An interview with the Neturei Karta.

The Neturei Karta are the poster boys of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). They loyally show up to all PSC events whether during the week or on Shabbat.

In January I saw one of them, Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, at an anti-Israel conference at SOAS on a Shabbat morning carrying a briefcase. The Neturei Karta make up the laws of Judaism to suit themselves.

I realise that many Jews also now make up the laws of Judaism to suit themselves, but the latter don’t claim a higher moral authority like the Neturei Karta do.

Neturei Karta means Guardians of the City, but if they refuse to be guardians of Shabbat, the holiest day for Jews, how can they be trusted to be guardians of Judaism in any way.

That said, it is fascinating to think that hundreds of years ago all ultra-religious Jews used to think like the Neturei Karta still think concerning returning to Israel to live; that there should no forcing of such a return, which should only happen at the behest of the Messiah.

Political Zionism took root in the 1890s and the way the ultra-religious approached it was to support it from a pragmatic point of view only in light of the continuing persecution of Jews, but they refused to see in it any kind of Messianism.

It was Rabbi Avraham Kook, born in Lithuania and who was Chief Rabbi of Jaffa from 1904-1914, who started to infuse events with Messianism.

However, it was only after the establishment of Israel and the winning of both the Six Day War (1967), which reunited Jerusalem, and the Yom Kippur War (1973) when religious Zionism finally took off. Many of the ultra-religious saw these events as Messianically inspired.

This, in turn, gave rise to the settlement movement of Gush Emunim, led by Kook’s son Rabbi Yehuda Kook. The national-religious movement was born.

Tiny sects like the Neturei Karta and the Satmar stayed outside this tent.

At last Thursday’s PSC anti-Israel Downing Street protest I spoke to the Neturei Karta who, after refusing to speak to a “Zionist”, agreed that they also want a Jewish state, but only when the Messiah comes (switch browser if viewing problems):

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign and their ilk on the far-left either don’t realise this or turn a blind eye to it as what they really want is to lap up the the Neturei Karta’s so-called anti-Zionism.

But, the PSC and their supporters are in for a rude awakening when the Messiah does finally descend from the heavens as they won’t see the Neturei Karta for dust as they will all be heading off to the Jewish state, probably on El Al, at the Messiah’s behest.

Not that most of the Neturei Karta aren’t in Israel anyway. Their presence and synagogues in Mea Shearim are ubiquitous (see below). No one bats an eyelid there where they are viewed as cranks who oppose Israel’s existence while receiving government funding. Meanwhile, in the UK they are closely embraced by the cranks on the far-left and in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

A few years ago I stopped an ultra-religious guy in Jerusalem to ask for directions and by-the-by I asked him what he thought of the ultra-religious anti-Zionists, like the Neturei Karta, in Israel.

He answered that every Jew living in Israel is a Zionist, he just hasn’t realised it yet.

Avraham Kook, himself, couldn’t have given a better answer if he were alive today.

The Neturei Karta living in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem.

The Neturei Karta at prayer in Mea Shearim.

The Neturei Karta at prayer in Mea Shearim.

66 responses to “An interview with the Neturei Karta.

  1. I understand that there are very few NKs in the UK.No more than a handful.
    But what a handful ! Ktivah v Chatimah Tovah

  2. To the best of my knowledge, Neturei Karta davka reject Israeli government funding.

  3. Furnival Friend

    Richard, NK aren’t really a problem. Far more pernicious are those much bigger Chareidi sects, such as the Satmar and rhe Gerrers, who are just as anti-Zionist and are much, much bigger. With the exception of the nationalist, knitted-kippah Orthodox, Zionism has always been frowned upon by the Orthodox

    • richardmillett

      But how do the Satmar affect Israel. They aren’t pro active in their anti zionism like NK I thought.

  4. Furnival Friend

    Oh and the Satmars and Gerrers, unlike NK, do take Israeli government funding

  5. I agree that Satmar is arguably the bigger issue in this regard. However, didn’t NK cosy-up with Ahmadinejad at a Shoah-denial conference?

