The Secret German Sources of the Israeli Supreme Court

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This paper analyzes the effects of the German background and legal education of about one half of Israel's supreme court judges during the state's first three decades. After presenting the basic statistics and biographical sketches of the first-generation "German" judges of Israel's supreme court, the authors explore the significance of this collective biographical profile. Several significant court decisions are analyzed, in respect to the uses of German history, including the Nazi rise to power and the covert impact of the German legal and juridical tradition. It is suggested that the German-born and German-educated judges, despite their differences, brought a particular liberal approach to Israel's judicial branch. They were able to stand up to Ben Gurion's government from a very early stage, thus affording the young state a true and solid separation of powers. Their experience with Weimar and Nazi Germany affected their views of civil librety, freedom of speech and the defense of democracy. They enriched Israeli public discourse by German-inspired concepts, including "a state governed by law [Rechtsstaat]" and "the enlightened public". Also discussed is the interplay of this German tradition with the Anglo-American sources of Israel's judiciary.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-192
JournalIsrael Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998


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