American Jews must form a new armed self-defense organization

The Axis of Antisemitism has had 20 years to entrench itself in every aspect of American life. It will not be dislodged without a fight.

The Lion of Judah on the emblem of Jerusalem. Source: public domain
The Lion of Judah on the emblem of Jerusalem. Source: public domain
Benjamin Kerstein
Benjamin Kerstein is a writer and editor living in Tel Aviv. Read more of his work on Substack at No Delusions, No Despair. Purchase his books here.

It has been clear to some of us for a very long time that a new Axis of Antisemitism has emerged. Composed largely of radical Muslims and certain progressives who have metastasized into a kind of Neo-Nazi Left, this Axis has been on the rise for over two decades. For the most part, however, the majority of American Jews have denied its existence.

That time is now over. With Hamas’s Oct. 7 rampage of atrocities and the Axis’s rush to celebrate the slaughter, it became clear to any thinking person that, as Freud said during the rise of Nazism, “We live in very remarkable times. We find with astonishment that progress has concluded an alliance with barbarism.”

This Axis makes no secret of its beliefs. It is antisemitic, racist, pro-terrorism, pro-genocide and infanticide, and will do anything to put its murderous ideology into practice. It is without scruple, compunction, compassion, humanity or respect for even the most basic rights of the people it targets. Nor does it have any intention of respecting the laws of the societies in which it resides. It is, in short, a satanic force, and it must be treated as such.

To counter the Axis, there are certain steps that can and should be taken through official channels. But it will take time to bring the Axis to heel, and the Jewish community does not have time. It is in immediate and absolute danger. It must take immediate and absolute action to ensure its safety.

This can mean only one thing: The Jewish community must immediately create a nationwide armed self-defense organization.

Many Jews will instinctively recoil from such an idea. There are several reasons for this: centuries of a Jewish culture of quiescence, the enervating middle-class values the Jewish community largely embraces, fear of the vast and often cruel non-Jewish world, and a general and indeed commendable distaste for physical violence.

There is also the problem of recent history. The only major Jewish self-defense organization ever created in the United States was the Jewish Defense League. While admirable in its initial stages, the JDL ultimately collapsed into fanatical and indeed suicidal extremism. No one wants to repeat this experience.

But there is no reason that a new self-defense organization must be a repeat of the JDL. Properly organized and led, such an organization can easily avoid the mistakes of the past.

First, the organization should be quite clear that it is a defense organization. It will not attempt to provoke violence and will only employ physical force when necessary to prevent harm to Jews and Jewish institutions.

It should also be avowedly non-sectarian. Elie Wiesel once said, “When Jews are together, I am never afraid.” The JDL should have taken his advice. Instead, it never had much appeal beyond the Jewish right and indeed had little support from secular Jews in general. A new organization should be open to Jews of all denominations and political views, as well as non-Jews who wish to support or join it.

Further, the organization should not discriminate between forms of antisemitism. Whether right or left, Christian or Muslim, white or otherwise, all antisemites should be the object of its efforts. There is no monopoly on hate, and if the Axis is to be defeated, it must be defeated as a whole, without letting any of its adherents off the hook for political or sectarian reasons.

Nonetheless, defense is a proactive matter. Thus, the organization should not simply impede antisemitism but also preempt it. Violence must only be used in self-defense, but nonviolence should be actively employed to disrupt, deplatform and cancel any and all manifestations of antisemitism. This means, above all, a concerted effort to deny the Axis any public forum whatsoever.

That this will involve adopting the Axis’s own tactics—such as shouting down speakers and physically stopping public events—is irrelevant. The Axis has chosen this sword, and cannot complain if it dies by it. Moreover, recent events have shown that the Axis has ceded any legitimacy it might once have had as a tolerable, if deplorable, social movement. The Axis has now openly declared itself in enthusiastic support of terrorism and genocide, and there is no place for such people in the public square of any decent society.

Obviously, the first duty of a new organization should be to train Jews in the techniques of self-defense. Every American Jew of sound body should be capable of defending themselves physically. Every American Jew should at the very least know how to use and maintain a firearm, even if they do not wish to own one themselves. Every Jew should know that they are not alone when attacked and can call on other Jews to take collective action if necessary.

Finally, the organization should not set itself against the mainstream Jewish organizations. It should make it very clear that it is not a militant or radical group, except for its embrace of the militant and radical notion that Jews are human beings. Self-defense is not about extremism or hate. It is simple common sense.

The mainstream organizations want to protect and serve the Jewish community, but thanks to the Axis, this is no longer possible without also possessing the capacity for effective self-defense. Every effort should be made to convince the mainstream organizations of this fact and to gain their political, organizational and financial support.

I have no doubt that there are American Jews who consider such measures unnecessary. They believe the authorities will protect them sufficiently, and would prefer that their children devote themselves to getting into Harvard rather than acquiring guns and baseball bats. That the Axis now essentially controls Harvard is something they either do not know or do not wish to know. Nor are they willing to admit that large segments of the American political establishment, especially in the Democratic Party, are either part of the Axis or too cowardly to purge it.

As David Ben-Gurion said, however, “No delusions, no despair.” Like Hamas, the Axis has had 20 years to entrench itself. It has infiltrated almost every aspect of American life. It will not be dislodged and destroyed without a fight. But that fight cannot be won until American Jews realize that it is a fight. They did not want it and did not start it, but it is here, and American Jews can no longer afford delusions.

But there is also no reason whatsoever to despair. I know from my own recent personal experience that things are changing. American Jews are waking up. They now know the Axis is real, even if they do not yet know what to do about it. They may not admit it even to themselves, but they are desperate to fight back, to show the Axis that even one Jewish body broken, one Jewish life taken, one Jew made fearful of venturing out in a kippah, one threatened pogrom, one genocidal chant, is too much and will not go unanswered.

We are the only ones who can ensure that this is the case. But as the sage put it, the day is short and the master of the house is impatient. If this must be a call to arms, then so be it. American Jews require a Praetorian Guard, Lions of Judah who will stand like a wall between them and the demonic forces that have been unleashed.

In ancient times, the prophet said, “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruninghooks into spears. Let the weak say, I am strong.” The Jews are not weak and have never been weak. Alone and atomized, however, we cannot make use of our strength. Together, we are a mighty fist. It is time to strike.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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