Am I Trying to Destroy the Jewish People?

Apparently yes, according to the ruling of an Israeli High Court judge who drew on the Passover Haggadah to support the anti-boycott law.

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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A protester demonstrating against the anti-boycott law outside the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem.
A protester demonstrating against the anti-boycott law outside the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem.Credit: Emil Salman
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

In rejecting a petition against the anti-boycott law, High Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein wrote the following: “The Passover Haggadah discusses this same promise from heaven regarding the survival of the Jewish people despite [the ploys of] its enemies: ‘And it is this [covenant] that has stood by our fathers and us: For in every generation they rise up against us to destroy us, but the Holy One, Blessed be He, saves us from them.’ There’s nothing wrong with the Israeli Knesset giving legal expression to the battle against those who are rising up against us to destroy us,” wrote Justice Rubinstein.

Well, your honor Justice Rubinstein, I support imposing a boycott on products from the settlements. Do you really think I’m the Nazi du jour who is rising up to destroy the Jews? After all, this law is aimed solely at boycott supporters among Israel’s citizens, many of whom are Arabs. I don’t recall my father, who was uprooted from his village of Ma’alul [near Nazareth] and whose property remains confiscated to this day, ever going to a Jewish community in order to destroy its residents. He never even crossed the threshold of a Jewish home.

In your conclusion that “the Israeli Knesset [is] giving legal expression to the battle against those who are rising up against us to destroy us,” your honor attributes satanic intentions to Israeli supporters of the boycott, Arab and Jewish alike. After all, we aren’t talking about an armed rebellion, or even civil disobedience. Calling for boycotts is the weapon of the weak, those for whom a civic struggle is the only available option. Yet it’s precisely this pacifist weapon that you are banning.

Not only are most Israeli supporters of a boycott not eager “to destroy us,” but many are in fact seeking – in addition to ending the injustice done to the Palestinian people – to save the State of Israel from itself. Like a parent who confiscates a powerful motorcycle from his son because he has a habit of riding it recklessly through the streets.

Those with power don’t just call for imposing boycotts, they carry out their threats. Israel can turn off the tap to the Palestinians at any moment. It can impose a curfew, arrest people without trial and restrict their freedom of movement. To my sorrow, all this happens with the High Court’s approval.

A Palestinian activist places a sign to boycott Israeli products at a supermarket in Bethlehem, West Bank, Feb. 11, 2015. Credit: AP

On the other hand, it’s very sad that Justice Rubinstein expresses such lack of faith in the goodness of men, all men. After all, the message his statement sends to the younger generation of Jews is that the world is a jungle. And the only possible conclusion is that we’re obliged to live by the sword. Is this the future we are choosing for our children?

In the meantime, it’s actually the Palestinians who are exposed to existential danger, but I’ve never heard their spokesmen complain that the entire world is against them. If the Palestinians were creative, given the heart-rending pictures from Gaza and the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, they should have started reading the Passover Haggadah during their own dark nights.

And I’d like to take this opportunity to remind Justice Rubinstein of another fact that contradicts his thesis: All the Arab states have offered Israel a vision of peace and normalization, which includes seeking to solve the refugee problem by mutual agreement.

To be frank with you, your honor, I believe the rulings of a justice who lives with the feeling that “they are rising up against us to destroy us” will always be influenced by this apocalyptic feeling. Moreover, in the Israeli context, such feelings reflect a very particular political stance. Ultimately, these feelings undermine the ability to pass judgment in as cool and unbiased a manner as possible, which is essential to a fair legal process.

I wonder whether High Court justices haven’t adopted songs from the Passover Haggadah in other cases as well – for instance, in the ruling that allowed the state to confiscate Palestinian property within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries if its owners live in the West Bank, even though both Jerusalem and the West Bank are under Israeli control. Instead of ending this outrageous injustice, which has no parallel anywhere in the world, the High Court deemed it kosher. As is well known, the vast majority of Israeli Arab property was also confiscated, in 1948.

The court is the last refuge of the weak. But in Israel, it is the proud refuge of the occupation.

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