The Palestinian National Authority
Palestine Constitution Committee
Headed by Dr Nabeel A. Shaath,
Minster of Planning and international Cooperation
Constitutions in Modern World
THE HIGHEST LAW OF THE LAND
The General Nature of Constitutional Law
Constitution and Constitutional Government.
THE PRUPOSE OF A CONSTITUTION
A Statement of National Ideals
Formalizes the Structure of Government
Establishes the Legitimacy of Government
THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION
Civil Liberties and Civil Rights
Collected by Dr Kamal Astal
Associate Professor of Political Science
Al-Azhar University of Gaza
Palestine Constitution Committee’s Member
Head of Peace Center for Community Training and Research (PEACE)
POBox (7039)-Khan Younis, Tel: 2051966, Telfax: 2054966, Mobile: 059843850
The problem of establishing and limiting power exists in every political system. Government and the people both must have certain powers and rights. But their activities must also be limited to keep them form encroaching on the rights of others. The choices involved in determining a fair balance between government powers and civil liberties, between the welfare of the majority and the rights of minority, are not easy ones. For example. If air traffic controllers want higher wages. Do they have the rights to strike and inconvenience thousands of people until the federal government offers them a satisfactory raise? If Congress votes “legislative vetoes “into bills as a way to supervise the executive branch. Does the Supreme Court have the rights to declare them unconstitutional? If religious parents believe that children should pray in public schools, does this view conflict with the separation of church and state?
These questions raise problems of rights and political power, and some of these problems are admittedly more difficult than others. Most of us would probably agree that a Supreme Court decision is law even if Congress doesn’t like it. We will probably disagree. Though, on the right of air traffic controllers to strike. It can be argues that the controllers should not be denied the right to ask for higher wages simply because they perform a public service. Yet a case can also be made that no one, including overworked air traffic controllers, has the right to deny the people such an important element of public safety. The question of whether children should pray in public school is also difficult. Which prayers would suit all religions? What about children who do not wish to pray at all?
How does society determine how to limit political power and how to balance, in the most equitable fashion, the needs of the majority with the rights of individuals and minorities? Whereas decisions about who is right and who is wrong in specific cases such as those mentioned must always be made by the decision makers in office at a particular time, it is evident that governments need some guidelines in determining where this balance should fall. These guidelines are provided by traditions, by statutes, and by national constitutions, which lay down the basic ground rules for governing society.1