Monday 13 May 2024

Celebrating after October 7th

This period in the Jewish Calender is always poignant. Last week (May 6th 2024) marked Yom HaShoah, the day in the Jewish calendar chosen to remember the victims of the Holocaust. Today (May 13th 2024) marks Yom HaZikaron, the day we remember the soldiers fallen in defence of Israel. It ends tonight when Yom Haatzmaut begins, the Israeli day of celebration marking the declaration of Israel's independence 76 years ago. We are reminded in one week of the cost of not having a state; the price we pay for having one and then, immediately, often at the end of an event to commerate the fallen soldiers, celebrate having one. Except this year feels a little different. Hamas still holds over hundred hostages. Men, women, babies (...yes, babies). How can you celebrate anything, let alone the freedom of having a country when so many are slaves in Gaza, not free and living in unimaginable conditions as modern day Nazis rape, torture and murder them. 

I do not know the answer. But I am reminded of the Pesach Seder. I am reminded that admist the 'Yom Tov' (literally 'good day') celebration of not being slaves in Egypt any longer; a night when we have someone else pour our wine for us and recline while drinking as visual reminders that we are free, we are commanded (Exodus 13:8): 

וְהִגַּדְתָּ֣ לְבִנְךָ֔ בַּיּ֥וֹם הַה֖וּא לֵאמֹ֑ר בַּעֲב֣וּר זֶ֗ה עָשָׂ֤ה יְהֹוָה֙ לִ֔י בְּצֵאתִ֖י מִמִּצְרָֽיִם

And you shall explain to your child on that day, ‘It is because of what HaShem did for me when I went free from Egypt.’ [Emphasis added] 

How can this be? I was never a slave in Egypt; I never went free from Egypt. Yet the Torah commands us to explain the Exodus to our children in this way. This commandment is reinforced in the Hagaddah itself. Part of what is read is a story about five Rabbis who were retelling the Exodus for so long that they had to be alerted by their students that the time for the recital of the following morning's Shema had come. Those Rabbis were Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon. None of their ancestors were enslaved in Egypt (of these five rabbis, four of them were from the tribe of Levi which was not enslaved and the fifth, Rabbi Akiva, was descended from converts to Judaism so his ancestors were never in Egypt) yet so engrossed were they in retelling the story, that they nearly missed morning prayers. We can learn from this how important that commandment to remember the exodus as if we were slaves and freed ourselves; it even applies to those of us whose ancestors were actually not enslaved. 

Maybe something similar is required. Celebrate but remind our children that we are slaves in Gaza, even though, of course, we are not. However, in a very important sense, until the hostages are released, none of us are truly free. Just like in the midst of the celebration of our greatest redemption, being led out of Egypt on the way to receiving the Torah and becoming an 'am', a nation, a people we must not just remember that we were slaves in Egypt but live that experience and tell the story as if HaShem is literally freeing us from Egypt as we tell it. We can celebrate our freedom while praying for the release of the hostages; we can hold these two contradictory truths in our hearts at once. That we are free, Baruch HaShem, we are not hostages in Gaza but we are also not free, because, some of us are hostages in Gaza. 

So on this Yom Haatzmaut, may we celebrate our freedom and remember all those things we have to be grateful for but may we also remember the hostages and pray for their freedom. 

עם ישראל חי

Friday 5 April 2024

The Simple Question

There is a simple question that I invite everyone to consider:

Do you support Hamas? 

This is not a trap. This is not an implication that anyone does or does not support Hamas. A genuine question. Yes or no. 

If yes, then congratulations, you support genocidal, racist, homophobic, Nazi, rapist terrorists. You are not a serious person and we do not need to listen to you. Your opinion is garbage, worthless and should be ignored. You are excluded from rational debate and the marketplace of ideas. I do not need to engage with you. Goodbye.

If no, then why is the solution to this conflict not a ceasefire and the surrender of Hamas? If you do not support Hamas, why must Israel accept leaving in place a terror organisation whose position is the destruction of Israel and the murder of every Jew worldwide? If you want to save Palestinian and Jewish lives, why is this not the solution? Explain to me why Hamas should be allowed to survive; why do you not call for their complete surrender as well as a ceasefire? 

If you only care for Palestinian lives, then sure. A ceasefire that leaves Hamas in place to carry out an October 7th again and again and again, as it has vowed to do, will achieve the protection of Palestinian lives. It will stop a lot of killing. There is no question about that. But do not pretend your position is pro-peace, pro-life or pro-co-existence. Your position is that Palestinian lives are worth more than Jewish lives. Which is a position, I suppose, but own it. Accept that leaving Hamas in situ is a threat, a demonstrable and real threat to Jews living in Israel and across the world. Accept that these lives do not matter to you, that you are willing to risk more Jews dying if it stops the war. 

