ICON-S Israeli Chapter – Activities report for 2017–2018

Chapter co-chairs: prof. Moshe Cohen Eliya (College of Law and Business); prof. Gila Stopler (College of Law and Business)

Chapter secretary: Bell Yosef (doctoral candidate, Tel Aviv University)§

 

Overview

We are happy to announce that during the past year we strengthened our status as the leading academic community of public law in Israel, as we strive to do since the foundation of the Israeli chapter in 2014. In line with ICON-S’s Values and perceptions, we positioned the Israeli chapter as a meaningful player in the academic field, which takes a substantial role in developing (and sometimes sparking) the Israeli public law debate.

We believe that this role is particularly important in Israel, and especially in the last two years. One can identify a sequence of attempts to advance legislation that is not in line with basic values of constitutionalism and equality. Within this context, the presence of a strong academic voice is even more important. As a matter of policy we do our best to offer a rich and diverse platform for different voices and broaden the constitutional discourse.

This year we focused, as will be elaborated below, on two goals: The first is to preserve our status as the leading public law association for the academic community in Israel through academic conferences and publications. The second is to open the conversation to a wider audience, mainly through our academic blog and Facebook group, both of which consist of a diverse audience, while maintaining the academic nature of our activities.

Our main activities in the past year are detailed below.

 

 

The fourth annual ICON-S-IL conference – (11–12.3.2018)

This year was the fourth year that we held the ICON-S-IL annual conference, which has become the main event for the public law (as well as international law) academic community in Israel. Each year, the ICON-S-IL board nominates one of the faculties of law to assume responsibility for hosting, steering, and organizing the conference. The model gives full discretion to the host institution, while providing academic and administrative support from the chapter. This year the conference was hosted by the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. The academic committee of the conference was chaired by Prof. Rivka Weill. Its members included Prof. Aaron Barak, Prof. Lior Barshack, Prof. Asif Efrat, Dr. Adam Shinar, and Dr. Yaniv Roznai, and it was assisted by the Israeli chapter’s co-chairs.

This year the conference has reached a peak number of 150 (!) presentations in 28 Panels and served as a forum for senior and young scholars, as well as legal practitioners, Cadis, rabbinical court judges and Supreme Court Justices. The vast majority of the leading, as well as upcoming, figures in the constitutional, administrative and international law field in Israel took part in the conference, including scholars from social science, political science and international relations departments.

The rich plenaries included two special sessions. The first was the opening ceremony, which dealt with the hot-button issue of Israel’s nature as a Jewish and Democratic state in light of proposed Basic Law: Israel the Nation-State of the Jewish People. This session, due to its political and controversial nature, drew media attention. The second special session included a lively discussion on the role of the academia in social involvement and in particular on the recent attempts by the Minister of Education to impose an ethical code restricting academic freedom in this area. The conference also included a workshop for doctoral students with the Supreme Court Justice, Prof. Daphne Barak-Erez, who discussed legal writing and judicial writing.

The conference and the academic committee won great compliments, and we wish to thank Prof. Rivka Weill for an outstanding management and steering of the conference. The link for the conference’s full program (Hebrew):

https://www.idc.ac.il/he/schools/law/Documents/icon_conf.pdf


A special issue on “The changing landscape of Israeli Constitutionalism” for ICON

We have completed our work on the special issue on “The changing landscape of Israeli Constitutionalism” and have submitted the issue to ICON. The special issue includes 6 articles and an introduction covering a range of developments in Israeli constitutional law in the last 20 years, and it was edited by Prof. Barak Medina, Dr. Adam Shinar and Prof. Gila Stopler. The issue’s articles are currently under review by ICON.


The Inauguration of ICON-S Israel Democracy Project (30.11.2017)

ICON-S Israeli branch’s main academic field of interest this year was “Constitutional Capture” or democratic backsliding, as has been brought to the front in the ICON-S-IL Blog and in ICONnect Blog (see details below). In order to launch the project, and to broaden our perspective, we organized an opening event that was held at College of Law and Business (in Ramat Gan), and included a Lecture by Prof. Wojciech Sadurski, “Constitutional capture in Poland and Hungary”, and a discussion about constitutional capture in Israel, led by ICON-IL chapter co-chairs, Prof. Moshe Cohen Eliya and Prof. Gila Stopler.

