Anti-Zionist rabbi and Arafat ally Moshe Hirsch dies in Jerusalem at 86

JERUSALEM (AP) — Moshe Hirsch, an American-born anti-Zionist rabbi and close associate of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, has died in Jerusalem, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish group said Monday. He was 86.

Hirsch was a leading figure in Neturei Karta, a tiny ultra-Orthodox sect that opposes Israel's existence as a Jewish state and has embraced its enemies. He was born in New York and attended a rabbinical academy in New Jersey.

Arafat, who died in 2004, appointed Hirsch his adviser on Jewish affairs.

The group is known for its members' 2006 trip to Iran, where they embraced the President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a Holocaust-denying conference. It also supports Gaza's Hamas rulers and the Lebanese Hezbollah militants.

These alliances have drawn criticism even from other anti-Zionist Jewish groups, which believe that only the Messiah can establish a Jewish state.

Neturei Karta, which is Aramaic for "Guardians of the City," was founded some 70 years ago in Jerusalem by Jews who opposed the drive to establish the state of Israel. Estimates of the group's size range from a few hundred to a few thousand. Hirsch was the son-in-law of the group's founder, Rabbi Aharon Katzenelbogen.

Eida Haredit, an umbrella group of anti-Zionist Jewish sects, confirmed Hirsch died on Sunday.

Hatem Abdel Qader, an adviser on Jerusalem affairs to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said he would take part in a Palestinian delegation to pay respects to the late rabbi.

"We consider Rabbi Hirsch a part of the Palestinian people," said Abdel Qader. "He is one of the Palestinian Jews whom we give all respect and this is to confirm that our problem is not with the Jews as a religion, it's with Zionism."

Hirsch, who was buried Sunday, is survived by three children and a brother.