Talk prepared by Rabbi
Yisroel Feldman of Neturei
to be delivered at the International Conference
to review the Holocaust, December 11-12, in Tehran, Iran
With praise to the Almighty may my words find favor in His eyes.
I want to begin with gratitude and great respect to the Iranian government in general and to the Honorable Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei and to His Excellency, President Mahmoud Ahmadinegad.
Much has and will be said at this conference concerning the debate of European Jewry during the Second World War. I am neither a scientist nor a professional historian and am not capable of responding to many of the questions discussed here.
What I propose to do though, is to speak about the morality of what happened to European Jewry and the morality of using their fate as an explanation for other political and cultural activities.
No matter how we may debate some of the details of what was done to the Jews of Europe there is no doubt that they were treated brutally and that this brutality included all men, women and children. The Jews were physically attacked and murdered. Their possessions and homes were taken. They were shipped across Europe like animals jammed into cattle cars with little or no food and water. Millions died. And many of these were defenseless women and children. These are facts. The worldwide Jewish community is by and large descendents of those who survived this horrible hell.
It would probably lend much credibility to those who wish to study the destruction of European Jewry if they would clearly condemn these actions committed during the holocaust. There is no moral justification for what was done.
However, there is also no moral justification for using these events
to dispossess and occupy another people who have nothing whatsoever
to do with what was done in Europe. Let Europe make amends for what
took place if they so desire, not the Palestinians.
Plus, it is our belief that it is not the appropriate role for Jews when they live in exile amongst the nations to adopt any position of antagonism towards any other peoples or nations. We believe that Jews are called upon to lead by example by serving as a positive role model for all of mankind, not as dictators of public policy.
Zionism violated many tenets of the Jewish faith. It sought to deny the metaphysical reality of Jewish exile and the Divine command that we live at peace with other peoples. Its cruelty towards the Palestinian was and is notorious.
The founder of Zionism, Theodore Herzl, wrote in his diary that he felt the existence of anti-Semitism was a healthy thing because this would make Jews mistrust the other nations of the world and come running to the state he wanted to create for them. He saw fit to even cultivate this anti-Semitism and some of the Zionist leaders refused to participate in attempts to rescue European Jews from the horrors of the inferno of Europe because it suited their own purposes to do so.
The advent of Zionist ideology, even before the creation of the state, met with tremendous opposition from great Jewish leaders who saw in Zionism two major problems: One, that the Jewish people had been commanded not to try and leave exile by force, but rather to live peacefully as subservient loyal citizens wherever they would reside. And secondly, that we had similarly been forbidden from assuming ownership of the land. That these things have come to pass and that they have been achieved through the wide scale oppression of another nation is absolutely in dissonance with Jewish faith and law. The great Rabbis who witnessed the birth of Zionism predicted that this movement would bring terrible catastrophes upon the Holy Land and upon the world, and many refer to this development as the foremost reason for the holocaust itself. The Rabbis saw Zionism as a horribly rebellious phenomenon and felt that by embracing Zionism the Jewish people was invoking the Divine wrath, and in fact, in our time, it is clear that Zionism has created untold tragedy. Throughout the centuries Jew and Muslim lived side by side amicably, but those times predated the Zionist era. The situation is such that we need a miraculous salvation from what Zionism has wrought.
What is most important, though, is that when approaching the all-important topics of Zionism and the holocaust that we keep our balance and moral clarity. What was done to the Jews and to other European peoples, such as the Poles and Gypsies, was a great evil. If its parameters need to be explored, let them be freely explored, but all the while realizing that we are exploring the reality of an evil deed. This is the delicate clarity that is so needed when approaching this sensitive issue.
Similarly, when studying Zionism we need to always distinguish between Zionism and Judaism. Between those caught in its grasps and those actively committing acts of Zionist aggression; Between Torah True Jews and those who have strayed from our faith and traditions;
These are the distinctions that need go forth from this conference. They will lend its deliberations credibility and add to the ultimate goal of peace between peoples, the eradication of all cruelty, and the overall moral and Divine agenda of all mankind.
May G-d be with you.