Neturei Karta: The Orthodox Jews who oppose the existence of Israel

Members of the Neturei Karta orthodox group protest against Israel.

Most Jews around the world support the state of Israel and the ideology of Zionism, but there is one ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect that denies Israel’s “right to exist” and supports the Palestinians. 5Pillars takes a closer look at Neturei Karta.

Who are Neturei Karta?

Neturei Karta are a group of Orthodox Jews who refuse to recognise the existence or authority of Israel which they say is against the Torah and authentic Judaism.

The group was founded in Jerusalem, Palestine, in 1938 and was established for the purpose of fighting Zionism.

Although their numbers are small (5,000 or more), they say the number of Orthodox Jews who believe in their anti-Zionist ideology number in the hundreds of thousands.

What is their objection to Israel?

Neturei Karta opposes Israel because it does not believe that the Jewish people have the right to self-determination, and because only God can restore Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel by bringing the Messiah.

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They say the Talmud teaches that Jews must not use force to bring about the establishment of a Jewish state before the coming of the universally accepted Messiah from the House of David. Furthermore, Jews should remain loyal citizens of their countries and should not attempt to leave the exile which God sent them into ahead of time.

Neturei Karta also says that Jews are not allowed to dominate, kill, harm or demean another people and are not allowed to have anything to do with the Zionist enterprise.

Judaism is a religion of thousands of years, they say, while Zionism is a new movement of just over a hundred years, created by non-religious Jews who aspired to transform the religion into nationalism and have rebelled continually against the Almighty’s commandments.

Why do many Neturei Karta members live outside Israel?

According to Neturei Karta, some of the reasons include: ideological refusal to live under the illegitimate heretical “Israeli” regime; being exiled by the Zionist government for their insistence on remaining independent; or being unable to live a normal life due to being persistently harassed, incarcerated and even physically tortured by the Israeli authorities.

Are they heretical?

Although most Jews disassociate themselves from Neturei Karta, they do not question the fact that they are Orthodox Jews. On the other hand, Neturei Karta says it is Zionism that is heretical to Judaism.

What do they think of the Palestinians?

They say true Jews are against dispossessing Arabs of their land and homes and, according to the Torah, the land should be returned to them.

Neturei Karta say they deplore the shedding of Jewish and non-Jewish blood for the sake of Zionist sovereignty and they favour a peaceful transition from the present Zionist rule to a non-Zionist entity.

The Neturei Karta regret that the Zionist state has usurped the holy name of Israel and that the Zionists so often claim to speak in the name of the Jewish people and assume the right to act on their behalf.

What do their detractors say about them?

The pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League says that Neturei Karta have a very extreme agenda and have regularly aligned with international antisemites, “Islamic extremists” and groups that advocate violence against Israel. For example, in recent years, leaders of Neturei Karta have met with former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as well as leaders of Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

This has led the mainstream ultra-Orthodox community to join the broader Jewish community to disavow and repudiate Neturei Karta.

Others say that Neturei Karta’s worldview is shaped by their opposition to Jewish self-determination, not support for Palestinian self-determination. Similar to Evangelical Christian support of radical right-wing Israeli groups, Neturei Karta’s support of Palestinians is based on fundamentalist views and not on actual ideological identification with the Palestinian struggle.

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