

JDL’s Krugel Killed in Phoenix Prison

If Earl Krugel stood for anything, it was the principle that Jews should never retreat, never back down from a hostile world. The former Jewish Defense League (JDL) stalwart and his cohorts vocally, provocatively and sometimes violently fought back over decades of political activism.

But no one was watching Krugel’s back Friday afternoon at the Federal Corrections Institute in Phoenix, when another inmate, apparently, swung a bag containing a cinderblock into the back of Krugel’s head, killing him.

Krugel’s death brought an abrupt close to a high-profile terrorism case that attracted nationwide attention in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Krugel was arrested, along with his friend Irv Rubin, for allegedly plotting to bomb the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City and a field office of Arab-American congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista).

Both middle-aged defendants faced life terms. But neither lived long behind bars. Irv Rubin, 57, died in November 2002 in what officials ruled a suicide. His family has challenged that conclusion. There’s no doubt, however, that Krugel, 62, was murdered, less than two months after being sentenced as part of a plea bargain.

While awaiting the disposition of his case, Krugel, a dental technician from Reseda, had been in custody four years at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in downtown Los Angeles. One concession that he got for pleading guilty was a pledge from U.S. District Court Judge Ronald S. W. Lew to serve time in California near his family.

But the judge’s pledge was unenforceable, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Jessner, who prosecuted Krugel. It was ultimately up to federal prison authorities to decide where Krugel would serve the remainder of his 20-year sentence.

Krugel was transferred from Los Angeles in the early morning hours of Oct. 27, according to his family. From there, U.S. marshals first moved him to a prison in Victorville, where he stayed from Friday to Tuesday. From there he was transferred to the small, medium-security detention center on the outskirts of Phoenix.

Although Krugel missed his family — he called his wife twice a day — he was reasonably upbeat, said Lola Krugel, who learned some details about her husband’s death in a series of calls with prison authorities and clergy.

The health-conscious Krugel, gray-haired and balding, had become a workout fanatic, focused on staying in shape and outlasting the expiration of his sentence in 2019. On Friday afternoon he decided to try out the exercise equipment at the Arizona facility. As he went through his reps, a still-unidentified assailant stepped up behind him and reportedly swung the concrete block, which was hidden in a paper sack. Krugel could still hold his own in a fight, family members say, but he never had a chance. Some reports describe his attacker as a possible neo-Nazi. Krugel also could have been a target if he’d been branded as an informant, said prosecutor Jessner.

The details of what happened next are murky, but it appears the crushing blow killed him instantly. Questions abound about the identity and motive of Krugel’s killer and the actions of prison personnel. The FBI and prison officials remain tight-lipped about the incident. Even Krugel’s family has received little additional information beyond what has been publicly released. FBI agent Richard Murray in Phoenix provided a terse announcement to the media, saying little else except that Krugel was killed Friday evening and that the incident was under investigation. According to an autopsy performed on Monday in Phoenix, Krugel died from “blunt force trauma to the head.” His time of his death, officially a homicide, is listed as 6:03 p.m. Friday.

“I spoke to him last Wednesday morning around 9:30 a.m.,” a shaken Lola Krugel recounted. “He had just gotten to FCI Phoenix around 4 that morning. On the phone he told me it was OK there. He could see the sky and feel grass again. Earl was very upbeat when we talked.”

“We always talked twice a day,” she continued, fighting back tears. “Once in the morning and then again at night. We talked Thursday morning and he said he had just gone through some kind of orientation and would be applying for a prison job on Friday. Then we talked again that night. I just didn’t know that would be the last time I talked to my husband,” she said.

“He was strong,” said Lola Krugel, who married her husband in 1997. “He was still optimistic and upbeat even though he was there in prison. He told me, ‘Don’t worry. I will ask for a transfer to a facility in California. I will take care of myself. I will follow the rules and I will be home before you know it.’ That was Earl. That was my husband.”

