Thursday, December 07, 2023

The Unconscionable Evil of Neturei Kata

Neturei Karta at a pro Palestinian rally in October (Forward)
There is a ‘joke’ about how stridently my Rebbe’s uncle, R’ Velvel (also known as the Brisker Rav) was opposed to Zionism. During one of Neturei Karta’s  many protests, R’ Amram Blau, its founder laid himself down on the ground in front of an Israeli tank. R’ Velvel saw that and remarked to his freind R’ Blau, You are a bigger Zionist than I am. You seem to believe that they won’t run you over. 

What he was really saying is that Zionists are so evil they think nothing of killing a fellow Jew that disagrees with their secular ‘anti Torah’ philosophy. 

I mention this to show just how anti Zionist even the mainstream right was at Israel’s founding. Although at first some Charedi leaders  (among them Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach) were more inclined to support a Jewish state even though it is was being run by secular Jews - that changed quickly at the urging of the Chazon Ish.

So the idea that Netruei Karta has always been at odds with the rest of the Orthodox right is a myth. They were all pretty much on the same page back then – as Illustrated by that ‘joke’. What changed is that the right decided to work with the Zionist ‘devil’ so they could benefit the rising tide of their natural base - Charedim. 

That did not sit well with Satmar, who maintained their original opposition and rejected any collaboration with the Zionist state at all. They believe Jews are forbidden to restore sovereignty over the land of Israel until the advent of Moshiach. Satmar’s founder, R’ Yoel Teitelbaum, was so opposed to it, that he characterized Rav Avraham Yitzchok HaKohen Kook in the same terms as does the Book of Esther about Haman - the ‘Hitler’ his time. (Rav Kook is considered the spiritual guide of the Religious Zionism.)

It doesn’t take that much to go from seeing Rav Kook in those terms - to seeing the state of Israel in the same way Hamas and every other enemy of Israel does - that wants to commit genocide against us. It’s true that even the current Satmar Rebbe (at least one of them) has condemned Neturei Karta for siding with the enemy. But they have only themselves to blame for Neturei Karta’s attitude.  Whose members consider the Satamr Rebbe to be their spiritual guide

How bad is Neturei Karta? Read this

Neturei Karta has been taking part in pro-Palestinian rallies and marches for decades; they are a nearly guaranteed presence at any demonstrations against Israel, and regularly attend campus demonstrations and teach-ins against Israel. 

In recent weeks, the group has been regularly marching with pro-Palestinian activists, often making speeches at the events. While they occasionally reference Neturei Karta’s stance that Jews cannot return to the land of Israel until God decrees it, the bulk of their statements sound closer to those made by more visible, secular leftist Jewish groups such as IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace. 

Their statements at rallies since Oct. 7 have focused on the difference between Judaism and Zionism, and comparisons between the plight of Palestinians in Gaza and Jews during the Holocaust; they refer to Israel’s founding with the Arabic term “Nakba,” which means “catastrophe.” 

The violence endured by Palestinians, and the idea that Zionism is a corruption of true Judaism, have been Neturei Karta talking points for decades...

“The state of Israel, with its occupation, with its foot on the neck of the people of Palestine, you are building buckets and buckets of antisemitism, you are exacerbating antisemitism,” Weiss said at a gathering in Jersey City. “Step back and think what’s causing this antisemitism?” 

I realize just how strongly the rest of the Orthodox right has condemned them. But in my view that isn’t nearly enough. First they need to take some responsibility for Neturei Karta’s rantings since Charedi leaders and politicians in Israel  have themselves said some pretty nasty things about the Zionist state of Israel even in our day. Even as they have joined the government, They are opposed to Zionism too. It is only a matter of degree. (Albeit with a massively huge degree of difference.)

It is therefore the right’s responsibility to do more than to condemn them from time to time. Neturei Karta’s public embrace of our mortal enemies cannot go unpunished. No matter how tiny their numbers are, their very loud and public embrace of people that want to annihilate us does a lot of damage. It contributes to the kind of horrors that happened to us on October 7th.  

Neturei Karta therefore has blood on their hands. And they should be treated that way by every single Orthodox Jewish leader regardless of Hashkafa.  Including Satmar. That should start with an end to the constant Charedi vilification of the Jewish state. And then to completely reject any claim Neturei Karta makes that their view is the ‘Torah True’ view. It is not. It  is the view of the devil all dressed up in Chasidic garb.

It would be nice for example to see a full page ad in all the major newspapers jointly sponsored by Satmar, Chabad, Agudah, the OU, the RCA,  BMG and YU (How’s that for unity?!) rejecting the legitimacy of Neturei Karta as representative of anything remotely Jewish - regardless of  their religious appearance and adherence to ritual observances. And then place them in actual Cherem by a joint Beis Din comprised of as many and as varied Orthodox rabbinic leaders as they can find. Ostracizing them completely and forever from the rest of the Jewish people.