    The thing with NK in the UK is that despite their *tiny* number they are always photographed at demos because they prove such a striking and surprising image to have on the anti-Israel side.

    To be fair, it’s not as if the Hasidic groups that have issues with the modern state of Israel don’t necessarily have a point theologically. It just depends how they go about things.

    As you know, Richard, I’m a big fan of Chabad. The Rebbe never visited Israel but he strongly supported Bibi and Sharon. He also strongly discouraged Israeli governments from making any territorial concessions. Quite a contrast to NK!

    • richardmillett

      This is the point I think. The Satmar aren’t politically active and certainly not as vicious as the NK. I have no problems with ideological differences.

  6. I’ve never heard that the Gerrer hassidim are anti Zionist.I know a fair number of then and if I’m not mistaken our minister of health is a Gerrer hassid.
    I also think that as a rule Satmar do not take money from the government.
    It must be remembered that there are also a large number of orthodox Jews who are not hassisim but who also hold anti Zionist views.
    From knowing a number of them and discussing their views on many occasions it is clear to me that they hold these beliefs from ahavat Yisrael (a love of their fellow Jew) and that they simply believe that the time is not right for us to have a state and are afraid it will end in disaster.

  7. BTW
    Why is carrying a briefcase not allowed on Shabat?
    Was it inside or outside an enclosed area?

  8. You have no idea who brought it or when it was brought there.
    It could easily have been looked after by one of their Arab friends.

  9. As far as I am concerned – Neturei Karta are Traitors to the Jewish People – they are no longer part of The Jewish Community .

  10. @Ian
    I have often felt that way myself about the extreme Left.
    However, there is a saying that Israel, though he has sinned, is still Israel. And the High Holy Days are almost upon us.
    So maybe we should be forgiving – hard as it is (and it IS hard).

    • That sounds more like a Christian tenet.

      “Political Zionism took root in the 1890s” – maybe, but P-T and Rishon were founded earlier, Richard, and that took some doing,

    • they are soneh yisrael and wish to put other jews in harms way

      they are all in cherem and have yet to ask mechila

      you dont have to forgive their insanity

  11. If I had seen the guy in a Hollywood movie, I’d say he was badly cast, implausible and that someone had taken an old actor resembling the Rabbi from Fiddler on the Roof, stuck a false beard on him and told him to just keep repeating a few sentences with a funny accent. I could make a better job representing their views than that.

    The ideology of Haredi Jews who opposed, and often still oppose modern political Zionism is a serious business and they probably represent the majority of Ultra-orthodox Jews. Their numbers are growing, though the good news is that they’re generally becoming less anti-Zionist and more Israeli. I’m not sure this is the place to explain any of these phenomena.

    All that has nothing to do with those clowns you “interviewed”. It would be the equivalent of going into an Italian lunatic asylum to discuss Catholic theology with a guy who thinks he’s the Pope.

    Shimona,

    You’re right that “though he has sinned he is still Israel” but don’t forget that the children of Israel are still punished for their sins both collectively and individually.

    I’m not a judge and we have no Sanhedrin, but I’m sure you don’t misunderstand that saying to mean that being of Israel gives you a lifetime “Get out of Jail” card. If he is sinning against the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, it is not for us to forgive him. For that he, like the rest of us, has to repent, and repair his sins to those he has harmed and to G-d.

  12. Richard, great article! I will share it!
    I am absolutely outraged with the Hebrew signs saying Zionists NO, Arabs YES. OMG!!!
    The rest of the words are just pure poison!

    There are those who blast me for calling some “jews” kapos, but this lot deserve more than anyone else! I have never considered these lunatics Jews to start with.

    • Hello Roberta

      nice to see you – no I don’t blast you (to start with I am not courageous enough for that ;o) – but it pained and pains me – during the 3rd Reich there were so many evil ones around that one should be able to find enough analogies suitable for insults amongst my kind.

      • Hi Silke! I do come from time to time.😉
        I agree that it is a painful thing to call “one of our own” a kapo, but the truth will always hurt those who are indeed guilty of “mischief” to put it mildly. Any Jew who works against Jewish interests or Jews is a kapo.
        Ma laasot?

