Question: Where in the Middle East did the following occur? Arab villagers file a petition to their High Court, claiming their human rights are being violated by the state. The villagers prevail. The Kingdom of Jordan, perhaps? Syria? Lebanon? Did a High Court of Justice there intervene on behalf of the Little Lebanese Guy against his Syrian overlords? (Western romantics couldn’t wait for tolerant Christian predominance to end in that one-time oasis.)
When polled, Europeans said that this country, whose supreme court ruled against the state for violating a standard designed to “strike a balance between security and human rights,” was the greatest threat to world peace.
Hint: It’s not Iran. No, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his fatwa-frenzied judiciary haven’t joined the Iranian reform movement and eased up on the savagely oppressed residents of Isfahan. The cankered Khamenei is too busy stoning, hanging and confining political prisoners. And according to the IEEE’s Spectrum (June 2004), a former member of Iran’s ruling troika, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has promised atomic retribution against the country that is the correct answer to my quiz. No doubt because she represents the gravest danger to Libert?, Egalit?, and Fraternit?. (Ask the French.)
Yes, I’m speaking of “the Jew among nations”: Israel.
Israel’s High Court has ruled that the route, along which a 25-mile barrier separating Israeli from Palestinian territory stretches “injures the local inhabitants in a severe and acute way while violating their rights under humanitarian and international law.” So Israel’s Ministry of Defense will now be forced to reconstruct that section of the fence. Although the court held that “only a separation route based on the path of law will lead the state to the security so yearned for,” it upheld the legality of the fence itself.
This was truly a decision worthy of Solomon – and one grounded in history. Emperor Hadrian built a wall in 122 A.D. to keep barbarians out of Roman Britain, thus ensuring three centuries of peace. And the Chin Emperor sought the same goal when he erected the Great Wall in the third century B.C.
Today, however, politicians and pundits cannot hear about any barrier intended to prevent undesired or undesirable human acts without launching into maudlin impersonations of the sainted Ronald Reagan, RIP. Israel’s infinitely civilized attempt to forestall the New Barbarians has resulted in shouts of “Tear down this wall!”
Barbarism booster Michel Barnier, France’s foreign minister, rushed to the side of his buddy, Ahmed Qureia, prime minister of “Palestine,” who, on cue, invoked the portentous metaphor of the Berlin Wall. (It doesn’t seem to have occurred to either of them that unlike the Roman, Chinese and Israeli barriers, the Iron Curtain was constructed to keep people in, not out.) Both seized the opportunity to propound the conspiratorial proposition that the fence was “built for political reasons … to expand Israel’s land mass at the expense of the Palestinians.”
Strangely enough, Mon. Barnier’s sentimental attachment to the Palestinian Authority, shared as it is by the U.N., the EU, the academy, the media and those on the far left and far right, is not shared by Israel’s Arabs. Polls show that an overwhelming majority of them prefer to continue living in Israel, rather than the PA. All posturing aside, Israeli Arabs have determined that the prospects of ever being able to appeal to a PA High Court for an injunction against Arafat or his heirs are slim to none.
Israel’s High Court ruling is said to be “precedent-setting,” but it is by no means exceptional. This same court issued an exceedingly progressive ruling on the vexing topic of torture. Even though he acknowledged that certain forms of coercion had indeed saved Israeli lives from suicide bombers, court President Aharon Barak categorically “prohibit[ed] all forms of physical pressure,” as Alan Dershowitz reminds us in “The Case for Israel.” Barak even rejected the justification of “necessity,” arguing that this “cannot serve as a basis of authority for the use of these interrogation practices.”
Israel-bashing notwithstanding, interrogation techniques considered acceptable in the U.S. and many other Western countries are outlawed in Israel. This, I believe, means that if a suspected – or even bona fide – terrorist were tortured in an Israeli jail, he would receive a similar redress to that given to the Beit Surik villagers. But to hear Israel’s enemies tell it, torture-loving Israel somehow directed “operations” at the Abu Ghraib prison – on top of running Chalabi and masterminding the invasion of Iraq.
Israel is not perfect. (And which country is?) Nevertheless, despite a ceaseless terror campaign against its very existence, Israel remains a country under the rule of enlightened Western law. The Beit Surik decision demonstrates that, alone in the Middle East, Israel is committed to justice for Jews and Arabs alike.