Does Dignity Promote Law's Autonomy or Undermine It? The Israeli Controversy

Abstract: In Israel, as in other parts of the world, liberals view human dignity and the human rights it inspires and supports as a supreme universal principle, that serves to free the law and the judiciary from populist majoritarian chauvinism that sometimes takes hold of the parliament. The right wing, on the other hand, views human dignity as a doctrine that is foreign to the spirit and culture of the national majority that rules the state (in Israel: the Jewish majority), and demands that the law, represented by the legislature, be liberated from it. This chapter suggests that the right wing attitude promotes national honor as an alternative to universal human dignity. The chapter presents the Israeli struggle over this issue by introducing Israel’s 1992 Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, as well as the fierce backlash against it, as manifested in the 2018 enactment of Basic Law: Israel as The Jewish Nation State, and the ruthless attack on illegal African immigrants and judiciary that has tried to secure their human dignity and rights. The final section illustrates the clashing perspectives by reading an Israeli feature film, Manpower.