Israel's New Supreme Court: Liberalism Don't Live Here Anymore
Last week, Judge Noam Sohlberg was appointed to the Israeli Supreme Court (which, in Israel, is also the High Court of Justice, a court of judicial review carrying important constitutional functions). Sohlberg will thus become the first settler judge in Israel’s history.
Being a settler, Sohlberg has a clear conflict of interests, since he will have the authority to rule on appeals against government policies violating International Law, while himself violating International Law on a daily basis. In fact, he has a personal and political interest in continuing to legitimise Israel’s ongoing and expanding illegal settlement project.
Sohlberg is not an outstanding judge. He has a proven record of controversial anti-liberal rulings in lower courts, some of which were later reversed. For example, he rejected an appeal to allow registration of nationality in Israeli ID cards as “Israeli” rather than “Jewish” or “Arab;” he supported the state against an Israeli living abroad, after his passport wasn’t renewed because he did not return to do military service; and he acquitted a policeman who shot a man dead (a ruling which was later reversed unanimously by the Supreme Court).
Sohlberg also accepted several high-profile right-wing libel claims against the media, including one by a military officer against the Channel 2 TV investigative program ‘Uvda’; and rejected a slander claim against extreme right-wing activist Itamar Ben Gvir, who called an Arab MK ‘a Nazi’, in court. A few years ago he also rejected a libel claim against the settler newspaper ‘HaTzofeh,’ filed by author B. Michael, a senior satirical writer, for calling him (in 2003) “one of the greatest anti-Semites in the world.” According to Michael, the ruling “ranged from strange to absurd” and “was an attempt to alter the facts to suit the outcome.” Indeed Sohlberg’s ruling was later annulled by a higher proceeding, and the newspaper was forced to print an apology.