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September 18, 2014 / 23 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Constitution’

Egypt Approves Constitution, but Brotherhood Boycotted Vote

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Egyptians gave landslide support for a proposed new constitution after two days of voting, but the Muslim Brotherhood boycotted the balloting, which was accompanied by violence, ballot stuffing and bribes.

An official told the Associated Press that 90 percent of the voters cast a “yes” vote, but BuzzFeed reported that it obtained documents that provided evidence that the voting was a “disaster” for democracy.

The ruling military regime needs lopsided approval for the constitution to help it drive the Muslim Brotherhood into the ground and pave the way for army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to run for president.

Pro-Muslim Brotherhood groups blocked roads so people could get to the polling stations, and they also bribed people not to vote.

One activist told BuzzFeed, “What I saw at the polling stations were not just problems’ they were disasters.” He said army personnel stationed inside the polling station handed out gifts to voters, and he also “saw two women taking extra ballots and putting them in the box.”

One international election observation monitor said there was an atmosphere of intimidation in the polling stations.

Outside the voting locations, Muslim Brotherhood protests clashed with Egyptian police, and eight people were killed in two clashes on Tuesday.

Radical, Democratic Changes to Egypt’s Constitution, MBs Out

Monday, August 19th, 2013

The technical committee has been assigned the task of “amending” Egypt’s 2012 Muslim-Brothers inspired constitution is almost finished, Al Ahram reported. The committee is headed by Interim President Adly Mansour’s legal advisor, Ali Awad.

In a press conference Sunday, Awad told the press that the committee will finish its work Monday, and the new draft constitution will be announced Wednesday. Al Ahram quotes the basic instruction given the authors of the new document: “Fundamental changes must be introduced to 2012 Islamist-backed constitution.”

By fundamental, they mean no Muslim Brothers in politics, ever again.

“The 2012 constitution was drafted under the former regime of the Muslim Brotherhood to grant Islamists an upper hand and a final say in Egypt’s political future, and this must be changed now,” Ahram quotes a committee source. “When the people revolted 30 June, their main goals were not confined to removing Mohamed Morsi from power, but also changing the fundamental pillars of the religious tyranny the Muslim Brotherhood regime tried its best to impose on Egypt.”

The source revealed that the new constitution must impose a ban on political parties based on religious foundations.

The source explained that “the anticipated ban gained momentum after the committee received requests and proposals from more than 400 political, economic and social institutions, pressing hard for the necessity of safeguarding Egypt against Islamist factions trying to change the civil nature of the country into a religious oligarchy.”

Except that – surprise, surprise, despite the anti-Brotherhood sentiment common to the new masters of Egypt, the source says the new constitution “will keep Article 2 of 2012′s Islamist-backed constitution — which states that Islamic Sharia is the main source of legislation — in place.”

This, according to committee chairman Ali Awad, is done “in order to stress the Islamic identity of Egypt.”

According to the source, most political institutions have recommended that “if it is necessary to keep the Islamic Sharia article in place as a nod to Islamists like El-Nour, it is by no means necessary to maintain the 2012 constitution’s separate article (Article 219) that delivers an interpretation of Islamic Sharia.”

Article 219 of the 2012 constitution states: “The principles of Islamic Sharia include its generally-accepted interpretations, its fundamental and jurisprudential rules, and its widely considered sources as stated by the schools of Sunna and Gamaa.”

Not any more. They’re also going to scrap the Shura Council, the upper house of parliament, that was created in 1980 by late President Anwar El-Sadat to befriend his Islamist foes. They shot him anyway. The MB exploited its majority in the council in 2012 to “Brotherhoodise national press institutions and the state-owned Radio and Television Union (known as Maspero) and gain legislative powers to Islamise society.”

Sources are saying there will be radical changes of articles aimed at regulating the performance of the High Constitutional Court and media institutions. “We aim to reinforce the independence of these institutions and not to face any more intimidation by ruling regimes,” the source said. He also indicated that, “The electoral system is also expected to see a complete overhaul in order not to cause any discrimination against independents or come in favor of party-based candidates.”

