From the Archives: Nazis in Skull Caps – a Report on Meir Kahane and the Racist Jewish Defense League
Given Binyamin Netanyahu’s efforts to incorporate a successor to Meir Kahane’s Kach Party into his government, we thought this research report on Kahane, Irv Rubin, and the racist Jewish Defense League deserved re-publication.
Fishing in the troubled waters of Black-Jewish relations, Irv Rubin, the chairman of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), was present as a protester at the Riverside appearance of suspended Nation of Islam minister Khalid Muhammad. When Muhammad was shot, Rubin offered to post bond for the former NOI minister who is accused of shooting Muhammad, his bodyguard, and several by-standers. Rubin and his organization have a long history of promoting, provoking and engaging in racist violence directed against Blacks, Arabs, fellow Jews, as well as reactionary violence and provocations against anti-war and anti-intervention activists, Latinos, and lesbians and gays. Without detracting from a critique of Muhammad’s reactionary stands, Jew baiting, and anti-gay diatribes, it is safe to say that by virtue of their sordid, racist history, neither Irv Rubin nor the JDL have any moral authority to make such a critique.
A brief rendition of the crimes and atrocities attributable to members of the JDL, founded by Meier Kahane in Brooklyn more than 25 years ago, would include terrorism directed against Arab Americans in Brooklyn, Arabs in Israel, Russian and other diplomats at the United Nations. Here in California, two former JDL members, Robert and Rochelle Manning, were convicted in the letter bomb murder of a secretary, and suspected but never charged in the booby-trap bombing of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee headquarters in Orange County, which killed Alex Odeh. The L.A. leader of the JDL, Earl Krugel, was recently involved in the harassment of gay and lesbian demonstrators picketing to protest Catholic Church policies against gays and women. The former Orange County leader of the JDL, Bruce Derflinger, once set up a call-in hot-line urging people to “turn in wet-backs,” offering “points for giving us the names and where these wetbacks can be found.”
Irv Rubin himself is currently the target of a civil lawsuit charging him with civil rights violations and involvement in drug-dealing. Rubin has been involved in thuggish attacks on anti-klan demonstrators (he tried to break up a 1983 San Fernando Valley demonstration against a cross-burning); Jewish supporters of Israeli peace activists (he was involved in an incident in the Fairfax district where actor Richard Dreyfuss was roughed up); opponents of U.S. intervention in Central America (his JDL joined forces with the pro-CIA group “Nemesis”); and peace activists (the JDL tried to prevent people from attending a teach-in against the Gulf War featuring former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark). Rubin harassed Rev. Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign appearance at Valley College.
While loudly proclaiming his opposition to neo-nazi Tom Metzger, Rubin has maintained almost a symbiotic relationship with the racist leader of White Aryan Resistance (WAR) and the nazi-skinheads. Rubin and Metzger have repeatedly appeared together on TV talk-shows, often sharing the spotlight in sensationalist joint appearances on Wally George’s “Hot Seat” talk show. Most recently, Rubin roide Metzger’s coat-tails onto the air on Whoopi Goldberg’s short-lived talk show. To “balance” her interview with Metzger, Goldberg invited on Rubin, re-running bits of her earlier interview with Metzger and asking Rubin to comment. The reactionary Rubin echoed many of Metzger’s racist, anti-gay and anti-immigrant themes. In the 1980’s, Rubin and Metzger were both getting money from the possibly mob-linked ZZZZ-Best Carpet Cleaning Co., a fraudulent operation suspected of laundering money for organized crime. Rubin and the JDL got money from company founder Barry Minkow, while Metzger and WAR were getting cash from another company executive, Tom Padgett, who briefly functioned as a co-host and producer of Metzger’s TV show, “Race and Reason.” Metzger and Rubin were each aware of the other’s source of funds; neither did anything to expose the other or the criminal activity at ZZZZ-Best.
Far from being an authentic defender of Jews against anti-semitism, Rubin and the JDL represent the most reactionary politics in the Jewish community. They must be repudiated by Jews intent on participating in an authentic anti-racist and anti-imperialist alliance with colonized and oppressed people. PART is in the process of preparing a full-length research report on the sordid history of the racist Jewish Defense League.
