As established by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 2004, apartheid is by definition:
“An institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”
So the fact that one Israeli Palestinian has made a bright and important career for himself has precisely nothing to do with the existence of “systematic oppression and domination” along racial/ethnic lines. The fact that Joubran exists as a Supreme Court justice indeed signals that Israel differs from the South African model, but it means nothing about whether the crime of apartheid exists in Israel/Palestine today.
Israel’s Supreme Court has a motto
But I digress somewhat and would like to return to the Supreme Court itself, ostensible beacon that it is of Israeli democracy. When I was researching recent court rulings, I noticed a very strange website design, which I had never picked up on before: Israel’s Supreme Court has a motto.
Apparently, Israel’s Supreme Court’s objective is to “fight terrorism within the law”.
Beautiful sounding but mindbogglingly problematic. The job of the judiciary, in case the court forgot, is to interpret the laws, that is, to consider ambiguous legal interpretations, adjudicate between those interpretations, and then establish an official understanding of that law in the country.
First of all, “within the law” is a concept that is actively decided in the course of the Supreme Court’s regular work, a fact that makes their apparent deference to the law as it now stands to reflect, at the very minimum, an insufficient work ethic. Yet combined with the directive to “fight terrorism”, the Supreme Court is sending ambivalent messages about its role in society. Worse still, the issues faced by the court are such that “fighting” terrorism and domestic/international laws will often be in conflict. No other OECD country’s judiciary that I know of has a similar statement of purpose that potentially conflicts with the court’s primary function.
How, then, can we be sure the Supreme Court is strictly interpreting law versus waging a political battle against terrorism and/or other forms of resistance to Israel’s brutal military occupation of Palestine? I would argue: “we can’t”. Irrespective of our prior beliefs on this, however, the Supreme Court’s banner raises serious questions about their commitment to law.
In the end, this question is best answered through the Supreme Court’s actual decisions, which can be assessed on the degree to which they privilege “fighting terrorism” to “within the law”, or vice versa, including the international law around the crime of apartheid. On this, the record is decidedly mixed, as we have covered on this blog before.
This is yet another example of Israel’s peculiar manipulation of democracy to serve its own ethnically-based, nationalist agenda.