Monday, September 26, 2016

A Condemnable Act

Thousands of Jews protesting Israel at the UN  last week (Matzav)
There is a story about the Satmar Rebbe, R’ Yoel Teitelbaum that goes something like this:

When in 1968 Vice President Hubert Humphrey came to visit the Satmar Rebbe seeking his support for election to the Presidency, he asked the Rebbe what he could do for him. The Satmar Rebbe is purported to have said "Sell weapons to Israel!". People in attendance later asked the Rebbe, ‘How can you have advised Humphrey that way - when we know you are opposed to the State?’ The Rebbe supposedly answered that we have a disagreement with our family members but we don't want to see them hurt’. Supposedly the Rebbe added that when a Jew criticizes Israel it is anti Zionism. When a non Jew does that, it’s antisemitism.

One might admire the fact that the Rebbe did not let his antipathy to the State of Israel get in the way of protecting the people living there. And that he rightly labeled non Jewish critics of Israel – antisemites. One could admire that  if it were true. But apparently it never happened. The true story went something like this:

Humphrey visited the Rebbe and was treated cordially as he spoke about his support for Israel. The Rebbe listened to him without saying much. After leaving, the Rebbe was asked why he didn’t tell Humphrey that he was opposed to Israel. His answer was rhetorical, “What should I do, tell him about the Shalosh Shevuous (the 3 oaths mentioned in the Gemara which form the theological basis for his opposition to the State)?”

Was Rav Kook an Ish Tzar V'Oyev?
When asked whether a non Jew’s anti Zionism was tantamount to antisemitism he said, ‘No’. The video below explains all this – debunking the urban legend about the difference between the Satmar Rebbe’s public versus private persona vis-à-vis Israel. If the Rebbe was anything, he was consistent in his vitriol for the state.

As I’ve pointed out many times, his published statement that Rav Avraham Yitzchok Kook was an Ish Tzar V’Oyev - which basically compares him to Hitler - underscores that vitriol.

I have always maintained that it is the Satmar Rebbe himself that inspired people from extremists groups like Neturei Karta. Some of whose members have embraced Holocaust denying antisemites like former Iranian President Ahmad Amadinijad who along with Iran’s current supreme leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei has called for the annihilation of the Jewish state.

But Neurei Karta is not the alone in harboring this attitude. It is the same as the current Satmar Rebbe of Williamsburg, R’ Zalman Leib Teitelbaum - and virtually all of his tens of thousands (if not more) Chasidim.

When I have made this accusation in the past, I was severely criticized for it. The claim was that even though they did not support the state, they would never make the kind of Chilul HaShem that those ‘Ahmadinijad kissing’ Neturei Kartaniks did! Well, apparently my critics have been proven wrong. Because as reported by Matzav - last Thursday in front of the United Nations at exactly the moment that Israel’s sitting prime minister spoke, the Satmar Rebbe of Williamsburg succeeded in hosting thousands of his Chasidim in public protest against Israel. The supposed purpose was to oppose the new draft laws – which have already been defanged to the point of irrelevance by the very person they protested against.

They are of course entitled to express their views in public no different than any antisemite would. It’s called free speech. But I am also free to condemn it in public as a massive Chilul HaShem with the potential to do great damage to the Jewish people. Not to mention the fact that it could end up endangering the lives of all of Israel’s residents, including the many Satmar Chasidim that live there. 

That the US is now at its peak level of support to the Jewish State is based in large part (albeit not exclusively) on how the current politicians perceive American Jewish support of it. God in His infinite wisdom has given under 2% of the population tremendous influence on how their government treats Israel. 

But that support is not automatic. There are plenty of politicians in office that could easily turn on us. Some because they are closet antisemites, and some because they see the Arab world as a far more important strategic partner because of their oil and their exponentially greater  numbers. When these people see that many Jews – Jews that appear and claim to be the most religious among us protesting the state, that might turn the tide of support. Or at least lessen it to the point of reduced aid or elimination of aid altogether. It might also embolden more of those those politicians to support BDS which is increasingly becoming exposed as a purely anti Israel movement - and not just anti ‘West Bank settlement’ movement. 

I can’t blame the Chasidim themselves. They have been indoctrinated to see Israel only in the way the Satmar Rebbe sees it. In the rare circumstance that any of their Chasidim might see things differently, such dissent is not tolerated. That is the nature of relying on a supreme religious leader – whose views they see as Godly. If the Rebbe says it’s so, it is so. Period! End of discussion! Which is why so many Chasidim showed up for that protest.

What makes this protest so worse than those Neturei Karta protests is that Satmar is one of the fastest growing Jewish demographics in the world. They are multiplying exponentially with each succeeding generation - hating the Jewish state as much as their founder did. And becoming more public about it in greater numbers than ever. True - what Neturei Karta has done by raising he Palestinain flag, or attending pro Palestinians rallies, or by going to Iran to support their anti Israel views - are by themselves much worse acts. But they can be chalked up to a few crazies. When thousands of people show up to protest Israel at the UN during the prime minister’s speech - it is mainstream Chasidim doing it.

I therefore cannot condemn what they have done here enough. Unfortunately I am just a lone voice. And I’m sure there will be those that somehow find ways to defend them – adding to the Chilul HaShem – and the danger it may bring! 

I only wish other more prominent voices in the Jewish world would join me. It is time to once and for all sever any ties to this community and let the world know that Satmar does not speak for the Jewish people. Not even the Orthodox ones.