On Monday, 14 Kislev, High Court Justice, Mishael Cheshin
said that as long as the chareidi sector doesn't recognize
the High Court, the judges will not protect its rights.
Shocked by the remark, MKs Ravitz and Gafni said that
Cheshin should not continue on the High Court.
Justice Cheshin made his remarks during the deliberation on
a motion filed by the Organization for the Public's Right to
Know about the appointments to the governing body of the
Broadcasting Authority and the council of the Second
Authority (that is in charge of the second television
channel). The judges canceled a temporary order which had
frozen the procedures of the appointment of the governing
body and the council after the judges had determined a
number of months ago that there were serious shortcomings in
the procedures followed in the appointments. The High Court
canceled the appointments to these two bodies as determined
towards the end of the term of the Netanyahu government in
1999, and issued an order to reselect both these bodies
within four months.
The main shortcoming in the appointments to these two bodies
was the nonfulfillment of the requirement to consult with
various cultural, educational, art and communications
experts. This consultation is required by law. There was
consultation with political parties, to ensure that the
control of the Broadcasting Authority reflects the balance
of powers in the Knesset.
The attorney of the Organization for the Public's Right to
Know, Yoram Sheftel, argued that there were serious
shortcomings in the consultation procedures regarding the
new compositions of the two bodies. Attorney Sheftel said
(among other arguments) that the governing body of the
Broadcasting Authority and the Council of the Second
Authority as proposed, do not include reasonable
representation of the chareidi sector. He noted that this
sector constitutes a significant part of Israeli society, as
evidenced by its by 22 Knesset representatives, and that a
single chareidi representative is certainly inadequate for
so large a sector.
Justice Cheshin then responded to Attorney Sheftel: "Why are
you defending the chareidi sector? They don't recognize us?
They only go to their rabbis. As long as they don't come to
argue before the court, you have nothing to claim for them."
These remarks of Justice Cheshin were quoted by Professor
Eli Pollack, the chairman of the Organization for the
Public's Right to Know.
Responding to Justice Cheshin's remarks, Rabbi Avrohom
Ravitz said: "I think that this judge should be dismissed
immediately. A judge who takes a political, one-sided stance
-- and it doesn't matter how the chareidi sector behaves --
must resign. Why does he judge thieves and defend their
rights? Why does he protect the rights of members of Fatah,
who are the enemies of the State, when they appeal to the
High Court? It's only that Justice Cheshin is full of hatred
for the chareidi sector. As a result, he cannot sit on the
Seat of Justice.
"We have a long-running argument with the Court, because it
interferes in issued that involve values. But that doesn't
mean that we have no rights in this State. As long as the
Court is the institution which is supposed to protect
citizen's rights in the State, and it says that it won't
protect the rights of some of the state's citizens, then we
need our own institution which will defend our rights and
its orders should be accepted by the police and the
authorities in the same manner that they accept High Court
orders. Justice Cheshin must say in advance that he recuses
himself from any case involving a Torah-observant Jew."
Rabbi Moshe Gafni said: "Justice Cheshin must disqualify
himself from sitting on any appeal which pertains to the
chareidi community. The time may come when the High Court
will say that the chareidi sector isn't legitimate
altogether, and then it will lose the last vestige of faith
that we have in it."
Professor Eli Pollack, who filed the appeal to the High
Court, said also that Cheshin's remark is very serious.
"It's not just foolishness, it's racism. It is forbidden to
remain silent about that remark. Just imagine what would
have happened if such a remark had been made about the Arab
sector. A storm would have erupted in the country. It is
inconceivable that a judge express his private prejudices
during a judicial procedure. The court must protect the
rights of every person in the state and of every minority.
The chareidi sector is a minority which is discriminated
against, and Justice Cheshin comes and says that he does not
want to defend this deprived minority. Who ever heard of
such a thing? The law says that a variety of opinions are
necessary. The chareidi sector is not a lawbreaking one, and
it has rights like everyone else, and yet the court isn't
prepared to hear a claim that the chareidim are supposed to
Chareidi leaders noted that in the current case of the draft
of yeshiva students whose arrangements the High Court found
to be illegal two years ago, the chareidi community has done
all that is in its power to respond within the accepted
legal and legislative frameworks to the order of the High
Court. When the current government was formed by prime
minister Barak, UTJ declined all offers of government
positions to which it would have been entitled for joining
the coalition, saying that the only consideration that it
asked for was the speedy passage of the yeshiva student army
service legislation -- something the government was anyway
bound to do. Behind all this intensive work of the past two
years was nothing more than the desire to comply properly
with the requirements set down by the High Court.