NAZIS IN SKULL CAPS:
The Sordid History of the Racist “Jewish Defense League
A Background Research Report by Michael Novick for People Against Racist Terror (PART)
First edition, September 1994
An analysis of the Jewish Defense League (JDL) may best begin not in New York or L.A., but in Israel, because the JDL is inextricably attached to the history of Zionist terror. The horrible massacre in Hebron of dozens of Muslim Palestinian worshipers by a U.S.-born Jewish settler in the Israeli-occupied territories, underscores the importance of anti-racists opposing such zionist terror. The fact that the assassin, Benjamin “Baruch” Goldstein of Brooklyn, was a product of the U.S.-based Jewish Defense League and a member of the Meier Kahane-founded Kach Party/Movement in Israel, underscores the importance of opposing fascist vigilante type organizations as well as naked state-sponsored terror. The JDL must be understood first of all as a training ground for those Jews who are committed to the most brutal and naked racist and fascist violence.
Such a judgment is not anti-Semitic. The struggle against the pro-imperialist ideology embraced by some Jews is an important component of an overall struggle against racism and anti-semitism. It is as vital to truly defending Jews against oppression, as it is to supporting other struggles for justice and liberation. The reactionary Jewish settlers in occupied Palestine, many of them former JDL members, stand condemned in their own words, as they chanted “We are all Baruch Goldstein!” at his funeral. Though Jews have been and still are the target of fascist terror, these particular Jews are serving the same function as the Ku Klux Klan did in the U.S. at the time of its original founding. In Reconstruction Era America, war had broken the back of the slave-ocracy, smashed the government of the Confederate States of America, freed the slaves and established radical democratic regimes based on the active participation of the freed slaves. Under these circumstances, in which the most naked white supremacists no longer enjoyed state power, the Klan emerged as an extra-governmental mechanism of terror to turn back the gains of anti-racist forces. Similarly, the most nakedly reactionary forces in Israel are now operating outside the law, as the ruling group has opted for a more neo-colonial strategy to deal with the Palestinian revolution.
But just as the Klan was re-absorbed back into the state apparatus after Reconstruction was defeated, we should not think that groups like Kach and the JDL, and killers like Goldstein, operate entirely separate from the state. Already, the Labor coalition government in Israel has sought to bring in new partners from the right; far from cracking down on the settlers and the fascists, it made Palestinian demonstrations illegal. More deaths ensued. To bring home the world-wide nature of this trend, which is hardly restricted to Jews or Israelis, we would note the similar experience in South Africa, in which diehard Afrikaaners have organized and armed for a race war and carried out killings, bombings and other acts of terror in an effort to derail the momentum of the liberation movement and foment a catastrophic blood bath. Yet the Volksfront coalition of right-wing racists simultaneously opted to participate in the all-race elections which brought the ANC to power.
The possibilities of success for a two-pronged strategy, that race war will help the racist right regain untrammeled state power, should not be under-estimated. The KKK in fact was instrumental in overturning Reconstruction and getting the federal government to throw in with the former slaveowners. They dismantled the radical state governments, disenfranchised Blacks and installed the American apartheid system of Jim Crow segregation laws and share-cropping. Hitler, the original nazi, similarly stepped forward with his brown-shirts when the exhausted parliamentary parties of Weimar Germany proved incapable of wielding state power. He won the backing of the big German bourgeoisie for repression, genocide and war. The National Party came to power in South Africa, installing apartheid after World War II, as the public manifestation of the clandestine white supremacist Broederbund of nazi sympathizers. The Likud bloc in Israel, the ruling group until recently, had its antecendents in reactionary Zionist armed formations quite similar to the Kahanists today with their strategy for expelling all Palestinians. The success of nazi skinheads in Germany, allied with more respectable neo-nazi and conservative political groups, in driving German politics steadily right-ward after reunification, is another ominous development.
Goldstein, the JDL/Kach killer, apparently advocated a strategy similar to the Afrikaaners’ call for a white homeland, and the Aryan Nations’ plan for a “White American Bastion” in five states in the U.S. northwest. On Israeli radio three months before his attack, he called for a “state of Judea,” where “with god’s help … we will deal with the Palestinians ourselves.” Such a second Jewish state was long a part of Kahane’s program, as he deemed the existing Israeli state insufficiently vigorous in its anti-Arab activities. Nor has Goldstein’s atrocity diminished his associates’ hatred of Arabs and hunger for violence. Joe Alster, another U.S.-born Kach member said the massacre had “a tremendous effect on our movement. We applaud it.” In addition to the JDL, new reactionary formations have emerged among U.S. Jews to attack any manifestations of support for Palestinian rights. Such groups have targetted progressive Jews for bombings, threats and other attacks.
