The Israeli judicial system places too much emphasis on individual rights, Ayelet Shaked claims, while labeling the nation-state bill a 'moral and political revolution'
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, right, sits alongside Supreme Court President Miriam Naor at a conference organized by the Israel Bar Association on August 28, 2017. Credit David Bachar
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked criticized the Supreme Court on Tuesday, claiming that the justice system gives insufficient consideration to Zionism and the country's Jewish majority.
Speaking at a conference of the Israel Bar Association in Tel Aviv, Shaked said that Zionism and "national challenges have become a legal blind spot" that carry no decisive weight in comparison to questions of individual rights. She added that the court's rulings do not consider the matter of demography and the Jewish majority "as values that should be taken into consideration."
Shaked's comments come the day after the Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, ruled that asylum seekers may be deported to Rwanda and Uganda but may not be jailed for more than two months if they refuse to go.
"Zionism should not continue, and I say here, it will not continue to bow down to the system of individual rights interpreted in a universal way that divorces them from the history of the Knesset and the history of legislation that we all know," Shaked told her audience, which included Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and Military Advocate General Sharon Afek.
Shaked's speech was momentarily interrupted when some of the lawyers in the audience yelled that Israeli was an apartheid state.
The minister also said that the nation-state bill now being advanced by the government will be a "moral and political revolution." The controversial bill holds that Israel is “the national home of the Jewish people” and that the right to realize self-determination in the state is unique to them.
Shaked said that the court's rulings reflect an attitude according to which "the question of the Jewish majority isn't relevant in any case." With regard to the Supreme Court ruling, she added: "It isn't relevant when we're talking about infiltrators from Africa who have settled in south Tel Aviv and established a city within a city, pushing out the residents of the neighborhoods, and the response of the judicial system in Israel is to strike down again and again the law that seeks to deal with the matter."
With regard to the Jewish majority, Shaked also mentioned increasing the Jewish population of the Galilee.
Shaked said she considered the system of individual rights important, but "not when it is disconnected from context, from our national tasks, from our identity, from our history, from our Zionist challenges."
She added that "since the rights revolution, we have stopped seeing ourselves as a community."
Regarding the nation-state bill, Shaked said that those who oppose it "believe that a Basic Law that gives prominence to our national and Zionist values will make us less democratic. I, on the other hand, see the individual rights that the Knesset has recognized as an absolute truth, and I also see our national and Zionist values as an absolute truth."
She added: "Only a moral and political revolution along the lines of the one we experienced in the 1990s that will reconfirm the main achievements of Zionism since its inception will change this problematic trend." The minister said that this trend has led to legal "interpretation that has turned our national uniqueness into an empty symbol and an empty vessel."
Reacting to Shaked's comments, the leader of the opposition in the Knesset, Zionist Union Knesset member Isaac Herzog, said: "In the face of a government that is ignoring the orphan, the disabled, the foreigner and the widow, we need a strong judicial system that will not show bias. The coalition parties should head off Shaked's revolution, for the good of the public as a whole."
The head of the Hatnuah faction of the Zionist Union, Tzipi Livni, said: "Zionism isn't bowing down to human rights. It is proudly raising its head, because protecting [human rights] is also the essence of Judaism and part of Israel's values as a Jewish and democratic state."
In response to the Monday's ruling on asylum seekers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Arye Dery, together with Shaked, called for legislation that would allow asylum seekers to be deported against their will. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan criticized the Supreme Court ruling, saying that it nullified his decision when he was interior minister "to apply the policy of removal to a third country and leaves the state without an effective tool to remove infiltrators."