“He wasn’t a monster, a killer. He wasn’t the person the media has made him out to be,” she added. “My husband was a caring person. He wasn’t about the JDL anymore. That was old news. We didn’t have a JDL life. JDL was dead.”

And Krugel seemed to have accepted this reality. At his sentencing he vainly pleaded to Judge Lew for leniency.

“This was carried too far,” he said in court. “It became a plan for violent protest and not civic protest. Violence only begets violence.”

After “much soul-searching” in prison, he concluded, he had come to realize there are “good Arabs and bad Arabs just like there are good and bad Jews.”

The JDL was started in 1968 by Meir Kahane, a Brooklyn, N.Y., rabbi who preached self-defense to combat anti-Semitism. Kahane moved to Israel in 1970 and called for forcibly removing all Arabs from Israel and the disputed territories. An Arab extremist assassinated Kahane during a trip to New York in 1990.

When he left for Israel, Kahane had handed over the JDL to Rubin, although factions have long advanced competing leadership claims. Ruben, Krugel and a small band of West Coast followers were seemingly inseparable and became fixtures at rallies, where they’d shout their beliefs out through megaphones. But the group also was linked to acts of violence, including the unsolved murder of Alex Odeh, 41, the western regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Odeh was killed by a pipe bomb as he tried to enter his Santa Ana office.

Krugel’s reported cooperation with the FBI sparked a break with Shelley Rubin, Irv Rubin’s widow, who publicly branded him a “traitor” for implicating her husband in the 2001 bombing plot.

What’s left of the JDL is open to debate — at least two factions are fighting over the remnants. In Israel, militant, extremist groups retain a small but devoted following.

Linda Krugel said her brother was miscast by critics: “My brother was bright. He was articulate. He loved to read. He loved politics. He loved to collect gems and he was devoted to his family.”


The Lure of Extremism

As these words are written, Irv Rubin, the national chairman of the Jewish Defense League (JDL) lies in a coma, the apparent victim of self-inflicted wounds.

Having known Irv and the activities of the local JDL for over a quarter-century, it is an appropriate time to reflect on what animated someone like Irv to expend his prodigious energies in what were often pointless and counterproductive activities. For a man who was rational, and with whom one could discuss cause and effect and the logic of doing things one way (the non-inflammatory way) as opposed to another, it always amazed me how he would invariably choose the wrong path.

Whether choosing to picket the home of Tom Metzger in rural Fallbrook, when Metzger was a candidate for Congress in the early 1980s or choosing to defy the desires of the local community (Jews and non-Jews) by physically confronting a march of the pathetic remnant of the Aryan Nations in northern Idaho in the mid-90s, Irv was usually less concerned about the effect of what he did than the act of doing it and the publicity that ensued.

In following that modus operandi, Irv betrayed an attitude and world view that could only be described as extremist. Irv felt good picketing in front of Metzger’s home and got attention; Metzger was, after all, a bigot and head of the California Ku Klux Klan. But, as I remember asking Irv at the time, in trying to dissuade him from demonstrating, how many votes did he think that his presence would generate for Metzger? A 6-foot-plus Jewish militant coming down from Los Angeles and harassing a neighbor was hardly a political adviser’s recommendation on how to defeat Metzger’s bid in rural north San Diego County.

Irv understood — but he went and did his thing anyway. He had a different agenda than actually impacting the vote in the Metzger election. That same conflicted set of priorities played itself out time and time again.

In the days after Buford Furrow’s attack on the North Valley Jewish Community Center and his murder of Joseph Ileto, there was an unprecedented rally against hate attended by thousands of Angelenos. Then-Attorney General Janet Reno, Gov. Gray Davis, former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan and representatives of virtually every ethnic, racial and religious community were there. The only disruptive voice was Irv’s. He screamed and yelled while the governor and attorney general spoke, complaining about gun control legislation. How ironic that in a setting of unity and harmony — and in the wake of profound tragedy — his would be the lone voice of disharmony.