The link to the inauguration event brochure (English):

http://www.clb.ac.il/uploads/icon-s-17(3).pdf

 

Planned International Conference on Democratic Backsliding and Human Rights

As part of the Democracy Project we will hold an international conference jointly with The College of Law and Business and the Israel Democracy Institute in January 2019 on Democratic Backsliding and Human Rights. Papers from the conference will be published in a special issue of the journal Law and Ethics of Human Rights after double blind peer review.

 

Icon-s Israel Statement on the Israeli Government Proposal for an All-encompassing Override Clause

On April 29th 2018 the Israeli chapter of ICON-S has issued a statement opposing the Israeli Government proposal to enact an all-encompassing override (notwithstanding) clause that would prevent the Israeli Supreme Court from invalidating unconstitutional laws. The statement reads as follows:

“The various override clauses currently suggested undermine the constitutional protection of minority rights within a democratic regime as well as human rights in general. The comparison between the situation in Israel and the models of override (or of parliamentary supremacy) that exist in other countries such as Canada or Britain, is overly simplistic, both due to the existence of other constitutional guarantees for checks and balances in these states, and due to the constitutional and political cultures of these states.

Icon-s Israel views the current attempt to enact an override clause as part of a wholesale attempt by the government to weaken Israeli democracy and its watchdog institutions. The enactment of an override clause will restrict the ability of the Supreme Court to stop other government branches from violating the constitution and will further deepen the process of democratic backsliding occurring in Israel in recent years.”

 

A local ICON Blog

Our blog, ICON-S-IL Blog, was established at the beginning of 2017 as an academic intellectual “Hyde Park”. Over the past year it has achieved its goal and become a dynamic platform for the discussion of public law (broadly defined) in Israel. Although it is a blog and not a full-fledged journal publication, we strive to maintain the highest academic standards. Devoted to ICON-S’ and our own chapter’s basic values, we keep the blog a wide and inclusive arena, accepting experienced as well as young writers, with a wide range of opinions and interests. As such, the blog has been offering strong and founded arguments, as well as fresh voices and conflicting opinions on a host of highly important and timely public law issues.

Over the past year our Blog has published numerous individual posts written by Israel’s best public law scholars and practitioners. We publish a post at least once a week, and the blog wins many views. In addition in the past year we have published 3 mini-symposiums on cutting edge public law issues. One dedicated to the 50th “anniversary” of Israel’s belligerent occupation of Judea and Samaria that was edited by Dr. Adam Shinar; the second devoted to the planned deportation of the Africans asylum seekers, following the Israeli Supreme Court Judgment on that matter (APA 8101/15 Scegta v. The Minister of Interior Affairs), edited by Dr. Tally Amir; and the third dealing with the Israeli Supreme Court Judgment in the matter of Quantinski (HCJ 10042/16), which annulled a portion of the omnibus Arrangements Law due to a flaw in the legislative process, that was edited by Dr. Yaniv Roznai.

Our inaugural mini-symposium that launched the Blog was edited by Prof. Gila Stopler, and dealt with the question Is Israel in the midst of a constitutional capture or a constitutional retrogression?” Since our last report an English version of this mini-symposium was published as a mini-symposium in ICONnect. We wish to thank, once again, ICONnect editors, Prof. Richard Albert, Prof. Tom Ginsburg, and Prof. David Landau, for inspiring the establishment of the Israeli blog and for their cooperation.

 

Looking ahead:

There are three topics which we hope to further develop in the next year:

  1. Young academia: in recent years there are more and more young scholars, especially LL.M’s. and Ph.D’s who write on public law issues. We wish to bring them together and create a young academic community for the future generation of Israel’s public law scholars that would make a true contribution to promoting public law issues, in Israel and abroad.

 

  1. Our Facebook group: alongside our Blog, we manage a Facebook group, which is an online and immediate platform for discussions on Israeli and International current affairs. We wish to deepen the participation in that group and make it complementary to our Blog, a leading social-network arena for day-to-day public law argumentation.

 

  1. As part of our Democracy Project we have proposed to the international ICON-S the establishment of a thematic research group on “Democratic Backsliding”. We hope that the proposal to establish thematic research groups will be discussed and approved at the coming ICON-S conference in Hong Kong, in which case we will continue with our plans to establish the thematic group.
  • We would like to thank the former chapter secretary, Nadiv Mordechai, for his excellent work as the first secretary of the Israeli chapter.