Distributed on April 14th, 2023*
The Israeli Law Professors’ Forum for Democracy, an ad hoc and voluntary group of experts on Israeli law and specifically Israeli public law, expresses its grave concern over the apparent intention to abolish the independence of the judiciary, to subordinate it to the government and to the partisan political considerations of the executive branch, to undermine the independent status of the attorney general and civil service legal counsels, and to violate human rights. In this position paper we address the expected detrimental effects of the antidemocratic regime changes on Israeli Academia, on institutions of higher education, on faculty members, and on students’ rights.
We find that:
· In light of international experience, the content of coalition agreements, the bills currently being prepared for legislation in the Knesset, and declarations by various Ministers - there is ample cause for concern that the reforms being promoted by the government will compromise research and teaching in institutions of higher education in Israel, and the international status of Israel’s academia will suffer as a result.
· The damage to Israeli academia has severe implications for Israeli democracy more generally since democracy cannot be sustained without academia. Given academia’s unique role in promoting democracy, damaging it may render the antidemocratic regime overhaul irreversible.
· In the absence of an independent and effective judiciary, the academic community and students will have no protection against abuse of government power, and especially against possible violation of the rights to equality, academic freedom, and free speech.
· There is substantial danger to academic faculty’s occupational security, conditions of employment and ability to perform academic research freely and professionally.
· Specific groups in academia are especially susceptible to harm, including adjunct professors, untenured faculty, women, Palestinians, and others.
· Institutions of higher education are likely to incur various harms—including with respect to their budget, to the quality of research they are able to perform, and to the quality of students they will enroll.
· The reforms might also infringe upon students’ rights—their academic freedom and free speech on campus. The threat to the status of Israel’s higher education might also result in “brain drain”, whereby highly capable students will choose to study abroad.
The full paper is available in Hebrew.
* We, members of the Israeli Law Professors’ Forum for Democracy, hold different academic views regarding the details of the various reforms proposed by Israel’s 37th Government to change Israel’s democratic regime. However, we are united in the opinion that the host of the government's proposals - which are an unprecedentedly severe attack on the independence of the judiciary, the Attorney General and government legal advisors, the police, the military, and public broadcasting - will seriously damage the rule of law and Israel's democratic character. Therefore, we joined this forum to make our professional opinion available to the public at this fateful time. The position papers or other professional materials produced by us reflect the prevailing position among the members, even if they are not unanimous. The list of Forum’s members and all position papers on our behalf are available at https://lawprofsforum.org. Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lawprofsforum. Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org.