Neturei Karta, a New York-based Jewish group, believes the modern state of Israel — through its abuse and dispossession of the Palestinian people — has “hijacked” the word “Judaism”.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency in Istanbul this week, Neturei Karta spokesman Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss stressed his group’s longstanding opposition to the Israeli state.
“Judaism clearly tells us we are forbidden to create even one inch of a Jewish state — not only in Palestine but in the rest of the world,” Weiss said.
Citing Jewish scripture to support these claims, he said the Jews had been told not to return to the Holy Land in large numbers before the coming of their awaited Messiah.
“But instead, the Zionists have made a homeland in Palestine where people were already living,” Weiss said.
Regarding the 70th anniversary of Israel’s establishment, which Israel plans to mark next Monday, he said: "It’s a tragedy that this state [Israel] has lasted for 70 years; the entire concept of Zionism is against God. They [Zionists] have dispossessed and killed people [in Palestine] for 130 years”.
“Leading rabbis worldwide stand against Israel. This [Zionism] isn’t Judaism. They just use our names; they contradict the Torah [the Jewish holy book],” Weiss asserted.
Neturei Karta, the rabbi went on to stress, rejected the UN’s 1947 partition plan, which paved the way for the creation of Israel.
“Rabbis [in Palestine] at that time did not want a Jewish state in any part of the region,” he said.
Rabbi Weiss went on to say that Jews were obliged to show gratitude to the Muslim-majority host countries in which they resided for so many centuries.
“Many times, we were attacked by other nations… and the Muslim countries took us in,” he said. “As Jews, we flourished in Muslim lands.”
“Prior to the UN,” he continued, “and prior to human rights groups, we had lived peacefully in Muslim countries where we were embraced and given safe haven.”
“But then Zionism came along and called it a ‘religious conflict’ [between Muslims and Jews], which is totally false,” Weiss said.
“My wife’s grandfather is buried here in Istanbul; he lived within the Ottoman Empire,” the rabbi added. “It is a fact that Jews flourished here. This is something we ought to show gratitude for.”
Regarding the decades of Palestinian suffering caused by Israel’s foundation in 1948, Weiss said: “Our hearts cry for the suffering of the Palestinians. It hurts us because it has been done in the name of our religion.”
“We have no words to describe the ongoing situation in the [Israeli-blockaded] Gaza Strip, except to say it’s a tragedy,” he added.
“Our community [Neturei Karta] has staged dozens of demonstrations is support of Gaza,” Weiss continued, adding that he had personally visited the embattled enclave to show solidarity with its two million inhabitants.
He added: “We say to the demonstrators in Gaza: we support your right to return [to their homes in historical Palestine] 100 percent — it’s your land.”
Since Mar. 30, Palestinians have been staging rallies along the Gaza Strip's eastern border with Israel. In the six weeks since the rallies began, at least 47 protesters have been martyred by cross-border Israeli army gunfire.
As for Neturei Karta’s stance on the Arab-Israeli ‘peace process’, Weiss said: “We don't believe in a two-state solution. We totally reject the existence of Israel. We support a free state of Palestine.”
According to the rabbi, Jews in Israel who share Neturei Karta’s beliefs — who Weiss says number in the hundreds of thousands — face frequent mistreatment by the Israeli authorities “because they refuse to serve in the army and they never carry guns”.
As for the recent U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Weiss said: “Unfortunately, world leaders accept the Zionist narrative, according to which Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims always attack and hate the Jews”.
“[U.S. President Donald] Trump thinks he is doing the Jews a favor,” he added. “But we respectfully say to him: the state of Israel is illegitimate according to the Torah, so, of course, Jerusalem can’t be its capital.”
“This move [recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital] doesn't only harm Muslims, but Jews as well,” he said.
Weiss recalled his first protest in Turkey, in which he took part — along with hundreds of thousands of Turkish demonstrators — following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, in which 10 Turkish activists were killed by Israeli forces in international waters while en route to the blockaded Gaza Strip.
“I look forward to meeting [Turkish] President Recep Tayyib Erdogan, who is not intimidated by Zionist leaders,” he said. “We look to him as someone who has taken care of the Jewish community here.”
“At the same time, Erdogan has stood up for the Palestinians in a way that nobody else has,” he added.
Rabbi Weiss concluded the interview by saying: “People think that if you’re a Jew then you support Israel. This is false. Unfortunately, Jews have become hated in the world because of Israel’s actions.”