Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is familiar with controversy, but this is one he'd probably rather avoid. Paul, who has been accused of being anti-Israel in the past, allegedly had a brief encounter at a campaign event with Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, an anti-Zionist faith leader.
At an event in New Hampshire earlier this week, the two apparently shook hands. During the exchange, the Jewish Chronicle reports that Weiss told Paul that Judaism is a religion and that it "should never be transformed into a nationalism." The paper claims that Paul's response -- which will certainly draw ire -- was that this statement is "good advice."
The Chronicle has more about Neturei Karta, the anti-Zionist sect that Weiss is a part of:
The controversial sect, rejected by almost every other part of the Jewish community, was founded in Jerusalem in 1938 in order to fight Zionism and has actively championed Israel's enemies ever since. One Neturei Karta member, Rabbi Moshe Hirsch, even served as Minister for Jewish Affairs in Yasir Arafat's Palestinian administration.
Below, watch Weiss (circa 2008) railing against Zionism, while supporting the Palestinian people:
Weiss is also known for attending Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust," during which the Middle Eastern leader questioned the Holocaust. In 2006, Weiss also told Iranian media that “it is dangerous deviation to pretend that the Iranian president is anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic." He continued:
"[Ahmadinejad] is extremely friendly and he understands the difference between the Zionists and the Jews who do not embrace the state of Israel… We don’t look at him as an enemy”.
A photo of Weiss' interaction with Paul was posted on the American Spectator web site -- along with an image of Weiss and Ahmadinejad:
In fairness to Paul, he likely had no idea that Weiss would be at the event. That being said, his agreement with the rabbi's statement will only compound the negative press he has received for his perceived anti-Israeli sentiment.
Last month, a former aide -- Eric Dondero -- came forward and essentially said that Paul is against the Israeli state. However, the Paul campaign has defended the candidate's stance on the Jewish state. Aide Leon Hadar told Haaretz that the candidate isn't against Israel.
"He is just against foreign aid, and does not see any reason to grant an aid to the country that is a member of OECD," Hadar said. "We should remember it's the primaries, and the Republican party establishment is not happy about his popularity, because on many issues his positions run contrary to the traditional party's agenda."
In a separate interview, Paul told the outlet, himself, that he's not opposed to the Jewish state.
“I do not believe we should be Israel’s master but, rather, her friend," he said. "We should not be dictating her policies and announcing her negotiating positions before talks with her neighbors have even begun."