Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

8 Av 5760 - August 9, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Fire Starters

By Chaim Walder

This is the most talked about story in legal circles today. Beer Sheva's Beis Din, headed by HaRav Eliyahu Avergel, adjudicated a certain domestic case. The woman exploded and was insolent to the rabbis who had sent her to be detained in jail, following normal procedure. She was waiting in the police station for them to arrange the arrest, when a policeman approached her and said, "Go up to the patrol wagon. The Chief Justice of the High Court wants to speak with you."

She was brought to Jerusalem. The High Court head, Aharon Barak, heard her out and decided on the spot: No arrest. She was sent home, but not before passing the story on to all the newspapers, which then criticized the Beis Din terribly and praised Aharon Barak.

Among jurists, this step was the subject of sharp criticism. Aharon Barak behaved like a politician seeking popularity, and like a little flatterer trying to show off how chivalrous he is at the expense of others. The bottom line is that more than anything else, he enraged the system, even senior judges, whose reactions are unquotable. Even the system does not like someone making a grab for popularity, while presenting the system as "bad," and himself as the only "good."

"How could a man like Barak cancel the decision of a district judge after a chat with the offender, without consulting the judge, even out of mere courtesy?" they keep wondering.

"He could have talked to her on the phone and informed her of her release. But he wanted the fanfare, the humiliation, the glory, and mainly the spotlight of the media."

Until a few years ago, Chief Justice Aharon Barak was a man who abhorred Israeli publicity. Nobody contradicted his opinion, and many respected him.

The moment Barak began revealing his true ambition - - prestige and power -- he began to slowly destroy the position that had always been reserved for all chiefs of the High Court. Whole communities sensed that this man was not searching for justice but power. He does not attempt to create order, but rather to force his western, secular, leftist, Ashkenazic Weltanschauung on everyone. They understood that they are dealing with a very powerful, domineering man, even if he does not utilize physical strength. His status began to crumble.

Instead of returning to his natural, honorable corner, he began to mix into all kinds of things he should not have, to appoint only people similar to him and, worst of all, to make improper moves without even considering how they would appear to the public. As if he does not care about the opinion of the rabble.

Now pay attention to the following assessment: the High Court, since the leadership of Aharon Barak, is the torch that in recent years kindles the fire in the Israeli public debates, debates that somehow managed fine without him. There were always politicians who opposed religious coercion and politicians who opposed secular coercion. Somehow they screamed at each other, fought it out, and ended up in the middle. Until Aharon Barak became chief of the High Court.

Try to imagine if Yossi Sarid were appointed as Chief Justice of the High Court. Is it not clear to everyone that he would do there exactly what he did in the Education Ministry?

Barak was much more "Sarid" than Sarid himself, and he was much less ready to leave even an ounce of Jewish culture than "Sarid." He began getting involved in delicate issues that the Israeli public fought over politically. The government consented to the closing of the Bar Ilan road on Shabbos, but he decided that he did not agree. He lit a fire between the religious and non-religious, as everyone knows that this closing would have gone over quietly, if not for the unbridled meddling of a man who decided to step into our lives and incite the largest communities in the country.

The High Court brought tension between the right and the left, when it negated journalist Shmuel Shnitzer's award of the Israel Prize and then approved Shulamit Aloni instead. Likewise, when he approved the acquittal of terrorists, and on the other hand, gave instructions to cancel the acquittal of Yoram Skolnick, who had killed a terrorist.

Step by step he did not hold back from aggravating religious- secular friction by connecting the Reform with the religious councils. He continued with women's rallies at the Kosel, and finally he got to the draft law.

This matter was already agreed-upon fifty years ago amongst the rival parties of the Israeli community. The chilonim dealt with the feeling that they are the only ones carrying the burden, and the chareidim dealt with that feeling. But the arrangement continued, and everyone managed to go on living side-by-side.

To this delicate fabric came Aharon Barak, and he began fanning the fire that had remained small for fifty years. His announcement that if there is no legislation regarding the draft, he will give order the draft of all bnei yeshivos, returned to the field between the chareidim and the secular. But just wait, the High Court clarified that even if this law were passed, the judges might veto it. Meaning, Aharon Barak and his cronies would do everything so that the draft issue would turn into the draft war. They literally push war. And we will soon explain why.

The Deri case was also conducted in such a way that it would incite half the nation against the other half. He instigated the Right against the Left, the religious against the non- religious. Now there is still a broken line, between Ashkenazim and Sephardim, which the legal system, under his leadership, needs to deal with, of course with the coarseness and the lack of sensitivity that characterizes it.

The very claim that those close to the High Court made regarding the original Deri case, that two out of three judges were of Sephardic origin, is itself proof of the tendentiousness of the case. The journalist Ben Dror wrote that this arrangement was not by chance and hinted that an upper hand also arranged both the district judges and those in the High Court.

The explanation of the matter is that the one who judged Deri is the one who intentionally appointed these specific judges. These judges are Sephardic perhaps by origin, but not in their education or outlook. Their placement in the Deri case was biased and cynical, and it was also arranged to reach the desired verdict and to look good.

The High Court thus achieved another war. There's already religious/ non-religious friction? Right and left? Now the time has come for the war between the Ashkenazim and the Sephardim. Even those who justify the verdict cannot help but compare the verdict of the Weitzman matter and the nonprofit organizations of Ehud Barak. Aharon Barak knows this and has not held back from inciting sections of Israeli society against each other.

Perhaps Aharon Barak knows well what he is doing. He is very familiar with Israeli society. He acknowledges its tremendous weakness and furthermore the weakness of its leaders.

The relative peace that reigned between the Right and the Left, between religious and non-religious and between Ashkenazim and Sephardim does not sit well with him for two reasons. First of all, Aharon Barak is not ready, it seems, to accept even a little power from the Right, the religious, and the Sephardim. The proof for this is found in the composition of the High Court. Totally Left, chiloni and Ashkenazi. He is not interested in the other side having even a tiny bit of power over the spirit of Israeli society.

The second, and main, reason is that Aharon Barak demonstrates weakness of power and control. All other parts of society manage among themselves -- they don't need him. If they start up with each other, every one of them works it out slowly, and he is left without a scratch. He can decide whatever he wants. To instruct the Knesset to pass legislation, to veto laws that it passes, to decide what he wants and to gain power. Power, authority, and control. All the words that dictators are built from.

Aharon Barak knows that the whole Sephardic, Right, religious side of society is angry at him, and apparently he doesn't care. On the contrary, he may very well tell himself, "Let them be upset. Let them lose their legitimacy. Politics should go to chaos, and the ivory tower I have built for myself, the High Court, will be stronger and sturdier than ever."

He does not understand that in the end, politicians will understand this (and they are already examining it. See the comments of Dalia Itzik and Yuli Tamir of the Labor Party.) and at the end of the day, the way will be found to fill the High Court with all the ones that he cannot stand: Rightists, Sephardim, and religious.

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