The Neturei Karta in Iran

The Iranians hate Israel and the ultra Orthodox Neturei Karta hate Israel. Since the enemies of one’s enemies become odd but fast friends, it makes perverted sense that the Neturei Karta would befriend and try to legitimate the Iranians.

The Iranians and Keturei Karta are both fundamentalist in their religion. Neither are bound by their Scriptures, but both are moved by the intuition that justifies, at least to their satisfaction, their power. The Iranians want to destroy Israel, and will build bombs and deny the Holocaust in order to destroy the state physically and to delegitimate Israel psychologically. The Neturei Karta argue that the modern mindset is sinful. And since Zionism is a modern movement the mission of which was to modernize or secularize the Jewish people, it too is sin.

The “official” Neturei Karta argument is simple. Israel is secular and therefore un- Jewish.

The Messiah will rebuild the Temple and impose the Torah, as understood by Neturei Karta, upon the Jewish people. Shi’ite imams do not have a monopoly on fundamentalist fanaticism. Zionist’s sins include making a secular state, being active in history, which should be controlled by God, and by speaking Hebrew, a language to holy to be used except for holy purposes.

Unlike Shi’ite Islam, which rejects the oral tradition of Sunni Islam, Neturei Karta Jews claim, as we see incorrectly, to espouse “Orthodox” Judaism. Orthodox Judaism possesses holy books which articulate its values. To claim that a policy is required or forbidden according to Judaism when it is not recorded in that holy library is to lie, a sin which involves three prohibitions: 1} not distancing oneself from falsehood, 2} adding or subtracting from the Torah and 3} misrepresenting Torah. Jewish law actually requires speaking Hebrew. [Sifre, Deuteronomy]. Nowhere in the sacred library of Israel are we told that Hebrew is too holy to be spoken. There is a debate between Nahmanides, who claims that the Torah is a special, or divine language, and Maimonides, who contends that Hebrew is a natural language. The problem with this debate amongst early authorities is the sacred library of Israel, where we are taught “the Scripture speaks in human language.”

If, as Neturei Karta contend, that it is sinful to push the hand of Providence and establish a Jewish state before the advent of the Messiah, then the coalition with Israel‘s enemies would seem to be pushing the hand of history as well. And the appealing to non-Jews who wish to harm other Jews, and supporting them, is not consistent with Orthodox Judaism.

The other Ultra-Orthodox, w ho make a point as being the most different, and therefore most legitimate of Jews, are annoyed that they have some group more ultra or extreme than they. Torah is invoked but never cited in public discourse. Great sages and not great reasoning and demonstration is rule in this community. Any criticism that contends that these groups misread God’s commandments is “bashing.”

Consider the fact that bSota 44b requires the drafting of men and women in a defensive war in Israel.

Only a Sanhedrin can change that law. Not the Council of Torah sages, not the Responsa Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and not the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly.

What is sad is that the only time Jews are united is when they love to hate the Neturei Karta. Everyone believes that this splinter group is evil. They are in error, misguided, drunk in parochial denial of reality, and are addicted to being seen in press as the “real Jews.” The rest of world Jewry would do well to see good in other, different Jews. We will become softer and more tolerant. We might come to love and not to hate other Jews. We might even find that we are more united than we imagined.

About Rabbi Alan Yuter

Rabbi Yuter is Adjunct Prof. of Hebrew Lit., Baltimore Hebrew University, and Adjunct Faculty, Fairleigh Dickenson University/Institute for Traditional Judaism. S'micha from Chief Rabbinate of Israel, Rabbi Mordecai Eliyahu. See bio for more.