Paul Mirbach

An open letter to supporters of the Judicial Coup

This is an open letter to supporters of the Judicial Coup and critics of us, those who Protest against it every week:
Hi there,
Whenever one of our sons, or daughters is killed and his or her picture is published, I see a soul taken too soon and am deeply saddened. I don’t look to see if he is wearing a kippa or not, to decide whether I should be sad. “Achim Anachnu” is not a slogan to express one day in our calendar. We ARE brothers, in a shared destiny. And our fallen all gave their lives so that we can continue to share it. True “achim” would hear our cries and feel our pain. They would understand where our need to protest comes from. They wouldn’t dismiss us as “anarchists” and “agents of chaos”. Not true “achim”. If you really believe we are brothers, hear our cry and acknowledge our concerns. We are out on the streets because we are deeply worried about the future of our home. OUR home.

Please don’t cheapen our protest by saying that we are protesting because we are not prepared to accept the democratic results of the election. You know that is dishonest. We accept the result. We are protesting because we are deeply worried for the future of our country. What we do not accept, is that you are exploiting the results of the election to ram through an irreversible, fundamental, structural change to our system of government, that will change the character of our country, into a dictatorship, on the weight of just 4 Knesset seats. That is why we are protesting.

Protesters at Ben Gurion Airport on Tuesday. (Courtesy of Times of Israel, photo AP/Ohad Zwigenberg).
Talking about accepting the results of elections, let’s be honest; if you truly respected democracy, you would have respected the democratic result of the elections for the President and Council of the Bar Association. You would not have immediately formulated a bill to dissolve the Bar once the results became known, to prevent them from having representation on the Judicial Selection Committee, because the candidate you backed and pinned your hopes on lost. Do you really think that it is responsible governance to abolish a body that represents 77,000 lawyers, and regulates their professional behavior because you would no longer have an automatic majority in the Judicial Selection Committee? Are you really that obsessed with passing the Judicial “reform”?
If you truly respected democracy, you would not pass laws with the aim of giving yourselves complete and unbridled control over all the arms of government, so that you can implement your ideological agenda without them being subject to judicial oversight. That is not “democracy”, it is majoritarianism: using your slim majority to manipulate the system – to pass laws so that you can realize your political aims, and guarantee that you stay in power long enough to ensure that they can never be reversed. Because, in truth, we both know that that is what it’s about. And once you have manipulated the system to have an in-built, structural majority, elections will become meaningless. At which point Israel will no longer be a democracy, but a dictatorial regime.
Let’s be honest, the changes you want to make to the Judicial system are not motivated by a concern for the well-being of our Judiciary, and our legal system – and certainly not our democracy. You know it, and we know it. At least be honest with yourselves that the real reason is motivated by ideological self-interest, so that you can pass laws and make far-reaching policy decisions, without the impediment of the Supreme Court annulling them. With cold premeditation, you know that to achieve this, you first need to neutralize the authority of the Court and eliminate all the tools and mechanisms in the judicial system, that gives the Court the authority to stand in your way.
– So, for instance, you need to revoke the standard of reasonableness, because you know that the laws and policies this far-right government wants to pass will not withstand the test of reasonableness. How could they, when they trample human rights, deprive people of their legally owned property, eschew clear conflicts of interest, or create systemic inequality for one sector of society regarding citizens’ obligations to the country?
Let’s be honest; the problem you have with the Supreme Court is not that they are Leftist or unrepresentative of the make-up of Israeli society. All you need to do is to look at the composition of the Court today to know that is not true.
The full Supreme court convened. (Courtesy Times of Israe, Flash 90, 2022)
The problem is that they think independently. They cannot be controlled. So, you want to control who sits on the Court, so that you can control how the judges think and how to decide on the cases before them. It’s not original. You learned this from the appointments of Justices to the Supreme Court in the United States, and how Trump stacked the Court with “his” Justices, with no regard for their professional suitability, or their integrity. There is something fundamentally corrupt when the only consideration for those deciding who will be appointed a Supreme Court judge is their political leanings – and not their professional suitability, ability, and integrity. But that doesn’t seem to bother you. What interests you, is only that you will have a Supreme Court amenable to your political agenda. Don’t hide behind contrived intellectualizations of a “broken system” (the system that is not broken, it needs some adjustments), or some feigned principled outrage that the judges choose themselves (they don’t, and they can’t). Be honest about what your true intentions are.
And, while we’re being honest, can we drop the demagoguery, please? The election issues were not about Judicial Reform. It was not even mentioned during the election campaign. It may have been part of some parties’ political platform, but it was not even on the agenda. Yariv Levin raised it only during the coalition talks when he made it his condition for becoming Minister of Justice. Until then, the subject didn’t even come up. So, please, drop the argument that “it is what the people want, they voted for it”. They didn’t. The elections were NOT a referendum on this issue. And by the way, a clear majority opposes the Judicial Overhaul.
And also, while we are talking about “the will of the people”, let’s be brutally honest; this government does NOT represent the “will of the people”. It represents the majority represented in the Knesset, because of a quirk in the system, resulting from the existence of an electoral threshold. But while they have no representation in the Knesset, when you talk about “the WILL of the PEOPLE” and what the people want, what they want, counts! And in fact, about 15,000 *more* people voted against this government than for it. So, please, stop with the false “will of the people” argument. It’s gaslighting, and embarrassing.
We need a government that wants to govern the country, not *control* it. And a government that since its election, is obsessed only with laws aimed at consolidating its power and cementing its control of the Judiciary, to enable it to make decisions unshackled by any checks and balances and limits to its power, is interested in control, not governing. A government so hell-bent on passing these laws, that it refuses to take into consideration the concerns of hundreds of thousands of its citizens who display such a deep belief and commitment to the preservation of our democracy, that they have been protesting for 27 weeks every week, cannot claim to be a government for all its citizens. A government that treats half its population with disdain, and refuses to even listen to what we have to say because it would constitute a “capitulation”, cannot talk about the purity of it is acting responsibly. And a government that is determined to ram through its legislation without allowing a proper debate on an issue so fundamental, and does not allow the opposition fair opportunity to air its concerns in the legislative committee, has no right to claim that the legislation will “strengthen democracy”.
So, be honest; do you really believe in democracy?
About the Author
Paul Mirbach (PEM), made Aliya from South Africa to kibbutz Tuval in 1982 with a garin of Habonim members. Together they built a new kibbutz, transforming rocks and mud into a green oasis in the Gallilee. Paul still lives on Tuval. He calls it his little corner of Paradise.
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