Can Jews and Arabs live in Peace?

Rabbi Joseph Kohn

The following speech was delivered by Rabbi Joseph Kohn of Neturei Karta International, on the Palestinian Nakba Day, May 15, 2016 at the Islamic Society of Central Jersey in Princeton, New Jersey

Asaloomo Alekoom,

First I would like to thank Dawud Assad, Chairman of today’s conference and the Islamic Society of Central Jersey for hosting us here today.

Today, May 15 is known as the Palestinian Nakba Day, the day when the catastrophe of the Palestinian people started 68 years ago in 1948. This catastrophe was unfortunately brought about by people of Jewish decent, supposedly in the name of all Jews.

It is a time for us, to come together in the name of peace.

Some people think the difference between our religions is the cause of the conflict.

And the question arises, is peace still possible? “Can Jews and Arabs live in Harmony?”

At one time not so long in the past, that question would have been considered absurd. Jews and Arabs did live in peace and harmony, both in Palestine and throughout the Middle East, for centuries.

There has always been a small community of Jews in Palestine. They lived under the Muslim government as loyal citizens, with no political agenda, in accordance with the teachings of the Torah and Jewish traditional guidelines for exile. They were religious people whose only desire was to serve G-d through prayer and study. They wished to practice the Jewish religion and fulfill its commandments, nothing more.

Yes, we Jews practiced our own religion, living side by side with our Arab and Muslim neighbors, despite the difference in our religions, this was never a cause for conflict.

What has changed? The religions did not change? What has changed?

For about 100 years ago a movement called Zionism was founded by secular Jews with a nationalistic agenda. They came to transform Judaism from a religion into nationalism.

Although they were breaking away from Judaism, they incorporated certain Jewish concepts into their movement in order to fool people. They realized that to win over the vast majority of Jews, they would need to base their movement on the Bible and Jewish tradition.

So the secular Zionists misused religious Jewish concepts like the name Israel, the Star of David, Holy Land and Jerusalem, and transformed them into nationalism. They misquoted from the Torah whatever was convenient for them. They proclaimed that Palestine was given to the Jews by G-d in ancient times, but they didn’t mention that it was also taken away by G-d because of our sins, that Jews are currently in exile, and that G-d forbids us to come back to it on our own.

When the Zionists began to carry out their plans, bringing thousands of Jews to settle in Palestine, they sparked conflict immediately. There were riots throughout the land in which hundreds were killed. The British government promised the Zionists a national home in Palestine, without compromising the rights of the Palestinian people, but they quickly realized their mistake. The country was 95% Palestinian when the British arrived. There was no way for the Zionists to achieve their goal without dispossessing the native population. And that is exactly what the Zionists did in 1947-1948:

In 1948, 1.4 million Palestinians lived in 1,300 Palestinian towns and villages all over historical Palestine. More than 800,000 of the population were driven out of their homeland to the west bank and Gaza strip, neighboring Arab countries, and other countries of the world, Zionists managed to take over the lands from 774 villages, and destroyed 531 Palestinian towns and villages between 1948 to 1950, in that period Zionist forces also committed more than 70 massacres in which more than 15 thousand Palestinians were killed,

Ben Gurion’s statement that the old will die and the young will forget is not true for both Palestinians and Jews,

This was the Nakba, the catastrophe. And this is why we unfortunately witness today enormous bloodshed on both sides of the conflict.

The great rabbis of the time saw the signs of trouble. They warned that the new Zionist movement was against the Torah and would only lead to danger and trouble.

The indigenous religious Jews of Palestine and in the rest of the world were strongly opposed to Zionism.

In the early part of the century, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Rabbi Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld negotiated with King Hussein in order to help the Orthodox Jewish community escape the Zionist machinations. As a result, in 1924 Haganah operatives -the Zionist pre-state military, assassinated the Rabbi’s advisor, Dr. Jacob de Haan.

Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dushinsky was the chief rabbi of Jerusalem in the 1940s. When the United Nations was considering the issue of Palestine in 1947, Rabbi Dushinsky appeared before them and declared that Judaism was against a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.

He also wrote in a declaration to the United Nations special committee on Palestine, quote: “We furthermore wish to express our definite opposition to a Jewish state in any part of Palestine”.

He later asked the UN that at least Jerusalem, where most of the Orthodox Jews lived, should not be included in the Jewish state.

If you visit our website we have a book called “Historic Documents” a compilation of Historic Documents of Jewish opposition to Zionism right from the beginning,

The UN respected his wishes and made plans for Jerusalem to be an international zone. But of course the Zionists didn’t care about the UN. They began trying to conquer Jerusalem on the first day of the war in 1948. The Jewish population of the Old City was completely religious Jews who were opposed to Zionism. The Zionist soldiers in the Old City wanted to fight to their last bullet, but two of the rabbis of the Jewish community, Rabbi Chazan and Rabbi Mintzberg, came out to the Jordanian army carrying a white flag. The Zionists troops fired at them and wounded Rabbi Chazan in the leg.

