Another Mideastern spring is in full swing (as distinct from the sadistically ongoing Arab Spring, not long ago confidently proclaimed by the never-erring enlightened ones as the hope of all democracies everywhere).
Springtime in our setting is notoriously unstable and in the lowly Coastal Plain some steamy nights already cause us to toss and turn when we ought to be chilling. In particularly wearisome instances our restlessness is aggravated by agitated replays of the day’s news when we ought to escape to cozy dreamland.
Thus on a recent nocturnal occasion, while my insomnia imperceptibly morphed into nightmare, new Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked rudely disturbed my peace by jumping off a pinup calendar in a dingy auto repair shop someplace in darkest Israel.
The garage featured the expected cast of unsavory characters – sweaty workaday letches who drooled, whooped and whistled as Ayelet nimbly and tauntingly rushed out of their macho milieu to join a chorus line of Third Reich beauties. With these fetching Fräuleins, Daughter of Israel Ayelet – a founding member of the Jewish Home faction – ecstatically raised her arm in the obligatory Nazi salute.
I bolted upright in dread. Who planted did these sleazy images in my subconscious?
That was when Yosef Paritzky’s garishly grinning apparition glared at me and I remembered. Said Paritzky haunted our Knesset and hogged headlines from 1999 to 2006 as an MK for Shinui – the overnight wonder-party fielded by Yosef “Tommy” Lapid (father of Ya’ir, progenitor of his own overnight wonder).
In 2003 Partizky was given the national infrastructure portfolio by then-premier Ariel Sharon. The motormouth minister prodigiously generated sensations like his proposal for an undersea tunnel to link Israel and Turkey.
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Then, in the summer of 2004, his incessant grandstanding abruptly came a cropper as tapes cropped up in which he was clearly overheard soliciting dirt to somehow implicate his Shinui rival, Interior Minister Avraham Poraz. Paritzky ignobly lost his ministerial position but stuck it out in the Knesset. His antics helped hasten the disintegrating Shinui’s dishonorable demise.
We haven’t heard much from him of late but that’s not because of lack of effort on his part. Paritzky is uber-active in the social media and churns up verbal provocations and abuse with a vengeance. Unfortunately for him, most of the time, nobody pays much attention to his nattering.
His reaction to Shaked’s ministerial appointment, though, was different. For whatever rationale, Paritzky targeted her natural good looks, as if these could conceivably be held against her. “For the first time in Israel we’d have a justice minister who can star on auto shop calendars,” he wisecracked.
A day later, responding to the maelstrom of protests, an unrepentant Paritzky, obviously relishing his own smart-alecky repartee, continued in the same vein: “I tried to find a good word to write about our new justice minister… and that’s all I could come up with,” he told a radio interviewer.
He didn’t stop there. He was on a roll. Paritzky contended that it was altogether reasonable to make an issue of Shaked’s physical attributes. If anything, he implied, she practically invited his barbs. It was all her fault because the mother-of-two flaunts her looks: “She appears day and night in magazines of one sort or another. She is hardly one who avoids the camera… It’s not like, heaven forefend, I picked on someone who never struck a model’s pose before the camera to demonstrate her beauty and beautiful she is – like the [Third] Reich’s women.”
Then, with feigned innocence, came the cynical disclaimer: “Oh sorry. It’s forbidden to compare.”
Although Paritzky’s first attempted Knesset run was on the Meretz ticket, the party’s valiant feminist warriors – like Meretz chief Zehava Gal-On and MK Michal Rozin – lost no time to take the bad-boy to task for, in Rozin’s words, his “collection of misogynistic and irrelevant responses in the wake of Ayelet Shaked's appointment as Justice Minister.”
But Paritzky’s greatest sin wasn’t just his “chauvinistic contempt for women,” as Rozin noted, but more than anything the fact that he thereby “also injures the legitimacy of the important criticism that must be voiced against her appointment.”
Phrased differently, Paritzky is denounced for having forced the champions of political correctness to express a modicum of sympathy for Shaked, which is the last thing her strident left-wing antagonists care to countenance.
Shaked embodies everything they love to viscerally hate and even the thought of drawing notice to her as a female who rose to prominence on her own, and at a young age to boot, is repugnant enough to throw Paritzky into the liberal dog house.
To Rozin’s mind he damagingly deflects attention from Shaked’s alleged aim to willfully sabotage our entire judicial system. If Paritzky would have us believe that Shaked ostentatiously and shamelessly exploits her looks to make car repairmen salivate, then Rozin charges that the same Shaked “threatens to weaken the judicial system, to resist binding High Court rulings and to fundamentally undermine the balance of power between authorities.”