It is a positive note that the vast majority of Jews in the U.S., as well as even the ruling party in Israel, condemned the Hebron massacre. But the symbiosis between the Klan and the state, the settlers and the state, the neo-nazis and the state, should not be forgotten. Responsibility for the massacre did not lie only with the gunman or the anti-Arab movement that nurtured him. Responsibility begins with Zionist rule of the occupied territory, and with government promotion of the settlers and settlements, with the acceptance of the U.S. It is not only individual U.S.-born Jews that are fueling reaction in the West Bank and the Middle East, but the U.S. government, providing massive economic aid to the Zionist occupation.
All this does not justify in any way random attacks on innocent, individual Jews. The shooting of a car-load of Lubavitcher chasidim in Brooklyn in “response” to the Hebron massacre was also a racist atrocity. All Jews are not responsible for the actions of some or even the majority; the same is true of all Arabs or Palestinians. Such a notion of collective guilt is inherently racist, as are concepts of “revenge” directed at innocent co-religionists. But all Jews, all Arabs, all people of conscience are responsible to struggle for an end to imperialism, colonialism, and all attendant forms of racism, prejudice, anti-Semitism, Jew-hatred or Arab-hatred. It should be noted that Goldstein’s history of violence goes back at least to 1980, when he was detained by NY police for causing a disturbance at a visit to Hunter College by Menachem Begin, Israeli prime minister. Pro-peace Jews and Arabs who were protesting Begin’s tour were targeted across the country for attacks by the JDL. Like Klansmen who attack “race traitors” with particular vitriol, the JDL often directs its violence against Jews who do not go along with its reactionary politics.
A group like the JDL would be impossible without the generally pro-imperialist, right wing agenda of the Jewish establishment, and this must also be denounced. Just as the KKK is the tip of an iceberg of white supremacy, rooted in the state and society, the JDL is only one manifestation of such politics among Jews. The Anti-Defamation League, for one example, founded by the Jewish fraternal organization B’nai Brith, is openly controlled by the wealthiest Jews, members of the international ruling class. As such, it is well-funded, endowed with extensive international resources and credibility. Yet it has shared much of the anti-Arab, anti-Black, and anti-left politics of the JDL, in a more “discreet” manner. The ADL and the JDL both use their opposition to neo-nazi forces as a guise to legitimize their own racist and reactionary policies.
We do not subscribe to the neo-nazi view that the ADL is part of a secret Jewish cabal that rules the media and the world. It’s certainly true, however, that the ADL has definite abilities to garner favorable press coverage and establishment support, and it returns these favors. We believe that Jews and others have a right and an obligation to investigate and expose neo-nazi bigots, but we regret that the ADL is granted such a dominant role by the rest of the Jewish community. We have called on progressive forces among Jews to denounce ADL and JDL racism, spying by the ADL on progressive groups and people of color, and dirty tricks. We think the Jewish community should try to clean house at the ADL if that is possible, and should disavow the JDL’s racism and sexism at every opportunity.
The JDL, while it enjoys financial support from the wealthy as well (though more covertly than the ADL), has always been more of a street organization. By virtue of its militance and willingness to resort to violence, it has sometimes fooled people into believing it’s an anti-establishment group, or that it has a viable strategy to defend Jews against nazis and other anti-Jewish violence. In fact, as its practice has demonstrated since its founding, the JDL is a virulently racist, anti-Arab, anti-Black, right wing organization, often associated with crime, reactionary violence and thuggery. Among the founders of the JDL in New York in 1967-68, were people who were as intensely motivated by fear and hatred of Black people and their liberation struggle, as they were by anti-Arab animosity unleashed by Israel’s aggression in the Six-Day War.
The backdrop for this open anti-Black and anti-Puerto Rican racism in a sector of the Jewish community in the late ’60’s, in opposition to liberal and radical tendencies, included the struggles for community control of the schools, which were opportunistically denounced as anti-Semitic because many teachers and principals in New York were Jewish. In Boston and Chicago, the transformation of neighborhoods that had once been Jewish into areas of predominantly Black residence led to clashes that the nascent JDL exploited to push Jews in a racist direction. One key struggle was the movement for open admissions to the public colleges of the City University of New York (from which Black and Puerto Rican high school graduates had in the main been excluded, particularly at Brooklyn and Queens Colleges, with largely Jewish student bodies). The JDL organized among young middle class Jews who wanted to maintain those schools as white enclaves. They physically attacked demonstrators demanding open admissions at Brooklyn College in May 1968.