      • Roberta

        again I disagree – conditions in the KZs were so terrible that it wasn’t given to all to stay human and/or humane.

        No matter how much horror we feel for those who worked for the perpetrators if they were from the victim population I cringe if I see their name used lightly. The choice they had before them was so terrible that it luckily for us is beyond our imagination.

      • Hi Roberta,

        Shana tova! I think what Silke is saying is that by making the comparison, in this case, you are being overly harsh not on the Neturei Karte but on the “Kapos” themselves. The Jews who worked with the Nazis usually had no choice and believed that they were, at the least, saving or extending their own lives. They were victims of circumstance and nobody has suggested that if Hitler hadn’t invaded the countries in which they lived, they would have campaigned for gas chambers themselves.

        The Neturei Karte are a wholly different kettle of fish. Nobody is forcing them to do anything, they are not the victims of circumstance. They just choose to do this all by themselves.

        Two final thoughts. Firstly, if they didn’t have beards and funny clothes, but were just normal self-hating Jews, would anybody even bother about them? Secondly, why don’t those living in the State of Israel move to Jordan? It’s part of Eretz Yisrael and under non-Jewish rule. Isn’t that what they want?

        Or is this what they want? Publicity, attention and for us to be discussing them?

      • They are much worse than kapos. The latter were in fear of their lives every minute of every day. What excuse do these evil bastards have?

  13. Jonathan Hoffman

    Neturei Karta were never better shown for the scum they are than by the leaflet they put out after the murder of Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife in the Mumbai terrorist massacre in November 2008. NK’s leaflet expressed support for the murder, stating that Chabad was rightfully punished for its relations with “the filthy, deplorable traitors – the cursed Zionists that are your friends.”)

    Filthy scum

    http://www.thejc.com/blogpost/terrorist-supporters-march-freely-through-london

  14. To Michael Goldman who seems to doubt that Rabbi Weiss of Neturei Karta would have broken Shabbat by carrying a briefcase:
    I have seen these guys on at least two Shabbat demonstrations carrying banners through the streets of central London (certainly not an eruv). On one of these occasions – a couple of hours after the demo ended – I saw a group of them walking near the Embankment (still with their banners). The guy interviewed in the video was there and it was him I went up to and asked how and why he was carrying the banner on Shabbat. He seemed embarrassed by my question – he was surprised another Jew who was aware of the rules of Shabbat could have been there to challenge him. He could not offer any explanation.

  15. I’m struck by this man’s universalism, which contradicts and negates Jewish particularism. If all will be one after the coming of the Moshiach, then where does that leave Judaism? Or any organised religion and belief system for that matter? He is envisaging the same utopia as other sects like the Buddha Maitraya loony Benjamin Creme, and also the Marxists and far left….who all hope for Lennon’s vision in his song ‘Imagine’ ….no religion, no nations, just universal oneness and no division or particularity, which of course would do away with Judaism too. There’s a recently published book on this subject called ‘John Lennon and the Jews’.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/John-Lennon-Jews-Zeev-Maghen/dp/1453643818/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1317073443&sr=1-1

    • Again, Roger it’s important to distinguish between the core ideology of Haredi non/anti-Zionism, which I don’t agree with but see as being intellectually legitimate as opposed to the actions and statements of the Neturei Karte nut cases.

      The point you make about the pecularism-versus-universalism within Judaism is quite correct and nothing to do with Neturei Karte. In every prayer we repeat the aleinu which begins by thanking G-d for not making us as the nations of the earth who worship “vanity and emptiness and pray to a god who cannot save”.

      However the same aleinu ends with a plea to G-d to speedily hasten the day when all of the members of these nations will recognize him and call his name. Indeed our hope is for a day when we will all see one truth “G-d will be one and His name One.” That will be the period of the Messiah.

      The argument between main-stream Zionist Orthodoxy and Haredi non/anti-Zionism is not over this point, we all say aleinu. The argument is whether the Jewish People can should return on mass to Zion before that day and begin G-d’s work or patiently wait in exile for him to miraculously come and get us. That is a valid dispute, though of course, like them, I’m sure that I’m right.

