Islamism Digest interview with Rabbi Weiss

Islamism Digest: Please provide a brief description of the Neturei Karta order.

Rabbi Weiss: We are practicing Jews and we deeply regret the fact that today Judaism is chiefly represented by the state of Israel which calls itself a Jewish state. We feel Israel is desecrating Judaism and God’s name. We try to tell the world that Israel is diametrically opposite to Judaism; it is antithetical to Judaism; and they have no right to speak in our name. We also claim that Zionism is the greatest catalyst for anti-Semitism around the world.

ID: Would you describe Neturei Karta as an organization?

RW: We are not an organization in the sense that we do not have our unique ideology. We give voice to the people and we believe we represent the true Judaism. We can not accept the concept of Zionism and the state of Israel.

ID: Are you involved in interfaith dialogue with Muslims, particularly with Muslims in Palestine?

RW: Yes, we have a dialogue with Muslims both within and outside the Muslim world. We also have a presence in Palestine, since the Palestinian authority allows us to operate in areas under its control.

ID: How do you advise Muslims to overcome the Israeli experience when they deal with Jewish people?

RW: We tell Muslims everywhere – especially Muslims in Palestine – that this is not a religious conflict and the rift created by Zionism is truly artificial. Muslims and Jews had co-existed peacefully for over a millennia and the recent phenomenon of Zionism should not be allowed to wipe out this historical fact. Muslims should remember that Zionism is a political movement and as such it has nothing to do with the Jewish faith.

ID: But the reality is that the majority of Jews around the world either strongly support Israel or at the very least are sympathetic to it. Do you accept this?

RW: There is a wide spectrum of Jewish opinion on Israel. At the end of the day everything about Israel is contradictory to what we know about the Jewish faith. The creation of the state of Israel was contradictory to God’s will but the key question now is what we do with Israel. This is the question that confronts most religious Jews. There is a strong body of Orthodox Jewish opinion in Israel that refuses to serve the Israeli state by, for instance, not sending their sons and daughters to serve in the military. This provokes a sharp reaction from the rest of Israeli society which regards the religious Jews as “leeches” since they allegedly benefit from the state but refuse to give anything in return. This is what is alleged anyway.

ID: It seems that as long as Israel exists Muslims will inevitably conflate Judaism with Zionism. Do you think this mindset can be effectively challenged?

RW: This is because of the powerful global media control of Zionism. The Zionists manipulate the global media in many ways but one of their core aims has been to silence any other form of Jewish thought and ideology. The Zionists have been successful as presenting themselves as the authentic will of world Jewry. We are not under the illusion that we can combat the global media power of the Zionists and their allies but we can do our part in enlightening Palestinians and other Muslims about the true nature of the Jewish faith. We will follow in the footsteps of our ancestors and go door to door if necessary to enlighten people and fight the evil of Zionism.

ID: Do you agree that the Palestinians are the biggest victims of terrorism in the modern era?

RW: I am not politically savvy enough to endorse or contest such a statement but I will say that what is happening to the Palestinian people is a catastrophe on an epic scale.

ID: Is Zionism a terrorist movement?

RW: It is totally terrorist! There is no doubt that the Palestinians are victims of terrorism but I am not in a position to say whether they are the biggest victims of terrorism or not. What is clear to me is that the Palestinians are totally in the right.

ID: They are totally in the right?!

RW: There is no question that they are totally in the right. After all, their lands were stolen from them by a terrorist movement.

ID: But the people born in Israel after the founding of the sate, surely they have done nothing wrong. Are they not entitled to the lands they own?

RW: If a person invades someone’s house and then has children there the house does not become the property of his offspring. To suggest otherwise would be ridiculous. In the case of Israel, the offspring have been subjected to relentless propaganda that seeks to legitimize the Zionist entity, often through the vilification and even the denial of the Palestinian nation. I am not saying everyone that supports Israel is evil, but we must understand the role of propaganda in the false national consciousness of Israelis.