A review of Irv’s public life reflects his inability to free himself from the lure of extremism and the attention that it generates. Other than a brief period two decades ago when he ran for the Republican nomination for the Assembly and thought that, with some moderation, he might actually get elected, his career was one that had a disturbing symbiosis with extremism.

In every group, perhaps minority groups more than others because of the legitimate grievances that they often have, there is a constituency for a leader that brooks no compromise and offers "in your face" rhetoric to the rest of the world.

Whether Louis Farrakhan for the African American community, Meir Kahane and Irv for the Jews or the leaders of the hate-filled Nation of Aztlan in the Latino community, there is a small-but-solid core of folks who relish a militant leader who tells them, "I’m standing up for you and I don’t give a damn what they think." The "they" changes, but the tone, intensity and message don’t.

Irv played to that constituency in the Jewish community with occasional success. To the extent that other organizations in the Jewish community were seen as vocal — even militant — and effective, it cut into his audience. No wonder that he spent a significant amount of his energy attacking Jewish defense organizations — he had to discredit his perceived competition.

As Irv’s constituency got smaller, his need to act out and demonstrate his continued vitality and usefulness became even greater. No wonder that the crime of which he recently stood accused happened at the end of his career when his following was, literally, microscopic. He desperately needed to prove his relevance, no matter the manner.

The tragedy of Irv’s career is that his energy could have been put to useful purpose. The hours of picketing and harassing and the thought given to one enterprise after another might have borne fruit had they been directed toward positive ends. Perhaps a lesson for us all.

The Friends of Irv Rubin are organizing a prayer vigil for him at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 17, at County-USC Medical Center, 1200 N. State St., Los Angeles. Those coming should bring a candle.

David A. Lehrer is president of Community Advocates Inc., a newly formed human relations organization in Los Angeles with former L.A. Mayor Richard J. Riordan as its chairman and Joe R. Hicks as its vice president.

JDL Trial Set for October

The trial of Jewish Defense League (JDL) leaders Irv Rubin and Earl Krugel on criminal conspiracy charges in the alleged plot to detonate bombs at a mosque and a congressman’s office is scheduled to begin in October. As Rubin and Krugel await their trial in a shared cell at the Metropolitan Detention Center, information has slowly come out about the informant who helped the government build its case since the arrests in December.

At the heart of the case against Rubin and Krugel are hours of tapes recorded by an informant working for the FBI. The tapes have been turned over to defense lawyers but are still being transcribed.

However, Rubin’s attorney, Brian Altman, believes that there is more to the case than the version of events on the tapes. "The government has an agenda," he says, "so they’ve investigated along that agenda. Then they dump it on you and — bam!"

Altman believes the tapes, once they are fully transcribed, will help prove that his client — who was present at only two of the 11 recorded meetings — was convinced to go along with the alleged bomb plot by the informant. Listening to the tapes, says Altman, "there’s a strong suggestion that the government’s informant was critical to this plan: he’s the one who’s very animated."

The informant, Danny Gillis, 23, is a former Navy petty officer who, while in high school, was reportedly a member of a Jewish pride gang in the Porter Ranch area of the San Fernando Valley. A source close to Gillis says that while he often fought with white supremacist youths while in high school, he has no arrest record.

While serving in the Navy, the source says, Gillis was the JDL’s "No. 1 kid in L.A.," who often threatened or fought with people identified by the JDL as anti-Semites. But Gillis ended his contact with the JDL in early 2001, after his honorable discharge from the Navy. Months before he was allegedly recruited by Rubin and Krugel for the bombings, Gillis had begun taking classes at a community college and working as a bank teller.

According to the source, Gillis turned to the FBI because of the targets chosen, not the violence he was asked to commit. Gillis’ interest in the JDL reportedly stemmed from his hatred of skinheads, especially a racist gang known as the Peckerwoods. The source says that Gillis has Muslim and Arab American friends and believed the JDL went too far in targeting a mosque,"where there could be innocent children." When Gillis learned the JDL wanted him to attack Muslim and Arab American targets, Gillis turned to the FBI and agreed to record their meetings, according to the source.

