Friday, September 15, 2006

Chief Justice Barak Goes

Liberal, But Only on the Inside

Despondent Israel has found something to celebrate this week, something which is supposed to unite people and give them a sense of accomplishment. Chief Justice of the Israeli Supreme Court, Aharon Barak, is retiring amidst accolades of praise. The tributes center on Barak’s imprint on the Israeli legal system, which is undeniable and extol him for advancing human rights within Israel as a Jewish and democratic society, an achievement that leaves, to put it mildly, much to be desired. .
Barak was an accomplished legal technician and was recognized as an expert in the sensitive field of legal interpretation. However, the praise showered on him was based on something totally different. Barak was the chief architect of the legal separation between the appearances of a functioning democracy in Israel proper and the simultaneous administration of systematic brutal “military justice” against the Palestinian people in the occupied territories.

Barak carefully erected a legal wall between the two systems of “justice” long before Israel decided on the infamous separation wall of institutionalized apartheid within Palestinian territory. Basically, Barak accepted all the arguments by the military as to the ‘reasonableness’ of the vicious and brutal deportment of the military and security forces, first as Israeli Attorney-General and then for the last 28 years, with 11 of them as Chief Justice in the Supreme Court.

Barak is directly responsible for the “legal arrangements” that permit Israel to hold some 10,000 Palestinians in prison while the region is in a turmoil over three Israelis captured by the Hezbollah and Hamas. Indeed, Barak was responsible in his capacity as the leader of the High Court of Justice for many decisions slapping the military on their wrists, but these were carefully selected cases to remind the army officers that they must remain within legal frameworks, which anyway grant them almost absolute discretion. In short, Barak made it look as if there were real restrictions on the military, when in real life these were exceptional instances which never touched the prevailing dynamic of arbitrary use of absolute power against the Palestinians.

Barak leaves the High Court…lots of establishment people toasting and kissing each other, but no real justice.