Israel’s Judicial Tyranny

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13 Responses

  1. Zev says:

    “but now it appears that others are taking note.”

    Oh please, Azure has been on of this for years. Half of Rosenblum’s material was from Azure. Check the footnotes to his JO Supreme Court articles if you don’t believe me.

    In fact, if memory serves, the very same Evelyn Gordon who you say has just jumped onto the bandwagon was actually the author of those articles in Azure! She was on this story long before Rosenblum.

  2. Yaakov Menken says:

    The truth is that Zev is probably right. I should be reading Azure more carefully, especially as Yoram Hazony and Daniel Polisar were classmates, and Evelyn “Evie” Gordon graduated the following year. It is not true that Azure (1998) was “on the case” long before Rabbi Rosenblum (1997), but that may not be true of Gordon.

    If I recall correctly, Evelyn Gordon wrote an excellent piece in the JPost more than a decade ago, when there was a mass demonstration against the Court’s anti-religious bias. Though the demonstration was entirely composed of charedim, she called her article something along the lines of “It’s for All of Us,” because every Israeli was and is threatened by the Court’s consistent anti-democratic behavior.

    What I do not recall seeing, at any time in the past, is a piece from one of the JPost’s best-known columnists (Glick), or three columns mocking Barak’s madness, in the same issue. At this point — unlike previously — one can say that the JPost is “taking note” of the issue.

  3. MS says:

    As an attorney, I’ve always read R. Rosenblum’s articles on the Israeli Supreme Court with interest. But, as of late, I find something awfully hyprocitcal. He criticizes that Court for being anti-democratic; basically, it’s the same criticism often aimed at U.S. judges from various sides of the political spectrum — that the judges or justices are not “doing law” but “doing politics” instead. Often, my view is that such criticism — from both the right and left — at least in the U.S., is unjustified. When it comes to the Israeli Supreme Court, I’m persuaded that there’s a problem, but I have a question for R. Rosenblum: what government would he prefer? I’m betting that he’d like nothing more than for the Eida Ha’Charedis or the presidium of Agudas Israel to run the State. And, it’s fairly obvious that such a State would hardly be democratic; moreover, I think many reasonably educated (and Torah learned) people would classify some recent pronouncements from G’dolei Torah as “doing politics” rather than “doing halacha.” With that in mind, it seems to me that even R. Rosenblum’s criticisms are ultimately nothing more than disagreements with outcomes as well, to the extent that he would also prefer a non-democratic state. Alternatively, R. Rosenblum may be simply saying that the Court is not doing its job, even according to the standards of those who favor democratic rule of the State, but that would be a very hollow criticism if R. Rosenblum himself would rather do away with democracy entirely. In a nutshell, I think that R. Rosenblum’s comments could easily be aimed at leading rabbinic authorities; even if it’s not true in some objective sense (it could be that God doesn’t think such authorities are “doing politics”), there’s no question that an increasing number of (American? Moderate? Yeshiva-affiliated?) chredi Jews believe that the line between politics and halacha has been blurred beyond recognition.

  4. Zev says:

    Actually, Caroline Glick has written anti-Barak articles in the JPost many times before.

  5. menachem ppetrushka says:

    Is it wise to attack the Barak Supreme Court when most of the criticisms made could be leveled against the institution of the Sanhedrin? What about the Israeli Rabinnical courts where only a single expression of Orthodoxy ia allowed? Every time a Meretz/Yacahd or Shinui member asks to have a “Gavison-like” Reform or Conservative rabbi elected, the howls that go up are deafening.

    MUM SHEBACH AL TOMAR LECHAVRECH.(Do not criticise others for the “faults” that you also have).

  6. Yaakov Menken says:

    Menachem,

    That is very much to the point. The Israeli Rabbinical Courts are supposed to cater to the needs of those who seek Rabbinical supervision, especially on things like Kosher food. Meretz and Shinui are avowedly secular parties, whose members have no need for such services.

    Gavison is a Constitutional scholar with an international reputation. On her merits, she deserves a seat. No comparison can be drawn between her and a Reform Rabbi, unschooled in traditional Kashrut, vying for a seat on a Rabbinical council. As Reform Rabbi David Forman said just a few weeks ago, the Reform and Conservative movements have no constituency large enough to justify a seat on the councils. Furthermore, whereas Reform and Conservative Jews will agree that food declared Kosher by the Orthodox is indeed Kosher, the reverse is not true.

    Meretz and Shinui are not trying to represent a populace through these actions. They are trying to put people on the Councils who will antagonize the observant and traditional populations who benefit from Rabbinical services, and dilute the traditional standards which led to the creation of Rabbinical courts in Israel in the first place. Both Meretz and Shinui have made it extremely clear that they are not putting people into those seats because they want to improve the quality of Kosher supervision.

    Of course, if the Rabbinical courts had even a modicum of control over the selection of new members, there would never be a problem of that nature. The Supreme Court is at the other extreme — there is no room for democracy in Barak’s selections. That is indeed much like the Sanhedrin — but the Sanhedrin was a meritocracy.

    MS is mistaken. I have never heard Orthodox sources claim that were Israel to operate in accordance with Halacha, that this should be done by undemocratic means. Even in the days of Moshiach it will be by universal acclaim that he is declared King! Nowhere in Jewish history do we find a situation where a huge population block found that the Sanhedrin or the proper Jewish Kings not only failed to represent them, but fought their Jewish interests. That was reserved for Kings like Achav and Yerovam. The Sanhedrin created less trouble for the Samaritans than the Supreme Court does for anyone who disagrees with its leftist agenda.

