Fresh from his appointment as Justice Minister, Amir Ochana declared in a TV interview that in case of mortal danger, he may disobey a verdict by the Supreme Court. The High Court had once opposed the IDF flattening some buildings for security reason but as a result, innocent citizens were murdered. Now he was appointed to a position of power in the justice sphere, he vowed that he would obstruct such mistakes.
Immediately after seeing his own interview, he made a U-turn. He declared that such liberty cannot exist. He had always respected any court decision and would keep doing so. His boss, Netanyahu, also right away, declared such disobedience not possible.
However, this did not stop a kangaroo court of prominent Israeli public players from condemning him, for the unprecedented and irresponsible promotion of anarchy, for being a threat to democracy, for not appreciating that laws are “a guarantee for the protection of the right of every citizen of the state” (as if the law is not foremost to protect the interests of the powerful with individual protection merely a footnote to that) and even using an anti-Semitic image that he had poisoned the well (the Jerusalem Post!) and invoking that he’s Gay (Haaretz!).
Now Haaretz has even started immaterially hairsplitting that a definite demolition order was never given. Rather, the Court had only temporarily blocked the state’s intention after which it got discouraged and left it.
This was all already after Boteach had put Ochana in his trophy cabinet as of high integrity and in deep love with Israel and all Israelis.
In any case, the issues at hand are not as simple as a faux pas, retraction and unfair criticism.
1. It’s undisputed that the High Court has been a tower of strength for human rights often annoying and frustrating the political establishment.
Ochana (his name is not Ohana) is of the same school as his predecessor, Ayelet Shaked. They both are situated towards the secular extreme right.
They are both of the opinion that Israel’s Highest Court has been politicized. Too many of its justices were extremely left-wing whose goal and action have been to circumvent any right-wing discussion by a lawful government. Shaked has appointed so many right-wing justices that the political balance in the court is now about 50/50.
So, Ochana’s statement was oil on the fire of the current tension between right-wing politicians and left-wing justices.
2. Ochama’s reserve regarding the final word being from the court system smacks of a Trumpian novice. A political appointment of someone who doesn’t know what’s going on at all. Yet, Ochana is an experienced lawyer. So we must reject the idea that he spoke out of total ignorance.
More likely, it had pained him when people had died because of a High Court of Justice decision and now that he was appointed to a position of power, he would obstruct such mistakes.
This, of course, cannot be. The Court weighs security aspects too. The IDF must make its case. If the Court is not enough impressed, it may rule against the IDF. In hindsight, that may be a mistake but it’s always easy to be Monday morning’s quarterback.
3. Ochana walks around bareheaded but as part of the Arab majority in Israel, as a Mizrachic Jew, no doubt he knows the principle that preventing danger to life goes above almost all principles of Jewish Law.
But again, such a case must be made in court and the responsibility for the last say lies with the court.
4. This is not much different from G^d standing by while we make mistakes. If He would always interrupt as soon as we err, human responsibility and improvement (regret) would be dead letters.
5. There is no such thing as knowing that the court was wrong. Unless one has objective knowledge. One can only be strongly convinced but no more.
6. Law is not really holy. There are evil laws. Going against them is then holy. But in a democracy, a justice minister always has the possibility to resign, to seek ways to appeal or circumvent a verdict or to secretly dodge a verdict and bear the consequences when discovered.
Respect for the law is important even when it is flawed. There is no perfect law. Not every guilty person can be convicted. Some general law may do injustice in individual cases. What seems fair now may turn out bigoted later. But in any case, laws must be improved, not abandoned.
7. Of late, attacks on the Justice System are gaining popularity. This is bad. Surely, courts do everything in their power to disregard the common man and violate common sense and arrogantly decide who is right and who is wrong. Thus they create much disrespect for the law. But attacking the law is a bad thing. Try to change it — don’t destroy it.
8. After serving at length in the IDF and security apparatus, he knows the idea of blindly obeying orders by superiors. Even if you think that an order is totally stupid, you must obey. Unless you know that it’s immoral. Then you must disobey. Every Israeli soldier knows this through and through.
Without such obedience, an army can’t operate. Nor the law.
9. The giant elephant in the room is that Ochana is a right-winger. All the vicious attacks on him are because of that. But it’s never mentioned.
10. His remark that he is ready for the prosecution manufacturing a false case against him (like against Netanyahu) has been called paranoid. It is often overlooked that, as Kissinger famously said, paranoids may have enemies too.
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In unrelated reporting, Haaretz’ headline “Hundreds March as Tel Aviv Pride Parade Kicks Off” is technically not faulty but strange as rather 100,000s were expected. One needs to read the article to find the better description of “Hundreds of thousands.” Freudian, malicious or sloppy?