Osila Abu Assad of Nazareth has become the first female Arab-Muslim judge appointed to an Israeli district court, putting holes in the argument that Israel is an apartheid state.
The Israeli Judicial Selection Committee appointed six Arab judges and jurists to prominent positions in district courts across the country on Thursday – half of whom were women.
According to data obtained by Dr. Guy Lurie, a research fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, 63 Arab judges served in various Israeli courts accounting for 8.3% of the 754 judges in the system in 2019. A third of the Arab judges were Christian, 52% were Muslim and 14% Druze.
The representation for female Arab judges, however, was lower and – until recently – they have only served in magistrate courts, but not in district courts and the Supreme Court.
Israel’s Supreme Court consists of 15 justices, five of whom are female. In fact, three out of the last four head chief justices were female.
On the other hand, while an Arab-Israeli justice has routinely served on Israel’s highest court in recent decades, such appointments so far have been of Arab men. George Karra – a Christian Arab – currently sits on the bench but is expected to retire this year. After they are appointed, judges may serve until they turn 70 – which is retirement age – or until either they either resign or are removed from office.
Abu Assad could be on a fast track to success. She was born in 1973 and graduated with a law degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1996. After practicing in the private sector for several years, she was appointed to the Northern Magistrate Court in 2012 and in 2016, she transferred to the Nazareth Magistrate Court, where she has now been promoted to sit as a District Court judge.
Israel's five district courts are located in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheva and Nazareth.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.