The shocking video of an Israeli soldier executing a wounded man lying prostrate on the ground in the West Bank city of Hebron last March threatened to do irreparable damage to the “enlightened conqueror” image that Israel tries so hard to present to the world. That damage pales in comparison, however, to the deep cracks left in the pillars of Israeli democracy by the affair of the “shooting soldier,” Elor Azaria. In a somewhat ironic coincidence, on the day after Azaria's court martial sentencing, the state’s Judicial Appointments Committee on Feb. 22 appointed four new justices to the Supreme Court. Since the founding of the state, never have the prospects for justices' appointments depended so heavily on the similarity between their political views and those of the sitting government. Indeed, three of the four justices selected by the committee are considered conservatives.
When I was young, we were taught that the court was a place where people went to get justice. We were told that the judicial and enforcement arms of government, which also includes prosecutors and police, were equipped with the best possible tools for protecting the values of morality, equality and compassion. The most cherished tool among them was said to be public trust in the integrity of judges and their ability to render justice impartially. Indeed, it is incumbent on an enlightened state to maintain a system of checks and balances through its various courts and judicial panels.