And another noteworthy change: Article 232 of the 2012 constitution, imposing a ban on leading officials of Mubarak’s defunct ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), will be annulled.

So, it appears the Egyptians are quite capable of taking care of their legal affairs without nasty interventions from their patron wannabes in Washington. Perhaps it would be best for the U.S. to shut up for a couple of weeks and not meddle?

Terrorism and the Methodology of the Left

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

The left has a clearly defined set of responses to a terrorist attack. After all the hopes for a properly right wing terrorist have come to naught, it begins the long slow process of rolling back the laws and emotional attitudes stemming from the attack.

For it, terrorism, like anything else, either fits into its narrative or conflicts with it. The narrative defines the world, past, present and future, in terms of the political agenda of the left. An event that clashes with the agenda must have its meaning changed so that the power of the narrative is restored.

Most violent attacks, from a street mugging to September 11, cause people to seek out security by combating the attackers. The left’s task is to shift the narrative so that people see it in an entirely different way. The perpetrators become the victims by the trick of transforming the real victims into the real perpetrators. The lesson shifts from going on the offense to learning not to give offense.

The process is gradual and the playbook is infinite. Weapons of mass distraction are brought out. New villains are introduced and the emotional resonance of the events is drowned in ridicule. The tones are also many, from urging everyone to let love defeat hate to displays of virulent hate against the people “truly” stirring up trouble, but they all share a common agenda. Only the tactics vary.

Unlike the right, the left is systematic. It studies structures and people and plots its lines of attack accordingly. It pits emotion against emotion and law against law. It waits for the initial shock to fade before launching its first wave of attacks over process.

The left’s honest response, the one that shows up on its Twitter feeds and in posts on its own sites, is that the country is overreacting. Some leftists will even be bold enough to say that we had it coming. But its public response is more discreet. It exploits the grief for its own ends, diverting shocked city residents into interfaith memorials, some of which are progressive enough to include denunciations of American foreign policy and vigils for the dead on both sides.

But even here, the left generally restrains itself. It waits until the weeks or months have passed to begin deadening the emotion surrounding the event with sarcastic remarks and jokes until the sacred becomes fully profane. It waits somewhat less time to begin lecturing the country on how our foreign policy made them hate us, knowing that in a contest between the establishment’s narrative of inexplicable Islamic radicalization for unknown reasons and their narrative of American evil, they have the upper hand because they provide a realistic motive and the establishment does not.

Still this too comes later. The left knows that there is a window on human emotion. There is a time when people need to mourn and a time when they will feel a diminishing outrage and even begin to agree with observations whose thrust is that the United States of America is the real terrorist. And so there are things that the left will say on DailyKos and then on Salon that it will not say on CNN or the editorial page of the New York Times.

The editorials explaining how a lack of American support for Chechen independence led to the marathon massacre are coming. They just haven’t splashed ashore in mainstream liberal newspapers yet. Timing is everything and the difference between the left of the counterculture and the left of the culture is that it knows what people will be willing to listen to and when. And it knows where to begin.

Against the horror of the bombing, the left juxtaposes the horror of police state. It pits the fear of terrorists depriving us of our lives and freedoms against the fear of the government doing the same. And considering the history of government abuses, it does not take long for this line of argument to make a compelling emotional dent in the responses of even many ordinary people to the attacks.

The left begins by raising all sorts of procedural questions about how law enforcement and the military are treating the enemy. It develops a burning conviction that our civil rights are the only thing about the country worth keeping. It hammers away at any law enforcement or military mistake, no matter how minor, and collects these together to amass a narrative of the police state.

‘Moral Authority,’ Jewish Style

Monday, February 11th, 2013

There’s an interesting article in the Jewish Press by Joe Settler which hinges on the concept of “Moral Authority.”