This open racism has been a key element of the JDL’s politics to this day, along with its particularly violent and hatefully anti-Arab form of zionism associated with JDL founder Meier Kahane and his Kach party in Israel. It is no coincidence that among the most vitriolic Jewish settlers in the occupied territories are American Jews fairly recently transplanted there. Here in California, the JDL has attacked Central America rallies, anti-klan demonstrations, Jews supporting the Israeli peace movement, immigrants, gays and lesbians, as well as Arab Americans. But from its inception, the JDL has also always targetted Jews that don’t support its racist, rightist views.
Meier Kahane, founder of the JDL, had ties to the U.S. FBI and intelligence community going back to the days when he informed on Jews who were insufficiently anti-communist or pro-zionist to the House Un-American Activities Committee. Ironically, his father had emigrated from Palestine to the U.S., but Kahane was raised as a fervent right-wing zionist; as a member of Betar, he helped smuggle weapons to the right-zionist independence forces. It’s been reported by Robert Friedman in “The Nation,” among other researchers, that Kahane, operating under the name Michael King, reported to the FBI on the John Birch Society. He co-authored books and articles attacking the Vietnamese revolution during the U.S. war on Vietnam, arguing that there was a “Jewish stake” in supporting the South Vietnamese puppet regime.
According to Friedman, elements of the Zionist right wing in Israel urged Kahane to redirect the focus of his anti-Black JDL to the issue of Soviet Jewry, and specifically to attacks on Soviet targets in the U.S. and Europe. On Dec. 29, 1969, the JDL initiated this campaign with take-overs of the offices of Tass, Intourist and Aeroflot, and the vandalism of a Soviet passenger plane at Kennedy Airport in NY. This campaign turned the JDL briefly into a mass organization, with more than 50 chapters in New York City alone, a national network and more than 10,000 members in 1970.
But the JDL’s primary commitment has apparently always been to anti-Arab, anti-Black, and other racist and reactionary violence. In 1970, Kahane associate Abraham Herskovitz and his wife were arrested at Kennedy airport with guns a hand grenade, planning to hijack an Egyptian airliner. After two years’ imprisonment in the U.S., they were pardoned and deported to Israel. More recently, Hershkovitz has run para-military training camps for youn people in Kahane’s Kach movement. JDL members in NY in the early ’70’s period had bombed Russian targets, burned down the PLO’s office, and twice tried to bomb a Black community center in Crown Heights in Brooklyn. Kahane himself was convicted in 1971 in NY for conspiracy to manufacture firebombs and given five years’ probation. In 1972, the offices of impresario Sol Hurok, who often brought Soviet performers to the U.S., was fire-bombed by the JDL and a Jewish secretary was killed. On the West Coast, the L.A. chapter was also started in this period. One of its earliest members, Robert Manning, who had studied munitions in the U.S. Army, was arrested in 1972 for bombing an Arab activist’s home in Hollywood. Police confiscated weapons and The Anarchist Cookbook bomb-making manual, in his home. The same year, Manning also threatened to “blow the ass off” a Hollywood producer whose show featured a Jewish man in a relationship with a non-Jewish woman. After a later series of bombings in which he was a suspect, Manning and his wife fled to a militantly pro-Kahane Jewish settlement on the West Bank, where they were able to successfully avoid extradition for a number of years.
Kahane, who moved to Israel in the early 70’s, retained control of the U.S.-based JDL. He turned down an offer from Menachem Begin’s party for a safe seat in the K’nesset (Israel’s parliament). (Begin had been a visitor to Kahane’s childhood home in Brookjlyn.) Instead, Kahane opened an Israeli JDL office and the same violent tactics duplicated themselves. Israeli Arabs, Black Hebrews, and Christian churches in Jerusalem were the new targets. Violence also continued in the U.S. Victor Vancier, a Kahane lieutenant in the JDL, served two months on Riker’s Island for fire-bombing a Soviet diplomat’s car in 1974. After his release, he joined a JDL front group called “Save Our Israel Land” (SOIL), which took credit for the smoke-bombing and fire-bombing of several African UN missions. In 1979, Vancier and JDL member Bruce Berger were convicted of bombing 11 Egyptian diplomatic targets in three states; Vancier was sent to federal prison. In 1987, after being arrested for a new wave of terror bombings, including hurling a tear gas cannister into the Metropolitan Opera House, Vancier was hired to the staff of the state legislature’s human rights committee, chaired by his former associate in the JDL and SOIL, a right-wing Assemblyman, Dov Hikind. Vancier hosts a racist, homophobic cable TV talk show in Manhattan.
