Dorit Beinisch is for the left. That’s okay, as long as she does not bring her opinions to court and allow them to interfere with her legal judgment.
By Karni Eldad HAARETZ
One evening, when my brother was staring at an important game between Narnia and Mongolia, his son asked him, “Dad, who are you for?” If you would direct the question to the president of the Supreme Court, the answer would be clear. Dorit Beinisch is for the left. That’s allowed. Almost half the nation tilts left. The other half, and maybe a bit more than the last elections proved, tilts right. That’s okay, as long as she does not bring her opinions to court and allow them to interfere with her legal judgment and the preservation of equality before the law.
But a comparative study done by Regavim (an NGO that monitors and documents illegal activities on state land throughout the country ) shows that Beinisch’s decisions, and the decisions of the Supreme Court as a whole, are blatantly biased. The report examines cases that mirror one another: petitions submitted by Arabs and extreme leftist organizations against illegal construction by settlers, and petitions submitted by rightist organizations against illegal Arab building.
It is true that each case should be examined on its merits, and they are not identical. That is why the report examined the process’ procedural elements, which are constant and measurable, like the time given to respond, the number of hearings held, the time elapsed between hearings and the composition of the panels of presiding judges. These elements are part of the judicial process even before the issues at hand are examined deeply, and they reflect the starting point from which the judges consider the issue. Thus it is impossible to attribute the profound differences as reflected in the report to scholarly legal nuances, the quality of the lawyer or the mood of the judge. And the result is shocking.
This is not a single petition, but all petitions submitted in the last five years on this topic. The trend is blatantly discriminatory, and it appears that none of the judges have made an effort to hide it.
For example, how much time on average does the High Court of Justice give a respondent to submit a preliminary reply? If the petition comes from the left, it is 25 days. On the other had, if the petition comes from the right, the respondents can go to the beach. They have 88 days to reply. Even before the arguments have been heard, the court can issue an interim injunction. Here the finding is perhaps the most glaring: In 90 percent of petitions submitted by the left and the Arabs, the court issued an interim injunction, while in cases of petitions by the right the number is zero. Not once.
Now for the hearing itself, before a three-judge panel. The claim is that the considerations when choosing judges are completely practical. If so, why is it that in 60 percent of the petitions submitted by the left, Beinisch is present at the hearings, as opposed to zero when the petitions are from the right?
If you think all this is coincidental, see how many days it takes the court to set a date for a first hearing: 389 days for a petition from the right, 177 for a leftist-Arab petition. Even when it comes to interim injunctions, the gap is glaring: 35 percent of leftist petitions produce such injunctions, zero in cases of rightist petitions. In the hearings themselves, the court is quick to decide when considering rightist petitions: The average number of hearings held are 0.5 for the right and 1.9 (almost four times more ) for the left.
Justice Shimon Agranat said “there is nothing more destructive to a society than a sense among its members that they are subject to a double standard. The sense of inequality is one of the harshest feelings.”
Well, that’s how most of the public feels about an institution that is supposed to uphold precisely the opposite values.