Orit Kamir, Professor of Law and Gender at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan Law School, has gone to astonishing lengths in her attempts to bury a candidate for Israel’s supreme court, including an attempt to recruit a female witness who would accuse him of sexual harassment, Avishai Greenzig reported in Mida Wednesday.
Alex Stein, currently a law professor at the Brooklyn Law School, and formerly at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and at Yeshiva University’s Cardoza, who also taught at Yale, Columbia, Toronto, Oxford, and Harvard Universities, is considered to be on Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s shortlist for the Israeli supreme court.
It’s clear why the Habayit Hayehudi minister would want him: Stein is identified as a conservative jurist and a staunch opponent of judicial activism. The hyper-active Israeli court, which occasionally appoints itself the 121st member of the Knesset, could use a judge like him to calm down its fervor. The fact that Stein is also is a world expert on the rules of evidence and on torts doesn’t hurt, either.
But it turns out that besides Stein’s usual opponents on Israel’s left and in the judicial establishment – who would like to continue using the High Court of Justice as their means of compensating for their dwindling demographic numbers in Israel’s democracy – the brilliant candidate also has a staunch enemy in Prof. Orit Kamir, who has been on the warpath not only to block his nomination, it seems, but to destroy his career.
This week, a petition was filed with the High Court of Justice against Stein’s appointment, based mainly on a confidential affidavit submitted by Kamir to the Judicial Appointments Committee. In the affidavit, Kamir states that Stein persecuted and harassed her, because she was promoting the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law, which—she suggested—would have curbed his and his friends’ illegal sexual relations with students.
Now Mida has published what they claim is correspondence between Kamir and a colleague which casts a heavy shadow on Kamir’s motives and credibility. The correspondence is between Kamir and her friend from the Hebrew University, whose name is withheld by Mida.
Kamir: … Alex Stein is a candidate for the Supreme Court, remember him?
A: Yes. Doesn’t he live in the US now?
Kamir: Yes, he has been in the US 15 years, but Ayelet Shaked is determined to return him straight to the Supreme Court … because he is conservative and anti-activist. All the law professors shudder but fill their mouths with water. They don’t remember anything … As usual, they expect me to take their chestnuts out of the fire. Do you have any relevant recollections that you would be willing to share, of course anonymously?
A: My recollections of Alex are all positive. His writing is very conservative, of course. But he was always nice to me. We may disagree with each other, but I don’t think I have anything to say to help you with this particular matter. I think he was a good lecturer and a wise man. Sorry.
Kamir: That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to the rumors you shared with me at the time, that it was impossible to be in [a specific work situation which Mida keeps confidential] without sleeping with him. You were unhappy because everyone was sure that’s how you got the job. Remember?
A: No. I never said anything like that. It was not true when I was working as [withheld] and I’m pretty sure there were no rumors at the time. Remember, my predecessors were [three withheld names of men], and I doubt anyone ever thought that any of them had slept with Alex. I also never heard rumors about Alex sleeping with female students either.
A radical leftist activist, Kamir is renowned for her lawsuit against the Hebrew University for failing to promote her, because—she claimed—of her politics and her promotion of legislation to prevent sexual harassment. The university argued that the decision not to promote her was based on her “defective human relations.”
The affidavit she attached to her complaint with the committee to appoint judges also raises doubts about Kamir’s credibility. She wrote: “Stein’s departure from his family to establish a new family with a student who became pregnant from him is not unusual in the social context of those days.”
This casual bit of nastiness packs a serious charge against Prof. Stein, who broke up his family to move in with a student he had impregnated. It is, in fact, a masterwork of half-truths and libel: When Stein divorced his first wife, he hadn’t yet met his second wife, and when his new wife became pregnant it was four years after graduating from the Hebrew University.