Neturei Karta: enemies not allies

The struggle for justice for the Palestinians is an urgent and necessary one, but is utterly discredited by allying ourselves with reactionaries.

neturei karta-JPEG

Tom Harris is a member of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC)

When Jobbik leader Gábor Vona visited London last weekend, I was one of over a hundred people to assemble at Holborn station to give him a piece of my mind.

Though Gabor himself had been swiftly whisked away to safety, around 50 supporters of the Hungarian fascist party found themselves stranded inside the tube station’s ticket hall, a thick line of police protecting them from the angry anti-fascists outside.

After a couple of hours or so, the police marched the increasingly dejected Jobbik men back down onto the platforms, from where they were subsequently escorted to a re-located rally in Hyde Park.

Though the fascists eventually got to have their meeting in peace, the anti-fascist mobilisation was one of the more encouraging ones I’d experienced. Jobbik had had their day badly disrupted and their activists badly humiliated – standing in sulky, impotent silence while a large crowd of lefties chanted ‘Auschwitz, Sobibor, never again!’ at them. Hearteningly, many Hungarians, as well as some British Jews from decimated Hungarian families, had bolstered the crowd.

So it was in good spirits that I left the demonstration to make my way home. As I crossed the road, I noticed a small group of Haredi Jews in the uniform of side-locks, fur hats and frock coats that distinguish the ulta-orthodox. They stood in a line behind a banner – ‘Authentic Judaism Opposes Zionist Aggression’ while people from the periphery of the Jobbik protest took pictures and smiled with approval.

I recognised them as members of Neturei Karta – a small, bizarre Haredi sect that has made a name for itself through it’s militantly anti-Zionist stance, it’s refusal to recognise the Israeli state and it’s willingness to line up for photo opportunities with the likes of George Galloway, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hamas.

If you’ve ever been on a demonstration in support of the Palestinians, or if you have a sizeable number of lefties among you’re Facebook friends, you’ll probably have seen pictures of them, the juxtaposition of religious Jewish garb and Palestinian flags making for quick-and-easy symbolism. “Look at this”, the Facebooker will often say, “even these super-religious Jews think Israel has gone too far this time”.

But Neturei Karta’s opposition to Israel has nothing to do with left-wing values, internationalism or a humane critique of state aggression, nor does its support for the Palestinians stem from humanitarian concerns for an occupied people.

Instead, it opposes the Israeli state on purely theological and reactionary grounds. According to them, only the returned Messiah can rebuild scattered Israel, and when he does, he will do so not as a relatively secular parliamentary democracy, but as a godly kingdom. For Neturei Karta, the current Israel is an atheistical abomination, poisoned by modernism and godlessness.

In other words, they oppose Israel not from the secular left but from the theocratic far-right.

But what they were doing here, at a protest against Hungarian neo-Nazis, not Israel? When I asked they explained that “the Zionist movement slanders many of its critics as anti-semites”. Slow on the uptake, I still didn’t understand.

And then it clicked 0 they were here for the Jobbik protest after all, but not against but in favour of them. Hungarian Nazis hate Israel, therefore Neturei Karta like Jobbik. And all around them, incomprehending lefties were taking their picture and wishing them well.

Of course, Neturei Karta are a small and largely inconsequential sect. I’m also sure many of the protesters cheering them on did so out of well-meaning ignorance rather than anything sinister.

Nevertheless, George Galloway, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and others prominent on the left have shared platforms and taken photo opportunities with this noxious cult, just as the Socialist Workers Party were once willing to promote the Holocaust-denying jazz saxophonist Gilad Atzmon for his ‘anti-Zionist’ credentials.

Next time they try it, they should be reminded of last weekend.

The lesson for the left is obvious. The struggle against Israeli militarism and for justice for the Palestinians is an urgent and necessary one, but it is discredited by allying ourselves with religious crackpots, anti-semites and reactionaries.

15 Responses to “Neturei Karta: enemies not allies”

  1. Bob

    as if Jobbik has anything against Jews in general.

  2. Tom Harris

    You doubt it, do you?

  3. Sparky

    Are you Jewish or Hungarian?

  4. SarahAB

    Why are those questions relevant?

  5. Sparky

    They’re relevant because I have an antipathy for trendy, white, middle class, student phonies who go on demos to make themselves feel self-righteous and look modern, forward-thinking, tolerant and cool by allying themselves with minority causes.

