Thursday, November 17, 2011

Harel - Touch not mine anointed one

Israel Harel
17 November '11

The ultra-Orthodox public treats its rabbinic leaders and arbiters as sacred; but it turns out that this same blind herd instinct exists among the disciples of the rule of law.

The cat has been let out of the bag: "From the state's founding until today," wrote Yitzhak Zamir (Haaretz in Hebrew, November 14 ), "the [Supreme] Court ... is the one that has shaped Israeli society ... It, and not the cabinet or the Knesset." Zamir is right. And if the court shaped the face of our society, then as my mother used to scoff in Yiddish, "that's our face."

And here's another pearl from Zamir, who once sat on the Supreme Court himself: Any change in the way Supreme Court justices are appointed "will undermine the public's faith in its justices." But perhaps the opposite is true?"

After all, back in 2000, a survey by the Israel Democracy Institute - which wholeheartedly supports the legal system - found that 84 percent of Israelis had faith in the Supreme Court. But another survey by that same institute in 2009 found that this figure had fallen to 52 percent. Could it be that there's a connection between this decline in the public's faith in its justices and the opposition voiced by Zamir and his colleagues to changing the judicial appointments system, in which sitting justices appoint their cronies?

And perhaps Israeli society would like to forge its own path, via the Knesset and cabinet - which are elected - rather than via the justices, whose rulings on issues that "shape society" demonstrate a clear ideological uniformity? Perhaps it would like to do so via an open public debate, rather than via the Supreme Court, whose rulings on values, opinions and ideas cannot be appealed?

The Haredi (ultra-Orthodox ) public treats its rabbinic leaders and arbiters as sacred. Those who aren't Haredi strive to understand this idea of "Touch not mine anointed one," this herd-like obedience to the great rabbinic leaders of the generation.

But it turns out that this same blind herd instinct exists among the disciples of the rule of law. These people, who view themselves as rationalists, cry out "Touch not mine anointed one." High Court of Justice rulings, and the judicial appointments system, are Torah from Sinai, and anyone who seeks to change them is a heretic.

There has never been an agency, institution or establishment that doesn't need to renew itself from time to time, lest it degenerate. Only in our highest judicial instance does the principle of "anything new violates the Torah" apply. Any place where the sun shines, we are told, rot cannot develop - excepting one place. Those who have a quasi-constitutional right to know everything else are forbidden to know anything - aside from name, your dogtag number and date of birth - of what is written in the minutes of the subcommittee that interviews candidates for the Supreme Court.

And, of course, it would be far worse for such interviews to be conducted by the Knesset Law and Constitution Committee. For what right does the public have to know the values, opinions, ethical and cultural views of those to whom the Judicial Appointments Committee gives unparalleled power? Those over whom there is no oversight and over whom there is no appeal - in contrast to every other public agency in the country? Those who have the power "to shape Israeli society?"

And who is blocking the public's right to know? None other than the media.

Those who battle against corporate monopolies fight with all their might to maintain the judicial monopoly. Those who advocate multiculturalism fight to perpetuate a monolithic judicial worldview. And those who publicly extol the separation of powers simultaneously encourage the judicial system to usurp the government's prerogatives.

And of course, those who claim that one particular system in place for many years now has caused power-madness, abuse and degeneracy are the very people now leading the campaign of intimidation against the "fascists" who propose changes. They are thereby perpetuating stagnation in the judicial system in general and in the Supreme Court in particular.

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