I can almost understand that position; war is horrific. Everyone should be against it and broadly in favour of no war. This should not be controversial. But sometimes it is not quite as simple as that. Sometimes wars must be fought. Sometimes wars are just (this may help explain). If your position is war is never justified, I am afraid you do not live in the real world. Ukraine, for example, should not surrender to Russia. Anyone arguing the contrary because 'war is bad' should not be taken seriously. However, while I can understand it, I do not agree with it. A ceasefire that leaves Hamas in place is not a serious option. Or at least, it should not be. A ceasefire that leaves Hamas in place is a ceasefire that says Jewish lives do not matter. They are worth risking. They just matter less. 

And to be honest, we already knew this. Jews have learnt this the hard way throughout history. We have been failed with horrific consequences in virtually every century. Millions and millions of us have been murdered, tortured, raped, exiled, kidnapped, targeted, boycotted, expelled, discriminated against simply because we are Jews. There have been pogroms, Holocausts, forced conversions, ghettoisation, blood libel, racist show trials, and restrictions on our freedoms throughout history. The World writ large has failed the Jews and continues to fail the Jews. Nothing truly changes; we just do not matter. I make no apologies if that seems harsh. You may protest, of course, you will I am sure, that you just want the killing to stop. And I believe you. But forgive me if I do not think you want the killing of Jews to stop. And, for what it is worth, forgive me if I also think you do not care much about Palestinians; Hamas is as much a danger to Gazans as it is to Jews. They murder their opponents, murder homosexuals, murder dissidents, steal aid and much worse beyond. Caring about peace, an end to the bloodshed and prosperity for Palestinians and Jews depends on the destruction of Hamas. 

And it really is as simple (and as complicated) as that.

Friday 12 January 2024

When is genocide not genocide?

Genocide is a relatively new term. It was coined by Raphael Lemkin, a Holocaust survivor, in 1944. Interestingly, at the time, there was concern that 'genocide', as a term, would fail to capture the full horror of such crimes because it would focus on the targeting of a group potentially at the expense of the individuals murdered. Six million Jews murdered is bad not (just) because they were Jews, but also because of the sheer number and focusing on the 'Jew' part may undermine the 'six million' part. The unique horror of the holocaust lies not just in the fact that Jews were targeted, but that six million of us were murdered. The counter-argument is that there is something uniquely awful about murdering individuals because they are members of a specific group; the Holocaust's horror is precisely because of the systematic mass murder of Jews and the attempt to exterminate every last Jew. And so 'genocide', formed by combining the Greek genos meaning race or tribe with the Latin suffix cide meaning killing, so literally, the killing of a race/tribe was coined. Its definition is codified in Article II of the Genocide Convention:

"In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such

  • Killing members of the group;
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."
The intent to destroy is the mens rea component and the five bullet points are the actus reus of the crime.  Both are necessary to make out the crime. In addition: 

Importantly, the victims of genocide are deliberately targeted - not randomly – because of their real or perceived membership of one of the four groups protected under the Convention (which excludes political groups, for example). This means that the target of destruction must be the group, as such, and not its members as individuals. Genocide can also be committed against only a part of the group, as long as that part is identifiable (including within a geographically limited area) and “substantial. (See here)

It matters what genocide is. It matters because genocide is bad. Obviously. It is so bad that if something is genocide, debating the topic is not just futile but actively offensive; there is (rightly, of course) no justification for genocide. But I am not writing to debate whether Israel is committing genocide. It isn't, but the most sophisticated legal arguments won't convince the people who believe the contrary. Facts do not matter, it seems. It is not worth anyone's time to engage with such absurd and deliberately offensive comments. Instead, I want to spend some time considering why the accusation of genocide is levelled at Jews. It is not because there actually is a genocide. But it is also not by accident. 

It is a deliberate attempt to bait Jews; to use our past against us in the most horrific and cruel of ways. Jews, perhaps unique in our millennia of persecution, pogroms, hatred and actual genocide, know what genocide looks like. It is, unfortunately, in our DNA. So our opponents use the word genocide. They accuse Jews of genocide deliberately to undermine the meaning of the term, to rid it of any significance because they hate Jews. It is a win-win. Either Israel is found guilty of genocide (and bashing Israel is all these antisemites really care about) or they succeed in watering down the meaning of genocide. It's soft Holocaust denial, attempting to label everything you do not agree with as genocide. 

The Genocide Convention was part of the world's response to the Holocaust. It was part of the world's response to abandoning the six million Jewish victims of the Nazi regime; of the Red Cross having more compassion for Nazi soldiers than Jewish victims (oh how history repeats itself); of Western powers knowing about the gas chambers and not lifting a finger to help the Jews. It was part of Never Again; a pledge meant to protect against the crimes perpetrated by Hamas on October 7th. It is now being cynically and deliberately abused by South Africa and its cabal of human rights-abusing dictatorships to attack Jews. The legacy of Nelsen Mandela, a proud defender of Zionism (and Palestinian nationalism), is being destroyed by a racist government that hates Jews. There is no other explanation. They do not care about Palestinians; this political stunt will only make their lives worse as the crimes of Hamas are sanitised for consumption by the world's useful idiots.

Let's be clear. Genocide is the brutal, systemised mass murder of six million Jews. It is the murder of between 1.5 million and 2 million Cambodians or the mass rape and murder of up to 400,000 Darfuris. The slaughter of 800,000 Rwandas. I could go on. The odd thing is none of these resulted in state accusations of genocide; I wonder why. Throwing around 'genocide' as if it has no meaning, as if it is not the most heinous of crimes, just because you do not agree with Israeli policy or attempts to defend itself against the closest thing to genocide in this entire conflict is to deliberately offend Jews. Jews must suffer the double crime; an actual genocide perpetrated against us and the constant and deliberate undermining of the horror of that genocide. 

South Africa and the Hamas cheerleaders gleefully supporting this case should hang their heads in shame. History will judge them much like it judges the Nazis; as an antisemitic rabble that added no value whatsoever to the world. 

The Jewish people, however, will live on. 

Thursday 16 November 2023

Proportionality and the numbers mistake

This is not an article about international law. Proportionality and the laws of war are clear. There is little to be gained by engaging in that debate because it is, I think, besides the point. It has the unhelpful side effect of reducing war to a brutal calculation and that is best left to those responsible for actually making it. There is a certain coldness required to engage in any war and make that calculation, no matter how just or important that war may be. Instead, this is an article about numbers. Thousands of Palestinians have died. That is a tragedy. In one sense, if more died it would be more tragic and if fewer died, it would be less tragic. But in that sense, you once again reduce war to a brutal calculation, as if each life is not equally, intrinsically and absolutely valuable. There is an idea in Jewish thought that if you save one life, it is as if you have saved the whole world and if you kill one life, it is as if you have killed the entire world. Every life is precious in and of itself. Sometimes we forget that.

This is an article about the folly of statistics, of numbers. One of Disraeli's three lies. Here is the accusation I level at those who point out how many lives have been taken: it is (mostly) irrelevant. Stop devaluing life. Even if only one Israeli and even if only one Palestinian had died, it would be a tragedy. It would be as if the entire Jewish people and the entire Palestinian people had died. The idea that several thousands of Palestinians have died and therefore Israel has acted poorly or that therefore a ceasefire is necessary misses the point. It suggests that there is an acceptable number. That, had 'only' 500 Palestinians died, Israel's response would be more okay. Or conversely, had 'only' 100 Israelis been raped and murdered and 'only' 10 hostages taken, that would be 'less' bad. 

That is why I leave the numbers to those responsible for actually making that brutal calculation. Because it is a calculation. The laws of war are clear: civilian deaths are 'permissible' (what a horrific idea) if they are not, "excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated..." I cannot imagine being responsible for making that calculation, nor can I imagine how it must feel to be told that your child's death was 'okay' because it was not excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated. Or, indeed, that you child's death was not okay because it was excessive in that context. Rather than because any death of an innocent is not 'okay' in a very real and important sense, irrespective of the context and laws of war.

Once you forget about the numbers, you can properly address the situation. A horrific, tragic situation where innocent civilians are dying. How many does not actually matter because every death would be wholly tragic even if there were no further deaths. I truly understand those clamouring for a ceasefire, who look at the numbers and immediately think, "Gosh, Israel is targeting civilians," or, "Israel must stop because so many Palestinians are dying." My previous article was about the blood libel that too many fall into when making that point, I am not going to repeat myself. I empathise, and I wish a ceasefire was the solution. The fact I happen to think that it is not, is besides the point. I am not a military strategist nor am I a politician. I am just a Jew, who cares deeply about humanity. Which means I resist the temptation to reduce Palestinian life to a number and worry 'too many' are dying and not just that a life has been lost. Which means I resist the temptation to think the situation is simple and engage in lazy, pseudo-intellectual thinking and, instead, face up to the brutal, horrific reality. It is easy to call for ceasefire without any attempt to understand or explain what happens next. Empathy, actually caring about people's lives takes real moral courage and deep thought.  

Jeannette Rankin said, "You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake." This is undeniably and tragically true; there will not be any "winners" when so many have died. That does not mean a war is not just or that a war is not necessary or that a war should be abandoned. We are all going to die eventually; we should not just stop living. So I will leave the calculations to the military people and the politicians. I do not envy them their job. I will not, however, make the mistake of thinking this war or any war can be reduced to the numbers. 

It is far more complicated than that.

Tuesday 7 November 2023

Israel, the Diaspora and Blood Libel

I am somewhat of an anomaly amongst Jews who regularly visit and spend significant periods of time in Israel; I have never experienced a red alert. I have never had to rush to a bomb shelter. At best, I am ‘terror-adjacent’. My family has. My friends have. But I never have. Equally, I am acutely aware that I have never had a leaflet dropped on my house informing me that the place I call home is about to be the target of a bombing raid and, for my own safety, I had better leave, and leave promptly.

With those important caveats in mind, fully acknowledging that for me the war in the Middle East impacts me only tangentially, indirectly, I want to talk about something that I have experienced: antisemitism. Antisemitism that always rears its head when Israel is in the news but, of course, does not go away when Israel is having a quieter moment. I’ve had it on the streets of London when a cyclist screamed Jew at me, made a Hitler salute and pretended to shoot me. I’ve had it at football games where people have shouted ‘Yid’ at me. On the tram in Manchester when one passenger demanded that all the Jews (I was the only visible Jew) show their tickets. A tube platform when someone invited me to, “ and enjoy the music,” and when I didn’t immediately comply informed me that he knew, “...why Hitler had decided to kill the Jews.” I could go on, but by far and away the most common antisemitism that I have faced is online and ignoring the particularly vicious rabid Jew haters, the biggest subsect within that is from people I know or even call friends. 

Their antisemitism is of the anti-zionist variety and before you cry ‘but anti-zionism is not antisemitic’ or ‘criticism of the Israeli government is not antisemitic’ or a variation thereof, I do not wish to address anti-zionism. Whether or not it is antisemitic is not the point (it is, but I cannot be bothered to argue into the void on this point) nor is it the type of anti-zionism that I find the most nefarious or, indeed, confusing. That honour goes to a particular flavour of anti-zionist sentiment: modern day blood libel. The criticism of the Israel that goes something like this: 

“Israel is using very heavy bombs to destroy what it says are military targets, without being too bothered about the fact that sometimes large numbers of civilians are killed at the same time.” - Jeremy Bowen, BBC (see here, last accessed 07/11/2023: My emphasis.)

“Israel is murdering civilians, children, babies. Innocents and does not care” 

“But Israel is bombing Gaza indiscriminately and deliberately targeting civilians” 

“Israel is committing war crimes and disproportionately murdering Gazans. Look how many more Gazans have died!!”

Or words to that effect. People so callously, so casually, accusing Israel of targeting civilians, murdering children with impunity and deliberately. People who, some in good faith and some not in good faith, see the impact the war is undoubtedly having on innocents in Gaza who are dying and immediately rush to accuse Israel of being indifferent to human life. The truth, of course, is far less dramatic and far more simple: people, tragically, die in war. The laws of war do not, and cannot, aim to eliminate all civilian death. While, obviously, say, firebombing Dresden during WWII (an obviously just and necessary war against Nazis) clearly would not comply with the laws of war, the fact that civilians die, often in tragically huge numbers, does not mean that the laws of war are not being followed. I’ve written previously on that question of numbers, as if had more Israelis died the Palestinian deaths would be more justified or less tragic; as if the Palestinian deaths are only tragic because of their number; as if even if only one Palestinian died, it would matter less somehow. That’s not the point I wish to make here. Equally, the point is not (just) that the accusation that Israel is deliberately committing war crimes with impunity is both false and absurd (Israel has one of the most sophisticated militaries in the world; if her aim were the murder of civilians, it is monumentally bad at it).

