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Israelis Call for an End to the Persecution of Falun Gong in China

Israelis Call for an End to the Persecution of Falun Gong in China

HAIFA, Israel—A rally was held in front of the Chinese embassy in Tel Aviv on July 20 to call for an end to the 24-year persecution of Falun Gong in China.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual discipline that teaches the values of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance along with five slow-moving meditative exercises. The practice’s popularity shot up in China during the 1990s, with an estimated 70 million to 100 million adherents by the end of the decade.

Viewing the popularity of the practice as a threat to its authoritarian control, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) initiated a sweeping campaign aimed at eradicating it on July 20, 1999. Since then, adherents have been subjected to violent arrest, torture, forced labor, live organ harvesting, and other physical and financial means of persecution that continue today.

The goal of this event was to increase awareness among Israeli citizens about what’s going on in China, Vadim Berstetsky, who heads the Falun Dafa Association in Israel, told The Epoch Times.

He added that it is important for representatives of the CCP at the Israeli embassy to see there are people in Israel who “do not agree with the policy towards Falun Gong in China, and we demand the end of the persecution.”

‘Communism Endangers Our Freedom’

“I don’t practice Falun Gong, but you don’t have to practice to see that practitioners are a light in the darkness,” Oz Guterman, a doctor of psychology and a senior lecturer at the Department of Social & Health Sciences at Bar Ilan University, said at the event, adding that “they reveal how communism endangers our freedom.”

Oz Guterman, a doctor of psychology and a senior lecturer at the Department of Social & Health Sciences at Bar Ilan University, at the rally to mark 24 years of the persecution of Falun Gong, in Tel Aviv on July 20, 2023. (Courtesy of Mordechai Tor)

The crimes against Falun Gong “are part of a whole world of evil,” Mr. Guterman told The Epoch Times.

“When you do not fight evil, in this case—the Chinese Communist Party’s evil—this evil spreads,” he said.

Whoever is ignoring the cruelty toward Falun Gong won’t have a problem when the CCP exports its propaganda, such as through Confucius Institutes or influencing Hollywood, said Mr. Guterman.

“This is the result of a cultural brainwashing,” he said, adding that “our cultural decline is partly because we didn’t fight these things.”

People think the atrocities in China are something happening far away and have nothing to do with them, said Mr. Guterman. The problem is “the lack of understanding that we are all one body,” he said. “There are no more isolated villages.”

A lack of compassion for others is being cruel to oneself, and a lack of compassion is “an existential danger,” he added.

Mr. Guterman said that what touches him the most is “the nobility of the Falun Gong people.”

They could have focused on the negative, and been full of anger and hatred, he said, yet “instead, they became a beacon of light in the darkness.”

“I can only look with immense admiration at this wonderful group of people,” he said. So, when this group is persecuted on a historical scale, it is a “privilege for me if I can express even a little support.”

‘When You Have No Identity, You Have No Freedom’

The CCP is a dictatorial, despotic force, which not only commits crimes against humanity within China itself, but exports them to the whole world, Moshe Feiglin, a former member of the Israeli Knesset (the Israeli parliament) told The Epoch Times.

People are casually signing and accepting the CCP’s constitution when pushing a button to download apps, he said.

“We see how human freedoms in the whole world are crumbling,” said Mr. Feiglin. The war against the crimes committed against Falun Gong or the Uyghurs in China is not a war against the violation of human rights of certain groups in a certain place, but rather “a war for freedom in the whole world.”

As a person of faith, “I believe that God is the source of all identities in the world,” he said.

“What happens in the communist regime in China and communism is always the result of an atheistic view, a materialist view that says there is no God in the world, which negates faith,” he said. “But if there is no God, there are no identities.”

“You can then be whatever you want. You can be a man, you can be a woman, and you can reinvent your national identity,” Mr. Feiglin said. “That is, you were not born with the identity that God created, you rather re-invent it at any given moment.”

“When you have no identity, you have no freedom,” Mr. Feiglin noted.

At the time of the Nazi regime, when freedom was taken from the Jewish people, the first thing that was taken away was their identity, and numbers were tattooed on their arms, he said—they were not human anymore, they were just numbers.

That is, one’s freedom is an outgrowth of one’s identity, Mr. Feiglin said. “Man has no identity if he does not have God.”

The CCP is exporting the negation of identity, he said. The progressive movement, or the progressive ideology that we experience today is the modern appearance of the Bolshevik Revolution. And for it to “grease the wheels of the revolution,” it constantly needs wars where “everyone has to fight everyone all the time.”

This revolution eventually leads to the erasure of all identities and the denial of all freedoms and ultimately to death, Mr. Feiglin said.

This persecution of Falun Gong is a much more dangerous war than the wars we have known before, he said. This time, the new Bolshevik Revolution is not advancing behind tanks, but rather a gift box in the form of a new phone, new technologies, and all kinds of temptations.

“The poison comes in sweet pills. We are comfortable doing business with China,” Mr. Feiglin said. “The Chinese regime is not shooting at us; it sells us consumer goods,” he said. “That’s why it takes a long time.”

A rally is held across from the Chinese embassy in Israel to commemorate 24 years of persecution of Falun Gong, in Tel Aviv on July 20, 2023. (Courtesy of Mordechai Tor)
Epoch Times Photo Michael Pua, head of the organization “Choosing Family,” at the rally to mark 24 years of the persecution of Falun Gong, in Tel Aviv on July 20, 2023. (Courtesy of Mordechai Tor)

‘Pressure Should Be Increased’

Unfortunately, many countries are very afraid to express their position to the Chinese regime, Rabbi Michael Melchior, a former minister of Social and Diaspora Affairs, and former deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, told The Epoch Times.

The Chinese regime “reacts very strongly” against any expression of criticism on the issue of human rights, and punishes countries, individuals, and organizations that have done so because “they don’t like when the truth comes out,” he said.

But “it’s important to say things in a sharp and simple way and not to be ambiguous,” said Rabbi Melchior, who took part in previous demonstrations and sent a letter of support to be read at this year’s event.

One of the lessons learned from the Holocaust is to not remain silent in the face of “truly grave crimes against humanity,” he said.

“We are talking about murder, organ harvesting” by the CCP, which is persecuting Falun Gong, the Tibetans, and the Uyghurs, said Rabbi Melchior.

The evidence of what is happening to Falun Gong practitioners in China is very clear, he said. That’s why it’s important that the Chinese regime will know that the Israeli people, “rightists and leftists, religious and secular,” all stand behind this act of protest.

Without these acts of protest in Israel and around the world, the persecution could have been “much worse,” Rabbi Melchior said. The Chinese regime “could have committed the crimes without being noticed.”

He said we must not stop protesting or “doing everything in our power,” emphasizing that “the pressure should be increased.”

Rabbi Melchior was one the signatories of a letter calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s newly elected coalition bloc in November 2022 to reexamine Israel–China relations in light of the crimes committed by the Chinese regime.

Epoch Times Photo A rally to mark 24 years of the persecution of Falun Gong, in Tel Aviv on July 20, 2023. (Courtesy of Mordechai Tor)

Cannot Remain Silent

“We cannot sit quietly when this group in China has been suffering terrible abuses by the government for a long time: various persecutions, cruel propaganda against them, arbitrary imprisonments, concentration camps, death, and organ harvesting,” Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Educational Institute Ateret Yerushalayim, wrote in his letter of support to the event.

He wrote: What is their crime and what is their sin? They are engaged in meditation, energy exercises, moral philosophy of truth, compassion, and tolerance. Of course, this greatly upsets materialistic, atheistic China.

“Any righteous person in the world would not be able to tolerate such horrible things,” wrote Rabbi Aviner.

And the people of Israel—who endured exile, who were murdered in the extermination camps—cannot remain silent, he wrote.

If there is evil in the world, and everyone is silent, there is no hope. If people express opposition, it will help in the end, said Rabbi Aviner. “Everyone must protest.”

“In our world today, a huge power is systematically abusing a group of people whose only sin is their faith, and in particular, it is a faith that is concerned with the spiritual practice of doing good to yourself and others, and the world is silent,” wrote Michael Avraham, rabbi at Bar Ilan University’s Jesselson Institute for Advanced Torah Studies and who holds a doctorate in theoretical physics, in a letter of support.

It is important to understand that “protesting against these atrocities is a moral duty, regardless of its consequences,” he wrote. “We must protest against barbaric behavior and against mass incarceration of thousands of people, and abusing them to death.”

“We must not despair in the face of the imperviousness and power of the Chinese authorities.”

Rabbi Avraham called on the governments of the world and the international community to take practical steps to prevent these acts. “We must not shy away from power, nor surrender to narrow interests,” he said, “there are moments when we must rise above all these.”

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