After dealing with the New Israel Fund and the left in academia, the Im Tirtzu movement has marked its next enemy – the High Court of Justice. The opening shot was fired at a conference entitled “a state ruled by the High Court of Justice” in the southern Tel Aviv neighborhood Kiryat Shalom on Tuesday.
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The organizers expected hundreds, but because of the rain only about 100 people attended in the hall, leaving at least as many seats empty. Few came from the neighborhood itself, unless you count the Eritrean asylum seekers working as cleaners. When I told one of the cleaners what the conference was about, he said “don’t worry, we’re here temporarily and will return to Eritrea.”
I wanted to talk to attorney Yoram Sheftel, host of the biting radio show. When I shook his hand, he finished eating a burekas, part of which remained on his little mustache. “Garbuz [director of the Tel Aviv Cinematheque] is ISIS,” his mate said. Sheftel himself, who wrote Im Tirtzu’s position paper about the High Court, refused to talk. “I don’t deal with al-Ard,” he said.
Inside, a threatening caricature of a judge with huge mustache and joined eyebrows was projected on a screen. I made the mistake of sitting next to a noisy insurance agent, who kept annoying the ladies in front of us.
Sheftel spoke first. “He protected that Russian,” the insurance agent told those around us. Sheftel, with a look of a Polish nobleman, a metal Star of David on his tie and hair swept back, reviewed the history of the High Court’s taking over Israel and Aharon Barak’s turning it into a dictatorship, although Barak retired in 2006. Why is criticizing the IDF seen as treason, I thought to myself, but attacking the High Court, which is a branch and symbol of Israel, is a patriotic deed?
“Our mission is to abolish the judicial overthrow,” said Ronen Shoval, Im Tirtzu’s recently retired chairman and founder. Shoval linked High Court rulings to the Hatuel family’s murder in Gush Katif. He stated that the High Court had decided “settlements for Jews only – no; settlements for Arabs only – yes,” despite the High Court’s recent ruling that allowed vetting committees to prevent Arabs from moving into predominantly Jewish communities.
Shoval said the High Court had overturned the anti-infiltration law because “the High Court people don’t come from south Tel Aviv, they’re not part of the people.” He described the justices as a “branch of Meretz, on the verge of Hadash and Balad.” Finally he outlined his plan for legislation restricting the High Court – “those judicial pirates,” as he called them.
Nobel Prize Laureate Professor Yisrael Aumann blasted the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom, on which the High Court based its revocation of the anti-infiltration law. “The whole judicial system is corrupt,” he said.
I liked Aumann, but the insurance agent wasn’t enthusiastic. “If he taught me in university, I’d fall asleep,” he whispered, and refused to rise when Aumann came down from the podium.
The next speaker was MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), who entered the hall during Aumann’s speech in a dazzling pink coat with a TV film crew in tow.
“Two or three months before the ruling a guy I trust told me that someone had told him the High Court was going to revoke the law,” Shaked said.
She immediately started drafting a bill to bypass the court, although she couldn’t believe “such a radical scenario” was possible. Her bill would reduce the number of Supreme Court justices in the Judicial Appointments Committee from three to one, she said.
When she spoke about bypassing the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom someone shouted “What human? They’re infiltrators!”
“But what’s the High Court’s motivation?” someone asked.
“They want to destroy the state,” someone replied.
“Their problem is, they have no Jewishness, so all their rulings are from the humane point of view,” explained Liav Marmar, of Bat Yam. “I’m not surprised they sent the infiltrators to south Tel Aviv, they want the most central city to be not Jewish.”
Navon Katzav, deputy mayor of Azur who moved to Kiryat Shalom four years ago, was introduced as the “representative of the southern neighborhoods.” Holding up an “anti-rapist” spray he told horror stories about Tel Aviv’s southern neighborhoods, advising people to go there in “cars with windows shut. People are afraid to go out at night, there are tens of thousands of non-Jewish infiltrators, criminals.”
“Even if they don’t rape, they shouldn’t be here. Even if they were saints,” a woman said.
Katzav said the left objects to the asylum seekers’ incarceration because “the infiltrators will be allowed to have family reunions, soon there’ll be 300,000. That’s electoral power that won’t go to Habayit Hayehudi and Likud.”
The official number of African asylum seekers in Israel is 55,000, and since the fence has been built they have stopped coming altogether. Speaking of keeping your car windows shut in south Tel Aviv – as a resident of Hatikva Quarter, I recommend a pleasant stroll on foot, unless it’s raining.