Prof. Alex Stein, elected to serve as a justice in Israel’s Supreme Court last week as Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s personal choice, recently deleted a Facebook account in which he made disparaging statements about the court and comments about fighting in the Gaza Strip, Hadashot news reported Tuesday.
Stein, seen as a conservative who opposes judicial activism, was one of two judges elected to the Supreme Court on Thursday evening, along with Ofer Groskopf.
A week prior to his selection, according to the report, Stein shut down a Facebook account in which he had severely criticized Supreme Court policies. In his posts, Stein reportedly accused the court of “domineering rhetoric” and of “demanding authorities under the guise of checks and balances.”
He also was said to quote the late conservative US Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, who said he read Israeli Supreme Court rulings when he wanted to be “really shocked,” and when “I want to see that my court is not really so bad after all.”
During the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, Stein reportedly wrote that international law’s requirement for a “proportional” military response must correspond to the reality of “modern warfare and common sense,” and ridiculed the idea that proportionality meant a similar number of casualties on both sides.
Stein, 61, is considered one of the leading academics in fields such as criminal law and medical malpractice. He has taught at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, at Yeshiva University in New York, and most recently at Brooklyn Law school.
His colleague Dudi Schwartz told Ynet that Stein, a chess champion in the former Soviet Union prior to emigrating to Israel, would bring to the bench his “chess-like approach” to law.
Shaked said Stein and Groskopf’s selection was “part of a process of returning the court to its basic function: interpreting the norms that parliament decides, not replacing it.”
In recent years, right-wing lawmakers have accused the Supreme Court of interventionist judicial activism as pioneered by Aharon Barak, president of the Court from 1995 to 2006, after it torpedoed a series of Knesset laws it deemed unlawful.