An Israeli Scandal Involving Judicial Appointments Results from a Fundamentally Flawed System

Jan. 18 2019

Dominating Israeli headlines this week was the arrest of Effi Naveh, the head of the Israeli Bar Association, on suspicion of bartering judicial appointments for sex. In Israel, a nine-member panel—in which the head of the Bar Association sits ex officio—is responsible for the selection of all the countries’ judges. The panel’s other members are three sitting Supreme Court justices, another representative of the Bar Association, the justice minister, and three other Knesset members. Yitzḥak Ram argues that this system, intended to depoliticize the judicial system, in fact fosters corruption:

When such immense power is put into the hands of so very few, corruption becomes probable. . . . In democratic societies, [however], mechanisms are created to limit and monitor the government, to mitigate the concerns over potential corruption. One of these mechanisms is transparency. Sunlight, according to the former U.S. Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis, is the best disinfectant. [But] the judicial-selection committee is the civilian body most shielded from the sunlight. Its hearings are closed and its protocols secret. In 2008, then-Justice [and now chief justice] Esther Ḥayut ruled that the judicial-selection committee was not a “public authority” under the Freedom of Information Law, and therefore was not bound by it. [Ḥayut also co-chairs the selection committee] . . .

The concentration of power in the hands of a small committee that operates behind a thick curtain is an invitation for corruption, nepotism, cronyism, and other underhanded dealings. . . . [Its] makeup gives the judges a built-in advantage: they constitute one-third of the committee; they don’t have to deal with a coalition or an opposition; and they vote as one. . . . Due to the “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” system, uniformity of thought has pervaded the Supreme Court, such that its monopoly over legal interpretation and principles has become almost entirely hegemonic. . . .

The system itself has to be changed: this pernicious committee has to be terminated. appointment power must be taken away from the judges, and judges should be appointed by elected officials in an open and transparent process, per the norm in Western democracies.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics, Supreme Court of Israel


Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat