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The Sanhedrin Got It Right
Christine Moon-Counts, Human Rights Law Foundation

The nascent Sanhedrin—the re-established council of Jewish sages that were the original arbiters of justice in ancient Israel—has taken a firm and timely stand against persecution of the Falun Gong in China, a beacon of hope that the brotherhood of man has not been totally effaced by the ephemeral.

Since 2007 when Israeli Falun Gong religious adherents lodged a complaint with the Sanhedrin over the torture, forced organ harvesting, and other crimes perpetrated by the Chinese communist regime on members of the Falun Gong, the rabbinical council has glided past various procedural hurdles at which so many courts before have succumbed—the concepts of jurisdictional immunity and diplomatic comity—to reach the merits of the case.

Specifically, the Sanhedrin stated that immunity binds states only and that this “Court is not an agent of the government of Israel it is an independent voluntary body … a living body of Law and Morals.... [A]s said in Deuteronomy 1,17: ‘ye shall hear the small and the great alike ye shall not be afraid of the face of any man for the judgment is Gods....’ Our tradition insists on Justice for all.”

Moreover, the council responded with deftness to the Chinese Embassy’s diplomatic request to quell the case because during World War II China had accepted Jewish refugees: “One must differentiate between a nation and the government of the nation. The Jewish people honor and respect the Chinese people for the aid they gave to the Jewish refugees from the Nazi regime … and indeed this attitude is the source of the willingness of the Court to examine the alleged suffering of a large segment of the Chinese people.”

The Sanhedrin noted “In cases involving persecution by governments, Justice cannot be achieved by adherence to normal rules of procedure and of evidence. Adherence to such rules would be ‘stopping one’s ears from hearing of blood, and shutting ones eyes from looking upon evil’ [per Isaiah 33,15].” Thus, the council accepted and digested a range of indirect evidence by the Chinese Embassy, former Ambassador to China, rights lawyer David Kilgour, and rights organization HRLF.

The result: a sparkling five-page decision issued on July 15, in which the council thoughtfully addresses the persecution of the Falun Gong from an international perspective, from the lens of those who experienced and remember the Holocaust.

Juxtaposing a distinguishing feature of both Nazi Germany and today’s China—namely, a once civil and rationale society becoming overrun by “a ruthless political party … careful to hide its criminal activities from [the] public eye”—the Sanhedrin reveal the eerily similar way both persecutions were and are being treated by the world. The council emphasized that “participation of many nations in the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany under Hitler was interpreted as consent to his regime.”

As such, the Sanhedrin concludes: “if the human rights issues are not settled before the opening of the [2008 Beijing] Olympics, participation in these Games may be understood to indicate indifference to human rights violations in China, and support for suppression … [and] we consider participation in them by athletes and by spectators and political leaders to be an indirect danger to world peace.”

While many nations and institutions have stayed silent as to the persecution of Falun Gong in China, the Sanhedrin has gotten it right. It’s time for the world to respond.

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