This interview between Rabbi Beck and
Patrick Harrington was first conducted in 1991. The
views expressed do not necessarilly reflect those of
Third Way but we have decided to republish the interview
as a means to advance understanding and because we have
great respect for Rabbi Beck.
PH: Could you first explain what Neturei Karta
Neturei Karta was not founded as an official organization.
Neturei Karta is a general name which the world has
given to those who are opposed to Zionism. In order
to understand this topic, we have to understand what
Judaism is and what Zionism is. Those Jews throughout
the world who oppose Zionism have been given the name
PH: What for you then is the definition and
essential nature of a Jew?
The definition of Judaism is that Jews have received
the Torah from Mount Sinai. They handed over the Torah
from one generation to the next. This is the only possible
definition of Judaism. There is no other definition.
PH:So then, a Jew essentially is one who upholds
the given Law? The Torah?
One hundred per cent!
PH: What is your attitude to the Reform Movement?
The Reform Movement has left Ultimate Truth.
PH: How would you define Zionism?
Zionism is a relatively new movement which is based
upon a heretical denial of Judaism. It has succeeded
in recent years in being able to fool a large section
of the Jewish community into following its ways.
PH: In what way would you say that Zionism is
An adequate answer to this question would take a lot
of time. I will attempt to answer briefly. It should
be clear that a truly adequate answer would take a long
Zionism is heresy. If we examine the deeds and the
actions of the Zionists we can see that they are an
irreligious group which attempts to enforce irreligiousity
upon all those who come in contact with them. For example,
their courts of law are based upon non-Torah sources.
Practically speaking, we see that they are irreligious
and they force irreligiousity although it must be noted
that in Israel one finds a Ministry of Religion and
one also encounters people who refer to themselves as
'religious Zionists'. This fact should not blind us
to the central fact that the purpose of Zionism and
its essential character was to deny religion and to
go away from religion. The fact that there are signs
of religion in the Zionist government is simply a tactic
which they use. It is an appendage to their true self
which is anti-religion.
As we see in the writings of the Zionists themselves,
their purpose was to construct a new image of the Jewish
people - to create a new Jewish people. Their goal was
to change a people who were constituted on the basis
of faith and Torah and to substitute for that a people
who are free from both faith and Torah. This does not
necessarily mean that they would actively try to destroy
religion but merely by saying that religion is a matter
of personal conscience - that each person can decide
for themselves whether or not to obey the religion?
That religion becomes a private affair. By so saying
this, they have destroyed the intrinsic character of
the Jewish people, that character being an acceptance
We find that they refer in their writings to 'freedom'
and 'tolerance' so that their State or in their conception
of the Jewish people a Jew would have a right to accept
or reject religion. In fact in the history of the Zionist
State we see an active attempt to destroy religion.
PH: In what way have they tried actively to
destroy religion In Israel today?
The hatred towards religion and towards religious Jews
extends from one end of the country to the other. If
we examine the history of the Israeli State we see that
each group of immigrants that was brought in from countries
such as Morocco, Algeria, Iraq and Iran and today Russia,
the government conducts an active campaign to wean them
away from the practice of religion. At times it is a
violent campaign. Those that tried to stop this government
attempt were at times killed. That happened in certain
cases. It was not a standard policy. The standard policy
was to take Jews away from Judaism. As a witness to
that we see that many organizations that were founded
with the express purpose of preventing the government
and the Zionists from pulling Jews away from Judaism.
New immigrants have been especially susceptible to what
they were trying to do. The existence of these several
organizations, not necessarily Neturei Karta, but several
organizations that were working to prevent the Zionist
attempt to destroy Judaism is proof to what the Zionists
were trying to do.
PH: What then is the Zionist opinion of what
a Jew is if they have gone away from the definition
of someone who accepts the Torah and practices its precepts?
The true definition of a Jew is faith and Torah. Zionism
says it is nationalism.
PH: On what do they base this claim to nationalism?
In truth they had no basis and they themselves said
that they were originating something new. Were it not
for certain elements of the religious community that
attempted through various devious means to confuse the
minds of people it would have been clear that it was
completely baseless as far as authentic Jewish sources
PH:If the Zionist State does not base its
legal system on religious foundations, on what kind
of principle does it base its legal system? Is it some
kind of Social Contract idea?
Irreligious conceptions of what a State should be.
PH: I have read that the Haskala are seen as
the precursors of Zionism by Neturei Karta. Could you
explain and expand on that Point?
