In times of war, constitutional courts frequently fail to defend civil liberties. There is no shortage of examples of this from around the world, often stemming from an impulse to avoid conflict with the national security establishment in order to avoid losing public support. In the wake of the Hamas-led attacks on October 7 and Israel’s ongoing bombardment of the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Supreme Court has been no exception.
Since last year’s Israeli election, the Supreme Court has been the subject of a fierce battle between an emboldened far-right government that seeks to strip it of its powers, and a mass protest movement that has sought to defend it and uphold its role as a protector of human and civil rights. Over the past two months, however, the Court has appeared totally subservient to the government, the war cabinet, and the police, repeatedly refusing to block severe violations of citizens’ rights. In fact, several rulings from recent weeks exhibit how the national trauma of October 7 has influenced justices’ judicial decision making.
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