The Neturei Karta portray themselves as “authentic Jews”, selectively quoting from the Torah and the Talmud to justify their core belief, that the establishment of any Jewish state prior to the coming of the Messiah was utterly forbidden.
For the most part, the members of Neturei Karta are descended from Hungarian Jews that settled in Jerusalem’s Old City in the early nineteenth century. They were tradesmen and craftsmen, who devoted most of their time to studying the Talmud and other sacred texts. Most of their livelihood was based on the halukah, or distribution of charitable donations from wealthy Jews in the Diaspora.
The Neturei Karta sect number around 5,000, while the most conservative estimate of the global Jewish population comes out at approximately 14.3 million. This means that Neturei Karta make up just 0.03% of the entire Jewish population.
Most are based in Israel, despite their refusal to recognize the state. There are also communities in the US and the UK.
However, even among Neturei Karta, only a few hundred vocally protest against the state of Israel. But what they lack in numbers, they more than make up for in poisonous hatred.
If you hate the state of Israel, Neturei Karta want to be your friend. They went to Iran to participate in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust Denial conference. They went to meet with Louis Farrakhan, the horrendously antisemitic head of the Nation of Islam cult. They march hand in hand with people waving Hezbollah flags and calling for the death of Jews at regular Al Quds day parades.
The group is regarded with bemusement by some Jews, condescension by others, and disgust by many more. Other strictly orthodox Jews have taken pains to disassociate themselves from the behavior of Neturei Karta, unequivocally condemning them.
Even some far-left Jewish anti-Zionists know exactly what Neturei Karta are – a group of crazy fundamentalists who support the Palestinian cause because it happens to fit their own agenda. The mostly execrable +972 Magazine is a case in point, making this unusually cogent observation on the subject:
“Neturei Karta’s worldview is shaped by their opposition to Jewish self-determination, not support for Palestinian self-determination. Similar to Evangelical Christian support of radical right-wing Israeli groups, Neturei Karta’s support of Palestinians is based on fundamentalist views and not on actual ideological identification with the Palestinian struggle. Both of these Messianic forces will take on any type of ideological form to promote their own fatalistic worldview.”
The eagerness of anti-Zionists to embrace a group which opposes Israel only because it is not a strictly orthodox Jewish state founded in the wake of the Messiah’s coming seems utterly bizarre.
But apparently for many anti-Zionists, it matters less about what Neturei Karta believe, and more about how they actually look. Because Neturei Karta dress in the garb which most non-Jews associate with Jews, and because they hold up signs emphasising their anti-Zionist beliefs, they can be held up by antisemites as the real Jews, the good Jews, the Jews who agree with us – while the vast majority of Jews, who do support Israel, can be dismissed by such people as “fake”.