When a drafter of Israel’s Constitution says there is a problem because too many IDF commanders are religious, we need to worry about what kind of Constitution he is drafting.

“I meant, that as long as there is no solution for the source of the authority in the IDF in general, and specifically, including the integration of women [because listening to women sing, is the biggest problem the army faces], the problems will grow and increase. As the number of religious soldiers and commanders grow, since the authority of their Rabbis is what rules for them, the size of the problem will get larger. More and more officers and soldiers will find themselves indecisive when they face this conflict.” Dr. Arye (Arik) Carmon, head of the Israel Democracy Institute For many years, I’ve been troubled by the fact that even Torah observant (aka Orthodox) Rabbis, especially American Yeshiva University educated ones, such as Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and Rabbi Aaron Lichtenstein, have somehow added non-Jewish concepts/ideologies of Liberalism and Democracy to the 613 mitzvot, Torah commandments.

We Jews have a much more veteran and well documented social and political philosophy/ideology in our Torah and Talmud.  It actually contradicts many modern “moral” philosophies/ideologies, because it’s timeless.

I was especially disturbed in the troubling times leading to the Disengagement expulsions when so-called Torah observant rabbis said that a Knesset vote could over-ride the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel and even banish Jews from their homes, communities and businesses.

ישוב הארץ Yishuv Ha’Aretz, the Settling of the Land is a cornerstone of Judaism, and a large portion of the Torah is centered on it.

The Torah is our MORAL AUTHORITY.  Without it, we Jews couldn’t have had survived as a People during the thousands of years of exile from our Holy Land.  Our Land and our Torah are what has kept us a people.

Last night, I was at a shiur by  Inbal Amiton – “Believe and plant: The Redemption of Land as a Reflection of the Redemption of the Nation, According to Yirmiyahu 32”  in Matan.  Amiton said that according to Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah,) first G-d will return us to the Land and then we will do Teshuva, repent.

I see the process of Torah observant Jews growing in the IDF (Israeli Army) as proof that it is happening today.

Israel’s secular and quasi-secular/religious  leaders don’t understand that our true Moral Authority is G-d given.

Visit Shiloh Musings.

Too Many Religious Officers and a Constitution

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

In an interview last week with Makor Rishon, Dr. Arye (Arik) Carmon, head of the Israel Democracy Institute said,

“as the number of religious commanders in the army increases, we’re in for bigger problems.”

Dr. Carmon is not only the president of the Israel Democracy Institute, but he is one of the senior members of a group of people trying to put together a Constitution (“by Concensus”) for the state of Israel. A Constitution that is supposed to represent all of Israeli society and our shared values.

HIS CLARIFICATION

Following the publication of his statement last week, Carmon felt that there was a need to clarify what he really meant.

Carmon said (with my comments added in [italics]):

“As someone who was injured during my army service [yes, because that now gives any statement he makes automatic legitimacy], and whose sons fight shoulder to shoulder with their brother’s [see previous comment], the religious soldiers, the alumni of the National-Religious educational system, I have much respect for them, to the soldiers and commanders in the IDF whose contributions to the security of Israel are priceless [did he mention that some of his best friends are religious too?].It’s important for me to clarify that in the heat of the interview, my words were not understood properly [Actually, I think we did understand them properly].

I meant, that as long as there is no solution for the source of the authority in the IDF in general, and specifically, including the integration of women [because listening to women sing, is the biggest problem the army faces], the problems will grow and increase. As the number of religious soldiers and commanders grow, since the authority of their Rabbis is what rules for them, the size of the problem will get larger. More and more officers and soldiers will find themselves indecisive when they face this conflict.

Any other way to understand my words is mistaken.”

I’m honestly not sure what is worse, the original statement or his clarification.

Carmon is clearly afraid of two things, that the soldiers have a moral authority and value system that he doesn’t share, that supersedes blindly following orders, and that religious soldiers are blocking his coercive goals of secular-democratic supremacy.

