NEW YORK, June 11, 2017
On Sunday afternoon, June 11, 2017, thousands of anti-Zionist Orthodox Jews from the tri-state area held a mass rally in Brooklyn's Barclays Center to protest the Israeli draft law and recent police attacks on Jerusalem's community of objectors.
"The Israeli government claims that their country is free and democratic, they pretend to be a safe haven for the Jewish people and to represent them all, but actually they are trampling on the religious rights of a large community of hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Jews, rights that would be recognized in any other country in the world," said Yirmiyahu Cohen, a participant in the rally. "They are attempting to destroy traditional Judaism and silence the religious struggle against Zionism. The UN has resolved that all countries should not force conscientious objectors to serve in their armies.
"The anti-Zionist religious communities in the State of Israel have long been opposed to the Israeli state, its army and the actions carried out by the army.They believe, as we do, that the Jewish people is currently in exile and are forbidden to have their own state or to wage wars against any other nation. This is in addition to their objection to the ongoing immoral behavior of the Israeli army.Yet the Israeli government has always officially required religious boys to serve, only allowing them an exemption while they are full-time students in a yeshiva. In 2014, they passed new legislation removing even that exemption.
"For the first few years, until 2020, they say they will not actually enforce the law. They call this the period of adjustment. The Israeli government has taken a clever approach. They know they cannot upend decades of staunch opposition to the army with a stroke of the pen. Since the passing of the draft law, they have been working quietly to recruit as many Orthodox yeshiva students into the army as possible, using various bureaucratic tactics. They hope that by the time the quotas are enforced, we will be used to the idea of young men with yarmulkas, tzitzis, beards and sidelocks wearing army uniforms with rifles. Therefore our communities in the Holy Land have decided that they must fight tooth and nail for every single recruit. We will not let the principles of Judaism be slowly eroded before our eyes.
"That is why recently, the anti-Zionist community has begun a policy of publicly denouncing any young man who dares to walk through the streets of their neighborhoods wearing Orthodox trappings together with an army uniform. The Israeli police have responded to this legitimate exercise of free speech with violence and brutality. Every week, they march into the heart of Orthodox neighborhoods and beat and arrest people left and right, including children."
"It is commonly believed that the State of Israel commits violations of human rights only against its non-Jewish neighbors, under the pretense of bringing greater security for Jews," said Rabbi Aron Jacobowitz, a spokesman for the rally. The truth, however, is that they oppose authentic religious Jews who refuse to follow their ideology just as much as they oppose others. To achieve their goal of make us into Zionists, they are oppressing us, expecting us to break down, give up and join them.
"These operations are yet another proof that the state, its spokesmen and actions do not represent the Jewish people. The State of Israel is not a Jewish state, it is a Zionist state.
"We American Jews cannot stand silently by while our brethren in the State of Israel suffer persecution. That's why we are here today. We need to make our voices heard and say to the world: enough is enough! The Israeli government must be held accountable by the world community for its attacks on our brethren, and they must grant Orthodox Jews their legitimate right to follow their principles and not serve in the army."