May Golan, the Minister for Advancement of the Status of Women and member of the Likud party, said on Wednesday that the Israel’s Supreme Court allowed the “rape of women and robbery of the elderly” by rejecting petitions against the deportation of asylum seekers. In an interview about the growing insubordination in the Israeli military over the judicial overhaul with the Kan public broadcaster, Golan launched into a tirade against the court on the issue.
“When I wanted to eradicate illegal infiltration in south Tel Aviv, the High Court rejected [the petition] three times, and allowed the continued rape of women and robbery of the elderly,” she said. When challenged about the relevancy of her comment, Golan insisted. “I didn’t see officers worrying about the freedom of these women, or generals worrying about the elderly women who had to stay at home,” she said.
Golan, as well as other politicians on the far-right, have long campaigned to repatriate asylum seekers. In 2014, she told an anti-migrant rally in Tel Aviv that “If I’m racist in order to preserve my life, I’m proud to be racist.” Around 14,000 asylum seekers – mostly from Eritrea and Sudan – reside in south Tel Aviv, according to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants.
High Court’s role in Basic Laws
Golan’s remarks came amid a heated debate over the Law to Cancel the Reasonableness Standard that passed into law last week. The law is an amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary, and as such has quasi-constitutional status. The law gives the Knesset more power to override High Court rulings that strike down laws as unconstitutional. The law has been criticized by legal experts, human rights groups, and opposition parties as a threat to democracy and judicial independence.
The High Court has never struck down an amendment to a Basic Law, but has indicated in past rulings that it could do so for one of two reasons: negative use of the Knesset’s constitutional power, or an “unconstitutional constitutional amendment.” The High Court has also ruled in favor of asylum seekers in several cases, such as granting them access to health care and social benefits, and limiting their detention time.
The Likud party issued a statement on Monday warning the High Court against a possible intervention in Basic Laws. “The government of Israel always took care to respect the law and rulings by the High Court, and the High Court always took care to respect Basic Laws,” the Likud wrote. “Both of these pillars serve as the basis of the rule of law in Israel and of the balance between the branches of government in every democracy. Any divergence from one of these principles will create great damage to Israeli democracy, which in these days needs calm, dialogue and responsibility.”
Opposition leader’s response
Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid criticized Golan’s statement on Facebook. “The threatening letter sent to the High Court was clear: ‘Basic Laws have never been disqualified by the High Court,’ the message clarified, ‘so do not even try to touch them now. You are in the crosshair,” Lapid wrote. The opposition leader argued that the government could not take advantage of Basic Laws to pass something “lopsided, hurried, and negligent,” and then expect the High Court not to intervene.
Lapid also condemned Golan’s accusation that the High Court allowed rape by asylum seekers. “This is a disgraceful statement that incites violence against an entire population,” he wrote. “The minister responsible for advancing women’s status should be ashamed of herself for using such language.”
Lapid called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire Golan from her position and apologize to the High Court and the asylum seekers. He also urged the public to join a protest rally on Saturday night against the judicial reform bill and other anti-democratic measures by the government.