His first problem is that religious soldiers listen to a higher moral authority, and he is afraid of the conflict that religious soldiers might have, especially if there are too many of them, and how that will affect their following orders.

Though logically that doesn’t make sense, because if there are more religious soldiers who share a common moral thought process, the conflict is unlikely to trickle down, as obviously immoral and illegal orders will be identified and stopped higher up in hierarchy – as they should be.

But, Carmon is thinking of two specific issues – one he states, which is the integration of women, and the other, which I believe he implies, is not following orders in case of another Expulsion/Disengagement – the classic Israeli argument of moral/religious right vs. the tyranny of the majority- the Jewish-Democratic state conflict.

Carmon has firmly placed himself firmly on one side of that argument, the secular side that immorally kicked out 8000 Jews from their homes and let a terrorist state develop in Gaza, and would do so again in Judea and Samaria if they could.

ONE SIDED CONCERN

Yet Carmon apparently doesn’t have a problem with too many left-wing pilots or reservists, hundreds of whom famously signed onto petitions saying they won’t follow orders to attack our enemies. You would think that he would find an identifiable group who seditiously and openly called for disobeying orders to attack the enemy to be far more worrisome than religious soldiers and officers, with a healthy and respected value system. But as you’ll see later in the article, he doesn’t.

To my knowledge, Carmon has never said that as the number of Left-wing pilots grows, the problems will increase. No, he specifically said the problem is with too many religious commanders.

Obama’s Threats

Monday, January 21st, 2013

In his quest to raise the debt ceiling, President Obama issued a threat in his press conference last week that troops won’t get paid and veterans’ pension payments will be delayed.  He warned of delays in Social Security payments as well.

It’s important to understand that these comments constitute a threat (which may or may not be a hollow one).  Obama is not stating some inescapable reality, to which he along with the rest of us is subject.  If retirees and vets see a delay in their payments, it will be because Obama himself decides to hold the payments up.  Moreover, Obama is not caught in a trap when it comes to paying the troops; he can make sure they get paid, if it’s his priority to do so.

The payments to retirees are going to go out unless Obama stops them.  The debt ceiling doesn’t prevent those payments from being made.  It requires that other types of federal expenditures – current-year operating expenses like federal purchases, welfare outlays, payrolls, etc – be suspended or managed differently.

The two Social Security Trust Funds (one for old-age benefits and one for disability benefits) had nearly $2.7 trillion in assets at the end of fiscal year 2011. The most recent for which a trustees’ report is posted online.  The funds are used every year to ensure obligated pay-outs to beneficiaries, and have been borrowed against many times by Congress, under routine fiscal circumstances.  While repayment of any amount expended during a government shut-down should be part of a debt-ceiling deal, the trusts allow Social Security payments to be made on time during a shut-down – unless Obama decides against that.

Likewise, the Military Retirement Fund had about $428 billion in total assets at the end of fiscal year 2012, three-and-a-half months ago.  The fund’s assets can certainly be used to make on-time pension payments to veterans in early 2013 – again, with a repayment plan as part of the debt-ceiling deal.  In fact, military retired pay is already programmed for electronic distribution throughout FY2013; it takes active intervention to prevent it from being distributed.

Active-duty military pay is a current-year expenditure, and would be directly jeopardized by a government shut-down.  But whether or not the troops get paid is up to Obama’s leadership.  He could agree with Congress to set aside enough to pay the troops while the negotiations continue – a move that could well require cutting or suspending expenditures elsewhere in the federal government, in order to remain under the debt ceiling until a deal was reached.

Obama could also get a read from his attorneys on the precedents for and propriety of borrowing against one of the big trust funds to meet the uniformed payroll during the government crisis.  Paying the troops, especially when the military is forward-deployed and much of it is in combat in Afghanistan, ought to be politically unifying.  It’s hard to imagine Congress trying to impeach or otherwise hobble Obama over the actions he might take to ensure the troops are paid.

