Peres calls for stop to racism and incitement

"Hatred of the stranger is alien to the foundations of Judaism," president declares at swearing-in ceremony of two new Supreme Court justices.

Tel Aviv CBS anti-African demo_370 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Tel Aviv CBS anti-African demo_370
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Racism has no place in Judaism, President Shimon Peres declared on Thursday at a swearing-in ceremony at the Supreme Court, and said that, as president and as a citizen of Israel, he was appalled by revelations of incitement and racism.
Peres warned against apathy and indifference to such a scourge, saying that indifference to atrocity is no different than the atrocity itself. He was aware of the dire straits of the residents of south Tel Aviv and other places, he said, but notwithstanding the hardships that are being endured, hatred of the other was not the way. It was up to the state, Peres continued, to find a lawful solution to the problem, but at the same time everyone must unite to condemn and uproot the voices of incitement and racism.
“Hatred of the stranger is alien to the foundations of Judaism,” said the president.
“We are obligated to respect the stranger and the other in our midst and to uphold their rights as human beings.”
Peres quoted a Bible passage from the Book of Deuteronomy as proof that this is one of the fundamentals of Judaism.
Two new justices were sworn in to replace Dorit Beinisch, who retired at the end of February, and Eliezer Rivlin, who retired this week.
The new justices are former Tel Aviv District Court Judge Uri Shoham and former dean of the Tel Aviv University law school Daphna Barak-Erez.
They join Noam Sohlberg and Zvi Zylbertal, who like them were appointed earlier in the year. Sohlberg and Zylbertal replaced retired judges Ayala Procaccia and Edmond Levy, and took up their posts almost immediately.
Rivlin’s retirement paved the way for Justice Miriam Naor to become deputy president to Asher Dan Grunis, thus capping a 32-year career in the field of law.
Of the four most recent appointees to the Supreme Court, Barak, unless she decides on a career change, will serve the longest, because at 47, she is the youngest. The retirement age for judges is currently 70, which is three years above the retirement age for men and six years above the retirement age for women. Beinisch, however, was 70 when she retired in February.
It is possible that by the time Barak is 70, the retirement age for judges will have been raised to 75.
The announcement of the appointments of the four new justices came only a few weeks prior to Beinisch’s retirement.
She and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman had been at loggerheads for months over who the new justices would be.
There are nine members on the Judges Selection Committee, and at least seven votes are required to guarantee the appointment of a new judge.
Other appointees included Ariel Zimmerman, who was appointed a magistrates court judge in the Tel Aviv District Court and Yossi Topf, who was appointed to the Southern District Magistrate’s Court.
Also appointed were seven court registrars to magistrates courts across the country.
The appointees were Moshe Holtzman, Varda Schwartz, Nir Nachshon, Ofra Guy, Yaniv Boker, Maya Av-Ganim Weinstein, and Rivka Arad.
Peres, Grunis and Neeman all referred to Barak’s brilliant academic record and to the wealth of experience that Shoham is bringing to his new role.
Though most new judges these days are natives of the country, neither Barak nor Shoham were born in Israel.
She was born in the United States and he was born in Iraq in the same year as the creation of the State of Israel.
The addition of Barak and Shoham to the Supreme Court would complement the human mosaic of its composition, in that the Supreme Court is a reflection of Israeli society, said the court president.
Although the two newcomers will help to lighten the burden of the heavy case-load of the Supreme Court, said Grunis, their presence will not solve the problem of the backlog.
A very creative solution is needed for that, he added.
Neeman also referred to the backlog, but said that it was traditional for the judges of Israel to work hard. Moses is quoted in the Bible as judging the people from morning till night, said Neeman.
Naor, speaking on behalf of her colleagues stipulated that judges in the pursuit of justice must forget about whether what they decide will make them popular. What counts, she said, is a careful review of all the evidence and that whatever ruling is made is based solely on the interests of justice. This was also part of Grunis’s message.
Peres, in congratulating Naor, noted that in reaching her decisions, she had never taken the easy route. He also praised Rivlin for the impressive contribution that he had made to Israel’s legal system during a career that spanned 36 years, of which 12 were spent as a justice in the Supreme Court.
Among those in attendance were past and present members of the Supreme Court, including the two immediate past presidents Dorit Beinisch and Aharon Barak.