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‘A very, very, very bad law’ — Justice Joubran on Israel’s new nation state law

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Salim Joubran was the first Palestinian judge to be named a permanent justice on the Israeli Supreme Court (2004-2017). Last March in New York he derided the law that the Israeli parliament passed this month declaring Israel the nation state of the Jewish people.

“This law is a very, very, very bad law for the state of Israel,” Joubran said. “Today the Arabic language is an official language. And the law comes to say, that from now, the Arabic language should not be official language, it will be a language with a special status. Can somebody tell me what’s different between official and special status? The only thing is to cause damages to the Arab population. The language is part of our traditions as Arabs. For 70 years the language is official, nothing happened.”

I went to hear the lately-retired justice speak at New York Law School because I’d heard an Israeli advocate brag in a speech that an Arab judge, Joubran, was one of three members of the highest court that sent a former president of Israel to jail some years ago. I wanted to hear Joubran to see if he could make me believe in a Jewish democracy.

Joubran is a courtly and humorous man of 71 who says he hates politics and who can’t help throwing in ads for Israel as a nice place; but he also spent a great deal of his time in the appearance downtown New York complaining about the lack of equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

“As you may know, equality does not exist in [Israel’s] basic laws,” he said. “We have about 15 basic laws… and as Arabs, we are waiting for many years for a law that all the people should be equal. Even though it is written in the Declaration of Independence, it is only a declaration, that Israel should be democratic state, and give rights to all its citizens. We need a basic law that talks about equality.”

He deplored the law approved by the Supreme Court that bars Palestinians in Israel from marrying Palestinians who live in the West Bank or outside the country. The test case was brought by a Palestinian who cannot live in Israel with his spouse, and the Supreme Court upheld it 6-5 in 2006, with Joubran dissenting.

“I thought that this law is not a good law, it is a bad law, and it should be declared as void…First I cited from international convention of human rights, then the right to family life. You cannot say that in some circumstances the child will leave his father in Israel and go with his mother to the West Bank– this is not normal family life. I cited from Aristophanes also. And then I said that most important thing, it was a matter of equality. Why? Because the purpose of this amendment was against the Arab minority. That’s all. And this is not equality between Jews and Arabs in Israel. Equality is a fundamental right in every part of the world.”

Joubran was also outspoken about the law that would allow villages to bar the Muslim call to prayer as a disturbance of the peace. “That is against Islam,” he said. “It’s not only against the Islamic minority but Islam in the world.”

Joubran has had some heroic moments on the Supreme Court, too, for instance when he refused to sing the Hatikvah, the national anthem that has a Jewish character, in 2012.

Though he ducked questions that seemed too political. “Thanks god I didn’t go into politics, because I’m not intended in politics. It’s very complicated,” he said, when professor Ruti Teitel asked about the government’s efforts to “Judaize” national identity.

He also ducked Teitel’s question about whether truth-and-reconciliations commission could resolve injustices against the Palestinian people. “I don’t like to talk about this issue because it’s a very controversial and sensitive issue.”

He acted as a cheerleader for Israel when he spoke of the high rates of Palestinian physicians in Israeli hospitals and enrollment in higher education. And when he said that more West Bank Palestinians should be allowed to get medical care in Israel, so they could go back to their village and report: “A Jewish doctor treated me in a very good manner. I am now a healthy man. Maybe this will change the minds of Palestinians toward Israelis.”

Joubran was born in Haifa in 1947. Then the Nakba forced his family to go to Beirut, but the family was connected. “We were refugees for six years. And we came back to Israel after six years. My late father used to work at the district court of Haifa, he had Jewish colleagues. They made all the arrangements for us to come back.”

I asked Joubran whether he felt he needed to represent Palestinian refugees, many of whom were shot trying to do what his family did. He said:

“Actually I’m sad for this of course. At the same time, this is another period. There was a war between the two peoples, and happened what happened. But we should continue. And I hope that some day the Palestinians with the Israelis will cooperate in order to come to a solution which will be good for both peoples. We are praying for peace all the time. I say all the time, once we will have this peace, we will have stability, security and prosperity for all the region.”