      It has nothing to do with the Neturei Karte actions of encouraging Iran and the Hamas. Such actions shame me as a Jew and a human being, are disgraceful both by my standards and by those of almost all Haredi anti-Zionists too. It pains me that I breathe the same air as those who are the modern day Jewish equivalent of William Joyce, and I wish them a similar fate.

      • Question:

        But Daniel if there is a prayer with such a wish for all mankind then surely it shouldn’t make any difference if some of those praying for that live in Israel.

        I cannot spell out the argument but somehow I think the cover-all and the specific contradict eachother in this case i.e. if it is a cover-all then it must include the specific.

        Something of an All Cretans are Liars conundrum it seems to me or an eat the cake and keep it one.

  16. NK used to appear on Press TV on a regular basis. The interviewer used to to glow and go all gooey eyed over these useful idiots. These days they don’t seen to appear so much on press TV I wonder if there has been some sort of falling out.

  17. Chas (OyVaGoy) hits the nail on the head. It’s the weird, the unusual and the exceptional that makes the news. That’s why three Neturei Karta get more coverage than 6,000 well-behaved MOR Jews supporting Israel in Trafalgar Square. The tragedy is that anti-Zionist Jews have a leveraging effect: all anti-Zionists can point to them and say, “See, if even Jews say this, it must be true.”

  18. Neturei Karta or at least the small number who are politically active (The Anti-Defamation League estimates that fewer than 100 members of the community take part in anti-Israel activism.) are like attention-getting children in a classroom. I expect the reasons both groups act out are similar.

    Firstly, the Haredi world (not just NK) particularly in Israel revolves entirely around religious study and prayer (what they would call Torah). If you don’t suit that life there are few community sanctioned alternatives. This is a problem even grudgingly acknowledged by some Haredim. Many Yeshiva students shouldn’t be there but there is no sanctioned alternative like sports, trades, art or handicrafts.

    Secondly, this world is virtually impossible to escape. They are totally unprepared for anything else with no job skills; language problems as English is often their third or fourth language and no normal survival skills, like for example knowing how to drive a car, wash or cook, take an interview, talk to a woman. In addition, those who make this jump come without emotional support being totally cut off from their families and with no outside network.

    Thirdly, the outlet of sex is strictly limited. This is partially offset by early marriage which has its own problems but in a NK community estimated as only 5,000 in Israel the partner chosen for you may not be particularly suitable. Homosexuality is out and even the outlet of masturbation is illegal leading to guilt among those who do and absolute frustration among those who don’t.

    Given those frustrations it isn’t surprising that for some the celebrity of public anti Zionism is very attractive.

    • I have been told that when German Baron vom Stein worked on his land reform he found that he didn’t have enough literate clerks to do the administration that was necessitated by the changes.

      He found the personnel he needed amongst Jews. I assume that lots of them had been quite “otherworldly” until then.

      Yaacov Lozowick in one post mused about the boost it would give to Israel’s society if all that training were put to use elsewhere. For me the success of the Jews of Baron vom Stein’s time support that assumption.

  19. Victoria Attias

    This is all very distressing David. We need to establish short courses to teach them at least the most basic of these important skills, like washing, cooking and masturbation.

  20. Ultra-religious Jews only exist around the last 200 years. And actually they did return to live in Israel in small numbers over the years, Naturai Karta of today are descendants of some those Jews. Their ancestors must roll over in their graves should they hear what their progeny do. Aiding the pursuers of Jewish blood, justifying murder and terror and genocide of Jews, that is completely treasonous. No ideological difference can justify what they do. They are far worse than kapos because unlike the Kapos they are not prisoners in ghettos and concentration camps so their acts of betrayal are done completely voluntarily and free willingly. Moreover they justify their actions by the Torah !

  21. From the article: [The Neturei Karta make up the laws of Judaism to suit themselves.]

    Absolutely! I have seen this in practice many many times! What a joke they are! And when you address their points with evidence to the contrary they become aggressive.

