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Neturei Karta maintains its anti-Zionist stance


By Sharon Sadeh,
Ha'aretz Correspondent
June 16, 2002


The pro-Palestinian groups in Britain have recently found a new propaganda weapon in the form of an ultra-Orthodox sect whose activities have turned the rest of the British Jewish community against it.

In the past few years, members of the extreme Neturei Karta movement have increased their involvement in anti-Israeli activities, participating in demonstrations calling for Israel's annihilation. The Jewish community in Britain has responded by excommunicating the group, banning its members from the country's synagogues.

Neturei Karta's most remarkable display was at the pro-Palestinian rally held on May 18 in London's Trafalgar Square, two weeks after a mass Israel solidarity in the same place.

"It was shocking to see these people wrapped in teffilin and tallits [prayer shawls], waving signs against Israel and Zionism, at an event deliberately held on a Saturday, during Shavuot, a feast which commemorates the receiving of the Torah," said a spokesman for the Board of Deputies, an umbrella group for the British Jewish community.

"Someone asked them how they got to the demonstration, as they are not supposed to travel on Shabbat, and they said they had come on foot from Stamford Hill, 14 kilometers away."

"Don't worry, we didn't violate the Shabbat," says Avraham Grohman, considered to be the leader of Neturei Karta in Britain. He has become a popular lecturer in the past year among extreme pro-Palestinian groups in Britain, including organizations affiliated to Hamas.

Grohman told Ha'aretz that Neturei Karta supports the Palestinians so that they "know that Jews are not fighting and are not creating the problems for the Palestinians; it's the Zionists fault.

"We believe in the Torah, according to the Torah we have no claim for that part of the world. We, the Jews, were thrown out for our sins and for the worst deeds, and the exile is our remedy. Jews have no right to take that land away from the Palestinians. If somebody came to your house, and wanted to take it away from you by force, what would you do? Would you let him go into your house and take it away? No, you wouldn't."

Grohman disagrees that Neturei Karta's participation in Palestinian demonstrations legitimizes suicide attacks.

"It's all stories and politics," he says. "No, it is a fight! When somebody has ammunition to fight somebody else, and the other does not have that ammunition, he will fight back with just a stick, he has nothing else. Do you call the person with a stick a terrorist? He fights with whatever he can! He cannot fight with more than that. Who has more ammunition? Who has more F16s? Do the Palestinians have F16 planes to bomb Tel Aviv, or do the Zionists have F16 planes to bomb them?

"The fight is the fault of the Zionists and the Zionist state who do not care about Jewish or Palestinian life. The suffering and bloodshed will never stop as long as the Zionist state exists, thanks to the influence of the Zionists on America and England."

Nor does Grohman acknowledge the fact that the Holocaust played a part in the establishment of the State of Israel. "What Holocaust?" he asks. "The Germans are the greatest friend of the Zionist state, the biggest sum of money was given by the Germans for the Zionist state."

Grohman even goes on to justify the slaughter of Jews in Europe, claiming that they were responsible for their own fate.

"The Zionists helped to create and bring up anti-Semitism in Germany," he says. "They also broke the economy of Germany at that time, so what do you expect them to do?"

He claims that Neturei Karta plays an important part in maintaining Britain's safety. "Because we are friendly with all the nations, especially with the Palestinians, and many other Muslims, we are actually reducing tensions and thus creating good relationship all over the world. Without our deeds there would also have been these problems in England a long time ago. The English would not have been able to use the roads."

Grohman believes that his group has contributed to the safety of Jews worldwide. "We got through to hundreds of Muslim newspapers, who stopped using the term Jew. When they talk about those things they don't say Jew, but Zionist."

Britain's Jewish community, however, is enraged by Neturei Karta activities, with Britain's Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks slamming their anti-Zionist slant.

"Recent actions of members of Neturei Karta in protesting outside Jewish community events, together with groups hostile to Israel and the Jewish community, are unforgivable," he declared.But the community's dislike for the group does not end with expressions of disapproval. Threats to Neturei Karta members have been reported; their vehicles and property have been destroyed, and they have been sacked from their places of work.

Grohman himself was attacked by a Braslav Hassidic Jew during a counter-demonstration held by Palestinians opposite the Israel solidarity rally at Trafalgar Square. Three weeks ago, one of the sect's synagogues was attacked and its windows were spray-painted with Star of David symbols.

The activities of the group have also angered ultra-Orthodox organizations traditionally linked to Neturei Karta.

"Even the Satmer Hasidic movement, affiliated with Neturei Karta, regards the activities of some of its members as crossing a red line," said a Haredi source. "The Hasidic movement is not a Zionist movement, but there is a difference between this position and active support of an extreme stance that justifies the murder of Jews, as expressed by Neturei Karta."

The ultra-Orthodox rabbinical court in London has taken an even harsher stance against Neturei Karta. Last month, it distributed a pamphlet in ultra-Orthodox synagogues similar to an FBI "most-wanted" list.

The pamphlet showed close-up photographs of Neturei Karta members taken during pro-Palestinian demonstrations. The caption on the leaflet read: "Do you recognize any these pro-Palestinian demonstrators? If they come collecting at your shul, tell them where to go - to hell.