Jewish Defense League

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The Jewish Defense League or JDL is a Jewish organization whose stated goal is to "protect Jews from antisemitism by whatever means necessary".[1] While the group asserts that it "unequivocally condemns terrorism", and claims to have a "strict no-tolerance policy against terrorism and other felonious acts,"[2] it was characterized as "a right-wing terrorist group" by the Federal Bureau of Investigation[3] in 2001, and as a hate group involved in "anti-Arab terrorism" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.[4] According to the FBI, the JDL has been involved in plotting terrorist attacks within the United States.[3]

Founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York City in 1968, JDL's self-described purpose was to protect Jews from local manifestations of antisemitism.[1][5] Its criticism of the Soviet Union garnered support for the group, transforming it from a "vigilante club" to an activist organization with membership numbering over 15,000.[6] The group took to bombing Arab and Soviet properties in the United States,[7] and targeting various alleged "enemies of the Jewish people", ranging from Arab-American political activists to neo-Nazis, for assassination.[8] A number of JDL members have been linked to violent, and sometimes deadly, attacks in the United States, including the killing of American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee regional director Alex Odeh in 1985, and a plot to kill U.S. Congressman Darrell Issa in 2001.[9]

The 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre, in which dozens of Palestinians at prayer were massacred by a gunman in the West Bank city of Hebron, was perpetrated by a one-time JDL member who had emigrated from the United States, Baruch Goldstein.[10] The JDL maintains, on its website, "we are not ashamed to say that Goldstein was a charter member of the Jewish Defense League."[11]

Many Jewish groups have long been hostile to the group. According to one Anti-Defamation League official, the group consists only of "thugs and hooligans".[12]


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