Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Danger and Tragedy of Neturei Karta

Neturei Karta has been in the news again, this time, regarding their participation in the Teheran Holocaust denial conference. Earlier this fall, a CBS film showed Jews in charedi garb embracing the Iranian president when he visited New York. Understandably, this embarrassed Jews everywhere, and desecrated G-d's name.

Interestingly, Neturei Karta provides a means unity, something that both a Reconstructionist Jew and Satmar chasid may both agree upon. Obviously, the reasons for both of their mutual condemnations stems from very different outlooks on life.

Besides the embarrassment, the group is traitorous. In the words of the Agudath Israel statement released today, "the group is not only deeply misguided and misleading of the public but dangerous to the true interests of the Jewish People."

There needs to be condemnation, which thankfully we have seen in the past from the entire charedi spectrum. In addition, effective action needs to be taken to stop them. See this link.

Some have referred to the group as a rodef, quoting at least one gadol to that effect. Currently, however, that may not be the best focus of our conversation.

First of all, it should be noted that a rodef needs to be stopped, not unnecessarily killed(see Rambam, Rotzeach V’shmiras Hanefesh, first perek). Also, especially after Yigal Amir, such language may be irresponsible. Without Torah guidance, declaring someone to be a rodef could lead to the Wild West, as I indicate below.

Neturei Karta need be shown firmness, but ultimately they need professional help. A few months ago, I remember reading in the American Yated, a letter stating, "let them go back to Iran or to Ramallah". I agree with a reader who subsequently criticized that response. Yes, from a rhetorical perspective, we can ask them why they don't live with their dear friends Reb Yassir or Mr. Ahmadinejad, yimach shemom. But to imply that they should go to Iran in order to be harmed is not a proper response.


The problem of Neturei Karta is not their philosophical views on the Medinah. As far as I am concerned, a person is entitled to believe what they want about the State of Israel and/or the Holocaust, whether it is the shittah of Rav Kook or that of the Satmar Rebbe, both zicrhrei tzaddikim livracha--as well as anywhere in between those two poles. Neturei Karta is entitled to go further than the Satmar position, and believe that only immediately dismantling Israel can spare a future Holocaust, G-d forbid.

However, if we grant them the right to their opinion, what does one respond to Neturei Karta? They believe that the State imminently endangers the Jewish nation, and accordingly, they must reach out to Iranians, instead of praying to Hashem to resolve things in his own way. If I believe that XYZ is dangerous, what am I supposed to do, if everyone else is misguided? What if Neturei Karta compares themselves to Zeev Jabotinsky in the 1930's, and believes that they are the only ones to know that the earth is burning under their feet, that either you liquidate the State or the State will liquidate you ? What if everyone else is wrong?

The answer is that there is a concept of a community.

Neturei Karta must take into consideration the views of the rest of klal Yisrael. The Jewish people, like any other nation, can not exist in disunity. The Chinuch(496) states that this is the reason why we follow the majority even when “right is left and the left is right”. Were each person to follow his own halachic opinion, this would disrupt the Yahadus, cause disunity, and destroy the Jewish nation entirely.

Even in exile, there is a concept of Jewish nationalism. Every person is entitled to open their own shtible(small synagogue) in which to pray, whether in Williamsburg or in Scarsdale, but a nation can not exist like the Wild West.

The Altalena Affair, the assassinations of Dr. Jacob Israel de Haan, PM Yitzchak Rabin and Dr. Chaim Arlosoroff (there is disagreement concerning the latter) were all murders, obviously had no Halachic basis, and were caused because one individual or group thought that a drastic action was necessary to save many lives.

Even if the Zionist leadership, for example, at the time "paskened" that Dr. de Haan was a rodef because his negotiating threatened the Jewish State, rodef is not something which can be applied by everyone on his own, lest the situation resemble the Wild West

So too, even if Neturei Karta believes that the State of Israel has the status of a rodef, they may not act on their own. Neturei Karta is entitled to take its case titled Neturei Karta vs. The Jewish People to a unified beis din, perhaps consisting of representatives from Chasidim, Litvish, Sephardim, and yes, Mizrachim, but they then must agree to abide by its ruling.

I would end by quoting from the statement Agudah released today. I was happy that a clear statement was issued, and I trust many will agree with me that this is a proper step to take. The above, of course, are my own thoughts, which bloggers will either agree or disagree with, but I think that the language of the statement can serve as a guide for responsible condemnation and for discussion of the issue.

There should be no need to state the following, but to avoid any misconceptions in the media or among members of the public, Agudath Israel of America proclaims strongly and unequivocally that the visibly Jewish men who regularly appear publicly with virulent anti-Semites and claim to represent Jewish Orthodoxy not only do not represent anyone but themselves but are a disgrace to the Jewish people.

Most recently, they presented themselves at the much and properly vilified Holocaust denial “conference” in Teheran, where widely-disseminated photographs captured the pitiful spectacle of their greeting and shaking hands with Iran’s demonic president. Neither their professed determination to protect the interests of Jews nor their haredi garb can obscure the fact that all they accomplish is to offer succor and support to people who eagerly wish to do grave harm to Jews.

There are many groups within the Orthodox community, and they represent widely differing positions on the concept of political and religious Zionism. All responsible Orthodox groups, however, have condemned the group at issue in no uncertain terms. Agudath Israel joins in that condemnation and declares that the group is not only deeply misguided and misleading of the public but dangerous to the true interests of the Jewish People.

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