  7. Zev says:

    “Nowhere in Jewish history do we find a situation where a huge population block found that the Sanhedrin or the proper Jewish Kings not only failed to represent them,”

    King Josiah fought against the ovdei avodah zarah, who were a huge population block. Of course he was justified, but it cannot be termed “democratic.” Our religion demands fealty even if a majority of the population objects. It’s not democratic.

    Indeed, the entire institution of a king and a royal family and the laws of mored b’malchus are undemocratic. Again, nothing wrong with that, but let’s be clear on what’s what.

  8. Yaakov Menken says:

    Zev,

    Granted, I could be exaggerating. Modern democracy has brought us to a situation where the ruler of the free world is the guy whose haircut looks best on television. When was the last time someone called one of our presidents wise or brilliant? [Rumor has it that Carter is extremely intelligent; as a president, however…] So, all in all, I do not believe that democracy is the best possible form of government. But I don’t think that even the idolatrous kings of Israel were authoritarian tyrants. They had the support of their people, with few exceptions. [Were the ovdei avodah zarah a huge population block in Josiah’s time? I honestly don’t know.] Certainly the Sanhedrin did!

  9. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Rabbi Menken,

    The Israeli Rabbinical Courts are supposed to cater to the needs of those who seek Rabbinical supervision, especially on things like Kosher food. Meretz and Shinui are avowedly secular parties, whose members have no need for such services.

    Not exactly. It’s true that Meretz and Shinui’s constituency couldn’t care less about Kashrut, but Israeli Rabbinical Courts are also responsible for marriage and divorce (among people whom the government deems to be Jews). This means that if Api Kores the Shinui voter wants to marry his girl friend, Lelo Emunah from Meretz, they need to go to the rabbinical court. If he’s a Cohen and she’s a divorcee, they can’t get married. If he disappears a year into their marriage, she is Agunah and can’t remarry. If she then has children with her new boyfriend, Mumar Lehachhis, those children are Mamzerim and will not be able to marry.

    In the US Jews who don’t care about Judaism get married and divorced in front of a judge, so they shouldn’t care about who the Rabbis are. In Israel, some aspects of Judaism are codified as part of secular law, which gives secular Jews an interest in the religious councils.

    MS is mistaken. I have never heard Orthodox sources claim that were Israel to operate in accordance with Halacha, that this should be done by undemocratic means.

    Do you define democracy as “the limited power of the government is directed by the will of the people”, or as “the unlimited power of the government is directed by the will of the people”? If the first, then Halacha is incompatible with democracy. Halacha, which forbids worship of Ba’al, is incompatible with freedom of religion, which allows it. If it’s the second, then a country with a Christian majority that outlawed Judaism could be democratic.

  10. Jonathan Rosenblum says:

    Zev,

    For the record, I think that Evelyn Gordon is probably the best columnist in the world, though not the flashiest (think Mark Steyn). I find it almost impossible to disagree with anything she writes after she has meticulously built up her case step by step. Her work in Azure, as well as that of Hillel Neuer and Mordechai Haller, on the Supreme Court is a must read for anyone interested in the Israeli Supreme Court. When Robert Bork consulted with me for his book on judicial activism worldwide, the first pieces to which I referred him in English were those in Azure. Today I would add Avi Shavit’s interviews in Ha’aretz with Professor Ruth Gavison and the former Court President Moshe Landau.

    There is no but here. I am far from the only one to note the democratic problems of the Supreme Court. But give a guy a little credit: I have been plugging away relentlessly at the Court’s jurisprudence for nearly a decade. (See http://www.jewishmediaresources.com under Issues Index.) And some of those articles must have been decent. How do I know? From time to time, Evelyn drops me an Email telling me so.

  11. Zev says:

    “Modern democracy has brought us to a situation where the ruler of the free world is the guy whose haircut looks best on television.”

    Not really. The best haircuts in the last presidential race were Kerry and, by far, Edwards. Who won? Bush and (bald) Cheney. The people chose substance over glamour.

    I’m not 100% sure either how many ovdei avodah zarah there were in Josiah’s time; I’ve heard proofs each way. But it’s not really relevant, but you’ll surely agree that even if the majority of Israel were serving idols then, he still would have outlawed it, since it’s forbidden by the Torah. The point being that our law transcends and overrides the current will of the people. It just ain’t democratic!

  12. menachem ppetrushka says:

    To Ari Pomeranz

    Yashir Koach
    I couldn’t have said it better. Just one point: Religious Councils and Rabbinical Courts are different insitutions with different functions. The Religious Councils provide religious services such as shuls and mikvahs and supervise kashrus Their main clients are the religious. Rabbinical Coutrs hasve jurisdiction over marriage and divorce among other areas and thus have contol of the lives of the entire Jewish Population in personal matters. Today, the Rabbinical Courts are composed of dayanim(jurists) with very conservative views and it would be almost impossible for one whose views are not as conservative to be appointed to the court.

    Meretz and Shinui have tried to play havoc with both institutions in their effor to destroy them.

    Menachem Petrushka

  13. Zev says:

    Jonathan,

    From me you get lots of credit. In fact, I think the turnaround in the JO from deathly dull to quite readable is due to you and a few others. I also like a lot of your Artscroll work. The first I saw of your Supreme Ct. criticism was in JO, so I assumed it was the first you had written. Since it drew liberally on Evelyn Gordon’s work, I thought it was silly of Yaakov to label her a latecomer. Now that I learn that you’ve been on the case for 10 years, I’m perfectly glad to acknowledge your work. Y’yasher kochacha! [But Gordon still can’t be characterized as only recently jumping onto the bandwagon.]

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