In 1974, Kahane called for a “world-wide Jewish anti-terror group” that would “spread fear and shatter the souls” of the Arabs living in Israel, forcing them to flee. Iraeli police say that in 1975, he set up yet another group TNT (terror against terror) which carried out many bloody attacks on West Bank Arabs. Meanwhile, in the U.S., Kahane’s U.S. followers in the JDL were pursuing similar tactics. In 1975, Bonnie Pitcher of the JDL took responsibility for an incident in which the printing equipment of an Arabic-English newspaper in Pennsylvania was stolen. The JDL publicly asserted they would use the press to print anti-Arab and pro-Israel propaganda. (In 1985, the editor of the paper was beaten nearly to death by three assailants.) In 1976, Dr. William Perl, the former head of the JDL in Washington, was convicted of conspiring to shoot into the homes of two Soviet diplomats. In 1978, a former NY cop and JDL organizer was arrested in possession of 66 sticks of dynamite, smoke bombs and detonators. In 1979, Brett Becker, a top leader of the JDL, wrote an article for the group’s publication calling for “a secret, underground strike force which will eliminate those individuals that threaten our existence.”
In 1980, in a west coast mail-bombing for which Robert and Rochelle Manning of the JDL were eventually extradicted from Israel and convicted, another secretary was killed.
In 1982, Irv Rubin, the West Coast head of the JDL under Kahane, was involved in an incident in which JDL militants heckled actress Jane Fonda and forced her to drop out of a march commemorating Israeli independence day. (Rubin then resigned briefly from the JDL to run unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for a State Assembly seat.) The same year, Meir Jolovitz, the national director of the JDL in NY, “declared war on the enemies of the Jews” at a press conference with gun-toting, black-bereted members of the JDL. “When criminal justice is handcuffed,” he said, “we have to turn to Jewish justice.” Meanwhile, In Israel, Kahane was placed under six-months house arrest after the JDL car-bombed three Palestinian mayors. Subsequently, Kahane follower Allan Goodman (who had stabbed an Arab dishwasher in 1978) opened fire indiscriminately on the Temple Mount, killing one Muslim and wounding many. Kahane called his act “perfectly correct.” A 1982 fire set by the JDL in an Arab restaurant in Brooklyn took the life of an elderly woman living upstairs.
In 1983, the L.A. Ku Klux Klan made plans to hold a cross-burning in memory of a cop killed in a shoot out in the San Fernando Valley. The JDL had an infiltrator inside the group (a former nazi party member and Metzger associate, Mike Canale, who had been sentenced for burning down a synagogue in Temple City). But instead of using the information to help build a public campaign, the JDL actually turned out to physically attack and disrupt an anti-klan rally in the San Fernando Valley called by the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee and the New Afrikan People’s Organization. The rally, outside a fire station where the Klan had applied for a permit for the cross-burning, was met by a group of JDL counter-demonstrators, who tore up anti-klan placards and shouted racist epithets at Black demonstrators. There is video footage of one of the Kreugel twins, leaders of the L.A. JDL chapter, threatening a Black anti-klan protester with a knife, and calling him a monkey!
In 1984, four JDL members fired on an Arab bus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, wounding 7 passengers. According to the Rand institute, they were trained in the use of weapons at JDL camps in NY and L.A. Wrapped up in his Israeli campaign, Kahane was finally forced in 1985 to turn over leadership of the JDL to Irv Rubin, and the west coast coordinator became the new national director. But the following year, Rubin met with several rivals, including the Mordechai Levy of the Jewish Defense Organization (Levy was a former member of Lyndon LaRouche’s fascist organization), along with several former associates of Kahane. Rubin came to heel when Kahane sent him a threatening letter on K’nesset stationery, alluding to Rubin’s involvement in drug smuggling from Mexico. Kahane in this period began to define secularist Jews, non-Zionists, as Jewish enemies of the Jewish people, who deserved death. So a threat from him had to be taken seriously. According to an article in the Village Voice at the time, Rubin apparently interpreted a reference by Kahane in the letter to regards from Bob Manning, who had “stories to tell” as another threat. Rivalry between Rubin and Levy broke out into open violence in 1989, when Levy, fearing that Rubin was coming to kill him, opened fire from a rooftop above his New York office at Rubin and two associates. In 1984, Rubin held a press conference with former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver, turned born-again Christian fundamentalist, to denounce Jesse Jackson and support Ronald Reagan.
