First Arab Supreme Court Justice retires
Salim Joubran, the first Arab citizen appointed to the Supreme Court and its current vice president retires; Joubran: 'From a refugee baby in a shaky boat to Beirut in 1948 I was privileged to sit in Israel's highest court.' Supreme Court President Miriam Naor: 'Joubran is the Israeli embodiment at its best.'
Joubran received a dignified farewell ceremony after he dealt with his last day in the Supreme Court on the issue of allowing same-sex couples to adopt—a right still reserved for heterosexual couples only.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked commended Joubran at his farewell ceremony.
"Justice Salim Joubran is taking off his cloak today and signing off on 35 years devoted to the work of law-making, a period during which he made history for the Arab public in the country, establishing himself as one of the most original and prominent judges in the Supreme Court, even reaching the vice-presidency," Shaked said.
Shaked continued, applauding his judgment and character. "The social sensitivity and the willingness to listen to each person was a way of life for him," she said. "He made sure to give every person who was sentenced a sense that his claims were heard and taken into account, even if he had to rule against him. He nurtured the sense of belonging and trust of Israeli Arabs in the rule of law.
"In criminal law, Joubran carefully examined each case from the defendant's point of view, trying to put himself in his shoes and understand his feelings. Defendants left his courtroom with the feeling that they had been given a fair trial. Justice Joubran did not hesitate to sentence or acquit anyone, while maintaining iron principles, adhering to the values of democracy and protecting human rights and the rights of the accused.
"He stood out not only for his skills, but also for his efficiency and was considered one of the most effective judges in the Supreme Court."
After Shaked expressed her gratitude, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit chimed in.
"This is an excellent judge and above all a dear man and human being," Mandelblit said. "You saw the people behind the legal issues. You did good and the just work, you ruled professionally and humanely, you went the way of compromise when it was possible.
"You were a public servant in every sense of the word, served faithfully and ruled with a deep understanding of the reality of life. It was clear that honesty and love of man guided you on your path."
Supreme Court President Miriam Naor then said her farewell.
"Salim is the image of the Israeli judge, the Israeli embodiment at its best," she said. "A significant contribution he made in the Supreme Court was the development of criminal law. Salim has the special ability to analyze the facts and examine the basics of the offense professionally. He also contributed to the development of new laws, including their appropriate punishment."
Joubran then said his farewell, thanking his colleagues. "From a refugee baby in a shaky boat to Beirut in 1948 I was privileged to sit in Israel's highest court. I think I have nothing but to thank the Creator for this privilege.
"At a very young age, I was appointed to a judge and saw in my position a dual mission: One to decide justly in disputes, and the other to be as close as possible to a bridge between Jews and Arabs in the State of Israel."
Joubran then spoke about political attacks on the court system. "There is no place for attacking the Supreme Court. In my opinion, it represents the good in Israeli society, the effort to achieve gender equality, concern for minorities, the distribution of budgets and more," he noted. "Harming the High Court of Justice will harm public trust."
To conclude, Joubran spoke about a subject very near and dear to him; coexistence between Jews and Arabs.
"The Arab minority and the Jewish majority in Israel share many in common but differ in culture, identity and social and economic status," Joubran said. "These differences inevitably create a conflict of views and interests between the two groups. At the same time, our democratic regime must act to close the gaps between the groups while preserving and recognizing the cultural differences.
"We must appoint and add more Arab judges in the judicial system. Arab citizens should be allowed to express their culture and identity in public life, in a proper and dignified way. Regarding the allocation of lands, the state is expected to treat citizens according to egalitarian principles.
"I would hope to see a tolerant Israeli society with mutual respect and peaceful coexistence between the two peoples."
The first Arab Supreme Court Justice
Judge Joubran was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2003. He was the first Arab-Christian to be appointed to the Supreme Court, and he set the stage for those who followed him.
Patient and humane, he stressed the value of equality, minority rights, social inclusion and human rights. He tended to be in the minority when rulings on cases which could infringe on minority rights, preferring caution and preservation of rights in their highest form.
Among the Joubran's prominent rulings were his rejection of the appeal of former President Moshe Katsav for his conviction of rape, minority opinion against amnesty for offenses committed during the 2005 disengagement, inclusion of Arab towns in the national development priority regions map of the government, and more.
He was also involved in a small scandal when he did not sing the anthem, Hatikvah, during the swearing-in ceremony, but was supported by his friends who argued that Arab citizens should not be forced to sing words that do not speak to them or reflect their roots, as the anthem speaks solely about the return of the Jewish people to Israel and their hope to once again live there as a free people.