Ultra-Orthodox community debates boundaries of anti-Zionism

By Yair Ettinger

Haaretz

Kislev 29, 5767

Documents published in the United States and Israel over the past few days provide a glimpse into the current debate in the ultra-Orthodox community following last week's visit of a handful of Neturei Karta and Satmar Hasidim to Iran.

The seven members of the Tehran delegation, all of them citizens of the United States and Western Europe, wrote a letter defending their decision to attend the conference of Holocaust deniers organized by Iranian President Mahmoud Amhadinejad.

"The Iranians stand today at the head of the war against the actions of the Zionists in the name of 'Israel'," they wrote. "It is our duty to reconcile with them and convince them that the nation of Israel, the nation of the Torah, is a submissive nation, a merciful nation, a nation that seeks peace, that seeks the burden of exile with love."

The only solution to the Middle East conflict, they said, is to "wipe out Zionism, and accept the burden of exile [from the Land of Israel] as the will of God, Blessed be He."

The long document, titled "Ultra-Orthodox Among Holocaust Deniers?!," was written in Hebrew, and does not mention the delegation's members by name.

In Israel, the document was circulated in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak and Beit Shemesh. Although a Jerusalem resident who distributed the document told Haaretz that delegation members were welcomed in their communities with "respect and admiration," the primary motive behind the document was intense criticism the delegation received within the zealous anti-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox community.

Anger ignored

The document almost entirely ignores anger against the delegation that has been expressed in the Haredi mainstream, and was written following a statement by the official Satmar leadership distancing itself from the delegation, which appeared in the sect's journal in the United States.

The Satmar court of justice in Israel determined that the delegation "desecrated the name of God ... in an awful manner," and while it did not call for them to be banished from the community - a far-reaching step from the perspective of Jewish law - it did call on members of the community to "keep a distance from them and condemn their actions."

But the delegation's members are not afraid to condemn the rabbis and leaders who, they claim, are giving their blessing to Zionism.

Regarding the connection between Holocaust denial and anti-Zionism, the delegation said: "The Holocaust is a source of sustenance and vitality for Zionism." The Holocaust was not just the punishment for Zionism, as the Amdor of Satmar wrote, but it is "well known" that the Zionists "irritated the hateful Nazis, for those crazy, cruel people boycotted him."

But the delegation members said they do not deny the Holocaust, saying they clearly told the Tehran conference there was a "horrible and bitter Holocaust against the nation of Israel, and no one can deny it." But the Holocaust does not "permit anyone to use the blood of the saints, may God avenge their blood, to rise up against the nations."