Supreme Court Judge Salim Joubran drew criticism Tuesday for remaining silent during the singing of Israel’s national anthem at the conclusion of a Supreme Court swearing-in ceremony. But Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon defended him Wednesday, saying his conduct was dignified and the criticism unwarranted.

A number of MKs from the right wing spoke out against Joubran’s silence during the swearing in of new Supreme Court President Asher Grunis, with Likud’s Tzipi Hotovely saying that such actions are what cause the Supreme Court to lose its status in the eyes of the public.

Ya’alon retorted that Joubran had demonstrated respect for Hatikvah and could not be expected to sing a Zionist anthem that spoke of Jewish longing for a return to the homeland. He noted that non-Jewish soldiers were not expected to sing the anthem at IDF ceremonies.

Another Arab former (temporary) Supreme Court judge, Abed al-Raham Zoabi, said the anthem had been written when the notion of a “loyal Arab minority” had not been envisaged, and said it should be reworded to refer to “an Israeli soul” rather than “a Jewish soul.”

Yisrael Beiteinu MK David Rotem, who heads the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, said he would turn to Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and act to remove Joubran from his chair.

Earlier in the year, MK Michael Ben-Ari pushed to legislate a law which would make army or national service a mandatory criteria for being appointed as a judge in the Supreme Court.

The law was nicknamed the “Joubran law,” and Ben-Ari said on Tuesday evening that Joubran’s silence during the anthem was proof of its necessity. “Who ever doesn’t like the anthem can leave,” he said. “I promise I won’t beg him to stay.”

Salim Joubran, left, not singing on Tuesday. (photo credit: Screen capture, Channel 2)

Salim Joubran, left, not singing on Tuesday. (photo credit: screen capture, Channel 2)

Israel’s anthem, which means “The Hope,” in English, speaks of 2,000 years of Jewish longing to return to the land. The song has come under fire in the past for leaving out a significant portion of the population.

A Christian-Arab, born in the northern city of Acre, Joubran was the first Israeli Arab to be appointed to the Supreme Court as a full time judge, and was involved in a number of important verdicts. One of those verdicts was sending former president Moshe Katsav to prison for seven years, after convicting him of rape and sexual abuse.