The American Association of Jewish Lawyers & Jurists (AAJLJ) is a nonprofit association representing the American Jewish legal community.
We bring our community together to defend Jewish interests and human rights in the United States and abroad.
In late June several AAJLJ Board members traveled to Israel for meetings with legal experts, judges, past and present government officials , and policy think tanks, to learn more about current issues and controversies in the legal sphere; issues that have generated disagreements and dissension within the American Jewish community and between some American Jews and Israel.
Harold Halpern (pictured on top row, second from right), retired Sarasota attorney and long-time AAJLJ Board Member, wrote a series of articles for the Sarasota Herald Tribune chronicling the trip and several important issues that were raised during discussions, all of which can be found on www.heraldtribune.com.
Sarasota attorney off to Israel to hold diverse dialogues (June 20, 2019)
Questions about democracy in Israel, the basis and status (June 27, 2019)
On July 19, 2018, the Knesset adopted a Basic Law entitled “Israel — The Nation State of the Jewish People,” which declares that Israel is the state of the Jewish people and sets forth the state’s symbols and capital as the undivided Jerusalem, Hebrew as its official language with Arabic having special status, and affirms its connection with the Jewish people and encourages settlement as a national value.
The new law incorporates that portion of the Declaration of Independence that iterates Israel is a Jewish nation, but raises the question whether it impinges on the portion of the Declaration that declares in powerful words that Israel shall be a democratic state and shall extend equal rights to all citizens including Arabs and minorities (click link below to continue reading)
Sarasota attorney on visit’s discussion of BDS and religious pluralism (July 1, 2019)
I turn now to BDS, a serious effort in the U.S., Europe and the world to damage the status and economy of Israel and in the U.S. to turn students, universities and others away from support and business dealings with Israel. On college campuses, BDS presses to boycott and divest and sometimes intimidates Jewish students. On the economic front, no significant damage has been done, but the stress on Jewish students can be severe.
Supporters of BDS claim they are not anti-Semitic, but anti-Zionists opposed to Israeli policies in its treatment of Arabs and issues in the West Bank. The truth is that BDS claims that the Jewish people are not entitled to a nation that is Jewish. Courts have determined that this type of anti-Israel effort is anti-Semitism. Moreover, we have been told that BDS money at the top level goes to terrorist organizations. Serious effort to curb BDS is being taken by governmental action, by anti-BDS legislation, by proclamations of governments around the world and by legal actions (click link below to continue reading)
Sarasota attorney: Tackling issues of the West Bank, Golan Heights (July 5, 2019)
I begin writing this column from the lounge at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport awaiting our flight to return home. We have had a rich experience engaging with leaders of diverse backgrounds and opinions on vital topics. Now I am finishing this column on my flight home. There is recent speculation that Israel may annex a portion or all of West Bank and the Golan Heights. Each presents a different legal analysis. We explored the legal issues in our dialogues. There is a divide between right and left.
The West Bank and all of Palestine was under the mandate of Great Britain until 1947, when the United Nations approved a partition plan that divided Palestine into a homeland for the Jews and a part for Arabs. The Arabs rejected the plan and, in 1948, attacked Israel when it declared its Jewish state. That fighting ended in an armistice, with Jordan occupying the West Bank and the eastern part of Jerusalem. Later, Jordan annexed the land, but that was later rescinded (click link below to continue reading).
Sarasota attorney: Are American and Israeli Jews Drifting Apart? (July 10, 2019)
In this column, I am writing about the relations of American Jews and Israeli Jews. Before doing so, I have a minor correction to my last article. Area B of the West Bank is controlled by the Palestinians except for Israeli control over security. Area C is controlled completely by Israel.
American Jews and Israeli Jews today come from two different backgrounds. Jews in America grew up in a society giving the greatest opportunity they ever enjoyed — despite shortcomings on the way. Jewish prosperity stems in part from the liberal democratic order that permitted this freedom. Jews as a minority are protected by this liberal order. So many Jews want to protect this order.
Israeli Jews in contrast are a majority. Many are preoccupied with majority rights and view liberal democracy protection of minorities impinging on majority rights.
And of course Israel’s very existence for its 72-year current history still is threatened by its surrounding neighbors, which tests the tenets of democracy as those in the United States have been tested in times of stress during our wars.
These differences lead to some stress in the relationships, particularly from younger generations. Many American Jews of the liberal order are skeptical of Israeli commitment to peace with Palestinians. However, many Israelis have negative feelings about criticism from U.S. Jews who are not living in threatened conditions. They also are upset that most American Jews supported the Iran agreement, which they felt endangered their survival (click link below to continue reading).
Sarasota attorney: Israeli court protects democracy (July 18, 2019)
The Israel Supreme Court consists of 15 judges who serve until age 70 and are selected by a professional, nonpolitical-controlled committee. Early on, after the establishment of the state of Israel, the Supreme Court decided, following the precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court, that it had the power, authority and duty to determine whether actions of government and or laws of Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) were constitutional. This power, this authority, is the basic fundamental check to ensure democracy is not threatened.
And the Supreme Court has exercised its authority (including on security issues), testing the constitutional (Basic Law) validity by applying the rule of proportionality as the overarching principle of constitutionality. This principle requires the court to balance the public good of the law against the infringement on individual rights and whether the infringement is the least possible to achieve the public good. If the balance is in favor of the public good with least infringement, the law or action is constitutional. If the infringement is greater than public good or greater than necessary, the action is unconstitutional (click link below to continue reading).
Sarasota attorney: Is a two-state solution in Israel possible (August 1, 2019)
Many have suggested that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians could be resolved only by the “two-state solution.” However, all efforts to reach this solution have failed during the last 70 years. Nahum Barnea, an Israeli prize-winning journalist, told a group of us during a recent visit to the Middle East that “there is now no solution to the West Bank.”
The Palestinian narrative and the Israeli narrative are in direct conflict. The Palestinian narrative is that Israel has no right to be there, that the land from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River is theirs. Thus, they claim that they have the right to violently resist Israel’s presence (click link below to continue reading).
On Monday, December 10, 2018, the AAJLJ presented its Annual Pursuit of Justice Award to two distinguished legal figures; Robert Abrams (left), former Attorney General of New York, and Gabe Groisman (right), Mayor of Bal Harbour who wrote and passed the nation’s first municipal anti-BDS ordinance.
Past POJ Honorees
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (the first recipient)
Justice Elena Kagan
Justice Stephen Breyer
Judge Judith Kaye
Judge Aharon Barak of the Israel Supreme Court
Hon. Guido Calabresi
Hon. Michael Mukasey