At New York Rally, Hareidi Extremists Call for Israel Boycott
Thousands of American hareidim gathered in New York on Sunday to protest against Israel's Equal Burden of Service law, which would force the hareidi sector to follow the mandatory IDF draft.
But at least one group among them took the protest to another level, bearing placards condemning the very existence of the State of Israel and even attacking major hareidi rabbis who live there, including leading hareidi authority Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman.
Protesters can be seen holding signs branding Rabbi Steinman the "most impure of impure", and branding him a "Christian priest" and not a rabbi.
Although clearly hassidic in garb, it is unclear which sect the men represent. However, the placards and slogans used appear to suggest they are from the extreme anti-Zionist Neturei Karta sect, which recently hit headlines after announcing its support for Hungary's anti-Semitic Jobbik party.
In contrast to most other hareidim at the protest, who took issue specifically with proposed draft law, the group held placards saying "Not Only Draft is the Problem - The State of Israel is The Problem". Neturei Karta is known for its marginal view that Jewish independence should not be realized prior to the coming of the Messiah, and that as a result the State of Israel should be "dismantled". To that end, the sect's leaders have met with various notorious anti-Israel figures - from former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to terrorist leaders from Hamas and Hezbollah.
The singling-out of Rabbi Shteinman is another hallmark of the radical sect - which numbers no more than a few hundred, but has a presence in North America, Europe and Israel.
Rabbi Shteinman leads the Degel HaTorah faction of the hareidi UTJ party in Israel's Knesset, in opposition to radical hareidi anti-Zionists who oppose participation in the Israeli political system. Moreover, despite the ongoing storm over the drafting of hareidi men into the IDF, Rabbi Shteinman once issued a ruling calling on hareidi men who are not engaged in full-time Torah study to enlist - making him Neturei Karta's public enemy number one.
The new draft law ending the universal exemption of hareidim from military service has been a point of contention in Israel, particularly because of the approval of criminal sanctions against hareidim who evade army service.
Hareidi leaders have expressed strong opposition to criminal sanctions for yeshiva students, and pro-enlistment leaders have warned that strong sanctions could create a backlash that would mean fewer hareidi men in the army, not more.
At least one Hassidic sect has threatened to flee Israel en masse if the draft law is ratified, and a boycott has even been threatened in some quarters against Judea and Samaria in "retaliation" against the Religious Zionist community's support for the bill.