Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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29 Adar II 5760 - April 5, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
One More Victory Like This...

by P. Chovav

The champions of the Rule of Law in Israel, surely had reason to celebrate on the day the Attorney General announced his decision to instruct the police to investigate Shas leader, HaRav Ovadia Yosef. His alleged violations included the prohibition against slandering one's fellow; clause 4)a( of the Order for the Prevention of Terror; clause 288 of the Penal Law forbidding the offending of a public worker; clause 192 of the Penal Law which forbids making threats of violence.

How happy those champions of the Rule of law were that day. How proud. Their cheers and victory cries were heard all over, beginning from the Likud gentry and ending with the defenders of everything foul from Shinui.

A wave of delight engulfed them all. Mortal enemies suddenly united under one banner. This was an unprecedented victory for the Rule of Law, the best chance to prove the supremacy of the Rule of Law to the people.

After the police had finished dealing with ministers, justices, Knesset members, lawyers, doctors, senior officials, military and police officers, a former prime minister and the President of the State, the Israeli people who long so much for the Rule of Law were served a luscious desert, a famous rabbinical figure.

The Attorney General didn't take the serious implications of his decision lightly. In his explanation, which he presented at the announcement of the decision, he said that he wouldn't have made such a decision, had the law enabled him to determine differently. However, he had no choice.

The law, he said, compels him to decide as he did. The basic legal principle that all are equal in the eyes of the law, is stronger than all of his inner sentiments.

"I would have been very happy had I been spared the need to make such a decision, and had the context in which the remarks were made enabled me to rule otherwise."

However, to his dismay, the context left him no alternative. "It is forbidden for one who is involved in enforcing the Rule of Law to evade his obligations, especially from his responsibility to the mission imposed on him, no matter how hard it is."

It is no wonder, then, that the champions of the Rule of Law reacted with unrestrained glee. However, as befitting the prevalent trend in the country toward affectation, nearly all of the celebrants added that they were sorry that we had reached such a situation, but the recognition of the supremacy of the Rule of Law, and the basic legal principle that all are equal in the eyes of the law was the most important consideration.

But the great day of the champions of law and order is also the day on which the Israeli judicial system has been revealed in all of its paltriness and shame.

Ha'aretz thought ahead a bit: What would happen if the rift between the Left and Shas deepened to the point that Shas would leave the Left, and not support ludicrous compromises in the framework of the peace process?

A purely logical consideration led the editor of Ha'aretz to the conclusion that it's not a good idea to put HaRav Ovadia Yosef on trial.

"It's not fitting to use the criminal framework in order to put the leader of Shas in his place," he determined. "We mustn't forget," the editor of Ha'aretz hints in his editorial "that Harav Ovadia Yosef has always preached against bloodshed, and his political movement doesn't espouse violence."

And what will be with the Rule of Law? What will be with the important principle that "all are equal in the eyes of the law?"

He has a smashing answer for that question: "The Israeli judicial system grants the Attorney General a broad field for consideration, and he isn't obligated to try everyone who has violated the law. When politics are involved, he should not become involved in questions of freedom of speech, even in unpleasant instances."

In order to grasp the extent of the weakness and absurdity of Israeli law, whose victory so many unfortunate people now celebrate, this statement has to be read over and over again.

The Attorney General announces that the law leaves him no alternative but to instruct the police to investigate Rabbi Yosef, an opinion held by all of the legal experts in the State Prosecution.

However, the editor of Haa'retz, with a mischievous wink reminds all of us that there is nothing more flexible than Israeli law.

True, it is very important to make it clear to the rabble that all are equal in the eyes of the law. It is also important to prove that the law is above all else. But it is even more important to recall that in the name of the law one can reach the opposite conclusion.

Before the Attorney Genral decides that the "context in which the remarks were made doesn't enable him to decide otherwise", he shouldn't forget that he also has a totally opposite option. "The Israeli judicial system grants the Attorney General a broad field for decision, and he is not obligated to try everyone who has violated the law."

The supremacy of the law is very important. But the supremacy of the flexibility of the law is even more important.

On the day of celebration of the victory of Israeli law and the strengthening of the important value of "equality in the eyes of the law," as expressed by the decision to relate to a prominent and admired Rav in Israel as just another person, it is worthwhile to look at the other side of the coin, which charges HaRav Yosef with the offending of a public official.

The existing law forbids offending an official by means of gestures, words or deeds. If one offends him, he is liable to be offended, and that's not so pleasant. Really, a very nice law.

And what about someone who is not a public official? The fact that Rav Yosef insulted Sarid would not have interested the enlightened and egalitarian judicial system of the State, if Sarid had been just anyone.

Is there any more incisive evidence of inequality in the eyes of the law, than the arbitrary differentiation between a public official and someone who is not a public official?

This is the embodiment of absurdity. Rav Yosef will be forced to undergo investigation by the police for a misdemeanor based on inequality in the law, and in that manner, the principle of equality before the law will be expressed.

The Rule of the Law has indeed won, but this victory has also disclosed the wretchedness and absurdity of the victor.

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