The trial of the leader of the Jewish Defense League, who stands accused of planning a pipe-bomb attack against Arab-Americans, represents only the latest allegation of violent plots and actions in the group's 31-year history as an extremist organization.
With such slogans as "For every Jew a .22" and "Keep Jews Alive with a .45," the group has operated at the most extreme fringes of the Jewish community. The JDL views America and the world at large as strongly anti-Semitic, and insists that only the most extreme forms of resistance, including violence, can protect the Jewish people.
"The world needs to wake up and realize that in the year 2002 Jews are being killed for the fact that they are Jews and for no other reason," the group says in a recorded message at its headquarters.
The Justice Department attributes a number of bombing and arson attacks to the group, and labeled the JDL a terrorist organization in the 1970s, when it was most active.
"During the 1970s and early 1980s, at the height of violent antiwar/left-wing activism, there were dozens of terrorist attacks carried out by Jewish extremist groups (such as the Jewish Defense League and the United Jewish Underground) and other extremist ethnic groups," the Justice Department wrote in a 1999 report on terrorism in the United States.
Charges of Plotting Attack on Mosque, Arab Congressman
Today, JDL chairman Irv Rubin, 56, and member Earl Krugel, 59, face charges in a Los Angeles federal court for allegedly plotting to bomb the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles, the King Fahd Mosque, and the office of Rep. Darrell Issa, an Arab-American congressman.
Rubin and Krugel were arrested Dec. 12 after an informant allegedly delivered five pounds of explosive powder to Krugel's home.
The JDL and lawyers for the two defendants claim the prosecution's main witness entrapped Rubin and Krugel.
The two men each face maximum penalties of two life terms in prison, plus a possible additional 75 years for Rubin and an additional 95 years for Krugel.
Rubin assumed leadership of the group after its founder, Rabbi Meir Kahane, was killed by an Arab extremist in New York in 1990.
Rubin achieved notoriety in 1978 for holding a news conference where he offered a $500 reward to anyone who maimed or killed a member of the American Nazi party.
The group has been less active and membership has dwindled in recent years, experts say, in part because of an FBI investigation into the bombing death of an Arab-American activist in 1985. Rubin denied responsibility but said that the victim, Alex Odeh, had "got what he deserved."
The case remains open.
Rubin has been arrested numerous times in the past several years, but has not received significant jail time.
A History of Extremism
During its most active period, the JDL planted pipe bombs and committed arson. It also engaged in headline-grabbing acts such as throwing eggs and blood at Soviet officials in protest of the treatment of Soviet Jews.
After JDL member Baruch Goldstein shot and killed 29 Muslim worshippers in a Hebron mosque and wounded 125, the group refused to repudiate his actions.
"We feel that Goldstein took a preventative measure against yet another Arab attack on Jews. We understand his motivation, his grief and his actions. And we are not ashamed to say that Goldstein was a charter member of the Jewish Defense League," the group says on its Web site.
The JDL has always been a small group reviled by Jewish and non-Jewish leaders alike, says Brian Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
"The JDL was always, always, always held in extreme contempt by every mainstream Jewish and civil rights organization on the American landscape," he says.
His center classifies the JDL as a hate group, as does the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The Anti-Defamation League, an 89-year-old mainstream Jewish advocacy organization, agrees with the categorization.
"The JDL simply doesn't believe in a flourishing democratic society," says Gail Gans, the director of the ADL's Civil Rights Information Center. "Their philosophy essentially is that Jews are not at home in the United States, that Jews have to maintain a militaristic response to the society we live in."