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What you need to know as Israel’s Supreme Court begins debating law limiting its power

(JTA) — For almost nine months, Israelis have been fighting over the future of their Supreme Court. Today, that battle has moved into the Supreme Court itself.

In July, Israel’s hardline right-wing governing coalition passed a law to weaken the court. Opponents of the law then filed legal challenges against it. That put the court in the uncomfortable, and unprecedented, position of ruling on itself: It can decide to uphold the law, strike it down, or send it back to parliament to be amended.

When Israelis on both sides of the debate warned that the country was headed to a constitutional crisis, this is what they meant. Today’s hearing is raising questions no one knows the answer to: What happens if the court strikes down the law, and the government doesn’t respect the court’s ruling? Who takes precedence — the court or the coalition?

For weeks, Israelis have been fiercely debating that question — and even members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government are split on the issue. And while a decision won’t be handed down today (it could take four months), matters are already coming to a head on Israel’s streets, and in its halls of power.

While the Supreme Court’s activities are often closely watched, today’s hearing appears to be riveting many of the Israelis who have been fighting over the legislation on trial. Renewed protests in Jerusalem, where the court meets, flooded streets on Monday, and in a sign of hearing’s reach, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art waived admission fees and is showing a livestream of the court proceedings today.

Here’s what you need to know.

How did we get here?

Soon after Netanyahu’s government came to power, it unveiled a sweeping plan to limit the power of Israel’s judiciary. The Israeli right sees the courts as an unelected bastion of left-wing Ashkenazi secular elites that stymies the right-wing government from passing laws that reflect the will of the electorate.

The plan, in its original form, would have given the governing coalition complete control over the appointment of judges. It also would have let Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, override Supreme Court decisions with a bare majority, among other provisions.

That plan sparked a historic protest movement that has brought hundreds of thousands of people to the streets to oppose the law. The protesters say the judicial overhaul will undermine Israeli democracy by removing the most significant check on the power of the government and by leaving minorities vulnerable to discriminatory laws. In addition to the protesters, world leaders including President Joe Biden have come out against the overhaul, as have large Jewish groups in the United States.

In July, after failed negotiations over the plan and months of civil unrest, the Knesset passed one component of the overhaul along party lines. The law barred the Supreme Court from striking down government decisions it deems unreasonable — a tool the court had used to check the government’s power.

What’s the Supreme Court’s role in the controversy?

One of the roles of Israel’s Supreme Court is to hear petitions against laws that, their opponents say, are unconstitutional. Israel doesn’t have a constitution, but it does have a set of “Basic Laws” that act as a kind of substitute.

Soon after the “Reasonableness” law was passed, a handful of good-government groups and professional guilds submitted petitions against it, arguing that it undermines Israel’s democratic system or that there were procedural problems with its passage. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the petitions all together during the hearing today.

But here’s the twist: The law that was just passed is itself a Basic Law. The Supreme Court has never struck one of those down. That’s one of the main reasons why Netanyahu and his allies are saying the law needs to be upheld.

But opponents of the law note that the process for passing a Basic Law is no different than the process of passing an ordinary law. Therefore, they say, the law shouldn’t be immune from judicial review.

The court is hearing the arguments today — and early signs indicate its sympathy to the government’s opponents. In court today, several justices are arguing strenuously that just because they haven’t struck down a Basic Law before, they have the right to review laws designated as such. They said their power to do so rests in the country’s Declaration of Independence, which has taken on increased symbolic weight during the political fight.

The court must render a decision by Jan. 16 — either dismissing the petitions, sending the law back to Knesset for revision or striking it down. And in parallel, Netanyahu and his opponents are again negotiating over a compromise on the remaining overhaul legislation that has not yet passed.

Why are the stakes of one court decision being seen as so high?

Israelis on the right and left are attaching so much significance to the court hearing — and the resultant decision — because they agree on one thing: This is about way more than the “reasonableness law.” This is about the future of Israeli democracy.

In recognition of the hearing’s gravity, all 15 justices on the Supreme Court will hear the petition — the first time that has ever happened. The justices have also received added security.

On the right, supporters of the law say that the Supreme Court would be breaking with precedent, and further overstepping its bounds, by striking down a Basic Law. On the left, opponents of the law feel the court is the final bulwark of liberal democracy in Israel. In another sign of the unusual times, Israeli Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara (whose position, unlike in the United States, is independent of the governing coalition), has publicly sided with the petitions against the law. She is sitting out the hearing because of her public stance.

Dueling protests have taken to the streets, and politicians have issued dire statements. But they’re not only disagreeing over whether the law is legitimate — they’re divided over what should happen if the court strikes the law down.

What happens if the court strikes the law down?

If the court says the law is unconstitutional, the coalition that passed it would have to decide whether to obey the court or not. If it were to obey the court, it would be delivering a major blow to its base, who would see a law limiting the Supreme Court’s overreach stricken down by that very same court.

But if the coalition were to defy the court, it would mean a major break with precedent, and would trigger a constitutional crisis — where different branches of the government conflict with each other, and the state lacks laws to resolve the dispute.

That’s why some of Netanyahu’s most senior allies have gone public saying that the government has a fundamental duty to respect court decisions. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who has tried to act as a moderating force on the judicial overhaul, said, “The State of Israel is a democratic country with a rule of law. I will honor any Supreme Court ruling,”

Other Netanyahu allies have taken the opposite tack. Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana gave a speech last week in which he said the court has no right to strike down Basic Laws and, if it does so, would be acting “against the Knesset and against Israeli democracy.”

Netanyahu, in interviews, has remained noncommittal about whether he would respect a court ruling striking down the law. But he retweeted Ohana’s video.


The post What you need to know as Israel’s Supreme Court begins debating law limiting its power appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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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.

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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.

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‘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.

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