Nazis, Communists, Klansmen, and Others on the Fringe: Political Extremism in America

By John George; Laird Wilcox | Go to book overview

32
Jewish Defense League

Jewish Defense League members consider themselves the heirs of Vladimir Ze'ev Jabotinsky ( 1860-1940), a radical Zionist of the 1920s and 1930s. In the manner of those Marxist-Leninists who have continued to commune with the ghost of Leon Trotsky ( 1879-1940), leaders of the JDL have regarded Jabotinsky as their "spiritual founder."

The JDL's actual founder was an Orthodox rabbi named Meir Kahane (Ka- HAH-nee), who organized the group among predominantly Orthodox Jews in lower-middle and working class areas of Brooklyn in 1968. Born Martin David Kahane in 1932, the future champion of Jewish ethnocentrism was a "revolutionary from a young age," according to an uncle who was convinced his nephew always had a "messianic complex" that led him to believe that he would be instrumental "in the revival of the Jewish people." 1 It seems quite natural that Kahane's beliefs would develop as they did. In the manner of "red diaper babies" who become Communists, his ideas were, to a great extent, those of his father, who admired the aforementioned Jabotinsky. The elder Kahane pushed his son to join Betar, the youth organization of Jabotinsky's nonsocialist Revisionist party, the postwar successor of which was Menachem Begin's Herut party. As a young Betar member, Kahane "spent his spare time at the docks of Bayonne and Hoboken, N.J., smuggling guns on freighters bound for the rebels seeking to establish Israel as an independent state." 2

By the mid to late 1960s Kahane, who had become associate editor of the Jewish Press, began to be concerned about what he interpreted as rapidly growing anti-Jewish attitudes in America and the world. He also believed that muggers were preying on Jewish neighborhoods not only because they hated Jews, but because Jews were seen at patsies while other ethnics, especially Italians, were seen as tough. Kahane set about to change this outlook by forming the Jewish Defense League, and soon his group had a reputation for being not only "tough," but dangerous.

Interestingly, during this period Kahane also served as an undercover informant for the FBI in, of all groups, the John Birch Society. He found relatively little to inform on. Using the pseudonym Michael King, Kahane promoted the pro- Vietnam "Fourth of July Movement," and with Joseph Churba he coauthored a booklet, The Jewish Stake in Vietnam. According to an article published in The Jewish Week following Kahane's death in 1990:

-327-

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