To this day, Orthodox Jews true to the Torah want no part in Zionism and its wars. This is why for the past 68 years; the Orthodox Jews living under Zionist occupation have steadfastly refused to serve in the Zionist army. The Israeli government has just recently passed a law that they must serve, but Orthodox Jews have rallied throughout the world and declared that they would sooner go to jail by the thousands. In fact, they refuse any form of recognition of, or co-operation with the state. They frequently pay for their opposition to the state by being arrested, beaten and, at times, murdered. Their voices are generally ignored in the Israeli press and throughout the world.

It was not only in Palestine that Jews lived peacefully. All over the Middle East, Jews lived in Arab and Muslim countries, in complete harmony with their neighbors. Jews were such loyal citizens of their countries, that when the Zionists, who were from European countries, wanted them to leave the Arab world and immigrate to the Zionist state, they proudly refused. The Zionists only succeeded in making them leave by spreading false rumors about anti-Jewish violence in those countries.

And in some cases the Zionists themselves killed Jews and made it seem as though this was done by the Arabs, in order to create panic and fear so that Jews should immigrate to Palestine.
Why is Zionism is against the Torah? Why did all the rabbis oppose it from day one? Simply because the Torah teaches that Jews are in exile by G-d’s decree. We cannot violate that decree and come out of exile on our own.

The Torah teaches that we must respect the property and rights of others. We are not allowed to steal people’s land. The Zionists not only stole land but even killed innocent people in order to frighten the others into leaving. Our rabbis with their wisdom saw that the Zionist movement would lead to this.

Zionism desecrates that name of G-d and the Jews, by committing crimes in their name. It embarrasses the Jewish people by making them seem like a religion of violence.

At this time of the year, while the Zionists celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the so called “State of Israel”, the worldwide Jewish community, faithful to the teachings of G-d and the Torah, gathers to commemorate this anniversary as a day of sorrow and tragedy.

Torah true Jews mourn the attempt to transform Judaism from a religion into a secular entity and the attempt to uproot millions of Jews from keeping the Torah. We mourn the sacrilege it has produced: desecration of the Sabbath, loss of modesty, and a litany of violations against many laws of our faith and Jewish teachings,

We mourn the subjugation, expulsion and horrific oppression of the Palestinian people, in a continuing chain of events, from the time of the foundation of the ‘State’, culminating in the recent tragic onslaught on Gaza. The list goes on and on…

After the Zionists succeeded in creating their state, the vast majority of religious Jews, who oppose Zionism, saw that they had no option but to make public protests against the Zionist state. Starting in the 1950s, and up until today, huge demonstrations have been held in Jerusalem, in New York and other major cities. Maybe you have seen videos of hundreds of thousands of Jews at some of these demonstrations.

But we face major obstacles when we demonstrate. The media deliberately ignores us, so our message is not heard in the world. Individual Jews and rabbis are intimidated by the Zionists to keep them silent.

Zionism teaches Jews to view all Arab nations as our enemies. It urges them to dwell endlessly on anti- Semitism, real and imagined, in order to justify the creation of the state and its subsequent aggressions. This obsession with wars, terror and counter terror, the subjugation of the Palestinians, reparations and claims against all nations and ever wilder charges of anti-Semitism, provide an inviting substitute religion for many Jews. This heresy is particularly tempting to Jews ignorant of Torah and due to historical and cultural forces, estranged from their faith.
Today, after all that Jews and Arabs have been through, there is unfortunately a wall of distrust between our peoples. But we believe that can be overcome, if we understand our past and recognize that the current conflict is not a religious conflict but a political one that has nothing to do with Judaism. The State of Israel does not represent world Jewry or the Jewish religion.
As religious Jews following the teachings and tradition of our Torah, we hope and pray for the peaceful and speedy dismantlement of the entire State of Israel. We promote full right of return for the Palestinians, who lost their land and homes,

Our position is the only one offering a real alternative to the status quo. Anti-Zionist Jews believe that the one path to peace in the Middle East, the only means for Jews to fulfill their proper role in exile and the only path demonstrating justice and kindness towards the Palestinians, is the total removal of the Israeli state. Only then, with sovereignty transferred to Palestinian rule, a free Palestine entirely, in accordance with the aspirations of the Palestinian people.
will a true peace be attained.

To the Palestinian people and the Arab and Muslim world, we say: You have no quarrel with the Jewish people. We are not your enemies. Our message is simple. Let us endeavor to live in peace and true mutual respect.

We have visited Palestinians in Gaza, in Lebanon, in Jordan. We have put our efforts into building bridges. Everywhere we go, we have found that Palestinians can accept Jews if they are not their enemy.

To our fellow Jews we ask that you all embrace the faith of our ancestors as revealed on Sinai; that you deal justly and kindly with all men and that we all work towards the day of ultimate brotherhood and redemption for mankind.

Once the obstacle of Zionism is removed, and the rights of the people of Palestine restored, we hope to see once again that peace that once existed between Jews and Arabs.
And ultimately we hope for the day of the revelation of the Almighty’s glory, when all of mankind will serve Him in peace, as we say in our prayer, “all nations shall form an alliance to do G-d’s will wholeheartedly”. Amen