The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has expressed criticism and concern over remarks made in Cairo this week by U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who said that those drafting a new Egyptian constitution should not look to the U.S. Constitution but should rather draw inspiration from the constitutions of South Africa and Canada as well as the European Convention on Human Rights. The ZOA is critical of the fact that a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, dedicated under oath to serving and protecting the U.S. Constitution, does not find it a worthy model for other countries.
When asked in an interview on Egyptian Al Hayat TV what her advice would be in terms of models for writing a new Egyptian constitution, Justice Ginsberg replied:
You should certainly be aided by all the constitution-writing that has gone on since the end of World War II. I would not look to the US constitution, if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012. I might look at the constitution of South Africa. That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, had an independent judiciary. It really is, I think, a great piece of work that was done. Much more recent than the U.S. Constitution: Canada has a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It dates from 1982. You would almost certainly look at the European Convention on Human Rights. Yes, why not take advantage of what there is elsewhere in the world? I’m a very strong believer in listening and learning from others (US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Egyptians: Look to the Constitutions of South Africa or Canada, Not to the US Constitution, Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), January 30, 2012).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, Even though this is not an issue directly related to Israel, as Americans we felt compelled to express our concern and surprise of the fact that one of our nine Supreme Court justices, who is charged with upholding our extraordinary Constitution, revered throughout the world, and its vital democratic safeguard of separation of powers, doesnt think this is a worthy model for emulation. Instead, she recommends looking to the South African and Canadian Constitutions.
It is also ironic that, elsewhere in her interview, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg praised the rights enshrined in the First Amendment, which are in fact far less well-protected in the South African and Canadian Constitutions. Also, the European Convention on Human Rights has made arresting and deporting radical Islamist preachers and terrorists much harder.
It is a concern to any American when a U.S. Supreme Court justice basically says that there are better constitutions to emulate than the one she is charged with defending and interpreting and which has served as a model for democratic constitutions around the world.