Yeshivat Har Bracha

Revivim, rabbi Eliezer Melamed

The Judicial System Failed to Protect the Rights of the National Minority

Contrary to claims, the judicial system protected the rights of the secular and anti-Zionist individual, but acted tyrannically towards the traditional and national individual * While ignoring the freedom of expression of the national public, the court overturned the Arutz Sheva law, and convicted my parents and their friends on criminal charges * When Defense Minister Barak decided to cancel the Hesder arrangement in our Yeshiva as a result a sign held by one of our students, not a single legal advisor stood by us claiming the decision was unreasonable

The representatives of the political left claim that even though the judicial system’s value principles are not acceptable to the majority, seeing as it protects the rights of the individual and the minority, it’s preferred position must be maintained.

Their argument cannot be accepted for two reasons. First, the legal system’s concern for the rights of minorities is done while seriously harming the Jewish identity of the State of Israel, its security, and its ability to settle the Land. This harms Israel as a whole, and the right of the majority to realize the vision for which it sacrificed its lives.

Second, the judicial system has also largely failed in protecting the rights of the minority. It has protected the rights of certain types of minorities – i.e., minorities that were secular and at times anti-religious, and minorities that were not Zionists, and at times, anti-Zionists; on the other hand, though, it discriminated against minorities that were religious or nationalists. Moreover, numerous times it behaved tyrannically and mistreated the traditional-national majority. And there is growing concern that they did this in order to maintain the secular-leftist hegemony.

Consequently, a comprehensive reform of the judicial system must be carried out.

Arutz Sheva (Channel 7)

To give a simple and clear explanation, I will mention a little of the sorrow the justice system has caused to my immediate environment, out of blatant discrimination, and with the cooperation of all its various branches.

For years, the religious and right-wing public in Israel was frustrated. Many voices were heard in the media, however, its voice was ignored. The left controlled the media, with the backing of the judiciary. The Arutz Sheva radio station was established so that the voice of the Jews who respect Torah and Jewish tradition, who volunteer and dedicate themselves for the sake of accepting new immigrants, settling Judea and Samaria, and enlisting in the army, would be heard.

In order to uphold the law by broadcasting outside the territorial waters of the State of Israel, Arutz Sheva invested a huge fortune in purchasing and maintaining a ship. Arutz Sheva took a hard line, and unlike Abbie Natan (an extreme leftist), who often broadcast from a ship docked in the port – Arutz Sheva’s ‘Eretz Ha-Tzvi’ ship went out to sea, fought the waves, and broadcast from the depths of the ocean. As long as Abbie Natan broadcasted, Arutz Sheva managers knew that they were protected. When his health weakened and he stopped broadcasting, the judicial system began to persecute Arutz Sheva.

In order to regulate the legality of Arutz Sheva broadcasts and other stations from the Haredi sector, the Knesset passed a law. However, the Supreme Court, without legal authority, annulled the law. Instead of preferring the basic right of freedom of speech, it preferred the right of the owners of the regional stations, thus continuing the left’s control of the media.

The initiative to establish a regional radio that Arutz Sheva could compete for its franchise was also thwarted by the legal advisors, time and time again. In doing so, they succeeded in postponing the possibility of establishing a radio that expressed Jewish-nationalist positions for many more years.

At the same time, the prosecutor’s office urged the police to obtain incriminating material against the heads of the station, who attempted to broadcast outside the territorial waters of the State of Israel. Instead of the justice system prioritizing freedom of expression as a fundamental right and making sure Arutz Sheva broadcasts were regulated by law, they did everything they could to silence it. In the end, the heads of the station were prosecuted.

The Trial

In good faith, some hope remained that after all, the court would understand the justice of regulating Arutz Sheva’s broadcasts, and even if it decided to invalidate its regulation by way of minor claims – it would order the government to legally regulate its broadcasts. The trial lasted about five years, and cost a great deal of money. In the courtroom, numerous corruptions of the various authorities were revealed. One of the witnesses, a new immigrant and a Zionist, said that in order to incriminate Arutz Sheva he was forced by his employers to report that the station’s broadcasts interfered with the proper operation of the Ben Gurion airport in Lod. According to the way the trial was conducted, a full, or partial, acquittal was expected. This was the assessment of the top lawyers.

Finally, on the 24th of Tishrei 2003, all the heads of Arutz Sheva were convicted, headed by my father Rabbi Zalman Melamed and my mother Rabbanit Shulamit Melamed. Yaakov Katz (Katzaleh), an officer seriously wounded in the Yom Kippur War, afterwards a member of Knesset and head of the National Union, was convicted along with them. Yoel Zur, an officer in the reserves who lost his wife and son in a bloody terrorist attack near Beit El, was also convicted. Along with them, Hagai Segal, the long-time director of the news department, and later the editor of the Makor Rishon newspaper, Adir Zik z”l, and four other distinguished people, were convicted.

We were not a minority the justice system stood by, and protected its rights. On the contrary: while violating the most profound principles of freedom of expression, and respect for the Knesset and its laws, the entire judicial system was a complete partner in the discrimination of the Jewish, national public.