  6. NINJA ANTIFA

    1. Jobbik did NOT have any peace as some of us, unlike YOU [who disappeared!], went to Hyde Park and some of Jobbik’s militants who attacked us with knives and screwdrivers got their arse’s kicked!

    2. Some of us took pictures of the Jewish contingent for our own propaganda purposes. Everybody has their own agenda, so your article is bullcrap!…

  7. NINJA ANTIFA!

    Either you are wrong or a well researched article is wrong; in lieu of any supporting material for your position the world is free to choose!

    Plus you can find stuff on their Anti-Semitism in any search, where did you get your info?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/hungary/10037188/Inside-the-far-Right-stronghold-where-Hungarian-Jews-fear-for-the-future.html

  8. NINJA ANTIFA!

    CORRECTION; not in it’s entirety but enough of it is!

  9. Tom Harris

    So you’re annoyed by people ‘allying themselves with minority causes’, which, in this case is Jewish and Roma ethnic minorities under threat from neo-Nazis. I feel such sharp stabs of pain for the irritation this must cause you.

  10. Tom Harris

    Incidentally, I am white and I’m not Hungarian, but then again I’m a worker not a student. So I’m intrigued to find out how I score on your absurd category test for whether people are allowed to protest against Jobbik or not. What if I was Hungarian *AND* Jewish, but also a student? Or what if I was middle-class, but black and not Jewish? Which would be more acceptable? Does anyone care?

  11. Tom Harris

    1. Yeah, I know some people went on to Hyde Park. Good for you, well done. I had work.

    2. Well your propaganda doesn’t seem to have been hugely effective then, has it… I think my point still stands – NK were allowed to propagandise for Jobbik and went more or less unchallenged. There presence on left-wing demos is an ongoing issue which I think we have to deal with. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.

  12. Eisa Ali

    .

  13. Eisa Ali

    Thank you for a very accurate comment in response to a very anti-Semitic article. This couldn’t sound more pro-establishment and right wing if it tried.

    I saw the sorry bunch of pasty white boys protesting Vona, the kind of enlightened individuals who support the Saudi destabilisation of Syria or worse yet chant slogans about a ‘free’ Tibet.

    My left foot should go forth and enter your rectum Tommy old boy.

  14. voiceofexile

    i am a neturei karta and whoever wrote this article is an IDIOT
    neturei karta are against israel because it says in the torah that youre not allowed to make a state
    it also says in the torah that youre not allowed to kill and steal! why do you accuse them of not caring about the palestinians? the fact that they put an emphasis on the prohibitons to end exile in order to shut up the religious zionist rabbis who claim that the state has sources in the torah doesnt mean that they are completely apathetic to palestinian suffering ! theyve visited gaza, sent huge trucks of food and stock there, which is more that youve done! do you think they see the pictures of fathers holding dead children and dont bat and eyelid?
    if they see that a “fascist dictator” slanders israel and could potentially end up preaching raw antisemitims because of the things he sees israel doing, jews arent allowed to go and explain that not all jews agree with israel? who the hell are you to take away our right? should we sit silently and wait until he becomes a proper nazi? until he starts expelling jews from hungary?
    we met with him that day and he expressed that he has nothing against jews as jews, just zionists. however i must also state that afterward we agreed together that it was wrong to have protested there
    we should have just met with him.
    anyway you are hypocritical, you say that its a problem that must be adressed that NK protest by left wing demos, when really all pro palestine demos are made by the PSC and you people also just tag along and bring more signs than members of your orginasation so it looks like you have hundreds of members. you people would also protest against hamas if they had a state, so how can you accuse us of bluffing? atleast we genuinely support the interest of palestinians!
    voiceofexile@gmail.com

  15. tonygreenstein

    No you are not allowed to go and support Jobbik you utter idiot.

    As a dedicated anti-Zionist I will tell you your actions are utterly reprehensible. Jobbik is a foul fascist organisation which is the direct descendant of the Arrow Cross/Nyilas party that took over in Hungary on October 15 1944. They were responsible for butchering up to 50,000 Jews, Orthodox and non-Orthodox, Zionist and anti-Zionist.

    For you to defend these creatures is unforgiveable.

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