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Going To Prison For Doing A Mitzvah?
Have you heard the news? The United States Government has sentenced a number of Jews to prison for the crime of giving charity. Yup, that's right. These people gave money to charity, and because of this, they were sentenced to prison. This has happened to lots and lots of Jews. You might even have heard of some of them - Bernie Madoff, associates of the Spinka Rebbe, etc.
Of course, this is a nonsensical way of describing the situation. Bernie Madoff was not sentenced to prison because of what he did with his money. He was imprisoned because of what he didn't do with his money, i.e. to give it to the investors who it belonged to. People who are punished for tax evasion are not being punished for spending their money on houses and cars - they are being punished for not giving their money to the government.
This is all obvious, right? Yet for some inexplicable reason, the same mistake in describing the current situation in Israel vis-a-vis charedim and army is being committed by a wide range of people.
I'm not talking about whether it is innately right or wrong, fair or unfair to other Israelis, or strategically wise or unwise to punish charedi draft-dodgers with prison. But in order to have any meaningful discussion about it, we have to describe the situation accurately.
Nobody is being "sent to prison for learning Torah." They are being sent to prison for avoiding army service. They are not going to prison because of what they are doing with their time; they are going to prison because of what they aren't doing with their time. It's true that they are learning Torah while not being in the army, but it is inaccurate and inappropriately inflammatory to describe this as the reason for their going to prison.