Joubran’s view of the matter gets at the issue of Joubran as a representative Palestinian. Thurgood Marshall was representative of American black people because he had a long record of fighting for their rights; that is one reason LBJ elevated him to the Supreme Court in 1967 as the first black justice, as a community representative. Woodrow Wilson rejected Louis Brandeis for Attorney General in 1913 because he was told by Jewish leaders that he was not a “representative” Jew—and Wilson wanted to cultivate the Jewish vote. An assimilated Jew who had expressed views counter to Zionism, Brandeis then became an outspoken Zionist, and he was elevated to the Supreme Court in 1916, the first Jew on the court– and was regarded as a “representative” Jew after all.

By contrast, the Palestinian vote is largely ignored in Israel: Arab parties are not included in the governing coalition, and Palestinians under the 51-year occupation can’t vote for the government that controls their lives. If they could vote, I doubt that the Justice Minister would appoint a Joubran to the Supreme Court because Palestinians would generally see him as too accommodating. Almost everyone hearing Joubran’s talk that night at New York Law School was Jewish or Israeli. I didn’t see any Palestinians, though maybe some were there. Joubran gives Israel bragging rights.

Update: This post originally stated that Israeli consul Dani Dayan has cited Joubran’s role in sending an Israeli president to prison in 2011. I was then told by an informed source that Dayan did not do so. I’m checking my record of his speeches but in the meantime I removed his name.

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About Philip Weiss

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18 Responses

  1. amigo
    amigo
    July 31, 2018, 3:08 pm

    Ireland needs to pass a Nation State Law that gives the right of self determination to Catholics only.

    England should do likewise and give that right to Anglicans only.

    The USA should be the Nation State of The Christian People with the exclusive right to self determination.

    The Nation State of the Atheist people should demand their exclusive
    right to self determination.

    Then just sit back and watch the Headlines worldwide.

    “Antisemitism raises it,s ugly head worldwide as Jews are being discriminated against , and denied equal rights and their right to Self Determination.”

    • bcg
      bcg
      July 31, 2018, 4:21 pm

      @amigo: Trump is working on the USA part. And if you think impeaching him will solve the problem, Pence will be worse: (‘Would You Rather Have Mike Pence?”)

      https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/31/opinion/letters/trump-pence.html

    • annie
      annie
      July 31, 2018, 6:11 pm

      The Nation State of the Atheist people should demand their exclusive
      right to self determination.

      we should get california. no prob!

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        July 31, 2018, 7:34 pm

        “we should get california. no prob!”

        I’ve lived both places, and would advise getting Washington for Atheists. It’s really God’s country up here.

      • amigo
        amigo
        July 31, 2018, 7:58 pm

        Annie , I posted the following in reply to your post and it was rejected.

        Here it is again.

        “It,s God,s will , right Annie.”

        What could possibly be wrong with that. Is there an Anti atheist on staff, ??? .

        Truth is , I am peeved that Mooser got his God,s Country response in before me .

      • amigo
        amigo
        July 31, 2018, 8:03 pm

        Annie, I also responded to “beg” and there was nothing racist or insulting in that post.It was also rejected.

        2 posts out of three rejected for no apparent reason.

        What gives.

      • annie
        annie
        August 1, 2018, 10:43 pm

        just saw this, i have no idea amigo. but if at first you don’t succeed try try again.

        mooser, i lived there for 10 years. yes it’s very pretty but the weather sucks on the whole western side except for about 2 months a year. god’s country? hmmm.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        August 2, 2018, 6:15 pm

        . “god’s country? hmmm.”

        One should approach Gods (or Goddesses) with great humidity.

  2. Misterioso
    Misterioso
    August 1, 2018, 12:46 pm

    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/07/formalised-palestinians-fight-jewish-state-law-180731183154975.html

    Al Jazeera, July 31/18

    “‘Apartheid, formalised'”: Palestinians to fight Jewish state law

    “Palestinian legislators in Israel prepare to launch series of events in protest of ‘racist’ nation-state bill.” by Farah Najjar

    EXCERPT:

    “Palestinian citizens of Israel are planning a series of actions, including a general strike and international campaigning, in a bid to cancel a controversial law that defines the country exclusively as ‘the nation-state of the Jewish people’.

    “Palestinian members of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, described the legislation’s adoption on July 19 as an effort to sabotage the Palestinian ‘story and narrative’.

    “‘It’s an attempt at destroying the entire rhetoric of historic Palestine … it stands against an entire people,'” MK Ahmad Tibi, told Al Jazeera.

    “The Basic Law, which has standing similar to a constitution, gives only Jews the right to self-determination. It also strips Arabic of its official language designation, downgrading it to a ‘special status’ that enables its continued use within Israeli institutions.