It’s far more nefarious and dangerous than that. Jews are used to being accused of doing unspeakable things: we killed Jesus; poisoned wells during the Black Death; backed Christian children blood into Matza during Pesach/Passover; sold the Germans out at Versailles and were responsible for its ills in the interwar period; control the banks; control Hollywood; brought down the twin towers; control the media; control the world and Western governments. The list goes on and now includes deliberately murder Palestinians. Because let us be absolutely clear, the charge that Israel acts with impunity and contrary to the laws of war as evidenced by the number of Palestinians that have died (read, been murdered by Israel) is just the latest in a long line of blood libel and conspiracy theories levelled at Jews. That this preposterous accusation is repeated so casually by supposedly thinking people just demonstrates how pervasive antisemitism is, how seemingly natural the urge to blame the Jews is. It’s so easy, so obvious. Of course, Israel is targeting civilians, don’t you watch the news? Obviously, Israel is murdering Palestinian babies, haven’t you read the BBC? This is your reminder it is possible to mourn Palestinian innocents being killed without engaging in blood libel just like it is possible to mourn those murdered on 9/11 without blaming the Jews. 

But, as with most conspiracy theories, accepting it becomes a condition of entry into the discourse. Jews are not allowed to comment on Israel until they’ve condemned Israel. The price of admission to this particular circus is making it clear that we don’t agree with Israeli actions or Netanyahu. We cannot mourn our dead, pray for the release of hostages, condemn Hamas until we’ve met certain conditions. I am deliberately resisting the urge to pay this price, not because I don’t sympathise with the plight of Palestinians failed by their terrorist leaders in Gaza and the West Bank (and before you cry that the Palestinian Authority aren’t terrorists, they use aid money to pay salaries to terrorists based on how many Jews they murdered); not because I don’t mourn for every innocent lost. No, it is because I should not have to accept the terms set by those who so casually repeat blood libel. 

So no. I don’t know what it is like to have bombs dropped on my home or rockets fired at me. But I have experienced antisemitism regularly, ranging from violent threats to the more insidious blood libel I speak about here. And it has to stop. 

Friday 9 June 2023

We need to talk about men’s mental health

No, really. We do. Too often it’s dismissed. Men are supposed to be strong. Not show weakness. Stiff upper lip, not let things affect us. The flip side of thinking women are too emotional or unstable for positions of power is not just thinking men are unemotional or stable but that they must be unemotional or stable. To be otherwise is not to be a man whatever the hell that really means. As if men can’t cry, aren’t allowed to be upset, aren’t allowed to have emotions or be affected by things or down or low or sad or. Human. Yes, human. Emotions are human. Feelings are human. Being affected by things is human. Finding things tough is human. Not having a bloody clue what’s going on or what to do next or why you’re sad is human. So we really need to talk about men’s mental health. 

Because too many of us kill ourselves instead of talking about our issues. Afraid we’ll get shut down. Told to stop complaining. Told to just get on with it. Or, how awful, told we’re being a bit of a woman about it. Or a bit gay. As if that’s an insult. As if women or homosexual men have a monopoly on legitimate feelings. As if you need a vagina or not to like them to be allowed to talk about those feelings. That we all have. Or we’re praised for being in touch with our feelings. As if that’s a compliment rather than normal. But then. In this world it is. Because we’ve been conditioned to shove them down, far away from the light of day, from the air they need to breathe before they suffocate you. So, yes. Well done for having feelings. You weren’t supposed to, but you do. Pat on the back. And you were brave enough to speak up, say something, to someone, anyone. Despite everything around you telling you not to do that. Not to be that man. Because men are not supposed to have feelings. 

But really, shush now. We get it. That was upsetting. But you're a man so get on with it now, you've had your moment, you've made your point, that's enough now. Don't you know men aren't supposed to have feelings, no really, they aren't. It's time to move on and face the next difficulty, but maybe this time do it with fewer feelings, less noise, more silence. Bonus man points if, when it happens, you can shake your head, tut quietly to yourself, say it is what it is and pretend to everyone, including yourself, like it hasn't just ripped your world apart. Because that's what it means to be a man right? Right? 

Obviously not. But that's what we're told. That's what we see. Hear. Read about. Women have feelings. They're too emotional. Too unstable. Too soft. Men. Well, men don't. And we need to talk about it. Because men, obviously, of course, duh, have feelings. Get sad. Are down. Are emotional. Lie awake at night wondering where it all went wrong before a small voice comes to them saying 'This is going to take more than one night' (with a nod in the direction of Charlie Schulz). If only we spoke about this more. Lived in a world that encouraged that instead of shutting it down, dismissing it. There is strength in being vulnerable. Knowing that it's okay not to be okay. Articulating how you feel even when it's hard. 

