David Remnick’s Ignorance Knows No Bounds

David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker magazine, once remarked “It’s one thing to be ignorant, it’s another to parade it as sophistication,” which has to rate as one of the greatest self-owns in history. For it’s hard to imagine a more apt description of Remnick himself, whose fatuous ignorance and faux sophistication are nowhere more evident than when he writes about Israel.

The latest example is Remnick’s Is This the End of Bibi?, the usual rehash of anti-Netanayahu propaganda, relying on the usual hack reporters like Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer, whom Remnick would have his readers believe is “a leading Israeli journalist.”

One paragraph in particular stands out in this latest Remnick effort, because it exemplifies his astounding ignorance, and it’s not even directly about Netanyahu.

Commenting on judicial reform in Israel, Remnick asserts:

Next week, the Knesset is poised to get rid of the so-called reasonableness clause, a stricture borrowed from British tradition which allows the Supreme Court to strike down actions of the legislature. Such a move, in a state with no constitution, would undermine what modest balance of powers exists in Israeli political life.

It’s amazing – even for Remnick – to make so many errors in just two sentences.

(1) What “reasonableness clause?” Such a “clause” exists nowhere in Israeli law – as applied to legislation passed by the Knesset (parliament) the notion was simply invented by Israel’s activist Supreme Court.

(2) What British tradition “allows the Supreme Court to strike down actions of the legislature?” It must be an exceedingly recent “British tradition,” since Britain didn’t even have a Supreme Court until 2009.

And, in any event, the British parliament isn’t subject to the British Supreme Court – it is sovereign (ie supreme). Indeed, as the website of the UK’s parliament states:

Parliamentary sovereignty is a principle of the UK constitution. It makes Parliament the supreme legal authority in the UK, which can create or end any law. Generally, the courts cannot overrule its legislation and no Parliament can pass laws that future Parliaments cannot change. Parliamentary sovereignty is the most important part of the UK constitution. (emphasis added)

In accord with this principle of “parliamentary sovereignty” the web site of the UK’s Supreme Court explains:

Unlike some Supreme Courts in other parts of the world, the UK Supreme Court does not have the power to ‘strike down’ legislation passed by the UK Parliament. It is the Court’s role to interpret the law and develop it where necessary, rather than formulate public policy.

Israel’s planned judicial reforms would move it back towards the British system, with a Knesset once more sovereign, as it was for Israel’s first 44 years. (For more details on Israel’s judicial reforms see Is Judicial Reform a Threat to Israeli Democracy?)

Ignorant of all this, Remnick approvingly quotes a former Israeli general who claims that with the reforms Israel would become an illegitimate dictatorship.

An illegitimate dictatorship like it was in the days of Ben-Gurion, Levi Eshkol, Shimon Peres, Moshe Dayan, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, Teddy Kollek and Menachem Begin?

An illegitimate dictatorship like Great Britain, or New Zealand, whose Parliament is also sovereign?

What’s illegitimate is Remnick’s self-proclaimed expertise about Israel, when in reality his ignorance on the subject is vast and unbounded.

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