Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

Gideon Levy: Lawbreakers in the Supreme Court

25 June 2009

By Gideon Levy, Haaretz – 25 June 2009

Gideon Levy

Gideon Levy

Would we want a lawbreaker to be a Supreme Court justice? Or a justice hobnobbing with lawbreakers? The danger of this happening is closer than ever. There is a reasonable chance that transgressors and their cohorts will enter the temple – three candidates to the beacon of justice are settlers. Judge Noam Sohlberg is from Alon Shvut and his legal assistant Ariel Erlich is from Ofra, most of whose lands were robbed from private owners. Judge Issaiyaho Schneller is from Karnei Shomron and Professor Dov Frimer is from Ma’aleh Adumim.

The land they live on has been plundered by either fraud or violence. In many cases this is private land that does not belong to them, in settlements whose very establishment is a violation of international law. It was their ideological choice to live in a region of lawlessness, violence and crime, as aptly described in the Sasson Report – an official Justice Ministry paper adopted by the cabinet.

It’s not hard to guess how these candidates would rule on issues such as preserving human rights in the territories, severe transgressions by the Israel Defense Forces and the land plundering and violence by their friends, the settlers.
There have never been settlers on the Supreme Court, and for good reason. Now a path has been opened for them. We can start missing Daniel Friedmann – the revolution his heir Yaakov Neeman is leading is infinitely more dangerous to the rule of law. But Friedmann, who mostly talked, drew fire from all directions, while Neeman, who mostly acts, has hardly anyone speaking out against him. The “sons of light” who fought Friedmann have fallen silent in the face of Neeman’s acts.

In the Knesset on Tuesday, National Union chairman Yaakov Katz was heard addressing the new justice minister in a tone that could be construed as threatening: “Let him remember where he came from, where he was raised, whom he represents, what movement he was in, and act accordingly.”

The Supreme Court now appears to be the settlers’ next illegal outpost. They will get their wish, nothing will stop them. This couldn’t happen in a state of law.

We’re not talking about the candidates’ opinions or religion – those have a place on the Supreme Court. It’s not their skullcaps that threaten the rule of law, but the bulldozer that built their illegal homes. The fact that they are settlers automatically disqualifies them from a judge’s position.

There is no difference between the late Yaakov Alperon’s horse farm, land he invaded and which was evacuated a few weeks ago, and the settlers’ illegal invasion of West Bank lands. But while nobody could have imagined appointing land squatter Alperon a judge – Sohlberg, Frimer and Schneller are legitimate candidates. This is possible only in a state with two justice systems.

These men were not nominated for their superior legal qualities. None of them is an outstanding jurist. They are only candidates because they represent the West Bank settlements. That’s what you get when National Union MK Uri Ariel of Kfar Adumim is the opposition’s representative in the Judicial Appointments Committee, and Yisrael Beiteinu’s David Rotem of Efrat is the coalition’s representative. After all, this is the only reason they were elected to the committee.

But the complaints should not be aimed at them. They’re doing all they can, according to their political strength. The problem is, as usual, the silent majority enabling all this. After Israel set up double systems, one in Israel and the other in the territories – here a democratic state of law, there a brutal dictatorial regime without any legal supervision – and is living in peace with it, is it any wonder the settlers are legitimate candidates?

Had Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch been courageous enough, she would have stood up and said the Supreme Court has no place for lawbreakers – and the settlers are lawbreakers.

Even so, the Supreme Court has its share of severe defects. It has systematically betrayed its duty in its verdicts on the occupation. For years it postponed hearings on crucial petitions, from tortures by the Shin Bet security service to assassinations, and evaded making a stand against the settlements. When the day comes the Supreme Court will be remembered as a full partner to the Israeli occupation.

But now its makeup is about to change. From now on not only judges who legitimize the occupation will be on it, but the settlers themselves, serial offenders by any accepted standard. Can this still be called a state of law?

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