Phenomenon of threats to Supreme Court Justices needs to be condemned

It is horrific but not surprising that a Supreme Court justice has received a direct death threat.

A screen capture of the live stream feed from a hearing at the High Court of Justice (photo credit: screenshot)
A screen capture of the live stream feed from a hearing at the High Court of Justice
(photo credit: screenshot)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz deserves praise for visiting the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem on Sunday and harshly condemning the recent death threats sent by mail to Supreme Court Justice Anat Baron.
Gantz said he had decided to meet officials at the ministry because it is “the backbone of Israeli democracy,” adding that “harsh words used against judges and gatekeepers are dangerous to society.”
According to Israel Police, Baron received death threats in two letters delivered to her Tel Aviv home last Tuesday and Friday. The first letter also appeared to threaten Baron’s son, Ido, and made reference to her son, Ran, a musician killed in the Mike’s Place suicide bombing in 2003. On Monday, news broke that another Supreme Court justice, Uzi Vogelman, had also received threats and had complained to the police.
“Expect to be punished,” one letter to Baron said. The second letter warned that “another punishment awaits,” prompting the judge to file a complaint with the police.
The police immediately launched an investigation and provided Baron with a security detail. According to media reports, authorities believe the threats are linked to a case over which Baron is presiding that involves a petition against an unspecified state agency.
“This is explicitly a threat letter,” said Baron, who has served in the Supreme Court since January 2015.
The judiciary issued a strong statement in her defense, decrying all incitement against the courts. “The threatening letter sent to Supreme Court Justice Anat Baron, including its despicable content, is the direct result of continuous unbridled incitement against the justice system and its judges,” the statement said. “Attempts to terrorize Israel’s judges will not deter them, and they will continue to do their job without fear.”
Baron is considered a liberal judge who has issued rulings that have angered the Right, including a recent one halting the demolition of an alleged terrorist’s home.
It is horrific but not surprising that a Supreme Court justice has received a direct death threat. After all, some on the Right – spurred on by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – have repeatedly assailed the Supreme Court and lower courts for what they see as their leftist leanings.
Right-wingers have threatened an overhaul of the justice system to put a stop to the Supreme Court’s anti-government rulings. The most recent decision deplored by the Right was the 8-1 ruling by the court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, on June 9 that nixed the 2017 Settlements Law, which would have retroactively legalized over 4,000 unauthorized settler homes.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) squarely blamed Netanyahu for inciting against the judiciary. “The threat to the Supreme Court justice is a direct result of the incitement coming from Netanyahu. This is on him,” Lapid said. Netanyahu, who has been charged with corruption in three cases, has repeatedly lashed out at prosecutors and police – as well as his political rivals and the press – for conspiring against him.
For his part, Netanyahu decried the death threats against Baron, saying he and his family had received similar threats on social media.
“There should be zero tolerance toward anyone who threatens to murder judges and elected officials alike,” Netanyahu said at the start of Sunday’s cabinet meeting. “This month alone I filed three police complaints over murder threats against me and my family. I call on police to act quickly and forcefully to eradicate the phenomenon of incitement. It has no place among us.”
Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn (Blue and White) vowed to protect the judiciary “with an iron fist.”
Gantz demonstrated in his visit to the ministry that he is a true believer in the rule of law. In his address to employees, he declared: “Your legal opinions protect soldiers and us politicians, safeguard human rights, and allow lawmakers and ministers to achieve their goals in a straightforward way, while maintaining strict adherence to the law and avoiding public corruption.”
It is our hope that police swiftly arrest those who sent threatening letters to Baron and Vogelman, and put them behind bars. Meanwhile, it would behoove Netanyahu and other members of his government to follow Gantz’s lead and do all they can to stand up for, protect and fortify the judiciary and its judges.