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To Neturei Karta, Judaism demands that state of Israel shouldnt exist
December 22nd, 2006
Some Milwaukee Jews were shocked and enraged at what they saw in the Dec. 13 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and called or wrote to The Chronicle to say so.
The newspaper had published an Associated Press photograph of some bearded and clearly haredi (what many Jews call ultra-Orthodox) Jewish men embracing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
And this shocked them not just because Ahmadinejad has called openly for Israels destruction and had defied the U.S. and other nations by pursuing a nuclear energy program that appears to have the aim of building weapons.
But these rabbis were in Tehran, Irans capital, to participate in a conference on Holocaust-denial (Dec. 11-12) that included such figures as David Duke, a U.S. racist and former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
These rabbis were members of a loosely organized movement called Neturei Karta (Guardians of the City, a phrase from the Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Hagiga 76c), founded in 1938. This movement opposes the existence of the modern state of Israel on religious grounds, and bills itself on its Web site as Jews United Against Zionism.
However, other haredi Jews, including even other anti-Zionists, have fiercely criticized this group for going to Iran and embracing Ahmadinejad.
According to the Dec. 14 Jerusalem Post, the Jerusalem-based anti-Zionist group Eda Haredit blasted the conference participants in the pages of Haedah, the groups publication.
That tiny group of weirdos is liable to incite hatred against haredim, wrote the publications editor, according to the Post.
Meanwhile, Israels Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi, Yona Metzger, has called for the Tehran visiting rabbis to be excommunicated, according to a Dec. 14 report from the Arutz Sheva Web site.
These rabbis betrayed the Jewish people and their heritage and particularly disgraced and desecrated the memory of the Holocaust, Metzger said in a statement.
But who are these people? Why did they attend the Tehran conference? What is behind their thinking?
Wait for redemption
The Neturei Karta Web site lists no telephone numbers and only provides for e-mail contact; and The Chronicle by press time had received no response to its e-mailed request to interview a representative of the group.
Nevertheless, the site and other sites linked to it provide abundant information about its worldview, including the full texts of speeches that its members gave at the Tehran conference.
In one of these speeches, Rabbi Aharon Cohen (of Manchester, Great Britain, according to the Jerusalem Post) refuted Holocaust denial. There is no doubt whatsoever that during World War II there developed a terrible and catastrophic policy and action of genocide perpetrated by Nazi Germany against the Jewish People, he said.
However, in no way can it [the Holocaust] be used to justify the illegitimate and criminal cause and actions of Zionism, Cohen said. And Zionism violates important principles of authentic Judaism, he said.
Judaism teaches that although the Jewish People were promised the Holy Land this was only subject to certain conditions, basically that we had to maintain the highest of moral, ethical and religious standards, he said. If Jews didnt do that, then the Jewish People would be dispersed in a divinely decreed exile.
Not only is that the situation today, he argued, but Jews are prohibited under oath from trying to force our way out of the exile by the efforts of our own hands. We are also prohibited under oath from trying to form a state of our own in Palestine.
To contravene these prohibitions would constitute a rebellion against the wishes of the A-lmighty and we are warned of dire consequences of making any such attempt, he said. But Zionism totally ignores and transgresses these principles, he said.
Therefore, said Cohen, the state known as Israel [should] be totally and peacefully dissolved. Moreover, it is the task of Jews to accept the will of the A-lmighty and to strive to improve ourselves, removing from our behavior the deeds that may have been the cause of our suffering until G-d decides it is time to return the Jews to the land.
Associated Web sites, particularly True Torah Jews Against Zionism
(www.jewsagainstzionis m.com), quote passages from the Bible, Talmud, Midrash and Zohar in support of this view.
They particularly emphasize a passage in the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Ketubot 111a, which says the Jewish people in exile have taken three oaths: not to emigrate en masses to the Holy Land; not to rebel against the nations of the world; and not to force the arrival of the end of the exile.
But Rabbi Shlomo Levin of Lake Park Synagogue (Modern Orthodox) pointed out that this passage also includes an assertion that G-d forbade the nations of the world from unduly oppressing Jews; and that one could argue that the Holocaust violated that part of the agreement, which could justify the Jews violating the part about not taking back the Holy Land.
Above all, said Levin, You cant take one statement out of context and build a whole world view around it.
And while Levin said that anti-Zionism is a legitimate religious position and he understands its rationale, he doesnt accept it because I dont think its true, and because we have to be practical. Jews are better off having a state of Israel for survival and self-defense.
To quibble with the state of Israel on religious grounds while the world is filled with enemies of the Jewish people [is] short-sighted and impractical, he said.
But even understanding the rationale for religious anti-Zionism does not mean that anti-Zionists should go to Tehran for a Holocaust denial conference. Theyve flipped their lids, these people, said Levin.
Nobody knows exactly how many Jews subscribe to the teachings of the Neturei Karta. The Web site states that the number of families that are activists or members is relatively small (several thousand). But the site also claims that the number of Orthodox Jews who believe in the anti-Zionist ideology number in the hundreds of thousands.
Moreover, according to a Jonathan Rosenblum column in the Dec. 18 Jerusalem Post, the group that went to Tehran may even be a tiny minority of Neturei Karta associates.