Photo Credit: Jewish Press

I recently posted about something on my Facebook page as I didn’t think I could ignore the fact that almost everyone was posting about it on theirs. It was about the publication of Prince Harry’s book “Spare”…

“I have not read this book. I am not interested in doing so. I would, though, like to offer a humble reminder. Anyone coming to a conclusion or opinion about a dispute between two or more people without hearing both or all sides, is quite simply either a knave or a fool.”


Leaving the book aside (after all, it wasn’t actually written by the Prince in any case) there is an important Jewish concept its publication raises.

In 2006 the antisemitic Iranian regime hosted a two-day conference in Tehran to discuss whether the Holocaust actually happened.

It drew 67 attendees from 30 countries like David Duke, ex Ku Klux Klan leader, and assorted convicted Holocaust deniers from Germany, France, England, Australia and more.

A presenter from Sweden claimed that only 300,000 Jews had been killed, not six million. A notorious British Holocaust denier, Michele Renouf, explained that anyway, those Jews who did die at the hands of the Nazis, did so as a result of “Jewish Leaders.”

The Vatican condemned this obscene event as did the Bush administration. Tony Blair, the UK Prime Minister called it “shocking beyond belief.”

More shocking, was the attendance at the conference of six Orthodox Jews from Neturei Karta.

The leader of those six is someone I have known since he was the M.C. at my wedding to my late wife over forty years ago, long before he morphed into a Neturei Karta-nik.

Unsurprisingly, he became a pariah in the UK’s Manchester community where we both lived. Only one shul out of the hundreds in the burgeoning Hareidi community allowed him to attend, the rest banned him.

Once when I was there learning with my son, he approached me and attempted to explain and defend his actions. After listening to his self-justification, it was my turn to respond.

This was not as easy to do as you might think. I remembered him from when I was a young man and he was a well-regarded member of Manchester’s Jewish community.

I began by saying that I didn’t mind in the slightest that he was not a Zionist or even that he was an anti-Zionist. He was certainly entitled to his opinion. Then I added, “But even if that is your position and you believe in both sincerely and passionately; You stand with your people… and you never shake hands with people who have Jewish blood dripping from them.”

The nineteenth century American Naval hero, Stephan Decatur is credited with coining the phrase. “My country right or wrong.” It has been much ridiculed and disparaged almost from the moment the words left his lips during an after-dinner toast. It was criticized as chauvinist and jingoist rather than merely patriotic, which he perhaps meant it to be.

Certainly, the saying is open to a benign interpretation; it doesn’t have to suggest and inspire over-patriotic fervor.

There is a noble tradition in the British Parliament that resonates with Decatur’s words. No criticism of an armed conflict is voiced while British soldiers are fighting and risking their lives for their country, even if individual parliamentarians may disapprove of the particular war.

That tradition and custom helped frame one of the biggest controversies of Rabbi Sacks’s period as UK Chief Rabbi.

In 2002, he gave an interview to the UK’s Guardian newspaper which provoked a wave of fury across the Jewish world. In it, he said he was shocked at the behavior of Israeli soldiers after seeing a photograph purporting to show IDF soldiers posing beside a slain Palestinian. He also argued that Israel was adopting a stance, “incompatible” with the deepest ideals of Judaism, and that the current conflict with the Palestinians was “corrupting” Israeli culture.

Carl Schurz the 13th U.S. Secretary of the Interior took Stephan Decatur’s famous phrase and in a speech decades after the original, modified it so it became,

“My country, right or wrong. If right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”

Rabbi Sack’s comments themselves were more Schurz than Decatur (his predecessor Lord Jacobovits also angered many when he too criticized Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.).

What I suspect Rabbi Sacks was attempting to express and to do in his comments was to, “set his country right.”

It’s not then what he said, but where and to whom he said it that was the problem. The Guardian, a doppelganger of the New York Times, has a long and ignoble history of extreme anti-Israel bias. Many British Jews would say that it has long since crossed the line into antisemitic bias.

And that takes us back to Prince Harry and his book. There is no denying from even his staunchest supporters that it is full of negative accusations and damning claims about his father, step-mother, brother, sister-in-Law and even grandmother, the late Queen Elizabeth, which he has announced to the world.

And that in turn takes us to that important Jewish concept I mentioned at the beginning and another famous anti-Zionist.

Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, Rebbe of Satmar was well known for his opposition to Zionism. On one occasion he was visited by the famous speaker of the House of Representatives, “Tip” O’Neil. His aides had briefed him about the Rebbe’s position on Israel and so during the meeting, the Speaker made critical comments about the Jewish State. When he did so, the Rebbe launched a staunch defense of the Israeli State and its people.

Afterwards, he was challenged by his Chassidim for his inexplicable advocacy of something he was in fact fearlessly critical of. He explained, “That is a disagreement within a family. You do not take family disagreements outside the family.”

And I would add, under no circumstances do you ever take them to the enemies of Am Yisrael.


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Rabbi Y Y Rubinstein is a popular international lecturer. He was a regular Broadcaster on BBC Radio and TV but resigned in 2022 over what he saw as its institutional anti-Semitism. He is the author of twelve books including most recently, "Truly Great Jewish Women Then and Now."