First Arab Israeli Supreme Court Justice Found Dead At 76

By Victor Winston, updated on March 16, 2024

The legal community and citizens alike mourn the loss of a pioneer. Salim Joubran, whose tenure as the first Arab Israeli on the Supreme Court of Israel was marked by his commitment to justice, equality, and reform, has died at 76 after a courageous battle with cancer.

According to The Times Of Israel, his legacy is not defined merely by the boundaries of a courtroom but by the relentless pursuit of a more equitable society for all, regardless of their faith or ethnic background.

Salim Joubran's journey from the historic streets of Haifa to the highest echelons of Israel's legal system is a testament to his resilience and dedication. Born into a Christian family, Joubran's path to prominence was paved with both challenges and triumphs. After completing his legal studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he practiced private law until his judiciary career began in 1982 at the Haifa Magistrate's Court. His passion for the law and unwavering integrity soon saw him rise through the ranks, culminating in his appointment to the Supreme Court in 2003.

During his tenure, Joubran was involved in several landmark verdicts, including the rejection of former president Moshe Katsav's appeal, a decision that underscored the Supreme Court's commitment to upholding justice, even against high-profile figures. Beyond the courtroom, Joubran chaired the Central Elections Committee in 2015, further emphasizing his central role in Israel's democratic processes.

Championing Equality and Religious Freedom

Joubran's advocacy wasn't limited to his legal judgments; he was a vocal proponent of religious freedom and the integration of the Arab minority into Israeli society.

His liberal stance, often seen as reformist, was grounded in a belief that the state must actively work towards real equality between Arab and Jewish citizens. This belief was not just theoretical; Joubran's final case before retirement focused on extending surrogacy rights to single individuals and same-sex couples, underscoring his commitment to equality for all.

Salim Joubran on the rights of same-sex couples and single individuals to parenthood through surrogacy: "I find it hard to agree with a situation that prevents... fulfilling their right to become parents through surrogacy agreements. The state must do more to reach real equality between Arab and Jewish societies."

Joubran's unique position as the first Arab Israeli on the Supreme Court did not come without its challenges. In March 2012, he faced criticism for choosing not to sing the national anthem, citing its Jewish-specific language as the reason—an act that sparked debate but also highlighted the nuanced realities of representing a diverse society. Despite this, Joubran's legacy is largely defined by his accomplishments and the respect he garnered across the spectrum of Israeli society.


Upon his retirement in August 2017, Joubran emphasized the importance of increasing the number of Arab judges in Israel and called for greater efforts towards achieving equality. His contributions were recognized through numerous accolades, including an honorary doctorate from the University of Haifa and the Knight of Quality Government honor in law.

Tributes poured in from across Israel's political and social spectrums. Ayman Odeh described Joubran as a steadfast figure in justice and democracy; Yair Lapid hailed him as a life dedicated to peace and equality; Merav Michaeli remembered him as a believer in equality and coexistence; and Father Youssef Yacoub praised Joubran as not just a legal luminary but a person with a "big heart of gold."

Salim Joubran's legacy is multi-faceted: a pioneer in the legal field, a voice for the underrepresented, and a force for positive change.

His career, from humble beginnings in Haifa to groundbreaking rulings that pushed Israel towards greater equality, will be remembered for its profound impact on both the legal landscape and the broader societal quest for justice and equality. His story is not just one of professional achievements but of personal integrity and the unwavering belief in the power of law to effect change.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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