The FBI paid Gillis "lost salary," an amount equal to what the informant had been making at his bank teller job before becoming an informant. Krugel defense attorney Mark Werksman says he has requested an interview with Gillis, but "I’ve been told that he wouldn’t speak with us." Altman has also been unable to speak with the prosecution’s star witness.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Jessner, who is prosecuting the case, says that Gillis is neither required nor forbidden to speak with Rubin’s or Krugel’s attorneys. "Informants are always protected," Jessner says. "If the informant wishes to speak to the defense, the informant may. Our job is to protect the informant, not to keep the informant from speaking to defense counsel."

Gillis is currently living outside of Los Angeles and plans to "disappear" after the trial, scheduled to begin Oct. 1.

JDL Head Arrested

Irv Rubin, national chairman of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), and a fellow member, have been charged with conspiracy to blow up Arab and Muslim targets in Southern California.

Federal authorities charged at a Wednesday press conference that Rubin, 56, and Earl Krugel, 59, intended to blow up the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, the offices of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) in the Mid-Wilshire area, and the offices of Republican Rep. Darrell Issa.

Issa, whose district includes parts of San Diego and Orange counties, is an Arab American of Lebanese descent.

At press time, leading Jewish organizations scheduled a press conference to condemn the alleged plot. In early statements, Jewish organizations, including The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, expressed their horror and revulsion at the alleged JDL plot. "The Jewish community universally condemns acts of terrorism against the Muslim community," ADL Western Region Executive Director David Lehrer told The Journal. At press time, dozens of other Jewish leaders and groups are scheduled to make similar statements at the press conference.

As outlined by U.S. Attorney John Gordon and Ronald Iden of the local FBI office, an informant reported attending a meeting with Rubin and Krugel in October, during which he was asked to participate in the bombings of the alleged targets.

According to the complaint, Krugel commented during the meeting that Arabs "need a wake-up call," while Rubin observed that the JDL needed to let people know that it was "alive in a militant way."

In subsequent meetings, the informant was told to locate and photograph the MPAC offices and to buy some of the bomb components, including pipes and explosive powder.

Last weekend, authorities say, the informant was told by Rubin and Krugel that the targets would be the King Fahd Mosque, rather than Issa’s office and the MPAC office.

On Tuesday, the informant allegedly delivered explosive powder, the last component needed to construct pipe bombs, to Krugel’s residence.

In the evening, Rubin and Krugel had dinner at Jerry’s Deli in Encino, and Rubin was arrested about 9 p.m. while driving to his home in Monrovia. Krugel was arrested at his home in Reseda.

One of Krugel’s neighbors reported that law enforcement officers apparently broke down portions of fences and a screen door at Krugel’s house and carried away weapons and cardboard boxes.

The neighbor said that a menorah was visible through a window and that there was an American flag on the mailbox.

Peter Morris, Rubin’s attorney, said that "Irv Rubin never had anything to do with explosives…. It seems to us that given the timing, the government’s action is part of an overreaction to the Sept. 11 events."

Morris’s partner, Bryan Altman, indicated that federal authorities wanted to demonstrate their "even-handedness" by balancing terrorist charges against Muslims with similar charges against Jews.

Rubin and Krugel face two counts, conspiracy to destroy a building by means of explosives, and, secondly, possession of a destructive device during and in relation to a crime of violence. The first count carries a penalty of no less that 30 years in prison, the second a maximum of five years, according to U.S. Attorney spokesman Thom Mrozek.

Rubin, born in Canada but a longtime California resident, was named national chairman of the militant JDL in 1985 by its founder, Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was assassinated in New York in 1990.

Rubin and the JDL were involved in numerous high-profile confrontations and received extensive media coverage in the 1980s and early 1990s, but in recent years have garnered few headlines. One year ago, Rubin was involved in a successful attempt to ban secular prayers at meetings of the Burbank City Council. As the Journal went to press, Rubin and Krugel were scheduled to appear at an arraignment hearing downtown.