JUDGMENT IN JERUSALEM: Simon Agranat and the Zionist Century by Pnina Lahav

JUDGMENT IN JERUSALEM: Simon Agranat and the Zionist Century

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Lahav, a Boston University law professor raised in Israel, provides a textured portrait of the life, times, and legal decisions of American-raised Simon Agranat, former chief justice of Israel's Supreme Court. Lahav's Israeli-American perspective helps her analyze the profound influence of progressive American ideology and legal writing on Israel's most prolific jurist. During Agranat's tumultuous years on Israel's Supreme Court (1948--76), he even cited Abraham Lincoln while shaping Israel's judicial history. Agranat is seen as the pivotal force who ""steered the Israeli judiciary away from legal formalities and toward a more substantive understanding of the meaning of law."" Occasionally, Agranat disappoints Lahav's own, more liberal stances on separation of church and state and the rights of Israeli Arabs to mount political challenges to the Jewish state. For all its reforms, the Agranat Court could not tolerate Palestinian nationalism. Lahav sets Agranat's most public episode, the Eichmann trial of 1960, within the ideological context of universal ""Utopian"" Zionism's struggle with the insular ""Catastrophic"" Zionism; the latter wins out as Agranat betrays his former opposition to the death penalty as a lesson to the world. Lahav sees the Agranat Commission in the wake of the Yom Kippur War as the justice's greatest challenge and legacy. In examining the reasons for national unreadiness in this disastrous surprise attack, Agranat secured both his integrity and his unpopularity. Most Israelis identified with the army (which the commission pilloried) and resented Golds Meir and Moshe Dayan (who were vindicated). The book offers a unique view of Israeli legal history and is far too readable (and relevant) to be dismissed as simply a judicial biography.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Univ. of California