After I wrote the headline to this post, I thought of a different headline (with a little help from Bo Diddley):
American Jews and Dual Loyalty: Who Do You Love?
Last June, Rep. Jerrold Nadler ran the race of a lifetime to defeat a primary challenger and retain the Congressional seat he’s held for a quarter-century. He won a massive victory, earning 88% of the vote. So far, this is standard New York City Jewish Democratic politics.
But there were two unusual factors in this race. First, Nadler was the only NY Congress-member who supported the Obama nuclear deal with Iran. This left his challenger, Oliver Rosenberg, a gay Yeshiva University alum and former Goldman Sachs banker, with a major opening. The Israel Lobby and Israeli government pulled out all the stops against the deal and planned to punish whoever stood in its way. That’s why Nadler faced his first primary challenge in 20 years. Rosenberg tagged Jackie Mason to make robocalls for him which questioned Nadler’s Jewishness, claimed that he was short and fat, and warned voters that an Iranian hydrogen bomb would rain down on them because of their Congressman’s vote.
But Nadler had his own “weapon” in the form of the sizable Satmar Hasidic constituency living in Brooklyn precincts in his district. The Satmars are ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionists, who believe that the State of Israel is a secular abomination that usurps the holy relationship between God and the Jewish people. They put together a robocall of their own on Nadler’s behalf and it was eye-opening. It raised the specter of dual loyalty and accused Nadler’s opponents (i.e. Rosenberg) of being agents of a foreign power (i.e. Israel):
A heartfelt plea to our dear brothers, Satmar Chassidim in Boro Park.
“We are all witnessing this dirty campaign led by a few irresponsible individuals against our devoted congressman, Jerry Nadler, because he didn’t accommodate 100% Bibi Netanyahu with regard to the Iran deal last summer. If, G-d forbid, Nadler loses the Boro Park votes, it will be a terrible chillul Hashem. It’ll give the impression that specifically Orthodox Jews are the most loyal to Israel and are ready to jeopardize their own interests all for the agenda of the Zionist state.
“The fact is that Satmar today has the biggest communities here in the city. We can clearly control the outcome of the election and perform a kiddush Hashem.
“Satmar Yidden will follow the posuk (Yirmiyahu 29), ‘Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.’ Peaceful, faithful Jews will vote this Tuesday for Jerry Nadler for Congress and send a message to the whole world that we are not voting for a foreign interest. We are voting for local interest.”
I’ve always found it interesting that the anti-Zionist among the ultra-Orthodox are so much closer to secular anti-Zionists than they are to their fellow Orthodox and even ultra-Orthodox Jews who are Zionist. The Satmar are among those who absolutely reject any coöperation between themselves and the State. They refuse to serve in the IDF and refuse to accept State funding for their educational institutions or social service agencies. They do this because they are waiting for the messiah and the establishment of a Torah-true state (something that would be anathema to secular anti-Zionists). Anything short of this is impermissible, including a secular Jewish state.
Here, in this attack on Israeli Orthodox political parties by the Satmar representative in Israel, the rhetoric sounds precisely like that of secular anti-Zionists:
“The groups [Likudist and Orthodox parties] that reproach us, those are the groups that took over the Yishuv [pre-state Jewish community in Palestine] by means of terror organizations like the Lehi, the Etzel and the Haganah. These are groups that are no different from Hamas,” he said. “We suggest that they move to Uganda, or anywhere else. The people of the Old Yishuv [anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Jews] settled here in order to fulfill the Torah and the commandments and not to violate the holiness of the land. We think that the right to live in the Holy Land is reserved for religious people, who know — among other things — that salvation has not yet arrived and that we must not provoke the nations that surround us [by establishing a state]. Whoever does not keep the Torah and the commandments has no moral right to live here.”
Interesting that there are Jews aside from us “leftists” who raise the specter of Israeli intervention in domestic U.S. politics as a danger to American Jews.
I want to warn readers from making the mistake that some anti-Zionists make in assuming that sects like Satmar or Neturey Karta represent a major constituency among Jews worldwide. They are a minority. And because many of the ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionists generally hold themselves aloof from much of the rest of the Jewish world, they’re even less influential than they otherwise might be. Nevertheless, I think their views are significant and worth understanding.
NOTE: My first piece published at The New Arab deals with the first semi-official acknowledgement by Israel about the origin of its Jericho missile program. It also notes a new lawsuit demanding the U.S. government cut off aid to Israel for violating nuclear protocols, which require it to sign the NPT. The New Arab is the media outlet founded by Azmi Bishara after the Shabak drove him into exile.