How I Helped a Rightist Judge Be Elected to Supreme Court

Justice Noam Sohlberg will be a kind of minor defect in the mask, which will peel off a bit of the respectable, enlightened and democratic facade of the Supreme Court - even as it sits pale, cowering and nearly toothless.

B. Michael
B. Michael
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B. Michael
B. Michael

It was July 2003. A colleague phoned and with amused anger informed me that the now-defunct religious Zionist newspaper Hatzofeh had written that I was "one of the greatest anti-Semites in the world."

One of the greatest anti-Semites? Moi? I'm not worthy. I'm not even among the top 10.

I found the article. To judge by several pieces written by the same person, the writer betrayed a tendency to go off the track even more often than Israel Railways. And still, I consulted learned friends, and they all decided: libel. You have to sue.

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The lawsuit was filed, and Noam Sohlberg was named as the presiding judge. One of the learned friends hastened to advise me: "Demand that he recuse himself. The woman attacked you because of things you wrote about the settlers. Sohlberg is a settler. He will rip you to shreds."

I straightened my back proudly, like a Polish officer on his horse, and declared: "I won't disqualify a person because of his place of residence."

So he ripped me to shreds.

The ruling ranged from strange to absurd. It was an attempt to alter the facts to suit the outcome. I read, laughed and appealed. Sohlberg's ruling was overturned very quickly, Hatzofeh was required to apologize, and I once again learned the truth of the proverb that where you stand depends on where you sit (or settle ).

I have no illusions that such a minor ruling carried great weight with Sohlberg's fans. I assume that his ruling acquitting Border Policeman Shmuel Yehezkel of manslaughter after he shot an innocent man named Samir Dari in the back in 2005. The judge accepted Yehezkel's claim that he felt threatened. "The accused made a terrible mistake," the judge wrote. "He killed the deceased for no reason." But Sohlberg acquitted him nonetheless.

A great deal has been written about that ruling. But instead of rehashing it to reinforce my joy at Sohlberg's appointment to the Supreme Court, I would like to give the floor over to German playwright Bertolt Brecht. As the Weimar Republic was coming to an end, he wrote a play called "The Exception and the Rule," about a wealthy merchant from the ruling class who murders a poverty-stricken porter. The merchant is brought before a judge and claims, of course, that he felt threatened.

The judge turns to the accused and says: "You want to say that you assumed, and rightly so, that the coolie must have something against you. In this case you really did kill an innocent man, but only because you had no way of knowing that he was innocent." Then the judge acquits the accused.

It's as though Brecht, a prophet in his rotting homeland, foresaw Sohlberg's ruling and summed up its logic in a sharp, penetrating and accurate satirical play.

The ruling in my libel suit is, naturally, far poorer in satirical material, but I insist on believing that it too made its modest contribution to Sohlberg's election. And I'm proud of that, because in my opinion, the Supreme Court has long been ready, and has even been crying out, for a figure of that kind on its benches. He will be a kind of minor defect in the mask, which will peel off a bit of the respectable, enlightened and democratic facade of the Supreme Court - even as it sits pale, cowering and nearly toothless.

And the State of Israel no longer deserves a Supreme Court without Sohlberg. It deserves a court in its own image. Someone "representative," as the MK Zeev Elkin types are loudly demanding. We should do as they wish. Because from now on, the court really is far more representative of the State of Israel. It suits the state far better.

And Sohlberg - along with his rulings and the land on which he lives (which on June 5, 1969, was seized for "military purposes" ) - will also make it somewhat more difficult for the High Court of Justice to continue to boast of statesmanlike behavior and to hide behind judicial robes, as it seeks to free itself of the threat of intervention from a foreign court.

And all of that is good and right and worthy, because evil - just like justice - must be seen, not just done.

Read this article in Hebrew



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