Connect with us
Seder Passover
Israel Bonds RRSP
JNF Canada

RSS

How the Bible anticipated Israel’s fight over the judiciary

(JTA) — For those following the judicial reform crisis in Israel, this week’s Torah portion is almost too on the nose.

For months now, Israel has been convulsed by protests in response to a plan by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “reform” Israel’s Supreme Court by stripping it of much of its powers of oversight and shifting the balance of power heavily in favor of the legislature. Defenders of the reform call it a corrective measure meant to rein in a high court that too often flouts the will of the democratically elected Knesset. Critics see it as an assault on democracy — particularly in removing the checks and balances that are the hallmarks of Western democracy — and even on biblical principles. 

Many of those principles are found in Parashat Shoftim, part of a long section of legal instructions given by Moses to the people of Israel. Among other things, it sets up three seats of power: a king, a judiciary and a sort of proto-legislature. 

Here’s what Moses says about the judiciary in the first words of the portion: “You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice.”

The executive branch comes next. The people are given permission to set a king over themselves, “one chosen by your God.” Not exactly a democracy, but there is at least a presumption that the people can decide if they want a king in the first place.

The portion doesn’t explicitly describe what we would call a legislature or elected body of lawmakers, but various commentators say it is implied by the creation of a priestly class. Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman notes that the priests were “a legislature of sorts,” who could interpret old laws to derive new ones, much as the rabbis of the Talmud would derive new laws based on biblical precedents. 

This is the three-legged stool described in Shoftim: an independent judiciary, a divinely sanctioned king and a class of lawmakers. And because the portion is keenly aware of the potential for the abuse of power, it immediately puts limitations on all three. 

You shall not judge unfairly,” the magistrates and officials are told. “You shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just.”

The king can’t keep a stable of horses, a harem of wives or a trove of silver and gold, all marks of privilege that suggest a ruler is out of touch with his people. And perhaps most importantly, he can’t sit on his throne without a copy of the Torah close by — a reminder that a king’s authority derives from somewhere beyond and higher than himself. The Torah also is the moral and legal foundation of the society, and accessible to all. “It is this Torah which reminds him that, even though he is a king with tremendous power over others, underneath his robes he is just a human being who struggles like every human being to gain and maintain control over himself,” writes Hadar’s Dena Weiss.

The priests too are constrained. Their whole tribe, Levi, is the only one not given a territory within Israel, and is essentially supported by a system of tithes imposed on the other tribes. This has always reminded me of the decision to put the U.S. capital in its own district: The founders worried that, if placed in one of the states, the federal government “might be insulted and its proceedings interrupted with impunity,” as James Madison put it. 

Judaism, wrote the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, “is an argument for the limitation, secularization and transformation of power.” The genius of this week’s portions lies in a sort of pragmatic cynicism: It understands how power corrupts, how easily judges might be swayed, how kings might put self-interest ahead of the will of the people, how lawmakers are vulnerable to special interests. It not only sets up a system of checks and balances, but reminds all of the stakeholders that they answer to a higher authority. The Torah calls it God. The American system invokes “the consent of the governed.” “Consequentialists” derive it from the “common good” or “moral values.”

You should probably be wary of relying on the Bible as a guide to contemporary politics. You can probably find evidence for any political idea or decision in its pages, and plenty of people have. And the fight over the judiciary is in part a fight to keep the state more secular and less religious.

But as a piece of political wisdom, Shoftim is hard to beat. 


The post How the Bible anticipated Israel’s fight over the judiciary appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Continue Reading

RSS

Argentina Court Blames Iran for Deadly 1994 Bombing of Jewish Center

People hold up pictures of the victims of the AMIA Jewish center bombing during a ceremony to mark the 22nd anniversary of the 1994 attack in Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 18, 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian

A new ruling by Argentina‘s highest criminal court has blamed Iran for the fatal 1994 attack against the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, declaring it a “crime against humanity” in a decision that paves the way for victims to seek justice, according to court documents released late on Thursday.

The judges ruled that the bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) — the deadliest of its kind in the country’s history that killed 85 people and left hundreds injured — was carried out by the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah and responded “to a political and strategic design” by Iran. The Iranian regime is the main backer of Hezbollah, supplying it with weapons, funding, and political support.

Representatives from Argentina‘s Jewish community said the court ruling was “historic” and “unique” because it opened the door for the victims’ relatives to bring lawsuits against the Islamic Republic.

President Javier Milei celebrated the ruling, saying this was a “significant step” that put an end to decades of “delays and cover ups,” in an official statement.

