At the If Not Now protest in Washington DC against the Aipac annual conference, a large group of JDL Canada thugs caused a pogrom. They beat a 54 year-old Palestinian-American community college instructor, Kamal Nayfeh, causing an eye injury which required 19 stitches. In a conversation, he told me that after they knocked him to the ground they struck him in the eye with the pole and kicked him in the back causing ongoing pain even worse than the eye injury. The emergency room doctor said his eye socket bone saved the eye. Without it, Nayfeh told me the physician said to him his eye would’ve pushed to the back of his head.
Ben Doernberg, an INN member, was “jumped” by a JDL attacker who smashed him on the head from behind with an Israeli flag pole (how ironic!) and suffered a concussion. How brave these fools are to creep up on a defenseless victim. Doernberg wanted to speak with me, but his symptoms were too severe to have an extended conversation.
In the aftermath, DC police arrested two JDL thugs, Yosef Steynovitz of Ontario (Canada) and Rami Lubranicki (New Jersey). Steynovitz joined in the attack on both Nayfeh and Doernberg. Both thugs are Israeli and former settlers (Steynovitz lists Ariel College in his Facebook profile). JDL Canada leader, Meir Weinstein, videotaped a message before he left Washington defending his group’s violence.
It’s astonishing that the Canadian MSM has completely ignored this story. Only two Jewish publications have reported on it. Perhaps the information I report here may spur them on and make them change their minds.
Canadian activists inform me that the JDL has enforced a reign of terror in Toronto. Recently, Ontario’s answer to Richard Spencer, Ezra Levant, spoke in Toronto at an event sponsored by a Ryerson University pro-Israel group. Instead of having campus security or city police inside the venue, the organizers of the event provided their own security. Who did they choose? You guessed it: the JDL. At the event, Palestinian activists protested against Levant’s racist, Islamophobic views. They were in turn, physically expelled from the room. Even the student organizer of the event was expelled from his own event. When he attempted to return, the JDL wanted to expel him again!
Aside from Weinstein, there is another senior leader of the group who bullies JDL opponents routinely at local protests. He is the group’s “security director,” Zaza Vili. A local anti-fascist group, Pegida Watch, calls him “The Dude,” because he bears a resemblance to the heavily bearded, dissolute, disheveled character of the same name played by Jeff Bridges in Coen Brothers classic, The Big Lebowski. Though Zaza is affiliated with the JDL, he’s told people in Toronto that he isn’t Jewish.
One local activist told me wrote: “We’ve seen him in Toronto for years bullying and threatening people.” He also “hangs” with Soldiers of Odin, a Canadian white supremacist group. Coincidentally, one of the sons of the Norse god, Odin, was named Vili (or “Will”).
Vili was videotaped assaulting two protesters outside the Aipac conference in Washington. He and a JDL thug (the man in the gray jacket is also pictured assaulting Kamal Nayfeh) smashed the video camera that was filming an altercation between them and two members of the Virginia militia. The victims wrote that DC police stood ten yards away from them, watching the attack and did nothing. To be clear, I don’t support the anti-Semitic views of this group nor the title they gave to their video. I’ve embedded the video here only because it offers physical evidence of Vili’s criminal assault. Given the hate crime/pogrom perpetrated by the JDL that day, this assault on non-violent protesters utilizing their right to protest peacefully, is far more disturbing.
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In the above video, Vili marches in a procession to the grave of Meir Kahane. As they walk, one of the marchers chants: “10,000 Arabs dead, mazel tov, mazel tov!” (“Good luck!”). Vili is the tall man in dark leather jacket videotaping with his cell phone.
As I watched the DC video, I was struck by how slow the DC police response was to incidents of violence. If you watch the main video of the attack on Nayfeh, between 60-90 seconds elapses before a single police officer rushes to the scene and intervenes. In the meantime, two other policemen who are standing nearby by do very little. When I spoke to Nayfeh he told me the police initially did nothing to detain or arrest his attackers. His daughter was so incensed by this that she rushed up to Steynovitz, asked him if he had assaulted her father. After Steynovitz told her, in the presence of a police officer: “We did it to teach him a lesson,” she started yelling at the police to arrest him. They didn’t. Instead the told her she would be arrested for “inciting a riot.” Only later did they actually arrest Steynovitz. The other thugs attacking him were not arrested.
It’s quite common for JDL leaders to employ aliases. Meir Weinstein, the group’s national director, was once a spokesperson for Meir Kahane, who used the alias, “Meir Halevi.” Another U.S. Leader of the JDL and convicted criminal, Vincent Vancier, goes by the alias Chaim Ben Pesach.
In 1994, a Canadian newspaper quoted Weinstein/Halevi justifying Baruch Goldstein’s mass murder of 29 Palestinian worshippers at the Ibrahimi Mosque:
Meir Halevi, Canadian spokesman for Israel’s Kach movement — to which gunman Baruch Goldstein belonged — said: “Our organization does not condemn the attack. It condemns the Israeli government for not providing adequate protection for settlers.”
Halevi said the Kach movement does not encourage such attacks but wants all people who belong to “terrorist organizations,” including the PLO, expelled from Israel.
Vili’s ties to Kahane also go really deep. The JDL-UK website features images of him making a pilgrimage to the grave of Kahane. The passage accompanying these images reinforces the continuity between Kahane Chai, a designated U.S. and Israeli terror group, and today’s JDL:
We met up with the old members of the original JDL of Rav Kahane, and with many like-minded people, who today continue to do an excellent work in defending our Eretz Israel.
It seems long overdue for Canadian and U.S. security agencies to formally designate Kahane Chai’s successor and heir (JDL) as a foreign terrorist organization. In a 2001 terrorism report, the FBI itself wrote:
“The Jewish Defense League has been deemed a right-wing terrorist group.”
Also, note that Vili stands proudly in the picture here at Kahane’s grave with another JDL member wearing a Kahane Chai t-shirt. The two groups are certainly kissing cousins, if not identical twins. It’s also noteworthy that Kahane Chai itself was the Israeli successor to the original JDL, which Kahane founded in the 1970s. Note that an FBI report on world terror groups does designate the JDL as “a right-wing extremist group.”
As I wrote above, the JDL has made a strong alliance with Canadian white supremacist groups. Here the CBC quotes a local anti-Islamophobia activist :
“In the last about month and a half, there has been a really alarming rise of alt-right groups, like the Soldiers of Odin and the Jewish Defense League, and others having a really visible presence at Toronto City Hall,” protester Sarah Ali, from the Organizing Committee Against Islamophobia, told CBC Toronto after the rally.
Vili’s Facebook page features a selfie with Glenn Beck. But it hasn’t been updated since 2013.
Vili’s job as sales representative for TWI, an international trade show production company permits him to travel freely and cross borders as he did when he joined the JDL rally in Washington. Though he shows up in a number of the videos which feature violent JDL attacks, he’s not clearly seen engaging in overtly violent acts. But he circles all the action and is certainly an accessory to it.
I have to wonder whether his boss knows that he employs a thug who moonlights as a violent political extremist. Seems to me that might reflect badly on the company’s reputation with its clients: unless they are Israeli settlers or Soldiers of Odin or other garden variety right-wing extremists around the world.
For those wondering about the title of this post, it’s a riff on Gloria Swanson’s famous line in the classic, Sunset Boulevard: “Ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille!”
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.