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Anti-Peace Religious Magazine Attempts to Square Itself with Rabbis of Pre-state Era

July 26, 2009

The weekly Hamodia Magazine, which represents the Agudist movement of Orthodox Jewry, ran an article on June 17, 2009 in honor of the anniversary of the murder of Dr. Yaakov Yisroel De Haan at the hands of the Zionists in 1924. The article described De Haan’s valiant activitism on behalf of the traditional Orthodox Jews of the Old Yishuv in Jerusalem, who struggled to maintain their independence in the face of Zionism. With De Haan’s assistance, Jerusalem’s premier anti-Zionist Rabbi Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld met with Arab leaders and assured them that the authentic Orthodox Jews of Palestine had no political or nationalist aspirations.

Dr. De Haan was a man who devoted all his energies and the best years of his life to saving the remnant of loyal Jews, and to promote peace with the veteran Arab residents of the Holy Land. Through his knowledge of politics and diplomacy, De Haan contributed much to crystallizing an independent position for Orthodox Jewry unaffiliated with the Zionist leadership.

This was a period in history when the followers of the Zionist movement began streaming into the Holy Land in large numbers, defiling the holiness of the land. The Zionists first approached the British authorities by pretending to present themselves as the representatives of the Jewish nation. They desired to establish a “national home” without any regard whatsoever of the fact that the vast majority of the Jewish People opposed Zionism in those days. However, through their various contacts, the Zionists managed to bring about the Balfour Declaration, based on the “right” of the Jews to establish a state in Palestine, and ultimately the state of Israel itself, to our great misfortune.

Good relations had always existed between the Jewish and Arab communities of Palestine, and the leadership of the Orthodox Jewish community conducted themselves according to the principles of Judaism, never provoking their non-Jewish neighbors. The Arabs were very friendly and neighborly, and a spirit of mutual respect was typical.

When the winds of Zionism began to blow through Palestine, the Arabs began to change their attitude because of the fact that they heard that the “Jews” wanted to grab the Land from them and expel them. Unfortunately, they did not know to distinguish between the Zionist troublemakers and the members of the loyal authentic Jewish community that advocated tolerance and peace. There were outbreaks of violence here and there, and many people died.

However, they did not take any lesson from this experience that brought suffering upon the Jewish People in the Holy Land, and they did not cease their dangerous lawless behavior. On the contrary, the Zionists used these events as “additional proof” for the need for a state and an army to protect the Jews from violence. Jewish blood was of no importance to the Zionists in comparison to their “lofty” nationalist goals.

It was clear to the leaders of the Orthodox Jewish community that there was an immediate need for an organization to confront the Zionist organization. It was most crucial to demand that the British desist from endorsing the idea of a Zionist state and most vital to resolve the Arab-Jewish tensions peacefully.

A great and unexpected opportunity presented itself in the form of Dr. Yaakov Yisrael De Haan. He was a Jew who had embraced Judaism from a life of secularism, and had made his way to the Orthodox community of Jerusalem during those difficult days. He sensed the truth, and from then on never ceased to march with the great rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld, who wisely advised De Haan.

De Haan established extensive contacts with many governmental authorities in Europe, including the English, and proceeded to carry out his work immediately. In no time at all he transformed the loyal Jewish community from a supposedly tiny one without any international recognition to a community standing up against the Zionist heretics. He and other members of the community represented the Orthodox Jews under the name of “Eida Haredis” (G-d-Fearing Community), and represented the position of the loyal Jewish community.

It goes without saying that the Eida Haredis was accepted warmly among non-Jews, much more so than was the case with the Zionists. Firstly, because of the fact that the Eida Haredis represented traditional, authentic Judaism against Zionism, that openly rejected Judaism in its entirety, secondly, because of the fact that the Orthodox position made more sense in order to prevent bloodshed and promote harmony in Palestine.

Dr. De Haan then organized a delegation of Orthodox Jewish leaders to meet with Arab leaders headed by Emir Abdullah of Transjordan and his father, Hussein Abu-Ali, king of Hijaz (Saudi Arabia). The Jewish delegation was headed by Rabbi Zonnenfeld, and was welcomed by the Arabs like royalty. The king even gave them expensive gifts as a sign of his affection. Of course the Zionists were gritting their teeth when they learned of this event. They saw the possibility that all of their projects may end up collapsing in front of their very own eyes. The Zionists began their attacks against the loyal Jewish community in general, and against Dr. De Haan in particular. They slandered him with increasing brutality until they went so far as to call for his murder.

In those days the G-d-fearing Jews were persecuted greatly by the Zionists, and whenever the Zionists would run into De Haan in the street, they would insult him. However, De Haan never ceased his holy work on behalf of our rabbis. When the Zionists realized that their persecution of De Haan had no effect, they decided to kill him.

In a plan approved by the leading Haganah Zionists, a number of young Zionists accosted Dr. De Haan as he left the Shaarei Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem. The Zionist Avraham Tahomi, may his name be obliterated, shot De Haan three times in the chest, and shortly thereafter De Haan expired, returning his soul to heaven.

