Jewish Underground

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Jewish Underground

LEADER: Rabbi Meir Kahane (The Jewish Defense League)




The Jewish Underground is a group of organizations that was first formed in the early 1940s. Ever since, there have been numerous organizations (with varying degrees of extremism) associated with the Jewish Underground. According to analysts, the objectives and founding philosophies of all the groups forming the Jewish Underground have been similar—fighting against the perceived "enemies" of Jews around the world.

Some of the most prominent groups allied with the Jewish Underground are Irgun, LEHI, Haganah, Jewish Direct Action, United Jewish Underground, and Jewish Defense League.


The Jewish Underground organizations were thought to be formed during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1942. According to published reports, Germany carried out deportations of thousands of Jews from Warsaw at that time. Many Jewish resistance organizations such as the Jewish Fighting Organization, the Revisionist Party, and the Jewish Fighting Union were formed to resist the deportation. All these organizations were later part of the greater Jewish Underground.

Historians and analysts state that ever since the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, many Jewish organizations claiming to be affiliated with Jewish Underground have been formed and disbanded. Each of these groups was formed around the world with the aim of protecting the rights of orthodox Jewish communities. One such prominent group during the 1970s and 1980s was the Jewish Defense League.

The Jewish Defense League (JDL) was reportedly formed in 1968 in New York. The group was thought to be a vigilante organization, protecting the Jewish population in the city. According to news reports, during the 1970s, it carried out various terrorist attacks against institutions that the group perceived as anti-Jew. The attacks were targeted mainly at Palestinian and Soviet organizations. In 1973, ten members of the JDL reportedly vandalized the offices of the World Council of Churches in New York. In April 1975, police authorities suspected the members of JDL to be responsible for a series of bombings in Los Angeles.

In January 1976, the members of JDL reportedly vandalized the Mexican consulate in Philadelphia. The JDL claimed that the incident was carried out to protest Mexico's anti-Jewish stance.

By the mid-1980s, reports suggested that the members of JDL, along with support from other Jewish Underground associations, had started attacking individuals perceived as anti-Semitics, in addition to the attacks on institutions. In 1985 and 1986, members of the JDL were suspected behind the car bombings of Soviet diplomats in New York. The attackers had used fire and pipe bombs.

In the late 1980s, the JDL was thought to be losing prominence. Many leaders, including its founder Rabbi Meir Kahane, were either killed, committed suicide, or were arrested. The last known attack by the JDL was reported in 1992. Police authorities claim that since then, the group has been inactive. However, a few incidents in the early 2000s have been linked to the JDL.

The Jewish Underground organizations comprised of many other small groups in the 1990s and early 2000s. However, none of these is thought to be of great prominence. As of 2005, a few groups associated with Jewish Underground were operating in Israel, the United States, and some other countries.


The Jewish Underground organizations, ever since the 1940s, claim to have been formed to serve a common purpose: protecting the Jews around the world against perceived "enemies." Analysts state that the founding philosophy behind the first organizations formed in 1942 was to prevent deportation of Jews from Warsaw.

Similarly, the Jewish Defense League was reportedly formed to protect the Jews in New York and other parts of the United States against Soviet, Palestinian, and other authorities. Proclamations made by Rabbi Kahane, the leader of JDL, stated that the plight of Jews in America at the time was similar to those in Nazi Germany.

The Jewish Defense League and other similar Jewish Underground organizations reportedly carried out aggressive tactics in order to propagate their ideology and mission. This included bombings, killings, and assassinations of prominent personalities who opposed the groups' tactics, vandalism, and robberies.

Analysts and monitor groups suggest that activities carried out by the Jewish Underground organizations, especially those since the 1970s, were mainly based on racism, violence, and political extremism. Analysts also claim that many Jewish Underground associations perceived the image of Jews worldwide as that of weak people who had been the target of violence for decades. These Jewish organizations allegedly aimed at changing such views by "fighting back."

Not much is known about alliances of the various Jewish Underground organizations with other terrorist groups. There have been reports of Jewish Underground associations providing support and training to members of other such associations. Most organizations are also thought to be financially self-sustaining.


Terrorist acts carried out by the Jewish Underground organizations have often been criticized by officials around the world. In 2001, an alleged leader of JDL, Earl Krugel, was arrested and convicted of charges of plotting to blow up a mosque in California. U.S. District judge Ronald Lew said Krugel's crimes were "promoting hatred in the most vile way."

In the early 2000s, there have been some attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank region suspected to be carried out by members of various Jewish Underground organizations. Yesha, a prominent group representing Jewish settlers in this region, condemned such attacks in 2002, stating that "such acts are faulty and negative from every possible aspect, both legally and morally."

Ehud Sprinzak, dean of the School of Government at the Interdisciplinary Academic Center in Herzliya and an expert on Jewish terrorism, while referring to the reason for not being able to crack terrorist activities against the Palestinians since the early 2000s, states: "Jewish terrorism is marginal compared to other things [terrorist acts by extremists of other religions]." He goes on say, "I suppose that had there been a serious Jewish underground, the security forces would have invested more in dealing with it."


Jewish Underground organizations date back to the early 1940s. Throughout the twentieth century, there have been many organizations associated with Jewish Underground with similar ideologies and beliefs. As of 2005, reports suggest that a few associations are gaining prominence, especially in Israel.



The Jewish Underground comprises several small organizations. One such organization is the Jewish Defense League—thought to be one of the more prominent associates of Jewish Underground. Rabbi Meir Kahane was the founder and leader of JDL for several years.

Kahane was the mastermind of several terrorist acts carried out by the Jewish Defense League. He was arrested several times during the 1970s and 1980s. Although, Kahane was thought to have migrated to Israel soon after the formation of JDL, he was reportedly the leader of the group, and monitored its activities from Israel.

According to published reports, Rabbi Kahane stepped down as JDL's leader in 1985. However, he was still thought to be a key figure in organizing many of the activities carried out by the group. Kahane was assassinated in 1990, reportedly by an Arab militant.


Jewish Underground associations are formed during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
The Jewish Defense League is formed.
Rabbi Kahane, former leader of the JDL, is killed in 1990 by an Egyptian militant.


Web sites

Anti Defamation League. "Backgrounder: The Jewish DefenseLeague." 〈〉 (accessed October 15, 2005). "Jewish Bomb Plotter Jailed in US." 〈〉 (accessed October 15, 2005).

Jewish Telegraphic Agency. "Fears of Jewish Underground Rise." 〈〉 (accessed October 15, 2005).

MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base. "Group Profile: Jewish Defense League." 〈〉 (accessed October 15, 2005).


Jewish Defense League

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Jewish Underground

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