Beyond the Cusp

March 4, 2012

The Israeli Supreme Court and the Arab Test

A small storm brewed over the swearing in ceremony of the new Israeli Supreme Court President, Judge Asher Grunis, when at the conclusion of the ceremony one of the Supreme Court Justices refused to sing the Israeli National Anthem, Hatikvah. The judge in question is the sole Arab justice in the Israeli Supreme Court, Judge Salim Jubran. This sparked sharp reactions both calling for Judge Salim Jubran’s head to the other extreme insisting it was within his rights under freedom of speech. Israel does not have an actual constitution and uses a core set referred to as the basic laws as a theoretical framework for governance. This means that in Israel free speech is not codified within the law but has been an accepted right by the majority of the people and government, though there have been occasional debates on exactly how far free speech should be allowed before something is truly out of bounds. The refusal of a Supreme Court Judge to participate in the singing of the Israeli National Anthem sparked exactly this debate.


What was somewhat peculiar about this particular case was the divide between those who supported the right of Judge Jubran and those calling for his resignation did not follow any particular political lines. Where there were the expected nationalist and some religious politicians who called for censure or demanded resignation, one also found others from these same camps joining with the voices of the liberal camp in vociferously protecting the right for him to not sing the National Anthem. One point which was central to the argument is the fact that Hatikvah is, in part, themed about the hope of the Jewish people to return to their homeland after a lengthy exile. While this is expressed, no part of Hatikvah suggests in any way, shape, or form to belittle or restrict any others from sharing in the freedoms and rights of an Israeli citizen. Hatikvah is an expression of hope and rejoicing in the coming of the promised return which the sages have always held would come and had been the central hope of prayers over the centuries spent in the Diaspora. The song specifically mentions Zion and Jerusalem as being the promised lands where the Jews were returning to practice their Judaism as had been the Jewish heritage before the Roman conquest and scattering of the Jews.


What was of particular note in this entire affair was the complete lack of coverage by the mainstream press outside of Israel. This was peculiar as usually anything which stirs even the slightest controversy, especially if it is between the Jews and the Arabs, is immediately spread across the front pages of the news in Europe and the United States and it drives complete hours and often days of debate over what the significance of the controversy could have on the “Peace Process”. Yet, here we have a debate over the rights of an Arab to conscientiously decline to sing Hatikvah, the Israeli National Anthem, as part of an official event where the person in question is a member of the Israeli Supreme court. What could be a better set of circumstances than to have an Arab who is a sitting Justice of the Israeli Supreme court in a discourse over whether or not he has the right to refuse to sing the county’s National Anthem when it is part of an official function of the Supreme Court. I have my theories on why this was not covered throughout the world and instead completely and utterly ignored by the mainstream press. To cover this story one would be forced to admit and even emphasize that the Israeli Supreme Court has as one of its Justices an Arab Judge sitting on the bench. To give such coverage to an Arab Supreme Court Justice on the Israeli Supreme Court might become a significant story in a completely separate way, namely that the Arab Israelis truly do have the same rights and privileges as a Jewish Israeli even to the point of serving on the Israeli Supreme Court. A story such as this would put to lie to all the previous stories which were slanted in order to give the impression that Israel was an apartheid state which refused to give their Arab citizens equal rights and treatment under the law. The entire apartheid myth would come crashing down and the truth would have been exposed had this story reached the general public, and when it comes to Israel the press cannot allow the truth to get in the way of their continuous damnation of the Jewish State. Maybe this case of the rights being upheld for an Arab Justice who sits on the Israeli Supreme Court not being covered is not so mysterious after all.


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