Cult rabbi who condemns Israel and denies Holocaust besieged by protests

Associated Press/December 22, 2006

An Orthodox Jewish rabbi who participated in a conference in Iran that cast doubt on the Holocaust was under police protection at home Wednesday.

Since returning from Tehran on Sunday, Rabbi Ahron Cohen -- who opposes Israel's right to exist - has been denounced as a traitor in daily demonstrations outside his home in Salford, a predominantly Jewish district close to Manchester's city centre.

Protesters are angry because Cohen accepted an invitation and warmly greeted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has described the Holocaust as a "myth" and called for the destruction of Israel.

"It's been made very clear he has no place in the community. He has been ostracised," said Rabbi Yehuda Brodie of the Manchester Beth Din, the local Jewish authority.

"He does not represent any serious faction of Judaism just because he wears the garb."

Cohen is a member of Neturei Karta, a group that opposes Zionism and the Israeli state, and supports close ties with Arabs, particularly Palestinians.

Britain's Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks attacked Cohen's participation in the Tehran conference as an "unforgivable betrayal of the memory of the victims of the Holocaust."

Cohen, however, said the meeting was designed to help defuse tensions.

"Maybe I am a traitor to Israel, but I am not a traitor to the Jewish people," he told The Associated Press.

Attending the three-day conference, he added, "was unpleasant and distasteful but had to be done."

Cohen insists he is not a Holocaust denier but said that the mass murder was ordained by God because Jews "needed to have that suffering."

"The victims have to accept what happened as God's will," he said, while dismissing the need to hold memorial events or to teach future generations about the killings of 6 million Jews during World War II.

A round-the-clock police operation was mounted outside the rabbi's house after it was pelted with hundreds of eggs within hours of his return Sunday.

On Monday night, police with dogs rushed to the residential street as hundreds of people joined the protest.

"He is not part of the religious society and we should all stand against him," said protester Isaac Friedlander.

"I lost family in the Holocaust and I can't believe he went to the denial conference. We don't want him living in our streets."

Cohen, who is in his 80s, branded the protesters as "the ugly face of Zionism."

"They are very sad, misguided and influenced by nationalism," he said.

"I won't leave because they say so, I'll ignore them. ... I'm strong."

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