The Canadian Jewish News reports:
An Orthodox rabbi who is well-known for his right-wing views on Israel severely criticized the organizers of a highly publicized outdoor rally last week against the disengagement from Gaza and the northern West Bank for being hypocritical and misleading.
Rabbi Reuben Poupko told The CJN that members of the Lubavitch community, who he noted were the event’s primary organizers, should not publicly denounce the government of Israel, because, he said, the group is “anti-Zionist.”
He also called print and radio advertising for the event “deceptive,” because it did not identify the rally’s sponsors, and because it stressed “unity and prayer” and gave no indication the main thrust would be to protest the disengagement.
“What kind of hubris can a group of people in the Diaspora, who view the creation of the State of Israel as a crime against God and His Torah, have [to be able] to take it upon themselves to attempt to dictate the security policy of the State of Israel or to a man like [Israeli Prime Minister] Ariel Sharon?” Rabbi Poupko asked.
The anti-disengagement rally, held in Cote St. Luc’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park on the day the pullout began, drew about 400 people from different segments of the Jewish community. Several speakers, mainly Lubavitch rabbis or adherents, affirmed that Gaza and “Samaria” are integral to Eretz Yisrael and warned of the dire consequences of ceding any part of biblical Israel to the “enemies” of the modern state.
One of the protest organizers, Rabbi Asher Jacobson of Congregation Chevra Kadisha, told The CJN that Rabbi Poupko’s comments were unfair.
“This event is intended to gather as many Jews as possible to lend their voice of support to the Jews of Gaza who are being demonized and smeared in many quarters. This is a way of saying our hearts are in the East… It’s a shame it is being turned into a Lubavitch or chassidic issue. Forty to 45 per cent of Israelis disagree with disengagement.”
Rabbi Jacobson did not deny that Lubavitch is not Zionist, but he noted there are more than 1,000 Chabad institutions in Israel, and that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson met with all Jewish leaders, including Sharon, and encouraged Jews to go to Israel when it was being shelled by Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. [The Rebbe never visited Israel himself.]
While the anti-pullout rally was going on, Rabbi Poupko – along with fellow modern Orthodox rabbis Chaim Steinmetz of Congregation Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem and Mordecai Zeitz of Congregation Beth Tikvah – held a concurrent gathering at his nearby shul, Congregation Beth Israel-Beth Aaron.
The brief, hastily called event drew less than 100 people – both for and against the disengagement, Rabbi Poupko said – for prayer and what he called “dignified” reflection on the course the Israeli government is taking.
Meanwhile, on the sidewalk beside Trudeau Park, approximately 20 chassidic men from the anti-Zionist sects Tash in Boisbriand, Que., and Neturei Karta, based in Monsey, N.Y,. stood with placards denouncing the State of Israel as contrary to Judaism.
A heavy police presence kept the anti-Zionist protesters away from the anti-withdrawal rally, and officers quickly removed one man who tried to tear a sign away from one of the Chassidim.
At the rally, Rabbi Jacobson said: “The message is that Montreal Jewry is opposed to any future unilateral concession that would weaken the security of the Jews of Israel or around the world.”
The disengagement, he said, gives the impression that Israel is a country that “runs from terrorism and is amputating itself to the forces that wish to destroy it. While Americans are losing people every day in the fight against terrorism, Israel is surrendering.”
He called the pullout a violation of human rights and of Jewish law, which he said forbids endangering any Jew by giving back land that was given to them by God for eternity.
“I have heard many arguments that we should not be here, that it is too late. But it is not any more late than going to a shivah,” said the event’s MC Murray Dalfen, who said terrorism should not be “rewarded” and no further territorial concession should be made.
“They say we have no right because we do not live in Israel… But we are asked at other times to raise money for Israel and to speak publicly on her behalf, to show an interest in our homeland. Tonight, we are expressing our deep concern for what is happening in our homeland,” Dalfen said.
“A Palestinian state in Gaza will be a terrorist entity, with the sole purpose of capturing Eretz Israel, and [it will be] an anti-American dictatorship.”
Pesach Nussbaum, the Montreal representative of the Los Angeles-based Save Gush Katif organization, who was introduced as the event’s principal organizer, described the disengagement as “a terrible misadventure.”
His organization wants to stop “parts of Israel from being served to its savage enemies on a silver platter,” which he said endangers Jews everywhere.
Rabbi David Sabbah, who is regarded as the spiritual leader of much of the Sephardi community, circulated a signed flyer stating that “it is forbidden, under any circumstances, to hand over parts of Israel to the Arabs.”
It cited a passage from the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) that permits Jews to desecrate Shabbat and use weapons against “heathens” invading a border area.
“The ruling in Shulchan Aruch pertaining to a city close to the border is clear: ‘Even if the attackers only come to rob straw and stubble (i.e. they claim they want peace, not territory), one is obligated to take up arms and go out against them,’” it read. “The current situation in our Holy Land is far more severe than that depicted in the Shulchan Aruch… Hence, this is certainly a matter of pikuach nefesh [saving a life], without any shadow of a doubt.” [This halakha does not in any way prevent a government from ceding land if it determines that is the best course to take. To present it as if it does is sheer deception – or absolute stupidity.]
Milton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, said via phone hook-up that what Israel is making is a “tragic and historical mistake” under pressure from the United States and Europe. A message of appreciation from Knesset member Uzi Landau, a staunch opponent of the pullout who has announced he will challenge Sharon for the Likud leadership, was also read.
The event in the park was peaceful, a mixture of the solemn and almost festive, with a barbecue and infants in strollers. A few people in the crowd wore orange, the colour of the pullout resisters.
Several people interviewed said they had come out of sympathy for the settlers, not as a protest. “I support the Israeli government and believe in respect for the rule of law,” said Aaron Remer. “But we still have an obligation to publicly express our feelings for those Jews whose lives are being uprooted.”
There were no Israeli flags, nor was Hatikvah sung. The evening concluded with the singing of Sheybaneh Beit Hamikdash, which expresses the hope of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem.
The most forceful speaker and the one who received the most applause was Rabbi Avrohom Jacks of Congregation Zichron Kedoshim, who painted a disturbing picture of the crackdown on resisters and the physical removal of residents. “This is the first time in history that synagogues have been destroyed by Jewish soldiers.” [Not really. It happened during the 1st war against Rome.]
He alleged that the Israeli government has spent $3 billion on the disengagement, money that has been taken away from social spending, resulting in “thousands of abused children being returned to their homes.”
[Note that Chabad Rabbi Jacks cites no proof for this assertion.]