Until now we have been concerned with the practical
evil effects of Zionism. I would now like to move over
to the more philosophical or the ideological underpinnings
of that. The Jewish people are based on an internal
conception of who they are. That internal conception
is faith. That faith which stretches back to Mount Sinai.
There is nothing else amongst Jews. The only thing that
Jews have is their faith.
The basis of Jewish faith is an inner feeling of godliness.
All conceptions of Jewish peoplehood should be based
on a sense of God and godliness. The notion of a State
or and army of anything of that sort which is not rooted
in a traditional religious conception of godliness is
a denial of everything that Jews are supposed to be.
It is a naturalistic or a materialistic approach to
the Jewish people. It is a denial of Jewish peoplehood.
For example, the Torah commands us that our eating and
drinking or going about our physical daily activities
must be permeated by godliness.
To suggest that Jewish people can engage in a purely
naturalistic, deterministic understanding of themselves
is to deny the basic central qualities of the Jewish
people which are spiritual. Zionism did not only deny
the central nature of Judaism which is entirely spiritual
but it is also an attempt to change that essential nature
by saying that the Jews are not in their core a spiritual
people but merely a material people.
The Haskala or 'Enlightenment' suggested that there
was something else of value to the Jewish people besides
the spiritual. By so doing it denied this principle
we have been emphasising all along. A Jew who believes
the Thirteen Principles of the Jewish faith which were
codified by Maimonides and which have a long history
of being the thirteen essential dogmas of the Jewish
religion, is considered a part of the community of Israel.
A person who denies those thirteen principles has placed
himself outside that community.
PH: Who were the main thinkers involved with
the Enlightenment tradition and in what period did they
put forth such views?
The first one that we can mention was Moses Mendelsohn
approximately two hundred years ago. This was a time
when the jaws were first emerging from a period of persecution
and ghettoisatlon. When they left the ghettoes they
thought that the freedom that they sere now getting
could also become a freedom from religion, from the
The basic problem with the Enlightenment was that there
was an element of perfection arid self-improvement that
was not spiritual. Therefore the emphasis that Jews
should study secular wisdom, secular knowledge was a
fundamental principle of the Enlightenment. Now the
problem with that was not the study itself for there
had always been Jews who had studied 'worldly wisdom'.
The point was that they were saying that this 'worldly
wisdom' was a missing element, that there was something
missing in Torah and in a spiritual conception of a
Jew. For a Jew to think that there is perfection outside
of godliness is heresy. The Enlightenment began by saying
that there is something other than spiritual perfection.
The tie-in with Zionism now becomes clear in that the
Enlightenment was emphasising that man's perfection
Zionism is the same thing, not by saying that the perfection
of man is study or enlightenment but by saying that
the perfection of man lies in national salvation. Both
of these are manmade suggestions that there are other
forms of perfection and fulfillment besides the spiritual.
What Zionism said was not so much that the Torah should
not be observed but that true value lay in nationalism.
The Torah could be an appendage to nationalism but that
'the real' essential fulfillment of Judaism was nationalism.
PH: How far were the Zionist thinkers influenced
by the nationalist climate in Europe at that time?
It is not a question of influence, it was precisely
the same process taking place. At that period in time
there was a tremendous sense of self-determination.
The Zionists mistakenly compared themselves to these
other nations that were then involved in self-determination
The fact that we note that there are some Torah observing
Jews that do adhere to Zionism can be explained by the
fact that the Zionist denial of who the Jew is not necessarily
a physical, technical denial but at times a spiritual
denial, so that by postulating that there is something
for a Jew other than fulfillment in the Torah but by
not trying to uproot It, Zionism was capable of conning
a certain number of observant Jews. The thing was not
necessarily manifest In action By saying that there
is fulfillment for Jews in nationalism they were denying
the basic foundation of Judaism. Since they were not
doing this in action they were capable of deceiving
Torah observers as well.
PH: In the early stages, how far was Zionism
a majority view within the Jewish community in the different
The basic principle of Zionism was that Jews should
abandon their traditional thought patterns which were
spiritual and adopt completely new ones. It is conceivable
that large sections of the Jewish people could continue
to observe the Torah and yet become infected with the
Zionist notion that there is something else beside Torah.
I want to keep hammering away at this point that although
a Jew can remain observant, in his heart-of-hearts he
will have abandoned Torah because he will have given
something else to value.
