Former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel dies

Turkel headed the special independent commission of inquiry into the Gaza flotilla raid.

Portrait of former Supreme Court Justice, Jacob Turkel, at his home in Jerusalem, on Jan. 25, 2023. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Portrait of former Supreme Court Justice, Jacob Turkel, at his home in Jerusalem, on Jan. 25, 2023. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.

Former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel died on Monday at the age of 88.

Born in 1935 in Tel Aviv to Austrian immigrants. He graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s law school in 1960.

He served as a judge in various courts from 1967-1995, including a two-year stint as an acting Supreme Court justice. Turkel became a full Supreme Court justice in 1995, where he served until 2005.

In 2010, Turkel was tapped to lead a special independent commission of inquiry, referred to as the Turkel Commission, into the Mavi Marmara incident.

On May 31 of that year, the Israeli Navy intercepted a Turkish-organized flotilla of ships trying to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Turks aboard the Mavi Marmara armed with knives, crowbars and axes attacked the Israeli naval commandos who had boarded the vessel, and who had not been expecting resistance. During the melee, nine Turks were killed and 10 Israeli soldiers were injured.

The Turkel Commission concluded that Israel’s blockade of Gaza was lawful, that the Israeli decision to intercept the flotilla was consistent with international norms and that the navy’s use of force was “legal pursuant to the rules of international law.”

From 2010-2018, Turkel served on a committee tasked with vetting appointees to senior government positions.

Turkel was married for 65 years; his wife, Miriam, died in 2018. He is survived by two daughters.

“The president of the Supreme Court, Judge Esther Hayut, presidents and judges of the Supreme Court in the past and present, the director of the courts and all the judges of Israel bow their heads and participate in the heavy mourning of the family,” the court announced on Monday.

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