Rule of law and justice

The Torah, one of many documents defining a Jew, the nature of God, and the elements of faith. It could be the blueprint for a Godly Israel. And a key source of the rule of law in Israel--or it should be. Is the ingathering of the Jews in the offing? But these Jews must turn to God, Whom their leaders, and the public in Israel, seem to have forsaken. (What parallels exist between Judaism and George Lucas' Jedi ideal?) It names many heroes, including Abraham and Sarah.
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The rule of law is a basic principle of Torah Judaism and of classical democracy. The rule of law affirms that those who make the laws are obliged to obey the laws. Accordingly, Jewish law enables private citizens to bring public officials, including a King or a Prime Minister, to the bar of justice.

Breaches of rule of law

The rule of law as just defined does not exist in Israel. Abbie Nathan and Shimon Peres made contact with Yasser Arafat in violation of the 1986 Prevention of Terrorism Act.  Mr. Nathan, a private citizen, was incarcerated for six months for that felony.  Shimon Peres was never indicted. Instead, the Knesset elected him President of the State of Israel!

The Ten Commandments, the foundation of the rule of law

The Ten Commandments, on parchment By Jekuthiel Sofer, 1768. An emulation of a display at the Esnoga synagogue in Amsterdam.

Moshe Feiglin was convicted of sedition for having organized a demonstration that caused a major disruption of traffic in Israel.  Contrast former Arab MK Hashim Mahameed. In 1991, Mahameed urged Arabs in Gaza to “fight the conquerors [i.e. Israel] with all the means they [these Arabs] have.” Nevertheless, he was not indicted for sedition (nor for violating the Prevention of Terrorism Act). In fact, the Knesset did nothing more than suspend for three months his parliamentary privilege of unrestricted access to all areas of the country!  What a travesty of justice and the rule of law.

The alternative to the rule of law is the rule of men.  The rule of men results in arbitrary government and, inevitably, officially sanctioned violence against citizens who protest Government policies. It is in this light that we are to understand why Israeli police often employ undue force and even brutality against citizens engaged in peaceful demonstrations. Backed by the Government, hence by its Ministry of Justice, the police can resort to such violence without being liable to compensatory and punitive damages.

Countless violations of the law or of administrative procedures by elected and appointed officials are annually reported by Israel’s State comptroller, yet virtually nothing is done to bring the culprits to justice.  The citizen (as well as the State Comptroller) is powerless to correct these abuses.  And so, not only is justice intermittent in Israel, but the deliberate sense of the public is ignored between elections in that occasional democracy.

How to restore the rule of law

Since democratic elections in Israel are not sufficient to make the Government accountable to the people, Israel requires a new system of justice. No political party in Israel has the wit and the courage to initiate such an undertaking. To illustrate what I have in mind, contemplate a Committee of Justice whose purpose is to overhaul Israel’s legal system and make it more consonant with Jewish law and democracy.

Obviously the chairman of this committee should be conversant in Jewish as well as in secular law.  Consistent with the Foundations of Law Act of 1980, and as once stated by Professor Menachem Elon, a former Deputy President of the Supreme Court, Jewish Law should be “primus inter pares” (first among equals) vis-à-vis English and American law in Israeli jurisprudence. Jewish law should also be used to make public officials accountable to the people.  The following principles should apply.

  1. A private citizen who suffers injury (as defined by law) from the act of any public official may sue the official for compensatory and punitive damages. The implementation of such a law would dramatically reduce not only police brutality, but the tens of thousands of false arrests that occur each year in Israel.
  2. Any suit involving a public official will be tried by a jury composed of qualified private citizens, namely college or Jewish academy graduates. Such a law would greatly diminish the number of “cover-ups” that enable public officials to violate the law with impunity.
  3. No person convicted of a felony will be released from jail prior to the termination of his sentence without the approval of a parole board consisting of qualified private citizens. This will preclude the unconscionable release of Arab terrorists.
  4. Plea bargaining will be prohibited. This piece of legal chicanery not only undermines respect for law but enables criminals to avoid justice.
  5. Any legislator that votes for a bill or treaty that contradicts his campaign pledges will be subject to recall, i.e., removal from office. (This will necessitate making MKs accountable to the voters in constituency elections).

The above provisions are but a sample of what is required to make Israel an authentic Jewish democracy, where the rule of law and justice prevail. In fact, it was precisely the absence of authentic democracy and the rule of law that led to the Israel-PLO Agreements, as well as to the utter violation of justice perpetrated by Israeli governments that unlawfully released Arab terrorists and even surrendered Jewish land to these murderers!

Unfortunately, many Jewish organizations, preoccupied with the deadly consequences of those agreements, have ignored their basic cause, namely, the abysmal fact that Members of the Knesset are not individually accountable to the voters in constituency elections.

These organizations have talented people profoundly devoted to Israel’s well-being and can therefore make a difference. They should unite and help make Israel a Jewish Constitutional Democracy wherein all citizens and public officials are animated by a love of justice and dedicated to the rule of law.◙

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