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Notes Towards Rescuing Judaism from Zionism

Presented by Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta International June 14, 2002, at the Barnes Review Third International Conference in Washington DC

With the Creator's help may my words and our discussions here today find favor in His eyes.

I first would like to thank Mr. Rafail Johnson, Mr. Willis Carto, Mrs. Anne Cronin and the Barnes Review for so graciously giving us this opportunity to present the Torah Jewish view, here today. It is a great privilege to address such an august and esteemed gathering.

Thank you.

There is, perhaps, no other topic about which Jews disagree, with the fervor that they disagree and have disagreed, as on the subject of Zionism. Although, perhaps you may not know this, but despite stereotypes to the contrary, we have been known as a people to disagree at times among ourselves.

Today, I hope to present some of the opinions found, at present, among Jews and to explain why, it is so clear to us that some of them are authentic and traditional and others have strayed far from the correct path.

Further, we will explore a segment of Neturei Karta's public activities that are often misunderstood and misrepresented when reported in the mainstream press.

At the conclusion I will welcome questions from the floor.

Before so doing, however, I'd like to offer a working definition of Orthodox Judaism. I do so because this definition will frame all that follows. My remarks are based on the beliefs, practices and laws of the Torah. Although, in truth, much of what I say, especially when we will turn our attention, a bit later to the current situation in the Holy Land, may be understood in secular or humanistic terms, we believe that Jews must step beyond the limitations of this worldly philosophies, however morally commendable they may be.

What is Orthodox or, as we would insist, normative Judaism? It is the belief that the Creator revealed to the Jewish people, at Mount Sinai, the Torah. This Torah is divided into two parts: the Written Law, known in common parlance as the Old Testament Bible and the Oral Law, which encompasses much of the Rabbinic literature, such as the Mishnah and Talmud. This latter corpus was largely transmitted through the generations by word of mouth, until it was ultimately codified in the just-mentioned works.

Judaism always taught that it was imperative that Jews believe in and practice their faith, the Torah, with all its many detailed laws, and one is forbidden to stray from these laws even one iota, even slightly.

However, Judaism knows of no commandment to convert the non-Jew and, in fact, all converts to Judaism throughout the years have been completely voluntary. Of the non-Jew, the Torah asks that all humanity believe in Him and observe His basic moral law which is detailed in the Torah. That person is then referred to as a righteous individual, who will inherit the world to come.

And, in accordance with God's law, the Jewish people lived throughout the generations, humbly and purely, immersed in study and practice of the Creator's Will, and His many Torah commandments.

In the aftermath of the European Enlightenment, the basics of Jewish existence came under attack. For the first time in our people's history there were large numbers of Jews who left the Torah faith. In addition, assorted movements sprang up that attempted to maintain Jewish identity while abandoning the God-centeredness of Jewish life and, along with it, obedience to Torah, - such as the Reform Jewish movement and later the Conservative Jewish movement.

Zionism, historically speaking, is just one of these many late nineteenth and early twentieth century attempts to create a secular Jewish identity. However, unlike others such as Autonimism, Bundism, Yiddishism, all of which were eventually reduced to cult-like status, Zionism has experienced much success. Perhaps this is due to its unique weaving of what appear to be traditional themes into the fabric of its novel ideology.

I - Traditional Jewish Beliefs
Concerning Exile and Redemption

Abraham, the mutual forefather of the Jewish people and their Arabic cousins, is described by the children of Cheth in the Bible as “a prince of the Lord in our midst”. (Genesis 23:6). Since man does not live in isolation, one of the goals of the true religious personality is to achieve a degree of devotion capable of evoking among others their desire to emulate his piety.

From Abraham's days this was a major priority of the Jewish people. The revelation at Mt. Sinai placed an enormous burden upon our people. We were summoned to be “a kingdom of priests and a Holy nation”. (Exodus 19:6).

Down through the ages Jews lived a humble, holy existence, seeking peace with all men and attempting to function as loyal and cooperative citizens in the nations amongst whom they dwelled, as God so required of them.

What is the traditional Torah belief concerning the Holy land?

The Holy Land was a conditional Divine gift. It was a place set aside for God's worship. But it was given to the Jewish people conditionally. The Bible foretold that if the "children of Israel" should fail in their spiritual task, they would be banished from the land and sent into exile. This exilic punishment will last until the Lord in His mercy, would see fit to end history as we know it, by ushering in the Messianic era -- a time of universal brotherhood and peace. This utopian future will feature the recognition and worship of the One God by all mankind, in peace and harmony, centered in the Holy Land and the city of Jerusalem.

In the Additional Service recited on every major Jewish holiday we find the following prayer, "And because of our sins we were exiled from our land and removed from our soil and we cannot now go up and appear and prostrate ourselves before You."

These prayers represented nothing new in the way of doctrine to those who instituted and recited them. From the time of the Temple's destruction and throughout Jewish history our people always regarded their exile as a Divine punishment. Indeed, no Jews ever dared suggest in the thousands of years of our exile that the Romans had destroyed the Temple due to a lack of Jewish military preparedness or resources. Rather, the Temple was lost physically because of the Jewish people's failure to live up to their spiritual obligations to God.