    “Additionally, it allows the Israeli government to expand the state’s annexation of Palestinian lands in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The law considers the expansion of the Jewish-only settlements a national value, encouraging and promoting their construction.

    “Adopted with 62 votes for and 55 against, the law has been met with widespread condemnation. Critics compare it to apartheid, saying it promotes ethnic superiority and further marginalises some 1.8 million Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and other smaller minorities.”

  3. mondonut
    mondonut
    August 1, 2018, 2:13 pm

    The way this is written it is hard to tell if it is Phil or Joubran who is lying – but there is no law that bars Palestinians in Israel from marrying Palestinians who live in the West Bank or outside the country.

    Nor are there proposed laws that would allow villages to bar the Muslim call to prayer as a disturbance of the peace. Reducing amplification and a bar on calls to payer are not the same thing.

    • amigo
      amigo
      August 1, 2018, 2:48 pm

      “The way this is written it is hard to tell if it is Phil or Joubran who is lying ” mondonut

      No , it is quite clear who is making the claim and neither is lying.

      Read it again.

      “but there is no law that bars Palestinians in Israel from marrying Palestinians who live in the West Bank or outside the country. “mondonut

      If you had read it , you would have seen the following link which debunks your 2nd false claim.

      “He deplored the law approved by the Supreme Court that bars Palestinians in Israel from marrying Palestinians who live in the West Bank or outside the country. The test case was brought by a Palestinian who cannot live in Israel with his spouse, and the Supreme Court upheld it 6-5 in 2006, with Joubran dissenting.”

      https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/litigation/adalah-v-israel

      Of course the law does not deny Palestinians from marrying someone in the WB but it denies them the right to live together live in Israel , which one of them is a citizen of .

      Try not to post claims that you take out of context .You are just demonstrating your dishonesty.

      Btw , Israel does not allow civil marriages–does it.But never mind that little tidbit, eh mondonut.

      • mondonut
        mondonut
        August 1, 2018, 3:33 pm

        @amigo

        I read everything and yes it is a lie – as you yourself confirm.

        Claim: He deplored the law approved by the Supreme Court that bars Palestinians in Israel from marrying Palestinians who live in the West Bank or outside the country.

        Amigo: Of course the law does not deny Palestinians from marrying someone in the WB…

      • Talkback
        Talkback
        August 3, 2018, 5:29 am

        I have to agree with mondonut on this. Not that Phil is lying. It’s just not accurate.

    • eljay
      eljay
      August 1, 2018, 3:16 pm

      || mondonut: The way this is written it is hard to tell if it is Phil or Joubran who is lying – but there is no law that bars Palestinians in Israel from marrying Palestinians who live in the West Bank or outside the country. … ||

      It does seem to be poorly-written given that – according to the site linked to in the article – the law doesn’t prevent marriage but it does forbid “Israeli citizens who marry individuals from the Occupied Palestinian Territories from bringing their spouses to Israel, on grounds of national security. The ban was then extended to spouses from four additional countries. … Non-Israeli spouses from the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, or Syria who are allowed to stay in Israel due the 2005 exception must renew their permits every six months. Furthermore, they are not allowed to apply for citizenship. They cannot work or even drive. … “

      || … Nor are there proposed laws that would allow villages to bar the Muslim call to prayer as a disturbance of the peace. … ||

      Not yet, anyway. But according to this June 19, 2018 jpost article, some MKs are working on it:

      … Yogev, together with Yisrael Beytenu MK Robert Ilatov, have introduced and advanced the legislation, which would ban religious institutions from using loudspeakers and is primarily designed to prevent mosques from broadcasting the Islamic call to prayer over loudspeakers … The bill passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset in March last year and was brought for a hearing in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Tuesday. …

      • amigo
        amigo
        August 1, 2018, 4:33 pm

        mondonut .

        yawn.

    • Marnie
      Marnie
      August 4, 2018, 2:55 am

      Pfft. You’re such a lazy lying ring of fried dough.

      They can marry. They can’t live together. If that’s a marriage to you fine, but to most of the rest of the world, a marriage means the partners live under the same roof. Zionists believe the rest of the world to be as ignorant, lazy and stupid as themselves. #ZIOFAIL.

  4. DaBakr
    DaBakr
    August 9, 2018, 1:27 am

    Sounds like trump and his ‘it’s a very very very very bad deal’ wth the mullahs

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