If you're struggling, know you can speak up. Please do. To a friend. To me. To a therapist. To anyone. And if someone comes to you. Please. Listen. Try your hardest not to judge. If you've got your own stuff going on (and we all do) that's okay too. Be patient with others but most importantly, with yourself. It gets better. But we need to talk about it.

Wednesday 4 May 2022

The Politics of Judging

Something has been missed in all the furore surrounding the leaked Supreme Court opinion - and that is that it's completely mad that in any democracy the judges are picked by the president. Judges are supposed to be fearless arbiters of the law, unswayed by outside pressure and, crucially, independent of the legislature and the executive. They cannot do their jobs properly if they are beholden to outside interests nor will they be seen to be doing their jobs properly - as the old adage goes, judges must not just be independent but must be seen to be independent. Trust in the judiciary and the rule of law depends on it. Perhaps it's easy to worry about judicial independence when you live 4000 miles away and will never have the ultimate decision on whether to terminate a pregnancy. But it matters. And it matters not just because of philosophical principle, but because of precisely what's happening in America now. 

Some housekeeping. This is not a legal opinion. This is not an argument for or against abortion or even, really, about abortion. Yes, I know the opinion leaked is just a draft. No, I do not pretend to understand the legal reasoning for that draft opinion. Indeed, it may well be the correct "legal" decision. That's not the point. Instead,  ever since the court's balance swung back in favour of the conservatives, this decision (and, one fears, more like it) has been coming. The formula was simple: a State passes a bill prohibiting abortion contrary to Roe v Wade. The Bill is immediately challenged (as intended by the State) as contrary to the constitutional protections guaranteed by Roe v Wade. The law ends up before the Supreme Court who are asked to decide, in essence, whether Roe should remain good law. If it does, the State's bill is struck down. If it does not, Roe is overturned. 

In theory, this should not be a problem. A country's highest court should be the final arbiter of the interpretation of that country's laws. Leaving aside the merits of being able to strike down law and intepreting a codified constitution, if the law states that abortions are permissible it is the duty of the highest court to faithfully intepret and apply that law, interpret its boundaries and any limits etc. If individuals or organisations bring challenges against that law or aspects of it, those challenges must be given due attention and the arguments heard. This does not change whether the law protecting the right to abortion was judge-made in the first place (as in the US) or on the statute books (as in the UK). If a challenge was brought against the 1967 Abortion Act in the UK, I would expect the Supreme Court (or whichever was the highest court the appeal ended up before) to hear the appeal, the legal arguments and pass judgment in accordance with that legal reasoning. There is nothing, in principle, wrong with a court of law determining whether or not a law permitting abortion is good law.

Where the problem lies is when the judges sitting on the highest court are, with respect, not selected (just) because they are great lawyers and would be great judges, but (also) because of their political opinions. I am sure, as legal minds go, the nine US Supreme Court justices possess good ones but there is absolutely no denying that at least part of why they were picked is because they could be trusted to decide cases, when it mattered, in accordance with the picking-president's political beliefs. Those justices that Trump selected could be trusted to lean towards overturning Roe v Wade should the opportunity arise. Judge Jackson was selected, in part, because she considers Roe v Wade good law and supports a women's right to choose. This is not to undermine any of the justice's legal credentials - they are, I am sure, great legal minds as well as believing the correct things as far as the president was concerned. But that latter point is important. To some degree, their political leanings will have been part of why they were picked and picked by that president. There is a serious problem when one can predict, with almost certainty, how the court will decide a certain case based on knowing their political opinions and which party's president picked them. There is a reason why conservative-leaning States were so keen for Roe v Wade to be challenged under the Supreme Court as currently constituted: there is a 6-3 conservative, anti-abortion majority. 

Whichever way you slice it, the US Supreme Court cannot be said to be an properly independent instution committed to upholding the rule of law - because the rule of law demands that judges be independent of the political establishment, not picked by it. And that should concern everyone. Give it a decade or two and a few conservative justices ending their tenure under Democrat presidents and exactly the same case will be decided in the opposite way. The legal reasoning won't matter so much as the political leanings of the judges. That's not the rule of law. That's not an independent judiciary committed to upholding the law of the land and faithfully intepreting the legal arguments in accordance with existing precedent. Private political opinions should play zero part in how judges are selected. Judges with a well-founded reputation for upholding certain social policies or espousing certain political opinions should be excluded from selection for any judicial role, not actively courted (forgive the pun) precisely because of that reputation.