04 January 2013

How Israeli courts protect Israel from itself

There is a constant refrain among the nay-sayers on Israel that Israel is constantly breaching the human rights of the Palestinians, and, incidentally, the worst breacher of human rights in the world. We know this is nonsense, even if there are aspects of Israeli government policy we wish they wouldn't carry out.

However, every now and then, a wonderful refutation comes along, and what follows is one of them. This is from the Elder of Ziyon blog (which is being guest-edited by Challah Hu Akbar [of "fresh baked middle east nonsense"] for the moment, because the elder's father has just died. I have already sent my condolences and my wishes for "a long life" via the comments thread on another item).

What this is is a pointer to an article entitled "Combating Terrorism With Intelligence: The Normative Debate in Israel" by Daphna Sharfman and Ephraim Kahana, and comes from the International Journal of Intelligence & Counterintelligence, Vol 25, Issue 3, 2012. The section that Challah highlights concerns the role of the Israeli judiciary in holding the intelligence services in check, in order to maintain democracy in Israel.

To put it simplistically, the judiciary sees it as their collective task (especially at the highest levels) to make sure that democracy isn't sacrificed to the needs of short-term security. I'll restrict myself to one, fairly length, quote, but urge you to read the whole item in the elder's blog: "the campaign [for security and against terrorism] must remain under democratic authorization and judicial review:

'Generals publicly question [judicial review's] effectiveness, pilots express moral and tactical qualms about certain operations, columnists insist these operations make Israel less, not more, secure, and so on, yet through it all Israeli democracy is surviving the ordeal'.
There are a number of quotes from the then(?) President of the Supreme Court, Aharon Barak, which are eye-opening as to the power of the Israeli judiciary to save Israel from itself. Actually, that's what all truly independent court systems do in all proper democracies. Which is why the authoritarians don't like them.

I haven't yet checked out access to the whole article (via the link Challah provides in the text). If I were you, I wouldn't bother with the comment: it appears to be an accidental republishing of the item which appears above this one in the column.

 By: Brian Goldfarb