The Expulsion from Gush Katif

The story of the expulsion from Gush Katif is well known, so I will summarize it briefly. The judicial system, which expanded its authority to protect Arab homes and fields to the maximum, even at the cost of security risk, did not care about the individual rights of the deportees. There was expectation it would demand the deportation be delayed until there was an alternative home for each deportee, plus adequate compensation. But when it came to loyal Jews, who, in the name of the State of Israel, legally settled in Gush Katif and sacrificed their lives for the settlement of the country – precisely then, the judicial system, together with all its branches, cooperated and dealt a fatal blow to their personal and monetary rights, and agreed to their deportation without demanding any reasonable response for their residence, or plight.

The Har Bracha Hesder Yeshiva

On the 11th of Cheshvan 2009, two soldiers from the Shimshon Brigade, during their swearing-in ceremony, waved a sign at the Western Wall against the participation of soldiers in deporting settlers. One of them was from the Har Bracha Yeshiva. The following week, on my own initiative, I wrote in my column ‘Revivim’ in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, that although “in the opinion of many members of the religious and right-wing public, this is an important and honorable protest, and it is an honor to be among those who support such soldiers… actually, I knew nothing about it beforehand.” Moreover, I wrote that, “if they had consulted me, I would have recommended avoiding it, because only when a soldier is obliged, should he refuse to assist in the expulsion, but he is not obligated to protest specifically at an inauguration ceremony.” I also added: “I probably would have dissuaded them, because I could assume that the protest would cause great distress to their direct commanders,” but, in hindsight, after they did so, “I respect their actions, and recognize the benefit that develops from such public protests.”

The Minister of Defense at the time, Ehud Barak, demanded that I condemn the demonstration, and sign a letter that other rabbis drafted, against demonstrations in the IDF. I did not agree to sign it, for two reasons. The simple reason – the style was too harsh for my liking. The main reason – even if the Minister of Defense had instructed me to sign on ‘Shema Yisrael‘, I would not have signed. This, because freedom and independence is a sacred foundation – all the more so when it comes to a Rabbi, who is duty-bound to represent the sacred heritage of our people, and obligated to speak his inner truth, and not express himself in words of Torah under pressure.

In the wake of this, the Minister of Defense ordered the Har Bracha Yeshiva’s status as a Heder yeshiva be revoked. The damage caused to us was enormous in all respects, but this is not the place to go into detail.

In the entire powerful legal system, not one advocate came to my aid. Not one legal counsel was found who would tell the Minister of Defense that this was unreasonable. Some lawyers even petitioned the Supreme Court on our behalf, but it also found no room to intervene in the considerations of the Minister of Defense.

When we needed aid from government tyranny, the justice system turned its back on us.

The Ulpana Houses

In the summer of 2012, the Supreme Court ordered the demolition of the Ulpana houses built by Yeshiva Beit El, some of the apartments having been sold to private individuals. This is not the place to explain the reasons why construction in Judea and Samaria was conducted in an irregular manner; in general, though, due to international pressures, construction was conducted in these areas with the government’s encouragement with partial approvals, in a way that following approval in principle, they were built. Afterwards, officials worked to approve the building.

This sensitive situation was exploited by left-wing organizations. They found an Arab who claimed that part of the land on which the Ulpana houses were built belonged to him, and they appealed to the High Court. His ownership of the land was not verified, however the High Court took advantage of the government’s announcement that “construction on private land will be removed”, and ordered the Ulpana houses be destroyed. Government representatives asked to reconsider the matter in order to regulate the Ulpana houses, but the court insisted on their destruction.

If it cared about protecting the rights of the individual, then in the event that the Arab’s ownership of the land was proven, the court would have ordered he be compensated adequately, and not destroy the houses; this is how it acted in cases where Arabs built on verified Jewish land. In this case, however, it did not defend the rights of the individual and the settlers, caused terrible sorrow, and a crisis among many young people towards state institutions.

During those times, I suggested to Minister Michael Eitan, who came to talk to me about the tension created around the High Court’s decision, that the Prime Minister declare that from now on, in every petition where it was decided to demolish a house, ten houses would be built in its place. The Prime Minister agreed to the proposal, and announced it. The execution of the construction was delayed for years – some say this was the usual procrastination that the construction industry suffers from. In practice, instead of the 28 Ulpana apartments that were destroyed, there are currently 330 more houses in Beit El. In addition, the desire to petition against the construction was withdrawn when the petitioners learned that the government would approve ten houses instead of every house that would be destroyed.

Additional Matters in Brief

The judicial system also did not protect the religious and conscientious right of soldiers, who were forced by the military system to violate their religious customs by participating in mixed-gender units, and to hear women’s singing.

In relation to male and female singers who requested to perform separately, the judicial system was the tyrant itself that denied the minority its rights, and added sin on top of the crime, by presenting the minority as being discriminatory.

Reforming the Judicial System

This Shabbat, at the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, we will learn about the mitzvah to establish a Jewish legal system, as written: “These are the laws you shall set before them” (Exodus 21:1). At the very least, the intention is that the judicial system operate inspired by Jewish values. This principle was mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, and was given effect in the ‘Foundations of Law Act’ (1980). However, in practice, the legal system turned its back on Jewish heritage and the values of Zionism, and in their place, adopted the values of other cultures, which, with all their virtues, do not provide an answer to our national vision, and the unique problems we face.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.

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