A rabbi in Iran—the Neturei Karta's fight against Israel
A peculiar sight was present in the crowd of an international conference against Israel: an ultra-Orthodox rabbi, listening attentively to anti-Israel rhetoric; what drives these Haredi Neturei Karta Jews into the arms of Israel's enemies, and why they are not alone.
Among the 80 delegations participating in the pro-Palestinian conference held every four years were representatives of Neturei Karta, a radical Haredi group that opposes Zionism and call for a dismantling of the State of Israel, believing that Jews are forbidden to have their own state until the coming of the Jewish messiah, therefore regarding the existence of Israel as provocation and rebellion against God.
Among the suits and the keffiyehs, as an anti-Zionist among equals, was Neturei Karta Spokesman Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, wearing traditional Haredi clothing and a scarf adorned with the Palestinian flag.
A scion of a famous family in anti-Zionist circles, Weiss listened intently to one of the most vitriolic speeches heard lately against Israel by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who called the Jewish state "a fake country" and a "dirty chapter" in history, claiming it is a "cancerous tumor" that must be dealt with "step by step" until "the full liberation of Palestine."
In the past, Weiss and other followers of the Neturei Karta group have met with Iran's former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after his denunciation of Israel in his speech to the UN. At the time, Weiss claimed, "We know that he (Ahmadinejad) is not the enemy of the Jews and that he has a Jewish community in his country that he respect, defends and even supports."
On the criticism against him that followed the publication of his photographs with people widely known to defame Israel, Weiss explained that "Iran's leader is not against the Jews, but against the Zionist regime," even accusing that "for centuries, God has told us that the Bible is our protection and that the Zionist leadership, for its heresy and deviation from the ways of God, ignores the warnings written in it, which could bring catastrophe on the Jewish people as we can even see today. That is what we are against."
The movement's roots
Centered in New York and London, the Neturei Karta group is comprised of only several hundred across the globe, yet, even so manages to be split in its members' opinion of Weiss and his faction.
His objectors believe that one should not cross the line between a conceptual objection to Israel's existence and an open support (albeit vicarious) in the armed fight against it and the killing of Jews.
The dispersed group's roots are planted deep in the anti-Zionist ideology of the Satmer Hasidic sect, which openly opposes the state of Israel.
This ideology is based in the opinion of its founder, Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, that according to the Bible, one should not rebel against the nations of the world or force the salvation of the Jewish people. His conclusion was that the Zionist movement and the establishment of the Jewish state was a violation of the Jewish people's oath to God.
Neturei Karta is not aloneThe standard-bearers of this ideology are the Orthodox Council of Jerusalem, a radical anti-Zionist group and a minority in the Haredi community. Its people do not acknowledge the state of Israel, refuse to receive any state funding from the Israeli authorities or to endorse voting in the elections, and don't use state services.
Its members often engage in violent demonstrations against Sabbath desecration, autopsies, or archaeological excavations, which they all regard as sins, and are noted for their poverty and extreme religious strictness and strong opposition to the state, which they see as "fake" and causing ideological and educational confusion and as an entity that must be eliminated.
Some of the group's members even show sympathy towards radical Islamists, who they believe have similar interests to theirs. In their eyes, Israel's international standing, the threats to its existence and its many enemies are all proof that the oath to God should not have been broken and that Israel should not have been established. They see that as the reason for the world's aggression towards the Jews, not anti-Semitism.
Naturally then, they believe that the Holocaust is the proof that the establishment of Israel was a rebellion, one the UN surrendered to following the results of the war. A belief clearly showed in the graffiti they sprayed at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in 2012, which called the Holocaust a "Zionist interest."
Even though the Satmers' interpretation is widely disputed, their anti-Zionist outlook has also influenced the main Haredi movement and all its factions. This main movement's dissimilation is mainly from the state's symbols: It doesn’t recognize the state's national holidays, and its representatives in the Knesset (United Torah Judaism) had kept from taking ministerial positions for years and acted as deputy minister with ministerial authorities until the High Court invalidated this practice.
Hostility manifested as indifference
Another resemblance between the different Haredi factions is their contempt for the Religious Zionist movement, which praise the State of Israel and see it as a fundamental step towards salvation and the coming of the messiah.
The consensus within the Haredi public, among both the anti-Zionists and the moderates, is that the Religious Zionists' worldview made them lose their minds, to the point that they can't even see the state's faults.
Today, the Haredi movement expresses their beliefs not with aggression towards the state, but by an indifference towards it: Patriotism is nonexistent, IDF recruitment rates are extremely low and if they are abroad they most likely will not immigrate to Israel.