Rabbis Warn That Supreme Court Override Bill Threatens Israeli Democracy

RELEASE DATE: January 9, 2023

T’ruah: Bill “gives ultra-right wing governing coalition a blank check”

NEW YORK – Following the unveiling of a plan to allow a majority of Knesset members to overrule Israeli Supreme Court rulings, T’ruah, a rabbinic human rights organization representing over 2,300 rabbis and cantors in the US and Canada, condemned the move that threatens Israeli democracy.

In a statement, Rabbi Jill Jacobs, CEO of T’ruah, said:

“This legislation would dismantle a central pillar of Israeli democracy and leave the country without an independent judiciary. A functioning democracy must have a system of checks and balances in order to moderate the most extreme elements in government and protect the rights of all. 

“If this bill passes, it gives the ultra-right wing governing coalition a blank check to pass laws that violate Israel’s twelve Basic Laws, the closest thing Israel has to a Constitution. Stripping away the ability of the High Court to uphold those laws opens the door for the governing coalition to pass laws that blatantly violate human rights, especially of women, LGBTQ people, Palestinians, incarcerated people, and asylum seekers, as well as to change the definition of who is a Jew according to the State of Israel. There is no question Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also seeks to weaken the judiciary in order to allow the passage of laws that would protect him against the multiple charges he faces for corruption and breach of trust. 

“The Israeli High Court certainly does not have a perfect record on human rights. Just last year, they green lighted the demolition of eight villages in Masafer Yatta in the West Bank, and in 2021, the High Court upheld the Nation State Law, which enshrines discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Still, some past High Court rulings striking down Knesset legislation have succeeded in protecting basic human rights and the rule of law, including in regard to freedom of expression, the indefinite detention of asylum seekers, religious equality, and attempts to retroactively legalize West Bank settlements. 

“According to traditional Jewish interpretation, one of the very first laws that God gave to all of humanity was the obligation to set up courts of justice. The multitude of Jewish legal debates about how to ensure fair courts testify to the need for an independent judiciary as an essential pillar of a just society. 

“Today, we join more than 100 Israeli law professors, the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, and our partners at Israeli civil society and human rights organizations in condemning efforts to pass this law. We call on the United States government, all American Jewish organizations,  and other supporters of human rights and democracy to do the same.” 

 

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights mobilizes a network of more than 2,300 rabbis and cantors from all streams of Judaism that, together with the Jewish community, act on the Jewish imperative to respect and advance the human rights of all people. Grounded in Torah and our Jewish historical experience and guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we call upon Jews to assert Jewish values by raising our voices and taking concrete steps to protect and expand human rights in North America, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories.

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