Barzilai on Law, Politics, and the Adjudication of Religious Issues

Gad Barzilai (University of Washington – Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies) has posted Law is Politics. The abstract follows.

In his essay, “Law or Politics: Israeli Constitutional Adjudication as a Case Study,” Gideon Sapir is coping with some problems concerning adjudication of religious issues. He presumes that there is a certain dichotomy that differentiates “law” from “politics,” since the first deals with norms and the second with regulating and balancing political branches. Sapir’s article, in my opinion, proves that law is politics in a sense that law generates and embodies political and socioeconomic interests, identities, and consciousness. I argue below that politics cannot be differentiated from law, and therefore cannot respond to Sapir’s aspiration to de-politicize adjudication and to monitor and hamper the effects of personal backgrounds and worldviews on judicial rulings. I analyze some of Sapir’s findings and arguments from a critical perspective that law is politics.

The subject matter of religious justices in supreme courts are particularly relevant in countries where almost no institutional and constitutional separation between state and religion prevails. In countries like Israel that have not separated state from religion, and have used religion as part of state nationality and legal ideology, the background of the justices and their basic worldviews will most often be a reflection and articulation of interactions between religion, state power foci, and state ideology. The Israeli Jewish political elite has used Orthodox religion to legitimize the state, and hence has used the non-separation of nationality and religion embedded in Zionism, for political purposes.

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