Tuesday, August 14, 2007

An interesting perspective on the Supreme Court

The Hebrew version of Haaretz has an op-ed written by one Asher Shafrir, a medical student who did his military service in a Hesder unit, i.e. a combination of military service and Yeshiva studies. Such soldiers are often, but of course not always, close to the political right and the settler's movement.

Shafrir bemoans the fact that a significant minority of voters polled over the weekend support the decision of a handful of soldiers who last week refused an order to evacuate some settlers from some buildings they had taken over in Hebron. (I haven't dealt with the issue becasue it seems to me not as important as everyone is making it out to be. More spin in all directions). Then he surprises us. Rather than blaming the Rabbis of the settlers for encouraging "their" soldiers to prefer settlements over the democratic process as embodied by the chain of command of the military, he suggests that the most important culprit, the institution which has most claimed that a set of values can and should override the will of the majority, is no less than the Supreme Court. Furthermore, since the system is designed so that the sitting justices have a large say in determining who will be appointed to join them, he continues, their set of values cannot be questioned by other groups.

The role of the Supreme Court is at the heart of one of the more serious discussions this society has been having these past few years. The parameters are different than in the US, because the system works differently, but some of the underlying issues aren't so different: what is the relation between the democratic decision-making process and universal values, and who distinguishes between them, how, why, and under what terms?

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