News & Media Articles

15 March 2012

15 March 2012 By Ruby Ong

15 March 2012

High (Court) Praise

Daniel Sokatch

Several years ago an NIF regional director was in Israel, staffing a New Israel Fund Study Tour. (And, for those of you who haven't been on one, I can't think of a better or more inspirational way to see Israel and meet NIF).

One day, the group toured the beautiful High Court of Justice building in Jerusalem. Accompanying them was attorney Hassan Jabareen, a former NIF Law Fellow and the founder and director of Adalah: Israel's leading Arab-Israeli civil rights organization and an NIF grantee. Jabereen has argued and won many landmark cases at the High Court, cases that protect the rights of both Arab and Jewish Israelis. As the group walked down a corridor in the High Court, they unexpectedly encountered then-High Court President Chief Justice Aharon Barak, one of the most highly respected jurists in the world. Barak greeted Jabareen, and told the group that one day he, Jabareen, ought to serve on the High Court.

Retiring Justice Ayala Procaccia echoed Barak's sentiments when she said, this past December, that Adalah, "under the leadership of attorney Jabreen excels in its commitment, determination and high professional and cultural level. This is an organization that works to advance human rights by legal means, not by extre-legal means, by outstanding intellectual power, high moral commitment, and a broad vision of Israeli society in all it's diversity."

And just the other week, retiring High Court Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch, in her "farewell ruling," spoke for a unanimous Court in striking down a law that prohibited people who own cars from receiving income support from the State. Justice Beinisch ruled that the law unconstitutionally violated the right to a basic dignified human existence: "It is not possible to have the right to dignity without respecting the individual's right to the minimal conditions of human existence," she stated.

Petitioners in the case included Jews and Arabs, single moms who needed cars to go to work and take their kids to school, and an Arab Israeli man who was refused income support because he used a car to take his blind daughter to the hospital for treatments unavailable in his village. The case was brought by several organizations including, you guessed it, Adalah. Jabareen called the victory "a historic judgement that protects the poor, Jews and Arabs alike."

That's a lot of accomplishment, and a lot of high praise from a lot of High Court justices. If you think that all of this this decidedly does not sound like the work of an enemy of the State, you'd be right. And so you might be surprised to learn that this is precisely what Adalah is accused of being by some right wing critics. And the calumny has spread. Indeed, if you are a supporter of NIF you may have been asked about Adalah yourself.

And so it was a great thing to see last week a brilliant and brave op-ed in the new online newspaper the "Times of Israel," by Yehudit Karp, the former Deputy Attorney General of Israel and current NIF International Council member. Karp explains, examines and then thoroughly debunks the attempts to smear Adalah and its supporters, and shows how Adalah and other organizations dedicated to protecting the rights of all Israelis, even though we may not always agree with them on all issues, are vitally important for Israel. So read Yehudit's piece. It is not only a powerful defense of one of Israel's most effective civil rights organizations, it is also a plea to protect and preserve Israel's democracy.

Daniel Sokatch