Canadian justices jump to defend Israel’s “independent judiciary” – but ignore the role of the Israeli Supreme Court in allowing abuses of human rights of Palestinians

Former Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin (l) and former Justice Rosalie Abella (r) are among the over 70 Canadian jurists who have signed a letter warning about the proposed changes limiting the independence of the Israeli judiciary. It is well intentioned, but it misses the mark. It ignores the fact that while the Israeli Supreme Court is vigilant about protecting human rights for Jews, it has been giving cover to more serious ongoing abuses of Palestinian rights. Read more...

Seven retired Supreme Court judges, including former chief justice Beverley McLachlin, and 70 other Canadian jurists have signed a public statement urging the Israeli government to rethink proposed legal changes that will weaken the independence of the Israeli Supreme court.

The statement, written by University of Toronto academics Lorraine Weinrib and Ernest Weinrib, accuses Israel of forgetting the lessons of the Nazis’ mass murder of six million Jews. “We write out of concern that recent proposals to transform Israel’s legal system will weaken democratic governance, undermine the rule of law, jeopardize the independence of the judiciary and impair the protection of human rights.”

But while raising the flag about serious potential threats to the human rights of Israelis, the letter totally ignores an even bigger existing Israeli human rights problem in which the Israel’s existing Supreme Court judges has been deeply complicit. Those of the human rights of Palestinians.

“The president of Israel’s Supreme Court, gave an impassioned speech this month criticizing the radical overhaul of the judiciary proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government“, notes Hagar El-ad, executive director of Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. El-ad notes that in her speech, Justice Esther Hayuit gave many examples of where the Supreme Court has intervened to protect the rights of children, soldiers, LGBT and religious rights. “But, continues El-ad”, she made no mention whatsoever of Palestinian human rights. This omission cannot be accidental.”

Here are some other rulings by the Israeli Supreme Court which El-ad notes the Justice avoided mentioning:

  • permitting the expulsion of entire Palestinian communities in the West Bank, such as Khan al-Ahmar or the communities of Masafer Yatta.
  • sanctioning hundreds of cruel rulings, of collective punishment in the form of demolishing the homes of Palestinian families whose relatives attacked Israelis.
  • approvals of takeover of Palestinian lands by Israeli settlers
  • approval of Israel’s military policy in Gaza
  • upholding the legality of the “Admission Committees Law,” effectively banning Palestinians from living in undreds of communities in Israel;
  • upholding the the “Nakba Law,” imposing limitations on commemoration of the Nakba;
  • upholding the “Citizenship Law,” barring Palestinian spouses from gaining legal status in Israel; and
  • approving the the “Nation-State Law,” exclusively defining the state on ethnic Jewish terms.

Last year, Amnesty International released a 277 page report documenting what it claims are massive and widespread Israeli violations of the human rights of Palestinians, both inside Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It made headlines around the world because it formally charged Israel with committing the crime of “apartheid”.

Amnesty’s findings of human rights violations have been supported by accounts from several other reputable human rights organizations, including B’Tselem, Al Haq and Human Rights Watch. The reports are detailed, with hundreds of pages of evidence based on years of investigation, field reports and legal opinion. They document house demolitions, torture, imprisonment of children and repression of Palestinian and international human rights organizations, among other incidents.

The Israeli Supreme Court has ignored all of the allegations.

“Israel’s Supreme Court is no Human Rights Saviour, Just ask the Palestinians’, notes Nathaniel Berman in the Israeli daily Ha-aretz. “Even in the midst of the furious attacks on the Israeli Supreme Court as “leftist” and “elitist,” (…) the Court continues to authorize nearly every assault on Palestinian rights in the West Bank.”

“The Israeli Supreme Court has consistently declined to rule that the 300 Israeli settlements violate international law”, points out Michael Lynk, until recently UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. “These are clear breaches of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, and constitute war crimes under the 1998 Rome Statute. A court that is not prepared to defend the most basic precepts of human rights and dignity is a court that is no longer anchored to the rule of law,”

Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.

Want to learn more about us? Go to


  1. The letter writers know that if they had said anything about violation of Palestinian rights, it would be used by Netanyahu as an excuse to ignore their letter. In the minds of many Israelis such a statement would brand the authors as antisemites. It does not matter that there would be no truth in that; what matters is what would happen.

    Any jurist who had expressed concern for Palestinian rights in Israel would be unlikely to be appointed as a judge.

    Sad but true.

  2. Peter Good formulation , agree with you entirely

    this is the letter I sent to a number of the signatories on Feb.13th with the attached article.

    Dear Professor Crépeau

    The recent statement by the professors Weinrib on the transformation of Israel’s legal system which you signed is undoubtedly well intentioned.

    Unfortunately, as Hagai El-Ad the longtime director of B’Tselem the Israeli human rights organization, points out, the Israeli Supreme Court does not champion universal human rights but the human rights of Jews in a Jewish state. The human rights of Palestinians are left out.

    The Weinrib statement misses that crucial point entirely.In so doing it whitewashes the Israeli Supreme Court of its anti-Palestinian decisions .

    I have enclosed Mr. Hagai El-Ad’s recent article and respectfully invite your comments .

    Yours truly > > Paul Tétrault, MA,LLB.


  3. Good stuff Peter. Rosalie Abella is the Honourary Co-chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (RWCHR). RWCHR is concerned about the following alphabet soup of human rights abuses: Armenia, Bahai World Faith, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma,Camaroon, Canada, China, Christians, Cuba, Darfur,Egypt, El Salvador, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jews, Khazakstan, Malaysia, Muslims, Poland, Rohinga, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sunni, Thailand, Venezuela, Zimbzbwe.
    One would think that RWCHR Chair Irwin Cotler could have squeezed a few million Palestinians into his list but they are nowhere to be found. However, prominent Zionists like Alan Dershowitz and Gil Troy (who labels Jewish critics of Israel as “unjews”) are members of RWCHR and they do a good job of”disappearing” the Palestinians. Rosalie Abella is a typical “PeP”, progressive except for Palestine. Of course if you are not “progressive” about Palestine, you are not really progressive about anything.

  4. Here is from HAARETZ newspaper.
    One more reason for the changes.
    Unfortunately I could not transfer the podcast.
    Israel News | Podcasts
    LISTEN: Is Netanyahu’s Corruption Trial the Real Reason for Israel’s Judicial Overhaul?
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his lawyers at the Jerusalem District court as his corruption trial begins, May 2020.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his lawyers at the Jerusalem District court as his corruption trial begins, May 2020. Credit: RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP
    Haaretz Weekly
    Get email notification for articles from Haaretz Weekly
    Feb 16, 2023 2:20 pm IST
    The fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is running the country as his corruption trial continues no longer shocks Israelis. But maybe it should?

    Yael Freidson, Haaretz’s legal correspondent, has covered the Netanyahu trial every day since it began in 2020. On this episode of Haaretz Weekly she tells host Allison Kaplan Sommer there is no way to avoid the clear conflict of interest when a leader facing serious charges heads a government that wants to radically transform the legal system.

    “There are several ways in which Netanyahu could influence the course of his trial,” she explains. Freidson also reflects on the atmosphere of the court proceedings in Jerusalem – at which Netanyahu is completely absent.

  5. Thanks for this Peter. Seems that Palestinian human rights do not even warrant a footnote.

Comments are closed.