In Unusual Demo, Hasidic Jews in NY Protest Netanyahu Speech

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March 4, 2015; Haaretz

The Central Rabbinical Council of the USA and Canada organized a protest the other day immediately following Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress. Three thousand Satmars, one of the branches of Hasidic Judaism, showed up outside the Israeli consulate at 42nd Street and Second Avenue in New York to express their opposition to Netanyahu’s statements. They were joined by Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum, the leader of one of the major branches of Satmar Hasidism.

Their complaint focused on Netanyahu’s statement that he came to the U.S. speaking ostensibly as the representative of Jews in Israel and worldwide concerned about the substance of the emerging deal with Iran over nuclear weapons. “When Netanyahu professes to speak on our behalf, we have to speak out and say this is not the case,” Rabbi David Neiderman said in a statement to the assembled Satmar protesters. “Benjamin Netanyahu, stop speaking on our behalf and directing us what to do.”

Other speakers referred to Netanyahu as a modern-day “Haman” or “Amalek.” Haman was the vizier to Xerxes in the Persian Empire who plotted to kill the Jews, but was foiled by Queen Esther, and the resulting story became the basis for the Jewish holiday of Purim. Amalek is the name of a founder or leader of the Amalekite tribe, which in the Old Testament repeatedly attacked the ancient Israelites until Saul and Samuel defeated them. Whether referring to Amalek or Haman, the speakers weren’t being kind to Netanyahu with the comparison.

Part of the issue is that the Satmars, unlike the other main (and larger) branch of Hasidism, the Lubavitchers, are vocally against Zionism and against the notion of Israel as a (or “the”) Jewish state. (The Lubavitchers are against Israel’s nominal secular Judaism, and in theory do not believe that there will be a Jewish state until the arrival of the true Messiah, but they have been generally supportive of Israel’s wars with its neighborhoods and prominent among the settlers in the Occupied West Bank; several charities in Israel that receive U.S. charitable support are clearly identifiable as Lubavitcher-affiliated.)

At the Satmar rally, Rabbi Neiderman thanked President Obama, a statement that drew “thunderous cheers” according to the Haaretz coverage. Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro added his concerns about the impression that Netanyahu was speaking for all Jewish people. “Besides this being a lie, it’s a very dangerous thing for him to say,” Rabbi Shapiro said. “He wants to get into some brouhaha with the president…he can do whatever he wants. But why bring in the Jewish people into this? So, we are here contradicting what he said about us, and if somebody has a problem with what Netanyahu said, he shouldn’t blame the Jewish people.”

The protest at the Israeli consulate in New York City should demonstrate to readers and American politicians that not all Jews walk in lockstep with the Likud government of Netanyahu. Ranging from the Satmar Hasids to secular Jewish nonprofit organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace and J Street, there are American Jews that sometimes do not see eye to eye with the current government in Israel. No one should imagine, despite the power of AIPAC and the Republican Jewish Coalition, described earlier this week in NPQ’s coverage of Netanyahu’s speech, that American Jews are monolithic on the subject of Israel.—Rick Cohen

  • Raanan Isseroff

    Mr. Cohen Sir-
    You are lumping all the Jewish groups who are against Mr. Netanyahu as if they all stand for the same thing-
    This is not the case at all-

    Lubavitch has a problem with Netanyahu because he is actively involved in giving away Israel’s land thereby empowering terrorists and putting Jews in danger.

    All the missiles falling on Israel and Mr. Netanyahu has no issue pushing ahead with the OSLO agreements to bring more missiles and more terror upon Israel. As I write, terrorists are tunneling from Gaza under Israeli cities. (Ostensibly with Egyptian help) Not a word could be mentioned in Congress?

    This is is what bothers Lubavitch about the Israeli Prime Minister.
    Safety of his own people is always given last priority. This has been the pattern of Israeli leadership since 1948. It is not a religious issue. Its a problem of safety and safeguarding human life.

    J Street and Jewish Voice for peace are in fact aligned with Mr. Netanyahu and AIPAC on Land for Peace.
    They each are working to give Israel’s land, for what they each claim is: “For Peace”. What differentiates each from the other is that they perhaps disagree upon how (and who should be in control of the giving).

    None of any of these groups can say with all honesty that they speak for Jews in Israel or around the world as Rabbi Niederman astutely pointed out. In 2005, when Likud under Mr. Sharon (Now Mr. Netanyahu”s Party) took a vote about giving land, it voted against giving land. Yet the late Mr. Sharon (then Likud) ignored the results and gave away Gush Katif.

    The fact that all the the land given away was done without asking the Israeli people (and much was given in secret negotiations), further prove this point. For example in 2012 came out the revelation that Mr. Netanyahu was secretly negotiating in 2010 to give away Golan again show that Mr. Netanyahu and Israel’s leaders do not take into consideration Jewish opinion. Even their own party opinion is ignored when it comes to giving land.

    In their eyes- They ARE Jewish / Israeli opinion.
    CIA maps on the internet document this reality that West Bank has already secretly attained statehood and Golan Heights is part of Syria. Who asked Israelis?

    In terms of philanthropy, it seems to me a bit dishonest to claim to collect money for a cause you are working against.
    If you are taking money to build the land, so why are you giving it away? (and to people against your theme and mission statement)
    If you are giving honestly, so why is it secretly done?
    Why by force?

    Either you are building the land or dismantling it-
    There seems to be a bit of confusion in Israeli leadership on this point. Like the word Shalom: It can mean “Hello” or “Good-bye”. (A third meaning is peace)

    Perhaps Mr. Netanyahu means Goodbye when he says: Shalom?
    Certainly, he is not building.

    In terms of the US, well, I don’t know about Iran, but if Israel falls, there doesn’t seem to be any other stable place America can use as a foothold in the region. Certainly, Jews will not be welcome in any country surrounding Israel. Where are they supposed to go then?

    Its really too bad that Mr. Netanyahu didn’t take a few minutes to explain that giving land to terrorists puts Jews in danger. Really, a wasted moment…
    Raanan Isseroff