Haredim slam fringe over Iran parley
Pictures of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hugging hassidic men with side-locks, beards and long coats at a conference that questioned whether the Holocaust took place has sparked stern protest from an unexpected quarter.
The ultra-Orthodox, zealously anti-Zionist Eda Haredit, a Jerusalem-based amalgamate of various hassidic courts and haredi groups, including Neturei Karta, attacked their own peers - those blatantly Jewish-looking participants in the Iranian Holocaust denial conference - for vilifying haredi Jewry in general and Neturei Karta in particular.
"That tiny group of weirdos is liable to incite hatred against haredim," warned the editor of Ha'edah, the mouthpiece of the Eda Haredit, in an editorial that will appear Thursday evening.
"Those people's distorted anti-Zionist zealotry, which is sanctified in their eyes above and beyond the opinion of our Torah sages, brought them to that conference," argued Shmuel Popenheim, editor of Ha'edah and author of the editorial that claimed to reflect the opinions of the Eda Haredit rabbinic leadership.
"Regardless of what they said at that conference, the very fact that they participated gave Ahmadinejad the justification to say: 'Look, the haredim feel the same way we do about the Holocaust.'"
Popenheim said the Eda Haredit, which has traditionally been chaired by the head of the Satmar hassidic sect, the ideological parent of Neturei Karta, has so far refrained from issuing an official cherem (excommunication) against the participants in the Holocaust denial conference and those who support them.
"But it is clear to all that their main purpose is not to fight Zionism; rather they are interested in sullying the Eda Haredit's name," said Popenheim, who estimated that there were no more than 10 extremists in Israel who supported participating in the Holocaust conference and about 25 worldwide.
The same extremist group greeted Ahmadinejad when he participated in the UN General Assembly in New York in September while other haredi organizations protested his appearance in the UN. These extremists, claiming they belong to Neturei Karta, are also the ones who called on people to pray for a Hizbullah victory during the war in Lebanon in July. In the past they have helped fund Palestinian terrorist groups and attended the funeral of Yasser Arafat.
Ha'edah and Der Yid, the Yiddish language mouthpiece for Satmar Hassidim that is published in the United States, have attacked this extremist group, most recently after they kissed and hugged Ahmadinejad in New York during the UN Assembly.
Both mouthpieces claimed that the group radically deviated from the ideological path set by the archetypal modern haredi anti-Zionist Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, who reestablished Satmar Hassidism in post-World War II United States, after the majority of Satmar Hassidim were murdered in the Holocaust.
Ironically, several of the participants in the Iranian Holocaust denial conference were themselves offspring of Holocaust survivors.
Rabbi Israel Hirsch, a member of this fringe group who lives in Jerusalem's Mea She'arim neighborhood, defended participating in the Holocaust conference.
"The Zionists put so much emphasis on the Holocaust because they use it as a justification for the establishment of the State of Israel," said Hirsch. "Our message is that even if there was a Holocaust it does not permit us to subjugate another people. Israel must be returned to the Palestinians; only then will anti-Semitism end."
Hirsch said Zionism was to blame for the Holocaust.
"The call by the Zionists in Palestine and the Jews in the US to boycott Nazi Germany during the war is what pushed Hitler over the top. That is what made him call for the Final Solution," he explained.
For Hirsch, it is a sin for Jews to attempt to take their fate into their own hands. Rather, Jews are relegated to a passive role until God decides to bring the final redemption. Zionism is a rebellion against God's plan because it is an attempt to provide an earthly redemption.
Hirsch said the US's support for Israel was what has pitted Iran against the US. "As soon as the US stops supporting Zionism, Iran and the US can be allies."
Asked what he would do if forced to choose between joining the Arabs in a war against Israeli Zionists and defending Zionist Jews, Hirsch replied that he would join the Arabs.
"All Jewish Zionists, whether they call themselves religious or secular, are apostates who have cut themselves off from the Jewish people," he said.
Popenheim said that he, too, was virulently opposed to Zionism and agreed in principle with Hirsch that Zionism was equivalent to apostasy and rebellion against God. But he said that there was no justification for joining forces with Arabs or Iranians against Jews.
"If I saw an Arab terrorist trying to kill a Zionist Jew, I would shoot the Arab," said Popenheim.
"We are faced with a dilemma," said Popenheim. "Since the Zionists have aroused the hatred of the Arabs against the Jews, it would be a disaster if Arabs gained control of Israel.
"But as long as Zionism flourishes, blasphemy spreads and more victims are contaminated.
"We have to pray to God that he will hasten the demise of this impious sovereignty in a way that no Jew is hurt in the process."
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