Originally published on 10/3/07, 11:57 AM, Eastern Daylight Time.
First, I invite you to view the video of Ahmadinejad's meeting with some Neturei Karta rabbis here. You may find it somewhat disturbing but it is clearly something worth watching.
I have dealt before with the issue of members of Neturei Karta meeting with Ahmadinejad, specifically their attendance at that infamous conference at Tehran. My position is actually quite simple -- as far as I am concerned there is no justification for meeting with someone who wishes to attack Jews. Even if Neturei Karta has "all" the Torah arguments in the world to justify their theological positions including their view of Israel, in that the majority , the vast majority of Jews, even the vast majority of Torah Jews, do not share this view and those who oppose this mainstream Jewish view have declared a willingness to harm these Jews, there is no explanation for sitting with a sonei Yisrael, one committed to harming Jews.
Having said this, though, this video is the first time I have actually seem these members of Neturei Karta present their views, and opens new issues that demand investigation.
1) Eilu v'Eilu -- In the Sifkin Affair, people argued Eilu v'Eilu in the name of tolerance. Would these same people argue it in this case -- afterall are these NK people not making Torah arguments. But they do not invoke Eilu v'Eilu so why should we? Is that the way Eilu v'Eilu works? Do you know that Reform Judaism also invokes Eilu v'Eilu? Don't we still apply this concept in other cases while rejecting it in regard to Reform? Don't we apply and not apply Eilu v'Eilu? Is that not what these NK people are also doing? Eilu v'Eilu is a problematice concept and one cannot fully comprehend its depth and its difficulty until we confront situations like this one when we recognize that we have to be tolerant to other Torah positions but also understand that Torah tolerance still only works within certain parameters. Working out those parameters, and recognizing the possibility of arguments regarding those parameters For further insights on this topic see my various articles on the Slifkin Affair which are available in the Nishma website's Index to Commentaries.
2) Religion v.s. Nationalism -- If you follow the words of the NK spokesman, you truly see an aspect of the Jewish world that is often overlooked -- the difference between religiously motivated Jewish identity and nationally motivated Jewish identity. If you look at Islamic fundamentalists without a consideration of their anti-Israel stand, do you not find a group close to religious motivated Jewishness? There is a belief in One God. There is some semblance of a sexual morality albeit its actual manifestation is not in line with Jewish values even for the most right-wing Orthodox Jew (and more so for more liberal views within Orthodoxy). But think about this. In America, we are siding with the Christian fundamentalists against secularists but vis-a-vis Muslim fundamentalists we seem , to some extent, to find ourselves siding with secularists.
Israel is a major reason for our definitions of allegiance -- but think about what we would be thinking if Israel was not the issue. What you see in the video is one monotheist praising another monotheist against secularism. How do you respond to that? Is it not interesting that in so many ways we side with the secularists against monotheists? Is that not something to ponder? And what about this generic view of religion anyway? I find it also strange that Israel has drawn individuals closer to Christian fundamentalism. In any event viewing this video does also raise issues of our identity as well.
Questioning, investigating, analyzing should not be understood as in any way giving value. I find this video disturbing, period. But it is still worthwhile to contemplate.