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Photo: Amitai Shabi
Esther Hayut
Photo: Amitai Shabi
Blessed be the fruit: Israel's women may pay price of anti-court laws
Opinion: Women today take things like voting and owning property for granted, but our fragile achievements could be jeopardized if the body that gave us these freedoms - the Supreme Court - has its power whittled away by politicians and their coalition deals
Can we imagine the days when divorced women had no right for property? Can we imagine when the Israeli Air Force had no women pilots? Have we forgotten how women were sent to the back of buses?

 

 

These changes - made within living memory - are what gave Israeli women their freedom today, and they are the work of the battered and abused Supreme Court.

 

Esther Hayut is sworn in as chief justice of the Supreme Court
Esther Hayut is sworn in as chief justice of the Supreme Court

 

The court that time and again defended the rights of women as part of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, while legislators watched and did nothing, or even pushed for discriminatory legislation.

 

The bill allowing the Knesset to overturn Supreme Court rulings with just a simple majority that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently pushing for means that the coalition would be able to do what ever it desired, as long as it had 61 votes.

 

Those who enjoy flaunting this fact and talk of the "wisdom of the masses" as the sole interpretation of democracy must have forgotten the role in that democracy of human rights and minority rights.

 

We can discuss the need for the separation of powers in a democracy. I can understand and identify with those who claim that the judicial revolution led by former chief justice Aharon Barak was too much; however, the fire aimed at the Supreme Court in recent years isn't based on reality, and the string of new expected legislation is disturbing.

 

It's disturbing since it's clear that the first to pay the price for this legislation will be women and minorities — the same ones who are always cast aside once a so-called higher agenda is at stake.

 

Female combat soldiers in the IDF  (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Female combat soldiers in the IDF (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

 

In recent years, the government has been using the court as a scapegoat. It continuously pushed for bills that had no chance of passing the Supreme Court, and in doing so gained twofold - not only did it not have to implement extreme policies it didn't really believe in, it was also able to rile up the public at the Supreme Court.

 

We women are in a confusing position, in which many of the rights we won after long hard struggles are taken for granted, and we can't imagine the clock turning back. But the feminist revolution is still young and fragile.

 

Some of our grandmothers couldn't vote, and some of them still can't read or write. Endangering the establishment that sees all men and women as equal is first and foremost endangering the freedom of each and every person.

 

The Supreme Court is the one that determined that property belongs to both husband and wife. It prevented women from being sent to the back of buses. Could we give up on any of that? It's been a slow process, slowly pushing social boundaries and limits. We mustn't forget that this slow process works in reverse too - regression instead of progression.

 

It's easy to think that the new Alabama abortion ban is extreme, scary - and nothing to do with Israeli reality. The law was voted on by 25 men who raised their hands to approve this insane policy. We can find parallels in Israeli daily life: perhaps a ban on women singing on stage, or a law forcing married women to cover their heads in public, or banning women from serving in the army?

 

Activist Tamara Stevens at the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta during a protest against the recently passed 'heartbeat' bill on May 16, 2019
Activist Tamara Stevens at the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta during a protest against the recently passed 'heartbeat' bill on May 16, 2019
  

It might sound strange, but who says there won't be 61 male hands willing to vote for similar laws as part of a coalition deal? If not this coalition, perhaps the next one. Especially when the package of bills coming our way will benefit felons and grant immunity, even retroactively, to corruption suspects — not exactly the most trustworthy group.

 

Conservatives who marked out the Supreme Court as the enemy keep saying they believe in slow, gradual process and respect for traditions and institutions. But this exact same sector now calls out for drastic, dramatic changes, with consequences that we cannot predict.

 

It's best to remember that the wheel goes around and around. There's no knowing when it will turn against those 61 hands who see themselves as the majority.

 


פרסום ראשון: 05.19.19, 23:40
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