Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked slammed Haaretz and its op-ed writer Uri Misgav on Friday for what she called “unconcealed incitement... against the justices of the Supreme Court.”
She accused the columnist of unleashing an unprecedented attack on Supreme Court Justice Noam Sohlberg, calling him a “war criminal” for living in the Alon Shvut settlement in Gush Etzion.
She said that Haaretz’s high-minded pluralism ends when it comes to an issue regarding which the newspaper has a set view, such as its opposition to the settlements.
Misgav wrote that building and living in the settlements is a criminal offense under international law, which makes Sohlberg a war criminal and unfit to sit on the country’s top court.
He also implied that Sohlberg’s living in the settlements and his Orthodox religious background potentially negatively influence his decisions on a range of hot-button issues.
Shaked responded within hours and she was not alone. The Israel Bar Association also lit into Misgav for encouraging a “violent discourse” in his article against Sohlberg.
The body of lawyers said it would not get into the politics of the issue,but that a line had been crossed when Misgav referred to a Supreme Court justice as a “criminal.”
The bar association noted that the Supreme Court is a “microcosm of Israeli society,” which includes people living in the settlements. It rejected attacks on judges for their place of residence, religious views or ethnic background.
The court spokeswoman said that the court does not respond to articles, in order to preserve its distance from debates that are outside of the courtroom.
When pressed as to why the court had rebuked Sara Netanyahu’s lawyer, Yossi Cohen, for his attack on a labor court judge, as well as filing a complaint against Cohen with the bar association, the spokeswoman said there was a difference between an op-ed writer and a lawyer involved in a specific case attacking a judge in the press for a related decision.
Former justice minister Tzipi Livni, who is usually the first to issue a statement defending judges, declined to comment.
Misgav’s op-ed also appeared to take Deputy Supreme Court President Elyakim Rubinstein to task as being potentially biased toward religious institutional concerns, due to his religious background, citing the court’s recent ruling in favor of the Chief Rabbinate’s tight control over kashrut issues.
Haaretz reportedly rejected the criticism, saying it has been the courts’ biggest defender and that the op-ed was not a personal attack on Sohlberg, but a fleshing out of the issue of whether his place of residence in the settlements creates an inherent conflict of interest in ruling on settlement-related issues.