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Ahmadinejad Snogger, Rabbi Friedman, Recants

Remember the Neturei Karta rabbi who attended Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust Denial conference, and then was photographed embracing the Iranian President?

kiss

Of course you do.

Then you’ll probably be as surprised as I am to discover that:

- he isn’t  Neturei Karta, but some sort of freelance Satmar nutter; and

- he has now changed his mind, recanted, and decided that his past actions were a terrible error.

I’ve read the interview in Vos Iz Neias (“What’s The News”), an Orthodox blog, a couple of times. I’m still none the wiser. I am not sure whether my problem is that I don’t understand the theology underpinning Friedman’s reasoning, or whether the man is simply a lunatic.

In any case, he has certainly changed his mind:

“It was more than the last several days or weeks; I think that the last recent weeks and months led me to a different environment and got me to a different conclusion based on facts and figures. I started thinking based on facts and knowledge I had gained over the past year. Mumbai was an important part.”

Prompted to introspection by the tragedy in Mumbai, and, most significantly, inspired by a persistent Jewish radio personality Zev Brenner, who apparently played a critical role in his turnaround, Friedman came to the quiet resolution that he had been wrong.

Friedman, never at a loss for words, is speaking from the heart now. We can feel it. For the next 90 minutes, he covers a huge amount of ground.

Were there threats to life and limb, perhaps even from the Israeli government, which prompted his turnaround? “No one ever threatened me,” he claims with a chuckle in his throat.

Asked if he regrets hugging Ahmadinejad, Friedman seems to be aware that for too many, words will never be good enough. Still, he sounds level-headed and far from defensive as he matter-of-factly explains that “I was an independent activist and thought I was doing Hatzolas Yisroel.”

On the community reaction to his shenanigans, Friedman believes that while he was wrong, the inherently emotional nature of the issue only blew it completely out hand. “The frum media made awful reports about me without getting the facts.” He doesn’t want to talk about what actually happened at the Holocaust-denial conference, saying that he is under legal advice to keep mum. “I can tell you there were a lot of lies and false reports as to my comments there.”

Of all people in the world to now be taking on Neturei Karta, Rabbi Moshe Aryeh Friedman is perhaps the best equipped. But will he verbally denounce Neturei Karta? “Yes, absolutely.” And he does not fear a backlash from them. “I am very much independent. You can’t pressure me in any way; I’m not subject to any type of pressure. They know perfectly well who brought them into the international arena.”

Speaking of the notion of working with the Muslim world to establish the Jewish record, Friedman says of Neturei Karta, “I think they are not straightforward. I have been receiving information that they are disrespected in diplomatic circles. Working with a half-million Palestinians is not in compliance with the Three Oaths. There’s also [the issue of] ‘lo saamod al dam rayecha.’ ” He adds that NK’s work creates anti-Semitism.

“I am in the position to reverse things and appear before the Umos Ha’olam… I stand very much behind my words.” 

Um.

Anyhow, that’s his position now.

It goes without saying that, as a Satmar, he maintains a theological objection to the State of Israel. What he denounces is those whose religious position has led them – has his once did – to endorse genocidal anti-semites.

So he’s obviously not entirely mad.