SHAFAQNA – Zionists generally use the Torah to justify their imperialist colonization of Palestine and activities to trample Palestinians’ right to worship freely, yet not all Jews are on board with this. In fact, one group is actively fighting this manipulative interpretation of the Torah.
With Israel set on a collision course with not just Palestinians, but the broader Muslim community, over its long-standing religious dispute at Al-Aqsa Mosque – one of Islam’s holiest sites after Mecca in Saudi Arabia – tensions in Jerusalem have reached a tipping point.
Latent anger against Israel exploded in late October, after the state ordered Al-Aqsa to be shut down, citing security concerns. Jerusalem became the scene of violent clashes between Jewish settlers and Palestinians following Israeli calls for Al-Aqsa to be burned down and for more Palestinian territories to be annexed.
A number of media outlets reported that Israeli police forced open the doors of Al-Aqsa in what was understood as an attempt to damage the holy edifice. After police violated the sanctity of the mosque, an affront unheard of since 1967, outrage swept across the Islamic world, with many calling for swift retribution.
Tensions were such that Jordan, which administrates Haram Al Sharif, the site of the mosque, broke its usual silence on Israel, warning that such acts of unwarranted aggression against Islam and Palestinians would lead to severe repercussions and potentially threaten regional peace.
In response to the forced entry, Amman has also recalled its ambassador to Israel, a move which directly jeopardizes the 1994 peace agreement between Jordan and Israel (one of just two peace accords between Israel and Middle East countries). Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh told the press on Nov. 5: “We have sent repeated messages to Israel directly and indirectly that Jerusalem is a red line.”
Judeh further noted that any Israeli-imposed restrictions that prevent Muslims from worshiping freely are “infuriating” to Muslims around the world.
While other major world powers have been notably silent on Israel’s latest “blunder,” one very tenacious Jewish group, the Neturei Karta, is taking a stand against the injustice, determined to hold a mirror to Israel’s settler-colonial narrative in the name of true Judaism.
Speaking to Shafaqna from his home in Jerusalem, Rabbi Meir Hirsh, a leading member of the Neturei Karta, stressed:
“Israel’s attack against Al-Aqsa needs to be understood as the manifestation of decades of fascism, religious extremism and state-run, state-supported racism against Palestinians.”
“Israel might seek to deflect blame onto Arab states and Palestinians, but in truth it is its policy of hate which has led us where we are today. Jews, Christians and Muslims are locked in a vicious cycle of violence, which Zionists feed to better further their agendas,” he continued.
Describing the Zionist goal as one that will “destroy all religion,” Rabbi Hirsh said, “Religious extremism is by essence antithetical to God, it is a negation of the holy.”
“True to the Torah”
A long-standing supporter of the Palestinian cause, the Neturei Karta opposed the idea of Israel well before it became an institutional reality in 1948. The group, founded in Jerusalem in 1938, is especially outspoken against Zionism, a philosophy they understand as antithetical to true Judaism. They say Zionism, which refers to a Jewish national movement that advocates for the return of all Jews to the homeland and the resumption of Jewish exclusive sovereignty over Israel, stands in negation of God’s commands, and thus, should be eliminated.
Rabbi E. Beck, a member of the Neturei Karta in New York, told Shafaqna that Zionists are “no more than radical extremists working to defile true Judaism.” He categorically rejected the notion that only Jews hold a legitimate claim to the “Promised Land,” stressing that “any ideology which bases itself on the rejection of others is inherently nefarious.”
“Israel’s descents into fascism and world powers apathy toward Jewish radicalism stand at the root of regional instability,” Rabbi Beck warned.
Noting that Israel has come to embody the very definition of an apartheid state, he said the situation is actually much worse than apartheid, “as Israel seeks not only to affirm its supremacy over all but to annihilate and negate the very existence of Palestine.”
In an open letter addressed to the State of Israel last month, Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, Rabbi Hirsh and Rabbi Eliezer Hochhauser wrote: “Orthodox Jewish Rabbis, true to the Torah, stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, to protest the Zionist zealots – extreme right wing, supposed ‘orthodox Jews’ – who have aggrieved the Muslim people and disrespected what is precious to them – Al Aqsa Mosque.”
Rabbi Ahron Cohen, a member of the Neturei Karta in the United Kingdom, told MintPress, “Jews have no legitimate claim whatsoever on Al-Aqsa. Any intention, at this time in history, to rebuild the temple is against Jewish religious teaching and any attempt to do so is illegitimate. Those groups who are trying to do so are promoting a new and religiously distorted version of Zionism, and their activities are in no way compatible with authentic Judaism.”
