Daily Israel Report

Neturei Karta Rabbi Dead at 86

Neturei Karta leader who praised Iran and mourned Arafat dies in Jerusalem. Funeral draws his opponents as well as mourners.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 5/3/2010, 9:01 AM / Last Update: 5/3/2010, 9:28 AM

Flash 90

Moshe Hirsch, leader of the extremist anti-Zionist sect Neturei Karta, died on Sunday in Jerusalem at age 86.

Neturei Karta, a small hareidi-religious group founded in 1935, is distinguished from other anti-Zionist Jewish groups by its active support for Israel's enemies. Members of the group have met with – and expressed support for – Arab and Muslim leaders such as Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They do not accept any financial support from the Jewish State and do not vote.

Hirsch, who was born in New York but spent much of his life in Jerusalem, referred to Israel as “occupied Palestinian territory.” He first met Arafat while the latter was leading a campaign of terrorism against Israelis, and when Arafat died, Hirsch mourned him as “a great leader.”

Neturei Karta is disowned by the rest of the Jewish world, including the anti-Zionist hareidi-religious camp which it tried to claim to represent. The basic difference is the fact that other anti Zionist religious groups assert that they would not do anything that might harm Jews or the Jewish people or support anyone who causes them harm. That is why in 2006, the large anti-Zionist Satmar community led by Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitlebaum put several Neturei Karta members, including Hirsch's son, in cherem (excommunication) after they visited Iran and attended a Holocaust denial conference. When the group was photographed praying for Arafat's recovery several years earlier, the Chassidic world sent notices through the web excommunicating them.

The group is relatively tiny, claiming only several thousand members, only a handful of whom take part in such activities as meeting Arab leaders and supporting terrorism. However, it tends to receive widespread media attention, due largely to the shock value of seeing Jews in hareidi-religious apparel shaking hands with avowed anti-Israel terrorists or burning the Israeli flag. 

Hirsch was buried Sunday on the Mount of Olives (Har HaZeitim) in Jerusalem. His funeral was disrupted by a group of religious Jews who saw his passing as cause for celebration and who called out the Biblical verse, “There is joy when the wicked die.”

Hirsch is likely to be succeeded by his son, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Hirsch, who has increasingly taken on leadership of Neturei Karta in recent years, as his elderly father was often ill. The younger Hirsch, like his father, believes in the anti Jewish goal of forging ties with Arab and Muslim leaders, including the heads of terrorist groups such as Hamas, with the goal of eliminating the State of Israel and replacing it with an Arab state in which non-Zionist Jews will be a tolerated minority.