Retired judges, university heads decry new coalition

Open University president: Israel is facing ‘a murky wave that threatens the foundations of the democratic existence’ of Israel.

 The Knesset Plenum ahead of the vote for the new Knesset Speaker, December 13, 2022. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
The Knesset Plenum ahead of the vote for the new Knesset Speaker, December 13, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The presidents of Tel Aviv University and the Open University of Israel promised in letters published on Tuesday to oppose policy proposed by the incoming coalition that they say allows discrimination. Dozens of retired judges also published a joint letter, protesting against the incoming coalition’s planned legislation concerning the judicial system.

“In recent days we are facing a murky wave that threatens the foundations of the democratic existence of society, the state and academia in Israel,” wrote Mimi Ajzenstadt, president of the Open University.

“The Open University is based on the principles of equality, openness and academic freedom,” she wrote. “We are committed to maintaining the right of everyone – of any gender, religion, belief, preference or lifestyle – to study academic studies of the highest quality. We are committed to equality in employment, academic freedom in teaching and research freedom. We are committed to openness: mental openness, openness to criticism, openness to the other and more.”

“I hope and wish that the coming days will be marked by moderation and tolerance,” Ajzenstadt wrote. “As the president of the Open University, I undertake to stand guard and act against any harm or threat to harm the basic principles of all of us.”

According to TAU President Ariel Porat, “extreme voices” were raising “outrageous ideas that their very being heard harms the fragile fabric of life as a society in a democratic state.”

“Tel Aviv University will not cooperate with entities that implement policies of discrimination,” he wrote. “I hope that the coming days will be better, that the biting winds will calm and that the voices of logic will prevail. We all must hold guard.”

High Court of Justice prepares for hearing on whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can form the next government, May 3, 2020 (credit: COURTESY HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE)High Court of Justice prepares for hearing on whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can form the next government, May 3, 2020 (credit: COURTESY HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE)

78 judges express opposition to plans of incoming government

Seventy-eight retired judges protested against legislation planned by the incoming government, including the Override Clause and the selection of new judges.

“We, retired judges, are deeply concerned about the voices heard recently from elected officials concerning expected legislation that will lead to deep harm to the fundamental values of the state,” they wrote.

The Override Clause would harm the defense of human rights in law, including the right of equality, freedom of speech, freedom of employment and the right to privacy, they said.

“Subjugating this defense to one political majority or another will impact every person, minority and group and will sprawl across the entire fabric of life of the Israeli public,” the judges wrote.

Plans to change how judges are selected would make the judicial system dependent on the legislature, they said, adding that changing the role of the attorney-general would lead to ministers being trusted above the law.

“As past judges in Israel’s judicial system, throughout the years we have seen the essence of our position as being the guarding of the fundamental values of the state since its founding, including the protection of human rights, attention to integrity and the rule of law,” they wrote. “The independence of the judicial system is essential for it to carry out its role as the balance against the two other branches: the legislature and the executive branch.”

“The actualization of steps that would harm these values could substantially change the moral character of the State of Israel and hurt the state both internally and in the eyes of the world, international institutions and Jewish communities in the Diaspora,” they added.

The judges called upon MKs to stop such legislation and to continue to respect the values of the Declaration of Independence and the Basic Laws.