Indeed, despite thousands of years in exile, frequent exclusion and persecution, no Jew ever suggested that the Holy Land could or should be retaken by force of arms. Exile was, indeed, a physical state. Yet, it was completely caused and perpetuated by spiritual forces. Thus the only means to end exile and to usher in the promised era of peace and worldwide brotherhood, were and are spiritual. They consist of the essential practices of our faith: repentance, prayer, Torah study and good works. And the eventual goal, the end of exile does not mean a "state of Israel", a political entity, oppression and subjugation of another people. Rather this is the antithesis of the end of exile as we hope for, that is, a spirituality of brotherhood, harmony and of worldly servitude to the One God.

In the words of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (German Jewish leader 1808 - 1888), "During the reign of Hadrian when the uprising led by Bar Kochba proved a disastrous error, it became essential that the Jewish people be reminded for all times of an important essential fact, namely that [the people of] Israel must never again attempt to restore its national independence by its own power; it was to entrust its future as a nation solely to Divine Providence:" (Hirsch Siddur, 1965: p.703)

Again Rabbi Hirsch writes, "We mourn over that which brought about that destruction [of the Temple] we take to heart the harshness we have encountered in our years of wandering as the chastisement of a father, imposed on us for our improvement, and we mourn the lack of observance of Torah which that ruin has brought about. . . This destruction obliges us to allow our longing for the far away land to express itself only in mourning, in wishing and hoping; and only through the honest fulfillment of all Jewish duties to await the realization of this hope. But it forbids us to strive for the reunion or possession of the land by any but spiritual means." (Horeb, 1981: p.461)

Zionism rejects all the above. It insists that exile is purely a physical state, caused by military and physical weakness. The movement called upon the Jewish people to end exile by force of arms. It waged war, first against the British, then against the Palestinians.

The attempt to explain the exile in this worldly terms and deal with it accordingly is not simply an error of doctrine or a distortion of Jewish history. It strikes at the core of Jewish belief. In fact, the Maharal of Prague (Czechoslovakian Rabbi and pivotal medieval Jewish leader, 1525-1609) writes that a Jew should rather give up his life than attempt to end exile by conquering the Holy Land. (Netzach Yisroel, 24)

Why? Why was this seen as so basic to our belief system?

In simple terms - if one views the exile as the result of military cause and effect, then the very heart and soul is ripped out of Jewish destiny and Divine guidance. By asserting our right to alter the Divine plan of exile as punishment, repentance, expiation and miraculous return, we assert that the essence of Jewish destiny is fundamentally capable of being altered by other than spiritual forces. God is then exiled from the drama and final resolution of mankind's hopes. And in yet simpler terms, to refute the fact, that all reward and punishment to every individual is from God and to refute God’s constant supervision, to ignore this and contend that our punishments, are due to physical weakness, is blasphemous and heretical.

Of course, exile is far more than mere punishment. The Jewish people were sent amongst the nations in order to proclaim by word and deed the truths of God's existence and His revelatory injunctions for all men.

In the words of Rabbeinu Bachya (12th century Saragossian Biblical commentator): "The Jewish people should spread among the nations in order that those nations should learn from them belief in the existence of God and the flow of Divine Providence regarding the particulars of men."

II - Why did Zionism Succeed?

Tragically, two events coalesced to cloud over the above once universally recognized truths among the Jewish people. First, the exile dragged on for hundreds and eventually thousands of years. Second, in the aftermath of the Enlightenment, many Jews abandoned Torah faith. Thus, those Jews who no longer saw exile in Divine terms sought to explain it as nothing more than the result of this worldly powerlessness.

In their frustration at the length of the exile, they demonized all nations. In their view all Gentiles would forever hate the Jewish people. Therefore, they reasoned, we must immediately end exile by political and, if need be, military means. Thus was born the pseudo-religion of Zionism.

III - What was the Torah Leaders Reaction to this Movement?

The spread of Zionism to Eastern Europe resulted in fierce condemnations by the then Rabbinic leadership. Their opposition was based on two factors. First, the movement rejected the traditional approach to Exile. Second, since 95% of its leaders and supporters were irreligious it generally formed a path over which Jews could leave their faith. And in fact, they strived to make the religious, God-fearing Jews and especially the youth, into non-religious, secular Jews. Unfortunately, they where wildly successful. Basically, they wanted to transform Judaism from a spiritual, Godly entity, into a secular, political entity - with its goal, a land, materialism etc., acquired through military means.

IV - Moral Dilemma

There was a second issue, no less important, involved here and that was a moral dilemma, involving the oppression and subjugation of a people, the stealing of their land and of their sovereignty. All of this is most strictly forbidden by God and His Torah.

The Zionist platform necessitated ignoring the Palestinian inhabitants of the land. This was the other great evil of Zionism. It tried to tell the world that Palestine was uninhabited and all those living there were little better than barbarians. As their famous slogan went "a land without a people for a people without a land".

