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How does Israel's legal system protect human rights and basic freedoms?

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How does Israel's legal system protect human rights and basic freedoms?

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How does Israel's legal system protect human rights and basic freedoms?

All citizens of Israel - regardless of their race, religion or sex - enjoy equal rights and protections under the law. This principle dates to the founding document of modern Israel, the May 1948 Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel. This declaration of independence proclaimed that the State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

Although the Declaration is not a legally binding constitutional document, it maintains its influence as a guiding principle in the interpretation of laws. Its centrality was acknowledged in the1992 Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, which explicitly provides that the human rights included in the law shall be interpreted "in the spirit of the principles in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel."

Like the United Kingdom, Israel does not have a formal, written constitution. This does not mean that basic human rights and civil liberties are not constitutionally protected. Soon after the founding of the State, the Knesset began to enact a series of basic laws relating to all aspects of life, which will eventually be brought together to form a written constitution. As well as the basic laws outlining the primary features of government, additional laws have been passed which deal with fundamental rights, such as the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.

In the absence of a formal bill of rights, Israel's judiciary has played a key role in the protection of civil liberties and the rule of law. In addition to the Basic Laws, a body of case law has developed over the years that protects civil liberties. Equality, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion are but a few of the basic rights that are considered fundamental values by Israel's legal system. Israel's constitutional system is based on two fundamental tenets: that the State is democratic and that it is also Jewish. There is no contraction between the two.

Beyond its contribution to case law, the Supreme Court has another unique function. In its capacity as a High Court of Justice and acting as the court of first and last instance, the Supreme Court hears petitions brought by individuals appealing for redress against a government body or agent. This means that any individual living in Israel or the territories, can appeal directly to the highest court in the land, and request immediate assistance if they believe their rights are being violated by any government body or by the armed forces. These petitions play an important role in guaranteeing individual human rights for both Israeli citizens and Palestinians.

Israel's judicial system - first and foremost the Supreme Court, the watchdog of Israel's democracy - has played a vital role in ensuring that all Israelis, Jewish and Arab, enjoy the same level of protection of their human rights and civil liberties as citizens of other Western democracies.


These texts are taken from material published by the Israel Ministry of Foreign affairs. with additional comments and hyperlinked materials. They were apparently published in connection with the Annapolis peace conference of 2007, but they have extensive applicability beyond it. They explain fundamentals of Israeli policy as well as the meaning of Zionism and history of the conflict.

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Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs text is at Israel, the Conflict and Peace. Original text  is copyright by Ami Isseroff and Zionism-Israel Center.

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