What Obama is doing, in effect, is issuing threats about what he will do, if Republicans don’t give him what he wants.  But he’s representing the threats as a consequence for which the GOP lawmakers would be responsible.

This kind of mendacious demagoguery flourishes when the press is biased and/or cowed, and fails to challenge the political leaders.  Every appeal from the leadership gets to be emotional; government is discussed in unaccountable, irrational, and even hysterical terms, as when the president postulated, in his speech on gun restrictions during the same press conference, that the victims of mass shootings had been “denied their rights” by the shooters.  The distinction between committing crimes against individuals, which the citizens can do, and denying the people’s rights – which only government can do – is one of the most important concepts underlying the American system of government.  But Obama elided it out of existence on last week, in his quest to depict the use of firearms as, principally, a means of injuring others.

Parse, parse, parse, my friends.  This president doesn’t speak in the terms of American political philosophy, which holds government and its leaders accountable for meanings both philosophical and practical.  It is not our practice, in American government, to shrug off misleading demagoguery.  That’s not “business as usual” for us.  Our president is supposed to bind himself to constitutional meanings.  He is supposed to depict the actions of government honestly.  It’s a big deal that this one doesn’t.

So You Say You Want a US Style Constitution in Israel…

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

After you make aliyah from the United States, it’s hard not compare everything to what you’ve come to expect from your prior life.  Whether it’s people’s attitudes, prices, the government bureaucracy, and so many other things. As a lawyer who has studied American and Israeli law and someone who has been politically active in both the US and Israel, I compare Israeli and American constitutional law.

The first thing, of course, that jumps out is not that there is no constitution in Israel. That doesn’t in and of itself bother me. What bothers me is that the Supreme Court believes there is one and therefore acts as if it has the power of judicial review.

But after that, there is the fact that when Israeli legal authorities talk about a constitution they didn’t really mean a whole constitution, they mean only a bill of rights. That’s why it was so easy for Aharon Barak and the Supreme Court he led to rationalize giving themselves the power of judicial review. Israel, they thought, has basic laws on everything except a bill of rights. Now the Knesset has approved a basic law on “human dignity and liberty” so therefore the constitutional process has been competed and what are termed “basic laws” will automatically be considered superior law to regular laws.

That was how they glossed over the fact that only some basic laws have “entrenchment clauses,” which say make the law superior to later laws unless the later law is approved by a certain sized majority, and that when Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty was approved legislators were told by the Chairman of the Knesset committee on the Constitution, Law and Justice that it would not give the Supreme Court the power of judicial review.

But a constitution is much more than a bill of rights. It’s about the structure of government and how that impacts decision-making and in and of itself protects the rights of the people.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear much thought was put into the system of government in Israel – not the serious kind of political philosophy that when into the U.S. Constitution. Israel’s governmental structure is very simplistic. There are no districts, so elections are just one big free for all, with whoever can form a majority-coalition in the legislature forming the government. And then off to the side there is the Knesset. Of course, that doesn’t make politics simple. In fact it makes it unduly complicated, but in all the wrong ways.

While studying the evolution of judicial review in Israel, I read Emmanuel Rackman’s account of early Israeli constitutional decision-making – both in the provisional government and then in the Constituent Assembly, the body elected to adopted a constitution and which became Israel’s first Knesset. The main constitutional issues which were discussed and debated were the concept of the a written constitution and a bill of rights. No one could agree on those so it was agreed to disagree and make laws about the basics parts of government in “basic laws” which would later be used as the basis for a constitution.

In my op-ed in last Thursday’s Jerusalem Post, I wrote that the Disengagement – which involved a forcible mass transfer of thousands of a certain class (Jews) – was a result of the inability of the Israeli governmental system to protect citizens’ rights and ensure the adoption of sound policy, due to the fact that it lacks the checks and balances as they exist in the US constitutional system (as well as many others).