Although isolated voices within the Zionist movement were raised that protested this moral blindness, the mainstream movement was determined to proceed regardless of Palestinian sentiments. In retrospect it is worth noting the efforts of those associated with the movements of Brit Shalom and Ichud (Zionist organizations) who insisted that any attempt at Jewish return to Zion could only be done with the cooperation of the Palestinians.

When this strategy of ignoring the Arab community became impossible, the Zionist movement and later the Israeli state, sought to depict them as unreasonable enemies, for whom military conquest was the only just fate.

Accordingly, both exilic missions (repentance and serving as a "light unto the nations") were savaged by the ideology and deeds of Zionism.

V - Israel, the Grim Reality

In 1948 the state of Israel became a reality. The Jewish people were now to have a safe haven. Jews need no longer fear the exile. They had come home. Eventually all Jews would find their way to the "new Jewish homeland."

It is worth noting two historical episodes in the early stages of Zionism. In the 1920's the chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, personally went to king Abdullah of TransJordan to declare the Jewish communities’ loyalty, and in order to elucidate the true Jewish stance, which was in total opposition to the Zionist movement. The second episode was in 1947. The then chief Rabbi, who was Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dushinsky sent a letter to the United Nations in Lake Placid, stating that he has 60,000 Jews under his authority and that they request not to be included in the, soon to be formed "state of Israel". Unfortunately, they where totally ignored.

These chief Rabbis in Jerusalem should not be confused with the “chief Rabbis” and “Rabbinate” of the "state of Israel". For these above mentioned chief Rabbis, where truly the leaders of Jewry, in Jerusalem, Palestine and worldwide. While the Rabbinate of the “state of Israel” and their Rabbi's are a farce, and have nothing to do with the true Jewish religion, and certainly cannot represent anything Jewish or the Jewish people.

The misgivings and warnings of so many Orthodox leaders were forgotten. A euphoria seized much of world wide Jewry.

Today 54 years later the dream has become an obvious nightmare.

There is no safe haven. The “state of Israel” is, the most dangerous place in the world for a Jew today. Wars follow upon wars. The toll of Jewish and Palestinian dead mounts steadily. Efforts toward peace have failed. Further attempts to "wage war on terrorism" will doubtless exacerbate Palestinian resentment.

The Zionist leaders are at a loss as to how to proceed.

VI - Our Current Goals

The goals of Neturei Karta International, are varied.

First, we seek to keep alive the traditional Jewish approach to exile and redemption. The notion that the great, glorious and spiritual miraculous prophecies of Scripture have been, are and will be fulfilled by those who reject the basics of Torah is bizarre and repugnant. The notion that our people are no longer in exile because the likes of Chaim Weitzman or David benGurion, have so decided, is false and distasteful.

Jewry always yearned through centuries of precarious existence for the true redemption of the Messiah. This Messiah has been the source of our hopes and prayers since the Temple's destruction.

The true redemption of our people and of all mankind is in the hands of the Creator. It is imperative that we realize that we are still in exile. Failure to do so will mean that the mitzvah of being metsapim l'yeshuah -- yearning for redemption, will be lost. We will no longer seek to alleviate the burden of sin that has brought us exile. And we may fall prey, as do Zionists and their lackeys, to an inappropriate and aggressive stance towards the Gentile host countries. On the contrary, it is imperative that the Jewish people, be thankful to the people of the countries that have hosted them and shown them hospitality, throughout the generations. We, the true followers of Judaism worldwide, are truly grateful and wish to express our gratitude to all those nations, including the Arab nations and including the Palestinian people. Further, we are commanded to be peaceful and loyal citizens in every country wherein we reside. And again the true Torah abiding Jews worldwide, obey fully this commandment.

Second, it is just as repugnant, painful and embarrassing to us, the oppression of the Palestinian people, we wish to undo the damage done to the good name of the Jewish people by those who wage war against the Palestinians and open the wounds of enmity between Jewish and non Jewish peoples. We meet with Palestinians and Muslims leaders and layman around the world. We join in the pain and suffering of the Palestinians and other men of good will in their battle against oppression and in their struggle for justice.

If Jews wanted to settle in Palestine, then this had to be conducted with the agreement of the land's indigenous people. The notion of taking it from them or of depriving them of their sovereignty and right to representative government is totally wrong.

The Jewish people were not created to oppress another people. They were intended to be moral paragons. The desire for the land at any cost to anyone is a contradiction with our moral national mission.

Third, we seek to promote goodwill between Jewry and all mankind. The philosophy of Zionism encourages Jews to lord over all non-Jews. This results in endless Jewish confrontations with all people. This is improper at any time and certainly at present. Ironically, the Zionist state was supposedly created to protect Jews from anti-Semitism, yet they are the greatest and main creator of anti-Semitism worldwide.

We welcome all Jews and all men of goodwill to our efforts.

We pray and hope that those Jewish people who have strayed from the correct path return to the true folds of their faith. We further pray for the peaceful and speedy dismantling of the Zionist state, without any further bloodshed and pain to Muslim or Jew. We pray and hope for the eventual redemption of all people, and for the day when all mankind will recognize the One God and serve Him together in peace and harmony speedily in our days. AMEN

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