Argentina‘s judiciary has long maintained Iran was behind the attack, but joint investigations and Interpol arrest warrants have led nowhere. Iran has refused to turn over citizens convicted in Argentina. Tehran has denied involvement.

Prosecutors in the report charged top Iranian officials and Hezbollah members with ordering the bombing as well as an attack in 1992 against the Israeli embassy in Argentina, which killed 22 people.

“The significance of these grave human rights violations for the international community as a whole invokes a state’s duty to provide judicial protection,” wrote Judge Mahiques who argued for legal reform.

In 2013, Argentina and Iran signed a memorandum of understanding that sought to create a truth commission to investigate the attack, but the agreement never came into force and gave rise to a case against then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, for an alleged cover-up operation.

Judge Mahiques highlighted the figure of former prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was investigating the attack and was found dead at his home in January 2015 after fiercely criticizing Fernández de Kirchner for concealing Iran’s alleged responsibility in the attack.

“[Nisman] was very clear that all these circumstances were at the origin of the attack on the AMIA, which, taken to its ultimate consequences, could have had palpable results before this ruling,” Mahiques told local radio on Friday.

The post Argentina Court Blames Iran for Deadly 1994 Bombing of Jewish Center first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

Continue Reading

RSS

European Parliament Denounces UNRWA Role in Inciting Violence and Antisemitism

A boy holds a placard as Palestinian Hamas supporters attend a rally against visits by Israelis to the Al-Aqsa mosque, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, May 26, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Antisemitic incitement and glorification of terrorism in Palestinian textbooks issued by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was a cause of Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, the European Parliament (EP) declared in a series of resolutions passed last week.

The resolutions mark the latest denouncement of the Palestinian education by the EP and some of the first to address strong evidence that over a dozen UNRWA staff aided Hamas’ raping and slaughtering of Israeli civilians. Together, they rued the possibility that European tax dollars were funneled into Hamas and called for a complete restructuring, as well as increased oversight, of the Palestinian education system to ensure that antisemitic themes are purged from curricula in the Palestinian territories so long as the institutions administering them receive European aid.

“Today the European Parliament condemned the problematic and hateful contents encouraging violence, spreading antisemitism and inciting hatred in Palestinian school textbooks,” German Member of European Parliament (MEP) Niclas Herbst  said in a statement praising the action. “The European Parliament reaffirmed in the context of despicable terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas on 7th October 2023 that education to hatred has direct and dramatic consequences on the security of Israelis, as well as the perspectives of a better future for young Palestinians. Therefore, the EP requests the Commission to closely scrutinize that no UNWRA funds are allocated to the use of such hateful materials.”

As The Algemeiner has previously reported, UNRWA textbooks are among the most antisemitic and inciting in the world. No discipline is untouched by the problem. From math to theology, to literature and science, their content promotes blistering hatred for Jews and Israel, indoctrinating students as young as six to commit their lives to “martyrdom” and inter-generational war. Compromise with Israelis is described as betraying Palestinian identity, suicide-bombings as intrinsic to it and a prerequisite for entry into heaven.

“In this bipartisan resolution, the European Parliament has rightly made the inevitable and tragic connection between the horrors of October 7 and the systematic indoctrination which has flourished for too long in Palestinian schools, the majority of which in Gaza are operated by UNRWA,” Marcus Sheff, chief executive officer of Israeli education watchdog Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (Impact-se), said in a press release on Thursday.

He added, “For years, we have warned that the textbooks taught to Palestinian children create the conditions for the barbarism we all witnessed. The EU Parliament is now saying, ‘Enough.’ We need a new Palestinian curriculum.”

Impact-se has been a leading critic of the role Palestinian curricula plays in stoking the embers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and fostering religious extremism. In March, the organization unveiled transcriptions of recordings confirming the roles of Yusef Zidan Sliman Al-Hawajri and Mamdouh Hussein Ahmad Al-Qek — both of whom were hired as educators by the organization — in Oct. 7, citing them as evidence that UNRWA has violated its mandate.

Its last report, published in March, revealed that textbooks issued by the Palestinian Authority teach girls that women are inferior to men and demands that they sacrifice their bodies and families for “jihad.”

“The characterization of women as inferior in Palestinian Authority textbooks reflects a broader and worrying narrative of bigotry in the curriculum, which is continuing to shape the outlook millions of Palestinian children,” Sheff said after the report was published. “Furthermore, it contradicts international treaties on gender equality that the PA itself has ratified. In particular, the emphasis on women’s participation in resistance activities as a warped form of gender equality sets a disturbing precedent.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post European Parliament Denounces UNRWA Role in Inciting Violence and Antisemitism first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

Continue Reading

RSS

‘Does She Really Want to See America Die?’: Rashida Tlaib’s Refusal To Condemn ‘Death to America’ Chants Sparks Bipartisan Backlash

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) addresses attendees as she takes part in a protest calling for a ceasefire in Gaza outside the US Capitol, in Washington, DC, US, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Leah Millis

On Wednesday, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) refused to condemn anti-Israel protesters who chanted “death to America” and “death to Israel” during a rally in her district, sparking bipartisan backlash.

