Kim Treiger-Bar-Am

The Coalition’s Fake News

Fake news is a worldwide problem. Mis-information is not absent from the judicial revolution that the government has proposed in Israel, which is pulling the nation apart. A few of its points of fake news are as follows:

  1. The coalition is vehemently opposed to the composition of the committee for appointing judges. The impression is prevalent that justices control the appointment process.

This is fake news.

Under the current law, the committee has 9 members: 3 justices of the Supreme Court, 2 Members of Knesset (the custom of including members of the opposition party has passed), 2 government Ministers, and 2 lawyers (namely, members of the Israel Bar Association). Since 2008, 7 votes are required to appoint a justice to the Supreme Court.

Hence under the system today, a consensus of politicians and justices is necessary. Justices can’t unanimously decide on new appointees.

The change that is proposed by the coalition would give the coalition complete control over the composition of the appointment committee. The coalition would have sole discretion over deciding which judges to appoint. The nature of proceedings and outcomes of every court case would be impacted. A potential, future appeal of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s case would be submitted to a Supreme Court whose composition he could determine.

In Jewish tradition, judges are strong. The prophetess and Judge Devorah is a prime example.

In the Torah, judges appointed judges. Moshe was a judge, and upon Yitro’s advice created a court system and appointed judges to it. In post-biblical times, the Sanhedrin was composed of judges who appointed further judges.

  1. The coalition is vehemently opposed to the judicial review of laws that the Knesset passes. The impression is prevalent that former Chief Justice Aharon Barak is responsible for having brought judicial review by the Supreme Court into being.

This is fake news.

Judicial review is called for in the Basic Law of Human Dignity. The Basic Law was enacted by the Knesset. It was passed in 1992, under then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. The parties leading the governing coalition at the time included Likud, Shas and the National Religious Party.

Like all laws, the Basic Law of Human Dignity is to be interpreted by the Supreme Court. According to the Basic Law, if a law is found to violate a person’s dignity, the Court is to strike it down unless it meets Israel’s values, has a proper purpose, and is proportional. (Article 8 provides that there shall be no violation of rights under the Basic Law except by a law befitting the values of the State of Israel, enacted for a proper purpose, and to an extent no greater than is required.)

In Jewish tradition, the dignity – kavod – of all people is central. Given their creation in the image of God, the dignity of humans follows from God’s kavod, or glory. The term kavod appears 200 hundred times in the Torah and tens of thousands of times in post-biblical Talmudic discourse. Israel’s Basic Law of Human Dignity follows in that long tradition.

  1. The coalition argues that its proposals promote democracy. Democracy means majority rule, according to the view that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu puts forward. Because he formed a coalition with a majority of Knesset members, their say goes.

This is fake news.

While a democratic system of government is one in which the majority vote rules, democracy also means that rights are upheld. The minority is protected.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines democracy not only as a system of government in which power is held by the people, but also as “the belief in freedom and equality between people.”

In the Jewish tradition, rights of the people of Israel and of the strangers living amongst them derive from duties of respect. Those duties are obligatory. The rights and duties of respect for one’s dignity are held by all, and for all.

The ethics of truth are paramount in the Jewish tradition. The Torah prohibits lying, false witnesses, and false prophets. Maimonides (Rambam) has a lengthy discussion at the start of The Guide for the Perplexed about the ability of humans to discern between truth and falsity from the get-go, because of their creation in the image of God.

We can bring to light truth over falsity. We can, and we must. Jewish tradition says that we are obligated to do so.

About the Author
Kim made aliyah from the US after her studies of law and philosophy at Yale. She completed her doctorate in law at Oxford. She has practiced as a lawyer and taught at various Universities in Israel. She is the author of three books: "Positive Freedom and the Law", as well as "Freedom and Respect in Jewish Ethics", and recently "The Ethics of Truth."
Related Topics
Related Posts