Hate is not of God
Beyond Israel’s latest stunt to humiliate and harm its Muslim population, the Neturei Karta said it has worked to denounce Tel Aviv’s systematic targeting of Palestinians as part of its ethnic cleansing campaign.
“It is impossible to not see the design behind Israel’s attacks on Palestinians. If anything, Gaza should stand as a reminder of the horrors the authorities are willing to commit in the name of their Zionist dream,” said Rabbi Hirsh.
During Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s summer bombing campaign in Gaza, over 2,200 Gazans died — 70 percent of whom were civilians. Images of slain and maimed children still haunt the minds of countless Palestinians, a painful reminder of a life under Israel’s brutal occupation.
Amid the recently heightened tensions, Israel issued a warrant on Monday for the arrest of Hamza Zeidani — a two-year-old boy — in Jerusalem.
Fares Qaddura, president of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, said on the matter, “The so-called ‘Israeli security establishment’ suffers from a sense of blindness, paranoia and obsession with security when it comes to Jerusalem, and this has escalated to the point where today forces ordered the arrest of a baby.”
Mojtada Mousavi, an Iranian political analyst, told Shafaqna that Israel’s disregard of international law and corrupt moral compass would ultimately lead to the fulfilment of its worst fears.
“Israel’s latest attack against Al-Aqsa, its officials’ inability to understand Palestinians as people anymore will soon give way to a Third Intifada,” Mousavi said, noting that some would say this uprising is already beginning.
“How long can we expect Palestinians to endure such hardship? How many women and children would have to die, how many men will have to be tortured and how much blood will have to be spilled for the world to call Israel out on its crimes?” Mousavi continued.
Likewise, Rabbi Hirsh described Zionist ideology as one “rooted in hatred and bigotry.”
Speaking on behalf of the Neturei Karta, Rabbi Hirsh added, “Our fight, our campaigns, our message is with Palestine. Our ties of friendship and profound respect with Muslims are proof that Israel’s claims are a lie. Whatever enmity exists between Muslims and Jews today is Israeli-made — not the other way around.”
Meanwhile, he said the Jewish people have been deceived by the leading class. “My people have been fed a lie about God’s design for the sons of Jacob, the forefather of Israel,” he continued.
“Nothing in the Scriptures justify or even calls for the conquest of Palestine.”
Ramzy Baroud, a scholar in People’s History at the University of Exeter and managing editor of Middle East Eye, warned in a report for Foreign Policy Journal that at this time of acute regional instability, the latest attack on Islam and the religious freedom of Palestinians could lead once more to an uprising fed by decades of systematic oppression and humiliation.
While Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said he will maintain the status quo in Jerusalem, calls from far-right officials in his cabinet, such as Housing Minister Uri Ariel and Deputy Speaker of the Knesset Moshe Feiglin, for the construction of the Third Temple on Al-Aqsa’s grounds have fuelled a deep sense of anxiety among the Muslim community and heightened existing religious hostility in Jerusalem.
In 1967, Israel agreed to maintain the Al-Aqsa Mosque as a strictly Muslim zone, an agreement which far-right radicals want to see overturned.
Yet, as reported by the Middle East Monitor, Ariel told extremist Israeli radio station Kol Berama earlier this month that Al-Aqsa would have to be destroyed because it stands in “the forefront of Jewish salvation.”
If Palestinians have become somewhat accustomed to Israel’s aggression over the decades, as well as Israeli officials’ insistence on eroding Palestinian territories, human rights, civil liberties and now religious freedom, Al-Aqsa Mosque very much represents a psychological red line that none will tolerate being crossed.
With impassioned statements coming from Turkey and Jordan, it has become rather clear that Al-Aqsa has become a political and religious flashpoint, one which could unravel the entire region and feed religious extremism on both sides of the fence.
Hayel Dawood, Jordan’s minister of Islamic affairs, equated Israel’s attack on Al-Aqsa to state terrorism. To which he quickly added, “It is also a violation of Jordan’s peace treaty.”
This week, Turkey’s Minister for EU Affairs Volkan Bozkir expressed his government’s anger and intention to act on the situation at Al-Aqsa when he declared: “I am sending this message to those soldiers who entered [Al-Aqsa Mosque] with their boots: If you don’t leave it immediately, we will hand you your boots and watch you run away.”
By Catherine Shakdam