The Shame of the Justice System

Ruth Gavison is no longer the issue. It is no longer the question of whether the brilliant jurist from Jerusalem is worthy of becoming a Supreme Court judge or not.

Ruth Gavison is no longer the issue. It is no longer the question of whether the brilliant jurist from Jerusalem is worthy of becoming a Supreme Court judge or not. The issue now is the integrity of Israel's judges, and how the justice system will live down the shame.

Why shame? Because those heading the Supreme Court believe that the only legitimate agenda for the court is their own. They espouse a unique liberal concept that says that whoever speaks with a different voice, or offers an alternative agenda, is not worthy of serving in the court, lest he undermines its ideological monolithic nature.

Why shame? Because there were and are judges who are willing, in their effort to keep the other voices out of the Supreme Court, to use the name of justice in vain. They are ready to claim that convening the judicial selection committee is illegal one week and that not convening it is illegal in another week. They are prepared to argue that Knesset elections in March would sully the judicial selection process, and to believe that elections for the Bar Association in December would cleanse it. And they are willing to quote selectively from verdicts; to deceive the public about the relevant legal precedents; to act not as justice guardians but as members of a belligerent order that abuses its professional means and reputation to preserve their order's hegemony.

Why Shame? Because the senior officers of justice are trampling the fundamental democratic principle of the separation of authorities. They are no longer doing it in the dark, but in broad daylight, and to such an extent that some of them persuaded the parliamentary representative in the judicial selection committee not to withdraw from the Knesset as he had promised. As though it were not enough that the judiciary authority's representatives in the judicial selection committee have one voice and one opinion, now it also determines who the Knesset's representatives in the committee will be. By so doing the judiciary authority itself is pulling the moral rug from under the feet of the committee it holds so dear. It is mocking the democratic-representative logic at its foundation.

Why shame? Because the senior officers of Israeli justice stood by during the past week when the process of selecting judges in Israel plummeted to a low point. Anonymous figures in the judiciary community carried out a targeted assassination of Professor Gavison's character. Those blocking Gavison's way to the Supreme Court did not hesitate to violate her privacy and the guardians of the seal of enlightenment used dark measures to silence the other judiciary voice that was not to their liking.

Why shame? Not because the judges may have aided the unprecedented McCarthy-like operation of reviling a candidate for the Supreme Court at the critical moment. We have not reached that stage yet, thank God. The shame is because the senior officers of justice did not stand up immediately to publicly condemn the McCarthyism of the enlightened ones. The senior justice officers did not say to their community as they should have said: this is not the way to block Gavison. We will not allow the attempt to keep an ideological rival away from the Supreme Court trample democratic and moral norms.

In the final analysis the court's most important role in a free society is to prevent processes in which the end justifies the means. The court is the one to make it clear to individuals, groups and governments that even if their end is lofty is is not enough to justify the use of improper means. The Gavison affair proves that in this vital matter things have gone terribly awry.

Some of Israel's judiciary systems' commitment to their ideological cause is so great that it causes them to justify the use of shameful means. When this is the situation, when there is no one to make sure they use neutral game rules and proper means, the rule of law is in desperate straits. This situation endangers the Supreme Court much more than the gifted and controversial juror from Jerusalem.

For shame.