How I Lost my Respect for Israel's Supreme Court

Rochel Sylvetsky,

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לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Rochel Sylvetsky
Rochel Sylvetsky is Senior Consultant to Arutz Sheva's English site and serves as op-ed and Judaism editor. She is a former Chairperson of Emunah Israel (1991-96), CEO/Director of Kfar Hanoar Hadati Youth Village, member of the Emek Zevulun Regional Council and the Religious Education Council of Israel's Education Ministry. She has degrees in Mathematics and Jewish Education.

I grew up in America  with a critical, but healthy respect for the judiciary and an admiring understanding of the wisdom of the Founding  Fathers who balanced judicial power with the will of the people (although our definition of just who those people are is much broader than their careful, conservative, limiting one) and the plans of their leaders.

Then I moved to the land of the prophets, the land and people that I love more than I can explain, a land of fulfillment and a land that "eats its inhabitants", a land of hope and contradiction.

I suffered through Israeli Chief Justice Aaron Barak's unashamed elitist usurpation of power for the courts - a phenomenon that entailed his disdainful putting aside of the electorate's will to allow a non-vetted group of "higher beings" decide on legislative issues and do so only according to his world view, which he seemed to feel was the  only valid one in existence.

Hubris is nothing new, and as there was no recourse, I suffered in silence as he decided his world view overrode military experts, bent on saving lives, on the security fence's route, panned using forceful means (tiltul) to get a terrorist to disclose a ticking bomb or to allow having an Arab neighbor approach a terrorist hideout before the IDF closed in. And there is more, much more.

It is not easy for me to write this. But enough is enough. Two issues have exposed the courts as not only skewed and unpatriotic, not only as a politically correct aristocracy that cares more for what the world might say than for Jewish rights and welfare in our homeland, but as an unprofessional, unjust and lately, downright  ridiculous group of bunglers. 

A simple comparison will illustrate the first issue.

When some years ago, my downstairs neighbor and I had a dispute over the enlargement of his apartment beyond the limits of the permit he had obtained from the city and at the expense of my view, we went to small claims court. The dispute was settled amicably, but not before the judge got in her car and came to see the place for herself. You read it right - this justice of the peace said that pictures were not enough, she had to see things for herself to make a proper and just decision, which she did.

Israel's Supreme Court, however, being on a higher plane than ordinary mortals, rejected the residents' appeal to repeal the law mandating  the evacuation of Gush Katif on the grounds that it contradicted Israel's Basic Laws - without ever seeing the place. Despite being begged to come and see for themselves the beautiful, flourishing area and its environs, home to over 8,000 loyal Israeli residents for over 35 years, just a two hour trip from Jerusalem, they refused to do so.

Obviously, the court had made up its mind before the appeal.

Here we are ten years later, living with the horrific results of a decision made by judges who did not know Gaza envelope Sderot from Tel Aviv envelope Zahala.  They at least know how the upscale town of Zahala looks.
And now for the second issue, Beit El's houses, doomed to be destroyed due to a previous decision and then rebuilt due to a current authorization - I hope I got it right because I, too, am a mere mortal - instead of letting them stand and recompensing the owner if they know his identity or fining the builders, the whole farce to be carried out by an incomprehensible and convoluted hit-your-head-in-the-wall Supreme Court.  It is completely insane.

Note that I have not made this a compassion issue, although that is equally relevant, of people's suffering and a court's ability to weigh that when deciding on solutions to conflicts. I am talking about justice versus cruelty, justice versus robotics.

Those who made the decisions on Gush Katif and Beit El do not deserve our respect. They have not earned it. We read Isaiah's opinion (1,23) about that kind of "justice" every year on Shabbat Chazon.