Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

16 Kislev 5761 - December 13, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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High Court: We Will Not Protect the Rights of the Chareidi Community
by B. Kahn and M. Plaut

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 be represented?"

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.


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