My conclusion was that,

Those who recognized the disengagement as the act of despotism it was ought to consider how our form of government affects the policies which are adopted and how it should be changed to ensure that a plan that pits soldiers against thousands of their countrymen is never approved again.

But against all my arguments and comparisons between the Israeli and American systems, first person to comment on the article argued that, “The grass really isn’t greener elsewhere. Here in the US, our one-time system of checks and balances has been largely destroyed, and we are on the fast track to financial ruin.”

That wasn’t the first time I’ve gotten such a response to a US-Israel constitution comparison. Once, while making the point about Israel’s judicial selection procedure (judges are chosen by a committee of nine, three are from the Supreme Court, two from the Knesset (one is an opposition member), two from the government and three from the bar association who side with the judges) and how it was inferior to the American judicial selection procedure, in which judges are more tied to the people since they are chosen by the political branches, a distinguished ivy-league educated law professor remarked about how judicial committee hearings in the Senate can be a joke, so perhaps it should not be so emulated.

That all may be true. The US system has its dirty moments. It’s the nature of democracy and politics in any system that politicians will play to the cameras and their base for popularity and in so doing make a mockery of themselves and potentially lead to bad decisions.

Nevertheless, the US system is quite remarkable and renowned around the world. It has also served the US quite well. When it was first adopted it was not even agreed that the US was to comprise a nation, but in the framer’s vision that’s what the country became.  And it stayed that way despite deep-seeded differences between the North and the South, which only turned to civil war once (which was perhaps inevitable) – and the Union – i.e. the United States as bound by the Constitution won out.

Senators who might make a show for the public over a judicial nomination dispute are doing just that – making a show. The rhetoric is just the public face for whatever  actual reasons they are voting for or against the judge, reasons which may differ from time to time, but it’s still a story as old time.

And the US may be facing a recession, maybe one day another depression, I don’t know. But something tells me – that the US will come out alright in the end. I believe it will remain the world’s foremost superpower for decades to come, if not much longer.  (One of those things that informs my opinion on this is an excellent essay, “The World America Made,” by Robert Kagan).

As for Israel – thank God, Israel has survived and done pretty well since it’s birth. But I wouldn’t thank it’s current system. Let’s face it, people here don’t vote for representatives. Party bosses and power players do. The judges choose themselves. The government controls the legislature. It’s just a no good, very bad, terrible system.

For Israel’s survival and lack of devolution into civil war or national destruction at the hands of our enemies, I would thank those who had the foresight not to let things get out of hand – such as Menachem Begin, when he did not allow the Irgun to retaliate for the Saison or the Altalena, who ensured that Israel would have a democracy instead of a one-party dominated system, and whose victory stopped the two-state solution from being implemented (Labor had by that point endorsed withdrawal from all disputed territories).

More generally the culprit of our prosperity is the ingenuity and persistence of the Jewish people, that, and by God’s grace do we go on. Those things will keep Israel around despite whatever terrible decisions are wrought by it’s current governing system. Not that anyone should rely on that – bad things do happen when the citizenry is apathetic, regardless of divine preference (recall the joke about the Rabbi praying for God to save him, but every time someone comes a long to rescue him he says he would rather wait for God to do it) or our national qualities.

Making these comparisons is not to simply to complain and let out frustration, or to put the US on a pedestal (though denying American strength, success and generosity is just being intellectually dishonest) or conjure up fear that if we don’t change things the state will be destroyed some time soon (the direction that many Israel-related political arguments take).

When it comes to our national prosperity, we should never shy from imagining the ideal and advocating for its realization.  And while we’ve done relatively amazing compared to the odds stacked against us, life in Israel and Israeli policy making is still far from ideal. If we can prosper even with this system and in our geopolitical situation, imagine how much better we could do with a system of government that could properly reflect and channel our exceptional national ingenuity and will.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/hadar/so-you-say-you-want-a-us-style-constitution-in-israel/2013/01/06/

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