It’s always reassuring when you get ham-handed hasbara propaganda in response to your work—it means your preaching is reaching beyond the choir. I got a pair of such emails the other day—not sure what exactly they were in response to—but one of them claimed that my favored photo gear supplier, B&H Photo-Video, was “Pro-Israel, support & supply the IDF and most who work there are Zionists!” I wanted to fact-check that claim and boycott them if this was the case, because I don’t want the hard-earned money I spend on photo gear to support any military, let alone the IDF. Googling only turned up a few obscure anti-Semitic rants on woodworking forums of all places. But leave it to Wikipedia to reveal some pertinent facts:
The Satmar Hasidic movement has become known for its social isolation from all forms of secular culture and for its opposition to all forms of religious, secular, and political Zionism. After the Six-Day War in 1967 Reb Yoel told pious Satmar Hasidim not to approach the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, feeling it would show support for the secular government that claimed to have liberated it. This is true of other so called “holy places” that Satmar Hasidim do not visit, partly in protest of the secular Zionist government, which they view as an abomination.
Satmar Hasidim’s founder even goes as far as to blame Zionism for the Holocaust! Wow. I certainly don’t assume all or even very many of the B&H folks agree with that controversial belief, but I’d say that’s a pretty convincing factoid that this particular strain of Hasidic Judaism is not what you’d call “pro-Israel.” To wit:
In VaYoel Moshe [Satmar Hasidim founder] Teitelbaum explicitly declared that, from the time of the very inception of the Zionist movement in the 1890s, the Zionists violated the three oaths, and thereby caused the Holocaust, as well as all wars, terrorism, and violence in modern Israel, and most anti-Semitism around the world since that time, as a result:
- “…it has been these Zionist groups that have attracted the Jewish people and have violated the Oath against establishing a Jewish entity before the arrival of the Messiah. It is because of the Zionists that six million Jews were killed.”
In keeping with the three oaths, Satmar Hasidim were strongly opposed to the creation of modern Israel through violence and antagonism against gentile nations such as the Ottomans and Britain. In the years following the Holocaust, Rabbi Teitelbaum undertook to maintain and strengthen this position, as did many other Torah Jews and communities. Rabbi Teitelbaum declared that the State of Israel was a violation of Jewish teachings.
So thank you, hasbara knucklehead, for not only reaffirming my loyalty to one of the greatest purveyors of quality photo gear in the world, but also for reminding us all that there are many many Jews, including other groups among the ultra-orthodox, who do not support the violence committed by the State of Israel.
Finally, after doing my initial wiki-homework, I went straight to the source and contacted B&H to see their response. I quote: “Whoever sent you that email is uninformed and should be upbraided for disseminating this sort of claptrap.” They went on to state what perhaps would be obvious in any large American workplace. B&H has many employees, some are Hasidic Jews, some orthodox Jews, some Jewish but not orthodox, and some are not Jewish at all. Given that diversity, according to their response, “I’m sure our politics on average run the gamut form one end of the spectrum to the other both for domestic and international issues.” They also cautioned about that the Wikipedia articles “oversimplified a considerably more complex and nuanced issue.” I’ve tried to make clear above that B&H owners and employers may not necessarily adhere to all of the opinions of their tradition’s founders—as is true of any religious group.
So there you have it. Life is always more complex than the assumptions one might make about any religious group. I guess it just goes to prove the old saying: Don’t assume a Jew is Zionist because he wears a distinctive hat.