Now, no one's ever taken the modern Pulsa Denura particularly seriously, not when it's conducted by these people, at least. But does it have real kabbalistic credentials?
Shachar Ilan in Ha'aretz today cites an article that appeared in the Haredi Mishpacha magazine three months ago, arguing the whole concept is completely made up:
It is a ceremony that was invented in the early years of Israel's statehood by one of the then-leaders of the Haredi public, who made an especially dramatic adaptation of the good old excommunication ceremony.The observant reader has noticed an inherant contradiction -- if there's no such ceremony, what do they mean by, 'it is not conducted at midnight, but rather at noon'? **
Excommunication isn't such a scary matter, but pulsa denura sounds at least as mysterious as a voodoo rite. And all the rest is folklore. The two authors of the Mishpacha article, Dr. Dov Schwartz of Bar-Ilan University and the Haredi public figure Moshe Blau, spoke with three noted kabbalists, and received the answers: "I'm not familiar with it," "I've never heard of such a thing," and "There's no such curse in the Torah."
The researchers conclude: "Pulsa denura is not a kabbalistic ceremony, kabbalists do not participate in it, it is not conducted at midnight, but rather at noon, not after a three-day fast, and not to the light of black candles." The researchers say that those who claim they conducted a pulsa denura for Rabin are embellishing, because they don't understand what it's all about." Blau says that it is the same situation for the ceremony held for Sharon. The researchers don't miss the opportunity to poke fun at secular Jews, who "in spite of not believing in the Creator of the world and His Torah, believe oh so much in pulsa denura."
An expanded version of Ilan's article which he published in May sheds some further light (although it doesn't really answer that question). Unfortunately I can only find it reproduced on JewishWhistleblower's site -- so apologies for sending you there. He explains:
The two writers have made a study of the places in which the term pulsa denura appears in the sources, and have found that it is usually a reference to divine punishment imposed by God on angels, and not a curse or banishment from the community... The two researchers reached the conclusion that the pulsa denura invoked today is merely a new and particularly frightening version of an excommunication edict, a ceremony that also incorporates extinguishing candles, blowing shofars in synagogue and reciting a curse...Noting that the author of the Mishpacha article is actually a relative of Amram Blau's, this blog adds:
The researchers did not identify who gave excommunication its new name. But so as not to hold the reader in suspense, we will note that use of the curse in the early days of the state was usually attributed to religious struggles in Jerusalem that involved the leader of the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta movement, Amram Blau.
As my friend [Moshe] Blau explained it to me, the content of the ceremony is the excommunication formula which was published in the Sefer Kolbo.... The scary name and mystical trappings were added by his great-uncle, Amram Blau, as a tool in his various political struggles.All of which -- if this is true -- raises the question: if the Pulsa Denura in its current incarnation is not a version-lite of an ancient Kabbalistic curse at all, but is, rather, a jazzed-up excommunication ritual, why did it take two writers in Mishpacha magazine to point this out 10 years after the Pulsa Denura first burst into the public consciousness? Wasn't there a kabbalistic expert out there somewhere who had something to say about this? Why didn't knowledgeable religious people point out that it's basically a recent invention? And why is Ha'aretz's own report on the Pulsa Denura invoked against Sharon still calling it a 'halachic curse'?*
The only answer -- if Ilan is right -- is that people today, including religious people, know very little about real Kabbalah and any old mumbo-jumbo with 50 years of history will pass. I'd be happy to hear from anyone who can shed any more light on the Pulsa Denura's real origins, particularly the Blau connection.
*There does seem to have been a Limmud session on this in 2004.
** Shmarya points out they're talking about the excommunication ritual here.
UPDATE: Steven I. Weiss refers to a Forward article claiming the ritual first appeared in 1905 -- by anti-Zionists cursing David Yellin for opening a secular, Hebrew-speaking school.