    Daniel:
    🙂 The time to be “nice” has ended.
    Has anyone seen the videos of Ann Bernhardt?

    I love this woman!

    http://serr8d.blogspot.com/2011/04/ann-bernhardt-speaks-to-lindsay-graham.html

    • Amazing, I agree with Daniel.
      Yes, British Jews are far too nice. They don’t threaten to storm parliament with 10,000 justifiably angry young men headed by ‘Lord’ Ahmed. Maybe they should start doing that, so people begin to respect them.

    • Yes I would vote the bacon bookmarked Koran trashing video as my numero uno for this year so far. Nice and cathartic and great entertainment. She’s a fearless warrior!

  22. Jonathan Hoffman

    On the subject of NK … “Rabbi” Aharon Cohen is not a Rabbi … he dopes not have semicha from any recognised body ..

    http://www.nkusa.org/activities/Speeches/2006Iran-ACohen.cfm

  23. Tzvi Ben Roshel

    “Oh and the Satmars and Gerrers, unlike NK, do take Israeli government funding”
    No Satmar does not. About Chabad and the Rebbe not visiting Israel- Chabad believes is you go to Israel its for good. Its a problem for a Jew to go to Israel and then leave.
    “And the High Holy Days are almost upon us.
    So maybe we should be forgiving – hard as it is (and it IS hard).”
    – You forgive those who repent and those who at the very least acknowledge their sins. For those like the NK and those on the secular left who commit sins, cause others to commit and are not even regretful but want to do much more harm upon Israel and the Torah (whether admittedly or not) are not to be forgiven, are not to be given any position of authority and are to be fought against. We need to be merciful to the merciful and “cruel” to the cruel. Our priorities is the nation and not the traitors.

  24. @Daniel Marks “I’m not a judge and we have no Sanhedrin, but I’m sure you don’t misunderstand that saying to mean that being of Israel gives you a lifetime “Get out of Jail” card.”

    Of course not. What I meant was, that I feel uncomfortable with Ian’s remark “they are no longer part of The Jewish Community.”
    However, when I wrote this, I was unaware of the fact that they had publicly expressed support for the murders in Mumbai – and, since I am only human, I find that VERY hard, if not impossible, to forgive.

  25. I have seen the NK stranding next to Arabs and Muslims at demonstrations with the most viciously anti- Semitic posters being held. they are the scum of the Earth. Hamas wold kill them in a heart beat if they can.

  26. Shana Tova !

    May 5772 be a year of peace, happiness and prosperity in the Holy Land and the World.

    May the Redemption continue to unfold.

    Adam Neira
    http://www.wp2050.com
    Founded April 2000

  27. Silke

    [Roberta
    again I disagree – conditions in the KZs were so terrible that it wasn’t given to all to stay human and/or humane.
    No matter how much horror we feel for those who worked for the perpetrators if they were from the victim population I cringe if I see their name used lightly. The choice they had before them was so terrible that it luckily for us is beyond our imagination.]

    Frankly I would rather die than send one of my own to a concentration camp. However given the circumstances and the fact that not everyone thinks like me, I am tempted to use another word. So please find me the worst word you can get, which is fitting for these demonic and devious sub humans and I shall be happy to use it.😉

    • Roberta
      As best I know Kapos were in concentration camps – they weren’t sending people to them

      and also as best I know all any of us say about how we may stand up under conditions like that is guessing

      As an example: when I was young doctors wouldn’t tell terminally ill patients the truth and it was said that even the best educated and most knowledgable would not admit it to themselves that their end was near.

      Death and fear of death, let alone of a horrible one, may make any of us behave in ways we had never expected from us.

      How about traitor? Once upon a time that was quite an accusation and I think it still is an accurate one.

    • Nazi sympathiser is pretty accurate, I think.

  28. I am afraid you are mistaken that establishing a state was opposed by all religious jews. The first vision of an independent Jewish state was penned even before Herzl, by Rabbi Yehuda Alcala’i. Before that, as early as 1600, Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura is his letters, toys with the idea of a Jewish autnomony being established under the Ottomans.

    • then again they were sephardic so i suppose they don’t count as “religious….”