ID: So what is the solution to this problem?

RW: The Israelis have to return the land to the Palestinians, who are the rightful owners, a move that would automatically extinguish Israel, hopefully forever. Only a gesture on this scale would enable the Jews to remain in Palestine. I am confident that the Palestinians would allow us to remain in the country and live side by side with them. According to Jewish law, Jews are obligated to respect the laws of the country they are living in, and as long as the Jewish people respect the laws of the future Palestinian state there is no reason why they can’t remain there and actively participate in its national life.

ID: Theoretical – and some would say improbable – scenarios aside, do you support the armed Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation?

RW: I have a complicated answer because my views are dictated by the Torah and the Jewish tradition. Throughout centuries of persecution the Jewish people refused to take up arms because our approach to suffering is to seek God’s help first and foremost and subsequently approach the oppressors and use persuasion and other peaceful methods to stop the persecution. This approach was used even during the worst persecutions such as the Spanish inquisition. We deeply recognize the enormity of the Palestinian tragedy but we really can not recommend any other way to fight evil and oppression.

ID: Based on that analysis is Hamas a terrorist organization?

RW: In our view none of the political or military representatives of the Palestinian people are terrorists. They are standing up for the right of getting back the land that is rightfully theirs. We stand back when they use violence because we can’t defend anything that is alien to our heritage. However, we can not dictate to other countries and peoples how to fight their struggle. The bottom line is that we deeply sympathize with the Palestinian people.

ID: How would you define terrorism from the Jewish point of view?

RW: I am not sure I can answer this question competently. According to Judaism whatever transgresses God’s law is evil. Anything that causes harm and suffering is evil and warped. Anything that is not officially sanctioned by God and the Torah can be classified as terrorism. Based on this viewpoint Zionism is an extreme form of terrorism inasmuch as it contradicts Jewish law in every single way.

ID: Do you have any views on the political divisions of the Palestinians, as manifested in separate authorities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip?

RW: As religious Jews we try to avoid getting mired in contentious political issues. In fact we try to stay away from politics as much as possible. But we say that the Palestinian people should be allowed to choose their own leadership and representatives. Nobody should interfere in this political process. That said, we have a strong dialogue with both sides of the divide in Palestinian politics.

ID: What do you say to them?

RW: We tell them that the Jewish people are totally sympathetic to their cause…

ID: But that is not true, is it? You don’t speak for all Jewish people.

RW: As I have said repeatedly Zionism can not speak for the Jewish people. Authentic Jewish opinion rejects Zionism.

ID: Many people we have interviewed before are adamant that the main threat to Israel comes from within rather than without. Do you share this assessment of Israeli vulnerabilities?

RW: From our point of view, the reason why Israel is not successful as a nation-state; the reason why Israel can not have peace; the reason why the Palestinians refuse to relinquish their struggle even though they live in squalor; the reason why the Palestinians refuse to resettle elsewhere and insist on the right of return to their original homeland; and the reason why Israel will come to an end is because God does not want Israel to succeed. The Zionists breached the laws of God in the most brazen manner and they will pay the price for their transgression.

ID: Do you have a dialogue with key stakeholders in Israeli society?

RW: We can not have a dialogue with Israeli elites because all of them are Zionists and believe in the concept of a Jewish state. We reject this concept entirely and are adamant that a so-called Jewish state contravenes the rules of God. Even if the Palestinians wanted to give the Jews a plot of land upon which they could form a state this state should not be a Jewish state.

ID: As an American citizen are you hopeful that the United States can ever overcome its profound bias in favor of Israel?

RW: I am optimistic because I don’t believe that politicians and human beings in general are as powerful as they often try to make out. Power rests in the hands of God. Look at how the Soviet Union unraveled; few people would have believed that a superpower could unravel so quickly. We believe that God controls the world and we pray that God impels kings and rulers to seek peace.

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