For a Jew there can be nothing else of value. Conceivably
one could go on being observant and one could think
that one has the proper dogmas and yet have missed this
basic point. Historically it did not happen and it would
not have been possible for Zionism to grow amongst these
segments of the Jewish people that were devoted to Torah
and the traditional ways. It could not have grown. It
could not have started out.
At the time that the 'Jewish State' was established
that new establishment was a violation of the Three
Talmudic Oaths which prohibited the Jewish people from
forcefully ending their exile. Even before the State
came into fruition, the mere thought that this was something
that Jewish people should engage in was already a denial
of the basics of faith. At the time when Zionism began
the Torah leaders of the Jewish community opposed Zionism
with fiery opposition. This was with the exception of
a handful who for whatever reason went along with it.
Because those leaders understood the way that it denied
the essential spiritual nature of the Jewish people,
it was almost unanimous and forthright opposition. After
both world wars and poverty and suffering which Jewish
people underwent, people began to become confused and
began to feel that there might be salvation through
PH:What is the nature of the relationship of
anti-Semitism in the development of Zionism?
I cannot explain the root of anti-Semitism because I
am Jewish. Zionism itself is the greatest enemy of the
Jewish people. It has caused untold suffering to the
Jewish people. The extent that Zionism caused anti-Semitism
is a secondary point. The major point is that Zionism
has created havoc amongst the Jews themselves.
Besides the fact that Zionism is a spiritual threat
to the Jewish people, the early Zionists actually wrote
that it would be profitable for the Jewish people to
have anti-Semitism. They wrote that we should actually
try to encourage anti-Semitism to force the Jews to
opt for Zionism. This is the connection. Anti-Semites
in Europe actually took Zionist writings which emphasised
Jewish 'differentness' and used these writings as an
excuse for their anti-Semitism. There was a practical
connection as well as the spiritual connection.
There is no doubt that the sufferings which the Jewish
people endure are spiritual sufferings that God imposes
on them for various sins. One of the punishments for
transgressing the Three Oaths mentioned above that the
Jews were to be sworn By God not to rebel against the
nations and visit to re-establish their nationhood by
military might - was that God said that he would allow
the Jews to be slaughtered. He would allow their flesh,
so speak, to become open to anyone to attack them, so
certainly there was a connection in that sense between
anti-Semitism, Nazi persecution etc. Because Jews having
transgressed these oaths thereby left themselves to
PH: How far did anti-Semitism In Europe contribute
to the change in the attitude of the majority of the
Jewish population towards Zionism and lead them to see
Zionism as some sort of solution?
Certainly the suffering endured by these people between
1940 and 1945 was capable of confusing them. It led
them to believe that their salvation might be obtained
through naturalistic means. Here we can see the difference
between the Zionist conception of Judaism and the Torah
conception of Judaism. The Zionist conception would
say. 'The reason that we suffered between 1940 end 1945
was because we were incapable of defending ourselves
properly, we had not gotten our act together, we were
weak and we should be strong.' Whereas the Torah conception
would say, 'People have suffered because of their sins.
It is art act of Divine Providence. Search out these
sins which have caused that Suffering', here we see
a very distinct difference in the reactions of traditional
Jews and Zionists.
PH: Why was Zionism appealing to a section of
the Jewish population if they were inculcated with respect
for the Torah? What led them towards Zionism?
The combination of the suffering and the fact that at
certain points in history the Evil Powers in the world
become powerful enough to be able to snatch certain
souls. There are certain points in history where spiritual
uncleanliness is capable of triumph. The War also has
to be emphasised. The tremendous destruction of the
Jewish people made people, even those who were brought
up in a Torah environment, susceptible to this. They
were looking for something to prevent this from happening
again. A certain percentage of the strong personalities
who had led the prewar generation had been killed during
the war. A lot of the truly learned Torah leadership
no longer existed.
PH: What then should be the attitude of a Jew
towards Zionism and the State of Israel?
There must be utter and total disdainful rejection of
Zionism and the Zionist State.
PH: If the Jews are not to have a homeland or
nation-state of their own and if they cannot further
that state through material means what should Jewish
attitudes be towards the countries that they are living
Not only what the Jewish response should be but what
is the fact the traditional response of Torah Jews today
is a response of total loyalty to the countries in which
they find themselves, total patriotism to the countries
in which they find themselves because this is in fact
the commandment of God and the commandment of the Torah
that Jews should behave in that way.