Shaked, who according to Rozin, “proceeds to take her place in the pantheon of the extreme Right and who represents an ideology that is unembarrassed by its own racism, rose to fame via legislative initiatives geared to annex the territories, silence leftist associations and entrench the supremacy of the Jewish people in Israeli law. “
Ouch! Shaked has doubtless replaced the roundly reviled Avigdor Liberman as Public Enemy No.1, now that he had remarkably rehabilitated himself by trashing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and opting acrimoniously to stay out of his coalition.
Instantaneously the Left’s omnipotent opinion-molders clasped yesterday’s renegade to their loving bosom and showered him with the sweet accolades to which he was never previously accustomed. Simultaneously, however, scathing scorn was heaped on Shaked – whether in the Paritzky or Rozin idiom.
Circumstantial evidence against her mounted dramatically after her most notorious predecessor in office, Prof. Daniel Friedman, dared stick up for her.
During his ministerial tenure (2007-2009) Friedman tried in vain to do something about the excessive interventionist inclinations of Israel’s courts and the resultant usurpation of the powers of the elected legislative branch of government. The resentment that greeted his very nomination to office proved every bit as virulent as the hostile welcome now accorded Shaked.
There already was bad blood aplenty between him and then-Supreme Court Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch. She went so far as to announce to all and sundry that she has “no time to waste” on discussions with the just-installed justice minister. She even summoned a press conference for the expressed purpose of charging that Friedman plots to diminish the courts’ authority – particularly that of the Supreme Court – darkly insinuating that the ominous reforms he hatches would quash civil liberties.
Former Chief Justice Aharon Barak – Beinisch’s mentor and patron – introduced the notion that there’s nowhere the courts cannot penetrate. Nothing is outside their jurisdiction. Barak’s edict was consecrated as inviolable and synonymous with the rule of law.
This sweeping grasp of judicial authority has made Israel unique. In his 2003 book, Coercing Values: The Worldwide Rule of Judges, American legal scholar Robert Bork asserted that “pride of place in the international judicial deformation of democratic government, goes not to the US, nor to Canada, but to the State of Israel. The Israeli Supreme Court is making itself the dominant institution in the nation, an authority no other court in the world has achieved.”
In his view “Israel has set a standard for judicial imperialism that can probably never be surpassed and, one devoutly hopes, will never be equaled elsewhere.”
This is what Israeli public discourse should be about, because, as a result of what Bork dubs the “judicial deformation of democratic government,” even lower courts in this country have assumed the liberty to overturn Knesset legislation without solid legal basis.
No Basic Law – Israel’s equivalent to a constitution – entitles courts to invalidate legislation, though Barak based himself on such Basic Laws as Human Rights and Freedom of Occupation to justify inordinately far-ranging intrusions (even into battlefield military considerations).
Friedman, during his years as a venerable law professor, had attacked this state of affairs in his prolific writings. But he wasn’t alone in charging that emasculating the legislative branch negates the principles of checks and balances, in which each of the three branches of government should possess remedies against incursions by another branch.
Friedman proposed to empower the legislature to overrule even a Supreme Court nullification of an enacted law, by allowing the Knesset a chance to readopt its legislation via a special absolute majority, along the lines of the Canadian model. This is what Shaked now suggests.
Friedman additionally, sought to amend the method whereby Supreme Court justices are selected, as it enables the present court to veto nominees and replicate itself. Beinisch personally had barred Friedman’s associate, Tel Aviv University’s Prof. Nili Cohen, from the Supreme Court and Barak kept esteemed Prof. Ruth Gavison out because “she has an agenda” – i.e. her agenda didn’t mesh with his agenda.
Shaked isn’t the first justice minister to urge reform, just as Friedman wasn’t in his day. There’s no way of predicting exactly what she’ll attempt or how things will evolve. Odds are that she won’t make any headway where the mighty Friedman couldn’t.
It’s not her outlook which should appall us but the blanket a-priori rejection with which the very prospect of reform is met. There should nothing objectionable about contemplating reform.
Instead of treating the courts as untouchable private bailiwicks, the closed judicial guild ought to welcome constructive debate. There can be nothing healthier for our democracy than wholesome deliberation in lieu of the undemocratic power-grab by an unelected self-perpetuating minority that imperiously imposes its political/legal philosophy on the people.
The real nightmare is that Shaked would be foiled, as Friedman was, and that the Paritzkys and Rozins among us would succeed to demonize her in democracy’s name.
It’s the false alarm they seek to inculcate in respectable citizens which, when all is said and done, suffices to mess with our soundest sleep cycles and instigate recurring bouts of night terror. It almost doesn’t matter whether they defame Shaked as Ayelet-the-Nazi-bimbo or Ayelet-the-democracy-basher. These are the incidental details of misrepresentation.
‘Debunking the Bull,’ Sarah Honig’s book, was recently published by Gefen.
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