    • I have been told that during that Herzl at one point most urgently wanted to get persecuted Jews from Russia to somewhere safe. I think both places in Africa and Latin America were under consideration.

      But he was overwhelmed by the participants clamouring that it had to be Israel and nothing but Israel.

      If I remember the facts correctly then remains the question, does it tell me something about the religiosity of the “clamourers” or was it just a case of revering whatever is ancient?

      • richardmillett

        Ironically, Herzl and his secular adherents wanted to go back to Israel but the religious wanted a night shelter anywhere but israel.

      • Richard
        as I have been told the story – Herzl himself at the Congress or some other gathering emphatically wanted anything or maybe he was lobbying governments for anything at some time.

        So if we mix all we have been told into a pot stir it and come out with the most plausible scenario it would be there were those and there were those all through the spectrum?

      • As I recall Herzl wanted any safe haven, not necessarily israel. At the 1901 congress the Zionists of Zion argued for israel. By the 1903 congress they won out and political Zionism aimed for israel only from then on. Herzl was dead by 1904, aged 44, and then Weizzman took on the diplomatic work which culminated in the 1917 Balfour Declaration (to cut a long story short).

      • If you google for Nachtasyl Herzl instead of the English translation you get the better results.

  29. The Uganda plan was discussed, yes, but always as an emergency measure to save Jews from pogroms at short notice, since it could have been – that was the thinking – set up more rapidly under a more sympathtic power.

  30. The Ger are not Anti-Zionist, in fact like Chabad Lubavitch, they have spoken against the withdrawals from the so called “occupied territories” Ger and Belz are also two of the most influential movements behind the Israeli political party Agudat Yisrael, which together with the Litvishe Degel HaTorah, forms United Torah Judaism. They are just against the secular Zionist ideologies but definitely support Religious Zionism like the Breslov, Bobov. Also, most the Breslov are very Zionist and have a settlement called Bat Ayin in West Bank, the Bobov also have a settlement called Betar Illit.

  31. Hi Yaakov,

    I guess it’s a question as to how you define Zionist. I think that you are accurate in describing Ger as being not Anti-Zionist, as opposed to Zionist. In this way you rightly differentiate them from Satma, Toldot Aharon, etc.

    However, Agudath Israel is not in any way a Zionist party and its opposition to Zionism is ideological and would be no different if the state was religious or not. I have no idea what you mean when you say that they and Degel Hatorah “definitely support Religious Zionism”. They do not and would be shocked to hear anyone say otherwise.

    It is true that these parties have representation in the Knesset as do non-Zionist Arab parties, but this does not make them Zionist anymore than Yitzhak-Meir Levin sitting in Polish parliament before World War Two made him into a Polish nationalist. They legitimately recognize that as citizens of the State of Israel they need representation as does any other group. They do not even have ministers in the government, but run ministries as deputy ministers (without ministers) to avoid having to accept collective responsibility for government decisions.

    The fact that they are opposed to territorial compromise and some live over the Green Line does not make them Zionist either. Their reasons for both of these are pragmatic, not ideological.

    I am a Religious Zionist. What makes me different to these people? To me Zionism is an integral part of my being Jewish. This expresses itself in many ways, among them I say a prayer for the State of Israel, celebrate Israel Independence Day similarly to other Jewish festivals and believe that the establishment of the State of Israel to have been the beginning of our redemption. I served and my children serve in the IDF because we believe it to be a commandment like others. To me the State of Israel, its flag, its anthem and its institutions have a degree of sanctity or G-dliness about them.

    I do not dislike Agudath Israel and my late great-uncle Harry Goodman http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Agudath_Israel was one of its founders. He did everything he could to prevent Israel from being established and mourned on the day that it was. He has children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren living in Israel today – to the best of my knowledge most of them saw the light many years ago, abandoned Haredi Judaism and are Zionists.

    Don’t get me wrong. They come in all shapes and sizes – some are bad, some good and others great, but they are not Zionists and certainly do not support Religious Zionism.

  32. NC take blood money from PSC, the leaders apparently net £20,000 per year each.