Irv Rubin and the Libertarian Party

I was recently taken aback when I read this item in the national Libertarian Party News: Jewish Defense League leader signs up with LP.

I was shocked. They couldn’t be talking about Irv Rubin, could they? Unfortunately, that is exactly who they were talking about.

Irv Rubin is the International Chairman of the Jewish Defense League (JDL). I met Rubin in 1972. A political activist friend introduced us with the hope that Rubin could recruit me into the JDL. I am Jewish, and did not know much about the JDL, and I was genuinely interested.

I am not going to pretend to remember the exact words Rubin and I exchanged 28 years ago. But I do recall his emphasis on offensive violence as an integral part of the JDL’s activities. I am not a pacifist, and I have never been opposed to using force to defend oneself. However, it was clear to me that Rubin was talking about going beyond defense. He explained that the tactics of “our enemies” justify the use of preemptive violence. And he explained that the hate speech of anti-Semites and racists justified the use of force, that their very speech was in fact an aggression against Jews. When he sensed my resistance to this kind of talk, he assured me that the JDL had many other activities which were completely legal and political in nature. I declined the offer to join the JDL.

In 1973 I joined the Libertarian Party. I served as a National Committee member, California State Director, and candidate and campaign manager numerous times. I am still a life member of the LP, but I am no longer registered LP. I still consider myself to be a libertarian with strongly held beliefs and, as Webmaster of and, consider myself an activist in the libertarian movement. I still read much of the LP’s literature, have many friends and associates in the LP, often even vote Libertarian. I also subscribe to the LP’s internal email discussion list.

Earlier this month Justin Raimondo wrote a column explaining why he was not voting for the LP this year. In the column he talked about the LP’s promotion of Rubin’s entrance into the LP.

The key issue that brought Rubin to the LP was opposition to gun control. In the LP News article, Rubin stated that he agreed with most of the party’s positions, except non-interventionism. Not surprisingly, he stressed the importance of continued military aid to Israel. I don’t think this is a minor point. Noninterventionism is a key aspect to libertarianism. To ignore it is to ignore the international application of libertarian principles.

It took a few days, but when news of Raimondo’s article filtered onto the LP email discussion list, what followed was an avalanche of several hundred email posts, hotly discussing the issue. Unfortunately, Rubin’s support of military intervention was not one of the main discussion points. But that aside, many of the points brought up need addressing.

The most substantive point of contention on the email list was the nature of the Jewish Defense League. Many insisted that the JDL is a strictly defensive organization.

The JDL was founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane, an advocate of violence against Arabs both in the US and Israel. In later years he was expelled from Israel for advocating the ethnic cleansing of all Arabs from greater Israel.

Throughout the 80s, the JDL was implicated in many bombings and attacks, including the 1985 bombing of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee which resulted in the death of their director, Alex Odeh.

At the time, Rubin publicly stated that Odeh “got what he deserved,” adding “I’m not crying over the death of Alex Odeh.” Rabbi Kahane, however, disavowed the group and moved to Israel. Rubin took over as Chairman.

According to the Historical Dictionary of Terrorism, law enforcement officials have ascribed at least 37 terrorist acts to JDL members:

“While the International Terrorism: Attributes of Terrorist Events (ITERATE) database developed on behalf of the United States Central Intelligence Agency by Edward F. Mickolus recorded 50 such incidents from 1968-1987, making the JDL second only to the Puerto Rican FALN as the major domestic terrorist group. Nonetheless the JDL is a legally incorporated political action group and has officially disavowed responsibility for any violent actions carried out by its members. Bombings accounted for 78 percent of all JDL terrorist activities; shootings accounted for 16 percent; while arson attacks, vandalism, kidnapping, threats, and verbal harassment accounted for the rest.”

In addition to alleged terrorist activities, the JDL has been involved in intimidation and mob violence countless times. In 1987, several members of the JDL were convicted of violent assaults. Their targets often go beyond nazis and anti-Semites. Currently on the JDL website there is a call for fighting against the Southern Baptist Convention for forming a mission to try to convert Jews to Christianity. They call the Southern Baptist campaign the “Quiet Holocaust.” Two months ago, the JDL (along with several LP members) attempted to block attendees going to a Pat Buchanan fundraiser at a private house. Rubin brags that he has been arrested over 40 times.

It is not difficult to find public positions of the JDL which are clearly inconsistent with the nonaggression principle of the LP.

They favor expelling all Arabs from both pre-1967 Israel and the occupied West Bank. They further support invading Jordan to take over the East Bank and expelling all the Arabs from there too. They are currently involved in a campaign to get the US to support Israel’s campaign of demolishing Palestinian homes on the West Bank.

Here is one of the five principles of the JDL:

“JDL upholds the principle of Barzel – iron – the need to both move to help Jews everywhere and to change the Jewish image through sacrifice and all necessary means – even strength, force and violence.”

In response to these arguments, many Libertarian Party activists say Irv Rubin is just one person, and that the LP cannot be responsible for the statements and actions of those who join the party. However, Rubin is not just one person – he is the International Chairman and guiding light of the JDL and the JDL is not a democratic organization. Moreover, the Libertarian Party has chosen to promote Rubin’s membership in the pages of their newspaper and on their Website.

Other LP activists point out that Rubin has never been convicted of murder (is this now the LP’s litmus test for membership?).

True, neither has David Duke. But the speech promoted by both has contributed to the tensions that lead to violence. And I have no wish to ally with either Duke or Rubin, regardless of their support of Second Amendment rights.

The leadership of the Libertarian Party has made a grave error. In their desperate pursuit of political success at the cost of party-building, they may truly be sitting on a political time bomb.

June 26, 2000

Eric Garris has been a political activist for 33 years and has friends all over the political spectrum. He is currently Webmaster for and