1984-85 saw more JDL violence in the U.S., as well as a number of bombings and killings for which the Mannings are still the prime suspects, including the murder of American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee activist Alex Odeh in Orange County. Vancier and several other JDL members were arrested for a number of bombings in New York; one of the suspects committed suicide. On the west coast, the JDO threatened violence against a Black lecturer at San Jose State University, and an event that was scheduled as part of African Awareness Month (Feb. 1985) was canceled. Several attacks also took place against Holocaust revisionists and alleged former SS officers, for some of which the JDL took credit or gave political support; at least one innocent passer-by was killed. An Arab-American office in Washington was the target of arson; a pipe-bomb exploded at the offices of the ADC in Boston in 1985 (in which Manning is also a principal suspect) and two bomb-squad police offices were wounded.
All through the 1980’s, the JDL counter-demonstrated against progressive activity in L.A., often in the company of a right-wing anti-Iranian outfit called Nemesis. They harrassed demonstrators dealing with U.S. aggression in Nicaragua and El Salvador. JDL members broke up a Hollywood-area rally in support of Israel’s Peace Now/Shalom Achshav movement and physically harrassed Jewish actors like Richard Dreyfuss, who organized the rally. In 1988, in Madison Wisconsin, JDL members harassed and verbally threatened organizers of a rally in support of Palestinian Land Day. A member of the organizing committee received threatening phone calls at home. In 1990, in the run-up to Bush’s Gulf War, JDL members attempted to disrupt an anti-war teach-in at Fairfax High in L.A. In 1991, former Orange County JDL head Bruce Derflinger set up an anti-immigrant hot-line in Santa Ana, offering “points for giving us names and where these wetbacks can be found.”
In 1991, in response to acquittal of the Egyptian accused of the killing of Kahane in NY, Irv Rubin said “somebody out there” would avenge Kahane. “He should have a .357 (Magnum caliber bullet) in his neck,” Rubin told the press. In 1993, members of the JDO attacked a man with a Palestinian flag outside the opening ceremonies of the Holocaust Memorial museum in Washington DC, knocking him down with pipes and cutting open his head. Oddly, they did nothing about neo-nazi, Klan and skinhead counter-demonstrators. In 1993, a group of JDL members who came to a Los Angeles demonstration against the Pope, on the occasion of his visit to Denver, spent most of their time harassing and name-calling gay and feminist picketers, and Irv Rubin subsequently left anti-gay messages on the JDL hotline.
The record is clear. The JDL is racist, sexist, anti-gay. Their violence has been directed primarily at Arabs, Blacks, other people of color, and Jews who do not accept their fascist politics.
Jews who raise such criticisms are immediately denounced by the JDL as “self-hating.” Non-Jews who do so are labelled anti-semites. PART is not anti-white nor anti-Jewish; its members are in the main white, and many are Jewish. We are anti-“white supremacy,” opposed to the material and ideological reality that reflects and justifies European colonization of other lands and people, mainly “non-white” people. Our criticism of the JDL and of Zionist terror is situated in this anti-colonialism. Color, of course, is not a necessary component of colonialism. The English have colonized the Irish for centuries, and even implanted there the original settler colonists, the Anglo-Scot Protestants, in an effort to sustain their rule. This also created the model for settler colonies in the Americas, South Africa, Australia, and eventually, Palestine.
Although many people now like to refer to Zionism as the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, the zionist model was not the national liberation movements, but this history of settler colonialism. Zionist European Jews did not unite with the indigenous people of the area of Israel or Palestine to overturn colonialism and win independence; they mainly sought the protection of a great imperial power, originally England and later the U.S., for their settlement project. THey are similar in this regard to the Liberians, and other attempts to implant former slaves in Africa. The Israeli struggle for “independence” against the British, was not a national liberation war; like the “Revolutionary” War of the U.S., it was a movement by settlers to gain separate control of the territory they had colonized, regardless of the will of the indigenous inhabitants. The JDL, which vehemently opposes all national liberation struggles, simply exposes in this regard the hypocrisy of other forms of Zionism. For example, Labor Zionism, as practiced by groups like the Histadrut, was premised on the exclusion and suppression of Arab labor; the enterprises owned by Zionist “labor” are a key component to this day of the capitalist economy of Israel.