Nevertheless, some 85 years after that horrible day, there is still a community of Jews following in the authentic path, and refusing to bow to the Zionist idol. It is in a large measure, due to the selfless holy efforts of Yaakov De Haan, a martyr of his people who paved the way with self-sacrifice, that there are still Jews who refuse to succumb to the Zionist regime of heretics. These Jews stand strong despite the fact that the Zionists oppress the authentic Jews with their laws and power. It is in the merit of Yaakov De Haan that there are still Jews today throughout the world who stand and announce unflinchingly their unswerving loyalty to the countries in which they live. In his merit there are still Jews in this world who declare to the nations of world that the Zionists and their state have no link with Judaism or the Jewish People.

Hamodia usually maintains opposition to the current “peace-process” aimed at a two-state solution, but at the same time declares its allegiance to the great rabbis of the past and present, who opposed Zionism. Its editors therefore selected an article that attempts the resolve the contradiction inherent in opposing Zionism while advocating continued Zionist rule over all of the Holy Land. Seemingly, Rabbi Zonnenfeld and De Haan, as advocates for peaceful relations with the Arabs, had more in common with the peace-process of today than with the militant religious Zionists who oppose it.

The writer of the article, Rabbi Yisroel Spiegel, addresses this problem as follows:

“Comparison of Rav Zonnenfeld’s initiative with the Israeli government’s efforts to provide momentum for a major reconciliation with the Arabs seems self-evident. However, in terms of what their proponents were trying to achieve, the two processes actually could not have been further apart… Outwardly, there may be some resemblance between the steps that were attempted, but in terms of what motivated them there is absolutely none. The Gedolim geared their policy toward attaining the most important objective: an interest in Eretz Yisrael unconnected with the outward trappings of rule but with the Land’s innermost character… Eretz Yisrael is the place intended and yearned after for establishing Torah life in its fullest sense. The Torah, in its entirety, can be fulfilled here. The land-based mitzvos can be experienced anew here. Here, yearning for the day when the Merciful One favors us with His return to Zion and the restoration of the holy service when His Temple is rebuilt, is tangible. This is what every Jewish soul has longed for in every generation, while enduring our frequent and varied exiles…Not so the Zionists and nationalists – they preferred a flag to Torah and “national renaissance” to the continuity of our spiritual Torah heritage, in all its aspects and ramifications. Thus, in their fight to obtain Eretz Yisrael in order to realize the “Zionist vision,” they assigned supreme importance to being “a free nation in our own land,” waging a battle on two fronts: an internal campaign against G-d and those who remain faithful to His covenant and observe His Torah, and an external campaign against the Arab world, which sharply opposed any Jewish political demands for sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael…

“In the course of one of these meetings, Emir Abdullah gave Dr. de Haan a document he had written and signed himself, stating that he would welcome Jewish settlement in Transjordan and would even lend such an initiative his support, on condition that it was unaccompanied by any political ambitions… This important historical document mysteriously disappeared following Dr. de Haan’s murder, when unidentified individuals entered his apartment and took away many important papers… this shows that almost twenty years before the Holocaust, there existed a concrete possibility of bringing about large-scale Jewish settlement in the Holy Land, but it was torpedoed by the Zionists because they were not interested in saving Jews but only in achieving their aims through the establishment of a state. Granted, Emir Abdullah only consented to Jewish settlement on condition that it was devoid of any political ambition – in other words, he opposed a Jewish state – but this speaks for itself: the main objective of the Gedolei Yisroel was to find a place of refuge where Jews could live…

“The unfurling of a national flag, not the rescue of the Jewish masses, was what mattered to the Zionists. This came to the fore later, under circumstances that were far more tragic, during and just prior to the Holocaust, when they rejected every proposal for finding sanctuary for Europe’s Jewish masses in distant continents that were out of the Nazis’ reach. They argued that rescue per se had no value unless it contributed to the national thrust to establish the Jewish state. The bullets that pierced Dr. de Haan’s heart on 28 Sivan 5684 (1924) were thus not directed solely at him but also at the masses who could have escaped the atrocities of the Holocaust had the initiative of the Gedolim succeeded, even while adhering to Abdullah’s demand that it be unaccompanied by any political ambitions.”

Stated in plain language, Rabbi Spiegel is arguing as follows: “Great rabbis are motivated by an interest in living in Eretz Yisroel as a spiritual place or as a refuge for Jews in danger, not as a state. Zionists are motivated by a desire for a state and nothing else. Therefore, in 1924 Rabbi Zonnenfeld simply wanted Jews to be allowed to come to the Holy Land and live there under the British Mandate or whatever government would be given control of the land. Today, we Agudists are opposed to giving back land because like Rabbi Zonnenfeld, we want Jews to live in the entire Holy Land. But the “Zionists” just want to keep their Jewish statehood and are willing to give back land, if necessary, to facilitate that.”

This argument would make sense if it were not misleading – would the Hamodia really support Jewish settlement under a non-Jewish state in Palestine today? We would like to think they would, but we suggest that they write this more explicitly.

The Agudist newspaper writers, who have so opposed the two-state peace process under the guise of being against Zionism, must ready themselves for the not-so-far-off time when the international discussion will shift to a one-state solution – a state which will incorporate the Palestinian populations in all of historic Palestine as well as refugees, who together will outnumber Israeli Jews. For the first time in 61 years, the possibility of Jews living in the Holy Land under a non-Jewish state will become real. Then Rabbi Yisroel Spiegel and every Agudist will be forced to answer truthfully the question of what they should really support: living in the Holy Land, or a Jewish state. We hope that by that time the Torah’s answer to that question will be clear to every Torah Jew.