This Jewish organisation objects to the use of the Holocaust as justification for the existence of Israel – and defended Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s apparent denial of the Holocaust; though not the fact of its having taken place. However, the point being made by Iran’s president in his rhetorically flamboyant manner, was to bring to world attention the way the Holocaust was being misused.
The Neturei Karta, in Hebrew, are a Hasidic sect of a few thousand members that view Zionism – the movement to establish a Jewish national home or state in what was Palestine pure and simple – as a “poison” threatening “true Jews”.
This hot language points at a fact they say because without the added aggravation of denial of rights, building of settlements, building of barriers separating populations, goods embargoes, right of passage restrictions and then the wholesale bombing of civilians, the ordinary Jewish people wanting a peaceful life are denied that right.
These Hasidics main representative at the Conference, UK-based Rabbi Aharon Cohen, told the Conference he prayed, “that the underlying cause of strife and bloodshed in the Middle East, namely the state known as Israel, be totally and peacefully dissolved”.
In its place, Rabbi Cohen said, should be *”a regime fully in accordance with the aspirations of the Palestinians when Arab and Jew will be able to live peacefully together as they did for centuries”.*
Even more fundamentally, the Neturei Karta Jews believe that the very idea of an Israeli state goes against the Jewish religion. The book of Jewish Law The Talmud, Cohen said, teaches that believers may not use human force to create a Jewish state before the coming of the Messiah. Not violence, even human force is not allowed!
Jewish commentator William Webermann has said, *“My mission is to clear up the confusion that mixes Judaism with Zionism. Judaism is a religion and does not need sovereignty over any land. We can live anywhere and be loyal citizens… our religion forbids us to have land.”*
He reiterated that the founder of Zionism was an Atheist and had no belief in anything.
*“The Zionists robbed Jews of their religion and for us taking someone’s religion is worse than killing them. We would like to see the dismantling of Israel and an independent Palestine should rule and the refugees go back and have everything returned to them and make room for the abiding Jews to stay. This is the position of the true followers of Moses. Zionism is the result of a plot and has no basis in faith and they do not believe in the religion of Moses. Moses had teachings for life, not for dominating others. It has been contaminated by them. We give witness to that. We want to say this everywhere so people can know the truth.”*
Austria-based Rabbi Moishe Ayre Friedman told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme in the same moment of the Conference that they were not in Tehran to debate whether the Holocaust happened or not, but to look at its lessons. He said the Holocaust was being used to legitimise the suffering of other peoples and he wanted to break what he called a taboo on discussing it. The main thing, he argued, was not Jewish suffering in the past but the use of the Holocaust as a “tool of commercial, military and media power”.
He also commended Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for wanting, *”a secured future for innocent Jewish people in Europe and elsewhere”.*
In his own speech to the Conference assembly, President Ahmadinejad said: *”Due to the essence of the Zionist regime, the significance of the continuance of its existence on a single inch of the lands of Palestine is continued crimes, occupation, threat, and insult to the peoples. The guarantee of the realization of the rights of the Palestinian people and of forcing global Zionism and its supporters to agree to free elections is the Palestinian people’s legitimate and popular resistance, which has succeeded in two intifadas and in the Gaza battle to restrain the unrestrained monster and war machine of the heartless Zionists…”*
This statement reinforced the idea of holding a referendum on Palestine. He also reiterated that as Zionists, belief in Judaism is not a tenet, in other words, Zionism has nothing to do with religion!
This is directly what the Conference is about. Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said: *”The main attention in this conference is devoted to making Palestine’s situation and Zionist regime’s adventures clear…”the question of Palestine will be considered, and the ways of putting an end to Zionist regime’s adventures will be discussed.”*
President Ahmadinejad proposed the formation of an international front against Zionism with the top agenda item of taking those responsible on the Israel side before an eligible court. Moves to that effect had already been made in the days immediately preceding the Conference when Iran’s Chief Prosecutor, Ayatollah Qorban-Ali Dori-Najafabadi, charging 29 officials and military of war crimes.
Nothing came of that challenge.
The distinctive Guardians of the City Orthodox Jews created quite a stir at the conference, their dress at odds with the turbaned Islamic traditionalists. Warm dialogue took place wherever they went which in itself showed anything is possible. There was no reluctance, no hesitation from either those ‘men in black’ or the other attendees. They were much photographed and how many requested a photo standing proudly alongside them or in their midst!
Speaking with one of the group, Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, the simplicity and directness was striking. No sombre tones yet no fanfare. As straightforward as his lapel badge of disproportionate size reading: Jews United Against Zionism. *”We pray for the speedy peaceful dismantlement of the state of “Israel”,”* he said.