PH: Why then do some feel that there is a tradition
of that not being communicated to the [Jewish] people
in many lands? In European countries that doesn't seem
to have been communicated.
Those 'quiet Jews' who are obedient to the Torah and
to God have this position. Unfortunately they are not
loud and the louder Jews have made this impression [of
disloyalty] and anti-Semites are predisposed to take
these 'loud Jews' and to emphasise them and not to emphasise
the silent masses.
PH: Essentially then the Zionist nationalism
is based on a denial of the essential nature of what
a Jew is in the religious conception? It's a strange
sort of nationalism that denies the actual thing that
defines a nation in the first place! This is very difficult
for Europeans to understand, so perhaps you could enlarge
on that point. The second point is if they are on the
one hand using a religious definition as they seem to
be basing many of their arguments to be a nation on
an implied acceptance of religion, this is perhaps one
of the factors which creates anti-Semitism because people
see a strange connection, They think 'what is this definition?
Is there some racial element to it? Not stated, but
which is implicit because they are not going for the
religious but asserting the right to be seen as a notion
and people have it in their minds, 'What is the underlying
principle? is it a racial thing?
The essential nature of Judaism or nationalism?
PH: Firstly I'm asking whether Judaism and Zionism
are essentially contradictory. Is it denial of the very
thing that defines a Jew and how can gentiles understand
We can understand this singularly strong notion that
a people by denying their very essence constitute themselves
as a people by understanding that the Zionists themselves
are to be viewed as the lowest element among the people.
We're not talking about a middle element or an upper
element amongst a people beginning a movement. We're
talking about those who deny Judaism, people who throughout
the history of the movement have been willing to use
Jewish blood as the oil to grease the tires of their
They've always been willing to kill and be killed Jews
and other peoples.
We're talking about a lower element, so the fact that
a lower element sought a definition which was a denial
of the essentials of Judaism is not surprising at all.
Not only are they lower element among the people but
the fact that tray were able to construct this apparatus
of a State was very alluring and although it was based
upon the denial of Judaism, the attractive apparatus
of statehood was successful in blinding the eyes of
Regarding the previous point about Zionism and anti-Semitism.
Firstly, anti-Semitism, amongst Jews, was always regarded
as punishment from God for our sins. Anti-Semitism appears
to be an, irrational thing so clearly this is proof
that it is providential. It's from God - a punishment
from God for our sins. Secondly, Zionists did do things
which clearly incited anti-Semitism. immoral things,
aggressive things in opposition to England like killing
soldiers and similarly now with the Palestinians.
(Interjection from colleague of Rabbi Beck) I'm from
Palestine you know?
I was born in Jerusalem, many generations of my family
lived in Jerusalem and lived together with Arabs in
peace. Hatred from the Arabs began in response to Zionism
at that time.
PH: What is the origin of anti-Zionism within
Neturei Karta and of the name 'Neturei Karta'?
There was a time in the 1920s in which Zionist agitation
had led to a tremendous degree of Arab anti-Semitism.
There was a point in which it was almost impossible
to walk out in tile streets of Jerusalem - the Arabs
were that interested in killing or injuring any Jew
they saw. At that time the anti Zionist Jews decided
that the proper response to this Arab violence and hatred
was to go to a printer and print up a brief Talmudic
passage which follows:
"When Resh Lakish [who was one of the talmudic
sages] came to a town he asked. 'Who are the guardians
of the city?' The people replied, "The showman,
the military. Resh Lakish said. 'They're the guardians
of the city? They're the destroyers of the city! The
true guardians of the city are the pious people who
are engaged in prayer'. The name 'Neturei Karta' means
'guardians of live city', 'Neturei' means 'guardian'.
'Karta' means 'city'.
They wanted in the Twenties to take this Talmudic passage,
have it printed and plastered on the walls of Jerusalem
without any commentary at all. Just this one passage.
They went from printer to printer and they were unable
to find anybody at that time who would print this passage
that would be put up on the walls. At that time the
response was always, 'we've got to fight', so all the
printers were unable to print this passage until they
finally found one somewhere.
The response of the Zionists was so negative towards
this passage that it became adopted as their [anti-Zionists']
symbolic passage and hence the name 'Neturei Karta'.
Rabbi Blau who was one of the founders and chief ideologues
of this movement actually told me this story. He was
one of those who continued on with the anti-Zionist
tradition from that time.
