Rabbi Criticizes Gaza Offensive, Israeli State

Thursday, 31 Jul 2014 05:01 PM

By Sean Piccoli

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A rabbi who says the Torah forbids the existence of an Israeli state told Newsmax TV on Thursday that many religious Jews worldwide are sympathetic to Palestinians — and critical of Israel for occupying Palestinian territory and for the fighting in Gaza.

Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, associate director of Neturei Karta International: Jews United Against Zionism, gave "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner an infrequently heard perspective on the military conflict raging between Israel and Hamas: a rebuke to Israel by a devoutly Jewish religious figure

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Weiss, based in Monsey, N.Y., a town north of New York City with a large concentration of ultra-Orthodox Jews, said that Jewish scripture, tradition, and religious history "stand in total opposition to this offensive against Gaza and in general to the whole occupation of Palestine for over 66 years."

"It's against our Torah to create a state," he explained. "It's against our Torah to oppress the people, steal their land. We have no right to it."

Hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Jews live in Israel, but a number that identify as ultra-Orthodox exist at a remove from the Jewish state. They don't serve in the Israeli military, and some even reject the use of Israel's currency, the shekel.

"The ultra-Orthodox have not accepted the Zionist definition of the Jews as a nation in search of a homeland," states a scholarly article published by the Middle East Report, "and have remained faithful to the ancient definition of Jews as a religious community waiting for a messiah."

The same article describes Weiss' segment of Judaism, Neturei Karta — Aramaic for "Guardians of the City" — as "a dwindling ultra-Orthodox group that over the years has become more marginal even within its own milieu."

Weiss conceded that his message hasn't gained much media traction.

"I, personally, with a delegation of rabbis from around the world, went to Gaza a few times," he said. "We had press conferences where there was world press. Unfortunately, they don't report it to the world."

On "MidPoint," he defended Hamas against charges that its political leaders and religious supporters routinely call for the extermination of Jews.

"They are totally not in opposition to the Jewish people," said Weiss, adding, "They're clear in their distinction between the oppression … and the Jewish people worldwide."

Confronted by host Berliner with an incendiary 2012 speech from one Hamas official, Weiss waved it off.

"You hear sermons here, sermons there," he said. "The actuality is, they [Palestinians] live with us, [and] they insist that they want to live with us."

Weiss stressed that Neturei Karta doesn't condone violence against Israel: "We're crying for the Jewish people whose blood is being spilled beside the Palestinian people."

He said that Hamas doesn't condone violence, either. What the world interprets as militants calling for the destruction of Israel is, according to Weiss, Palestinians raging at life under military occupation.

He called Gaza, a heavily cordoned coastal strip housing 1.5 million people, a "large prison complex" and said that residents "are pleading for their liberty, and that is what the root issue is there."

Weiss also said the latest Israeli military campaign, which continues despite mounting international criticism and a rising death toll among Palestinian civilians, is fanning anti-Semitism around the world.

But he said that, ultimately, "The people of Gaza are victims, and the root cause of all this bloodshed is the existence of this illegitimate government and illegitimate state of Israel."

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