Celebrating Israeli Justice

January 6, 2011 by

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It gets a bit tiring to be critical the whole time doesn’t it? You know, cynically snapping at every tidbit which falls under the table. And I could have a field day this week. But I don’t want to. Not this week. Let’s find something warm and comfortable that we love about Israel and snuggle up with some hot cocoa.

I don’t want to talk about Bibi’s formal request for Jonathan Pollard’s freedom – we’re only going to get upset. I’d bring up loyalty questions, you’d feel uncomfortable. You’d bring up ‘why does Israel need to spy on her best friend?’, and I’d feel uncomfortable. It really wouldn’t end nicely.

And I don’t want to bring to your attention the ongoing surveys which show that Israeli society is more racist than we previously thought. Or the demonstrations in Bat-Yam against Jewish women dating Arab men. It’s just unpleasant. The demonstrations that is… Jewish women dating Arab men is just fictional. Why can’t it be more like the 1970s, when we were embarrassed mainly by Israeli fashion-sense?

But if there is one recent episode that gives me the feeling that we are doing something right, it is the Katzav guilty verdict. I’m not particularly proud of having a President who raped, but I love the State which found him guilty. Abuse happens at every level of society and transcends national and religious allegiance. Katzav says nothing about what it means to be Israeli and while his name is a blot on ours, the handling of this case speaks tomes as to what Israel is all about. The untouchability of the rich, famous and politically powerful in our societies may have reached OJ proportions, but here we have an experience that shows that it does not have to be this way, there can be accountability.

As Judge George Kara read the verdict, it was as much about the judges themselves as the actual wording. Here was a Christian Israeli-Arab from Jaffa reading the no.1 citizen his rights. Flanked with two female justices who barely said a word, but whose mere presence was a condemnation of his crimes. As Meir Shalev, the Israeli author, pointed out in his weekly column in Yediot Ahronot the courthouse is still the guard on the gate of Israeli democracy.

But it got even better as Dorit Beinish, the Supreme Court Justice (also a woman, pictured right) stated that the case showed the value of Judges who don’t warp justice or respect position (לא להטות משפט ולא להכיר פנים). She quoted this straight from the Basic Law of the Judiciary of the State of Israel, which in turn adopted it from Deuteronomy 16:19. Yes, the biblical imperatives for the judiciary which directed the behavior of the Children of Israel 3000 years ago are just as relevant today as they ever were. From tribe, to people, to nation, our texts have remained a faithful guide.

So while we might be ashamed of having an ex- President who is a rapist, we can be very proud of the system that found him guilty.

Anton Goodman is the Israel Engager Shaliach to the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

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