PH: Explain the attitude of Neturei Karta to
the Palestinian people. How would it be possible for
Jewish people to live within Israel and conduct their
religious duties and prayers and so on and have reverence
for the Holy Sites but also have a relationship with
the Palestinian people without having a State?
Since authentic Jewish people are opposed to the notion
of a State altogether, there would be no problem whatsoever
in Jews living in the area of Israel and Palestine.
For hundreds of years there were Jewish communities
of Prayer and study in the area that the State of Israel
rules today. Those communities lived in complete peace
with the surrounding Arabs. Not only in Israel, but
also throughout the Arab world, traditionally Jews and
Arabs lived together in peace. There were other lands
where there was conflict. The Arab lands were completely
peaceful for the Jews. That was the way it was in Palestine
and that could continue in the future. There would be
communities of Jews that would be interested in prayers
and study and that could be under a Palestinian State
in absolute peace and harmony - as it has always traditionally
been in Jerusalem and other cities in Israel.
(Interjection from colleague of Rabbi Beck) The hatred
between Jews and Arabs in Palestine was caused by Zionism.
This did not exist beforehand. I cart testify to this
myself. My grandfather lived peacefully with Arabs 150
years before the Zionist movement. After this the whole
problem was created by the Zionist movement. We lived
in a neighbourhood that was full of Arabs. We would
borrow things from each other and there was no problem
PH: Does the Neturei Karta co-operate with any
I want to emphasise that we are not limiting 'Natural
Karta' to one organization. We are describing the tendency
of authentic Jewry to fight against and oppose Zionism.
We don't want to limit it to one group or name. Their
approach is friendliness to all peoples of the world.
What they can say is there should not be a 'Jewish State'.
Exactly what the parameters of the alternative should
be is not their business. That's not their role to say.
For example if two lawyers are working on separate cases,
one lawyer should go about advancing his own case. Whoever
it belongs to should work out who it belongs to Clearly
the Zionist State is wrong. What the alternative should
be is not my place to advocate. Jewish people who oppose
Zionism have traditionally participated together with
the Palestinians in protests against Zionist atrocities
and so forth. We are sympathetic to them and their suffering.
We recognize their right to rule. If we examine this
in a simply proper and ethical way they are the legitimate
rulers of the country. So if pressed to answer what
is our political position it is that they are the rightful
rulers of the Country. It clearly belongs to them. The
gentlemanly approach would be to have it given back
to them, but exactly to whom, to what faction, what
group does not concern me. It is clear to me that if
it had not been for Zionism the Palestinian people would
never have been opposed to religious Jewish settlements
in the area known today as the State of Israel.
PH:Explain the relevance of the three Talmudic
The only possible approach to the problem of the State
of Israel which could result in a solution which would
not involve suffering and blood spilled by Jews and
others would be the abandonment of the State. Clearly
it appears that this is something that they are not
going to do. The problem - the cause of the suffering
is Zionism and the Zionists.
It is important to emphasise tie distinction between
a Zionist and the conflict between the Jewish faith
and Zionism. Zionism is the cause of the hatred between
Jews and Arabs.
The Three Oaths are as follows - Firstly that Jewish
people should not rebel against the nations of the world;
Secondly that they should not engage in any actions
which will accelerate the coming of the End of Days
and the Third is that they should not go as a mass group
to Israel. These are the Three Oaths that were placed
upon the Jewish people. Obviously Zionism is in direct
conflict with these Three Oaths.
PH: What essential message would you like to
give to non-Jewish Europeans in how they should respond
to the various things you trade said?
As a message to European peoples, I emphasise that Judaism
is defined as a religion - a spiritual affair based
upon faith and the Torah. This is the sole interest
of the Jewish people - to pursue their spiritual life
and their spiritual destiny. They are in no way a politically
aggressive people, they have no devices or intentions
upon any other people.
I ask that European peoples do not confuse and attribute
to the Jewish people the actions of Zionists. These
actions are rejected with utter disdain by the Jewish
people. Traditional Jewish people are enraged by the
theft of the term "Israel" by the Zionists.
Non-Jews should realize that this was a theft. The Zionists
stole this name and there is no connection whatsoever
between the actions of the Zionists and traditional
Jewish people. European peoples should view these as
two separate groups and not attribute the thoughts of
one to the other.
The text of this interview has also been reproduced
on the Jews Not Zionists Website