Editorial |

Rein in Israel's Justice Minister and Her Callous Policy on Ukrainian Refugees

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
Supreme Court President Esther Hayut in Jerusalem, last Monday.
Supreme Court President Esther Hayut in Jerusalem, last Monday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

The Russian invasion of Ukraine flooded Europe with millions of women and children fleeing for their lives from the inferno of the war stared by President Vladimir Putin. European countries, including Poland, Romania and Germany, opened their hearts and their borders to the refugees from Ukraine. A minuscule number of these refugees reached Israel, a country that was founded by refugees fleeing Europe. But instead of stepping up and doing everything possible to help them, the state has mainly been busy finding ways to reduce the number of people it lets in, and is admitting only the Jews among them.

The appeals against the Population and Immigration Authority’s decisions submitted by Ukrainians seeking refuge in Israel come before Tel Aviv District Court Judge Michal Agmon-Gonen. She stands, almost alone, against the attitude of the state and the Interior Ministry. Agmon-Gonen has handed down a number of decisions that have defended the basic human rights of the refugees arriving in Israel. She has prevented the deportation of those whose requests to remain in Israel were denied. She ordered the Population Authority to give the refugees temporary work permits, and required the state to allow them to remain in Israel for 48 hours to fully explore their legal options before deportation.

The right wing, which is coldhearted when it comes to foreigners, even in wartime, does not like these rulings, and complaints have begun to be filed against Agmon-Gonen. Some of these refer directly to her rulings, while others involve ethics. At the same time, articles criticizing the judge have begun to appear in the media. The nadir came in April, when Rachel Turgeman, a wheeler-dealer close to Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, criticized her for her rulings on refugee-related cases. Agmon-Gonen informed Supreme Court President Esther Hayut that Turgeman had been sent by Shaked; Shaked and Turgeman both denied it. For some reason, a brief probe by Hayut sufficed to set the complaint aside.

During this whole complex period for Agmon-Gonen, no statement was issued in her support, not by the courts system and certainly not by Hayut. The system has abandoned Agmon-Gonen. She has been sent by the system to hear and decide these cases, and has done so according to the dictates of her conscience, her legal experience of many years and in defense of fundamental values and human rights, as well as compassion, and has paid a heavy price. But the voice of the system, which should stand up to defend her, has not been heard.

Agmon-Gonen is saving the honor of the justice system and the state in her attitude toward the refugees. The president of the Supreme Court should publicly support Agmon-Gonen, late as it may be. This will also help rein in Shaked and the callous policy she leads.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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