A full analysis of Zionism is beyond the scope of this paper. “Jews” were not and are not a nation, though Israelis may now be. But Israel includes many citizens who, though Jewish, are not European; and many others who are Arabs, both Christian and Muslim. Kahane and the JDL are right when they state that there is a contradiction between an exclusively Jewish state and a democratic one. That contradiction, however, must be resolved in favor of democracy.
JDL supporters spout the same discredited line about “A Land without people for a People without a land” that Golda Meir used to justify Zionist aggression. It is remarkably similar to the Afrikaaner settlement myths in South Africa — that they met Black Africans simultaneously entering an empty land from the north — and to U.S. rationales of manifest destiny, that god meant the white man to take America away from the Indians and Mexicans who were “wasting” it. Some Jews lived continuously in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the area for the past two millenia, among a far larger number of Arab residents, and generally speaking with greater acceptance than in the Diaspora. The fact that the area was colonized by the Turks and by the British in this century after long years in other empires does not justify settler colonialism today. Nor should the Biblical blood-letting by Joshua and others in conquering the “promised land,” serve as a model for how Jews today could live at peace with Arab neighbors who also seek to control their own destiny.
Opposing Zionist aggression of course doesn’t blind us to the evils of Arab reaction and other imperialist powers in the region. The Arab reactionaries have never really opposed Zionism or U.S. domination in the middle east. One of the reasons the PLO enjoyed the relatively small support it has been able to garner among U.S. progressives, including some Jews, is its long-standing opposition to Arab reaction and support for secular democracy. The threat the Palestinian revolution posed to reactionary Arab regimes oppressing their own people has generally been as great as the challenge it posed to zionism. We would also point out that the Israeli regime oppresses dissenting Jews, as well.
Israeli Jews are not the only or the worst perpetrators of oppression and colonialism today. The neo-nazis who condemn Zionism while supporting all other forms of imperialism, and especially other settler colonialism such as the Boers in South Africa, the “Rhodesians,” etc., are self-discrediting hypocrites. But neither, however, are Jews the only or the worst victims of genocide in history. Zionist and Jewish reactionaries claim that every criticism of Israel and Zionism is anti-semitism and Jew hatred. They appear to say that every denunciation of Palestinian oppression or of ongoing genocide against Africans and people of African descent diminishes and denies Hitler’s genocide of European jewry. In so doing, they are playing right into the hands of the neo-nazi ” historical revisionists” who want to portray the Holocaust as a “hoax;” a big lie perpetrated by the biggest liars.
Anti-Jewish (and anti-Muslim) sentiments are key elements in the ideology and culture of European “christendom.” They will be defeated not by emulating that colonial/capitalist culture, but by helping to transform it. The acceptance and promotion of Holocaust-denial by some Arab opponents of Zionism is equally as reprehensible as the Jewish depiction of all Arabs as murderers and terrorists. But many Arab opponents of Zionism seek relations of solidarity with Jews, and condemn fascism’s crimes against the Jewish people. One of the sharpest criticisms raised of the ADL by members of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), regarding the infiltration of the ADC by an agent of the ADL, was that the ADL spy/provocateur distributed membership applications to the ADC to neo-nazi and Holocaust-revisionist groups he was also infiltrating on behalf of the ADL.
Exceptionalizing the Holocaust from other horrors of inhumanity and genocide, or using the Holocaust to justify current oppressive practices of the Israeli regime, won’t help to prevent a future repetition of anti-Jewish atrocities. Far from it! Such exceptionalization and rationalization weaken the overall struggle to prevent similar crimes against humanity which have happened and continue to happen. And since most similar crimes against humanity and the planet have targeted people of color (particularly the indigenous people of the Americas and Africans), it is essential to situate the defense of Jews against anti-Semitism and neo-nazi bigotry not in Zionism, and certainly not in the racist terror of the JDL, but in a liberatory politics opposed to white supremacy and imperialism. This is what PART tries to do.