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As Israeli streets continue to erupt in protest over proposed judicial reforms and the passage of a new law addressing the Supreme Court’s “reasonableness” standard, the Israeli and American left, including former Israeli Prime Ministers leading the protests, Democrats in Congress, American Jewish organizations, and international media are united in cries of democracy on the brink, an attempted coup by the Netanyahu governing coalition, and impending totalitarianism. All of these claims are exaggerations designed to prevent the Netanyahu government, duly elected by the Israeli citizenry, from moving forward with its campaign promises but they are worse than that. The hyperbolic rhetoric and accompanying protests are having great implications on the ability of the Israeli government, medical institutions, military, and basic civil services from functioning leading to dangerous strife and long-term damage to the Jewish homeland, all while the international community, including Israel’s enemies, look on drawing their own conclusions. Threats of military reservists retiring and refusing to serve, doctors leaving the country, tech companies pulling out, and other damaging steps being taken by angry leftists seeking to save their democracy are reported incessantly by both Israeli and American media outlets portraying a dire situation for the Jewish state. Join us for an in-depth discussion with international law expert, Avi Bell, and prolific journalist, Jonathan Tobin, to understand the history of Israel’s judicial system, what the judicial reform proposals actually are, and what they would change in the Israeli government’s day-to-day operations, and what the protests are really about and their implications on the survival of Israel’s democratically elected government and well-being more generally.
About the Speakers:
Avi Bell is an Israeli Professor of Law at the University of San Diego School of Law and at Bar-Ilan University’s Faculty of Law. Bell received his B.A. and J.D. from the University of Chicago, and his S.J.D. from Harvard. He interned in the office of Israeli Supreme Court judge Mishael Cheshin.
In addition, Bell frequently writes about the Arab-Israeli conflict. He also debated Richard Goldstone in a debate at Stanford Law School entitled “The Goldstone Report and the Application of International Law to the Arab-Israeli Conflict,” where a few days later, Goldstone said that “contrary to the report’s assertions, Israel did not intentionally target civilians.”
In 2006, Bell criticized Human Rights Watch for its reports on the Second Lebanon War, claiming that the organization’s claims “mislead readers and betray … bias,” and that “HRW investigation [in Srifa, Lebanon] was either professionally incompetent or a complete fabrication” and “nothing more than window dressing for predetermined anti-Israel conclusions.” Human Rights Watch responded by claiming that Bell “displays a curious ignorance about even the basic requirements of international humanitarian law” However, a 2007 report of Human Rights Watch admitted that its “allegation [of criminality in Srifa] turned out to be wrong.” The report stated that “eyewitnesses were not always forthcoming about the identity of those that died, and in the case of Srifa, misled our researchers … a visit to the graveyard made it possible to establish that most of those killed in Srifa were actually combatants,” and concluding that “further Human Rights Watch investigations into a deadly strike at Srifa established that an Israeli attack there killed 17 combatants and five civilians on July 19, not the 26 civilians claimed in Fatal Strikes” and “Human Rights Watch regrets the serious inaccuracy in its initial Fatal Strikes report.”
Bell was formerly a visiting professor at Fordham University School of Law and the University of Connecticut School of Law. He currently teaches classes on property and intellectual property at University of San Diego School of Law, and on property, intellectual property and public international law at Bar-Ilan University’s Faculty of Law. Bell also serves as Senior Fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum.
Jonathan S. Tobin is Editor-in-Chief of the Jewish News Syndicate — JNS.org — an international wire service covering the Jewish world and Israel. He’s also a senior contributor for The Federalist and a columnist for Newsweek, the New York Post, Haaretz and Israel Hayom, as well as a regular contributor for other publications such as The Washington Examiner and Commentary magazine. He covers the American political scene, foreign policy, the U.S.-Israel relationship, Middle East diplomacy and the Jewish world.
Previous to becoming editor of JNS, Mr. Tobin was executive editor, senior online editor and chief political blogger for Commentary magazine. He also served as editor-in-chief of the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia and editor of the Connecticut Jewish Ledger.
Mr. Tobin has won more than 50 awards including Top Columnist for Jewish publications ten times, most recently in 2018 and 2019. He appears regularly on television commenting on politics in the United States and Israel, foreign policy and Jewish affairs, and lectures on college campuses and to Jewish communities.
Mr. Tobin was born in New York City, attended local schools and studied history at Columbia University.