Surprisingly enough, religious Jews flew to Tehran to support Ahmadinejad and his conference to investigate the Holocaust. Neturei Karta representatives sat in the front row at the Holocaust denial conference in Tehran,
evoking much anger.
"The haredim who attended the conference for investigating the Holocaust in Iran share a common platform with Ahmadinejad when it comes to the so-called myth the Zionist movement created around the Holocaust. They wanted to make it clear in Tehran that Zionism uses the Holocaust as an excuse for the existence of the Zionist state in the Land of Israel," explained Israel Hirsch, a member of Neturei Karta living in the Meah Shaarim neighborhood of Jerusalem.
Neturei Karta delegates shaking hands with Iranian foreign minister (Photo: AP)
Hirsch's father even served in the past as the foreign minister for Jewish affairs in the Palestinian Authority.
According to Hirsch, "Because the UN agreed to establish a state because of the Holocaust, the Iranians are claiming something very logical. They aren't saying that there wasn't a Holocaust, but who perpetrated the Holocaust? The Nazis, the Germans. So they should at least pay compensation to the Jewish nation and establish a Jewish state within Germany and not within the land of Israel, which belongs to the Palestinians."
Hirsch doesn't at all recognize the Zionist state's right to exist in the land of Israel. Around his house, one can find graffiti declaring that the entire area is "Palestinian territory."
Neturei Karta members don't pay taxes and also don't use state services. They have a closed and independent economy. Hirsch doesn't have an Israeli identity card, sees himself as a citizen of Palestine, and waives a black flag at his house, on which is inscribed: "We are mourning 58 years of Israeli tyranny on the Jewish people and the holy Torah."
The sign stays in place throughout the year, and every Independence Day, he adds another year.
Listening intently (Photo: AFP)
Neturei Karta's justification for attending the Holocaust denial conference is that they feel the need and the right "to declare on every Jewish stage that the Zionists don't represent the Jewish people, don't belong to the Jewish people, and don't belong to the Holy Land at all."
In his statements, Hirsch emphasizes that he mainly means the Zionist leaders that "because of the education they gave the youth here in Israel, they have forgotten where they come from and the reason why they are Jews. The Zionist leaders and all of Zionism in essence denies why a Jew needs to be."
According to him, the goal of participating in the conference is "to lessen the hatred present in the entire Arab people against Jews." He doesn't believe that Iran's objective is to destroy the State of Israel, but "to take action against Zionism, to a certain extent, in a legitimate way, but nothing more than that."
He is convinced that his statements do not fall on deaf ears. He recalls that two months ago Neturei Karta representatives met with Ahmadinejad while he was staying in New York. He describes the meeting as "very warm." He even told proudly that when Ahmadinejad returned to Iran, the leader said in a press conference that he "met rabbis more opposed to Zionism than him."
What will happen if one day he is proven wrong?
"I will be proven wrong only in the circumstance of a Zionist response that blows up the reactor in Iran. Then there truly will be a response against us. But as long as there is no such response, he surely will not use this weapon. This is what he made clear to us," answered Hirsch.
Former chief rabbi of Israel and current chief rabbi of Tel Aviv Rav Israel Lau is horrified by Neturei Karta's idea. He also doesn't buy the explanations provided by the Jewish conference guests that the conference does not aim to deny the Holocaust, but to oppose Zionism.
According to Lau, "This is something not tolerated by the intellect, something that is complete insanity, truly chaos. If it could be that any Jew, for whatever reason, who is capable of shaking the hand of a Holocaust denier in a generation when there are still people with numbers tattooed on their arms among us – this is insanity that not only has no justification, but also no explanation."
As a Holocaust survivor, Lau wants to remind people: "What is the meaning of the number on the arm? The meaning is that the Nazis and their collaborators erased the humanity in people and turned us into numbers. I, for instance, wasn't Israel Lau, not even Lulek, my Polish nickname. I was Buchenwald prisoner number 117030, while I was still 7 and a half years old."
He added a personal call and demanded Pope Benedictus XVI to publicly condemn the Iranian conference.
"Especially as a religious figure and a native of Germany, he is about to meet this week with the prime minister of Israel, which is a state that was established on the ashes of the Holocaust and its furnaces. He should make decisive and explicit statements condemning the conference in Iran," Lau beckoned.