At an “Al-Quds Day” rally in Dearborn, Michigan protesters chanted “death to America” and “death to Israel.” A speaker at the event also quoted Malcom X saying “We live in one of the rottenest countries that has ever existed on this earth.”

The speaker continued, explaining that “The chant ‘death to Israel’ has become the most logical chant shouted across the world today.”

Another speaker proclaimed “Israel is ISIS, they are Nazis, they are fascists, they are racists.”

Michigan’s 12th congressional district, which Rep. Tlaib represents, includes Dearborn.

At International Al-Quds Day Rally in Dearborn, Michigan Protesters Chant “Death to America!”; Speakers at the Rally: America Is One of the “Rottenest Countries” on Earth; Israel Is ISIS, Nazis, a Cancer pic.twitter.com/B6hMlaKfi5

— MEMRI (@MEMRIReports) April 7, 2024

The initial incident sparked condemnation from both sides of the political aisle. The mayor of Dearborn, Abdullah H. Hammoud, wrote on Twitter/X that, at the rally, people chanted “statements that were unacceptable and contrary to the heart of this city.” 

“We reject all inflammatory and violent statements made at the gathering. Dearborn is a city of proud Americans; the hateful rhetoric heard on Friday does not reflect the opinion of the members of this community,” he continued.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates told The Daily Caller that “The White House condemns these abhorrent and Antisemitic remarks in the strongest terms. As [US] President [Joe] Biden has said, America is the greatest nation on Earth and a beacon to the world.”

Rep. Tlaib was approached by a Fox News reporter on Wednesday, who asked if she condemned the chants. She replied, saying she did not speak to Fox News and that the reporter was engaging in Islamophobic tropes in asking her the question — likely because she perceived the reporter as questioning the patriotism and loyalty of Muslim Americans to the US.

WATCH – Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Gaza) refuses to condemn ‘Death to America!’ chants at a rally in her home district.pic.twitter.com/Ddn9lvnKOn

— The First (@TheFirstonTV) April 11, 2024

The Algemeiner reached out to Tlaib’s office for clarification of her statement, but it did not respond to a request for comment.

In a statement to The Algemeiner, Democratic Majority for Israel — a group that supports Israel from within the Democratic Party — said “Chanting ‘Death to America’ incites violence and is patently anti-American. All political leaders should be able to join the White House & Dearborn’s Mayor in denouncing this slogan.”

“Congresswoman Tlaib’s refusal to condemn those words is sadly telling,” DMFI added, asking “Does she really want to see America die?”

The Republican Jewish Coalition’s national political director, Sam Markstein, had harsh words for Tlaib, telling The Algemeiner, “It’s no surprise that Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib would refuse to condemn anti-America and anti-Israel chants.”

He described Rep. Tlaib as “a disgrace” who “should not be representing the people of Michigan’s 12th district in Congress.”

He argued, “House Democratic leadership has coddled and enabled her vicious antisemitism and anti-Israel rhetoric for years – it’s long past time for them to hold her accountable.”

The CEO of The Jewish Democratic Council of America, Halie Soifer, pushed back on The Algemeiner’s request for comment, saying: “with all due respect, do you ever cover what Donald Trump says about Jews or Israel? It’s antisemitic and incessant — nearly daily at this point.”

Earlier this week, former US President Donald Trump told reporters that Biden “doesn’t know if he is supporting the Palestinians but he knows one thing: he is not supporting Israel. He has abandoned Israel and any Jewish person that votes for a Democrat or votes for Biden should have their head examined.”

Trump: “Any Jewish person that votes for a Democrat or votes for Biden should have their head examined.” pic.twitter.com/yxNTpAJjoP

— Republican Voters Against Trump (@AccountableGOP) April 10, 2024

Trump’s comments come just a week after she would not give a direct answer when asked if he stands with Israel “100%,” raising questions about what his Middle East policy may look like in a potential second term. He also said a few days ago that American Jews who vote for Biden do “not love Israel” and “should be spoken to.”

The post ‘Does She Really Want to See America Die?’: Rashida Tlaib’s Refusal To Condemn ‘Death to America’ Chants Sparks Bipartisan Backlash first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017 - 2023 Jewish Post & News