|Israeli academics educate Israeli and Palestinian lawyers to undermine Israel, under the guise of Peace, in: Palestinian, Israeli Lawyers in ‘Dialogue and Action’|
| Dr. Nava Sonnenschein, The School for Peace, (ex-Hebrew University)|
Dr. Adel Manna, Director of the Center for the Study of Arab Society in Israel at the Van Leer Jerusalem
Dr. Rabah Halabi of the School of Education of the Hebrew University
Dr. Michael Kariani, law faculty at the Hebrew University
Dr. Dafna Golan, law faculty at the Hebrew University
Dr. Jose Brunner, Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University
Professor Orna Ben Naftali, international law and jurisprudence, Law School, The College of Management
Funded by USAID, and run cooperatively by the School for Peace and
the Hewar Center for Peace and Development, a “Dialogue and
Action" program has brought together 20 Palestinian and 20 Israeli
lawyers together in June, http://nswas.org reported on Wednesday.
"It was magic," reports Dr. Nava Sonnenschein of the School for
Peace (SFP) about the results of the lawyers’ meetings from the
’’Creating Change Advocates: Palestinian and Israeli
Professionals in Dialogue and Action" program.
The objective of the program was to train Palestinian and Israeli
lawyers how to work from a human rights perspective that acknowledges
the needs of both peoples. Through this newly acquired lens, the hope
is that participants will help create opportunities for easing the
conflict between the two peoples, form a critical mass dedicated to
institutional change and reconciliation, and actively promote peace.
The idea originated when graduates of the SFP facilitator training
course were being interviewed for research purposes. A prominent human
rights lawyer, Michael Sfard, was one of the interviewees. At the
young age of 22, he attended a SFP course and became a qualified
facilitator. He asserts that the course he took more than 12 years ago
had been instrumental in his ability to deal with the legal system and
provided him with valuable tools to deal with opponents in the
courtroom. "The School for Peace course constantly comes to mind in my
work...", he comments. "... It made me realize that sometimes the
feeling that you are right can blind you. You are so sure that you are
right that you cannot step into your opponent’s shoes. One day,"
he mentions, "I suddenly understood that different people understand
the same reality differently and we don’t always have to
determine who is right..."
A comprehensive recruitment program was launched on both sides with
advertisements going out to a wide-range of media (the Israeli Bar
Association e-Newsletter, Shatil, associations that deal with human
rights law, etc.). On the Israeli side, 20 lawyers were picked, out of
which 15 were Jewish-Israelis and 5 were Palestinian-Israeli citizens.
On the Palestinian side, led by the well-known Palestinian lawyer
Mohammad Abu Sneina, from Hewar, 20 young-Palestinian lawyers from
diverse geographical areas were selected. The goal was to recruit
young professionals. The group eventually chosen range from 24 to 40
years old, with an average age of 28. Younger lawyers were targeted
because it is easier to work with professionals who have not yet been
enticed by the more popular, higher-income sectors of law.
The program was divided into three components, each incorporating
uni-national and bi-national meetings. The first component, a
uninational meeting, commenced on January 11th. The Palestinian group,
with 20 participants, met in Ramallah. The Israeli group, with the
same number of participants, met in WAS-NS. These meetings were an
opportunity for the group members to grow acquainted with each other,
to set out the project’s objectives, and to prepare participants
for the intensive bi-national workshop.
The first bi-national meeting was hosted in Aqaba, Jordan, from
January 23rd to January 27th. This was the first time for many from
the Palestinian side to meet with their Israeli counterparts as
colleagues and not as ’soldiers,’ Nava commented.
The first day provided a re-cap from the uni-lateral meetings,
setting expectations and getting-acquainted session. The following
days were devoted to dialogue between the two sides. The Palestinian
group was strong and articulate. The lawyers brought the reality of
occupation to the table and placed a mirror of that reality before the
Israeli group. They explained the atrocious effects of the occupation
upon the lives of ordinary people, described the situation in Gaza,
the refugees, the checkpoints, and other hardships. The Israeli group,
on the other hand, attempted to wrest from the Palestinians an
acknowledgment of their moral right to exist in Israel. The third day
was devoted to dialogue around key issues such as: the definition of
Israel as a Jewish state, land confiscation, discrimination against
Palestinian citizens of Israel, history of the 1948 war, racism, the
asymmetry in power and other such internal issues. In the fourth day,
the participants were engaged in a simulation of negotiations about
the main issues that have to be resolved between both sides:
Jerusalem, refugees, final boarders, security, and natural resources.
All teams reached impressive agreements. The last day was devoted to
During the second component (commencing on February 22nd),
uni-national meetings were held once again. The groups attended
lectures at WAS-NS where Dr. Nava Sonnenschein presented on
’Identity and Conflict’; Dr. Rabah Halabi on post colonial
theories (March 14th) and Dr. Adel Manna examined the history of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a critical perspective (April 11th).
During the second bi-national meeting (June 26th-29th), the "magic"
began to take shape. The group was given lectures by Michael Sfard on
general theories of international law, military occupation, legal
structure of separation, etc.; both in the wider global context and
not specific to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Advocate Mussa Sayad
spoke about the Palestinian legal system and the influence young
lawyers have. The day was devoted to dialogue around key issues such
as: the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, land confiscation,
discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel, the history of
the 1948 war, racism, the asymmetry in power and other such internal
issues. These sessions helped give the participants ideas about where
activism can be effective.
Nava adds that the role of the Palestinian citizens of Israel was
very interesting as they were involved in constant "translation", by
which she does not mean the literal definition of the word. “By
developing a translation,” Nava explains, “we were trying
to get one group to understand the ‘other’s’
intention.” There were times when an Israeli would innocently
make a comment and offend a Palestinian, and vice versa. There were
many delicate issues, and placing the conflict within each
others’ context was important to avoid misconceptions.
In the uni-national sessions both groups prepared their national
professional dilemmas and presented it to the whole group in a
planning session. The Palestinian side presented problems such as
having to defend a collaborator, or defending a one-single-small
farmer while knowing a compromise is helping the individual but not
the Palestinian cause as a whole, and other issues that go against the
national Palestinian cause. Israelis who were against the Wall (the
separation barrier) ran the risk of being ostracized or black-listed
by their community for representing Palestinian causes. The dilemma
deepened due to the nature of bringing cases to the Israeli courts.
The Israeli lawyers unwillingly give the Wall legitimacy by
acknowledging its presence and the issues surrounding it.
The final session of the day was used to decide on projects. The
participants sat in small mixed-groups and brainstormed ideas. What
was interesting was that both groups chose women as chairs. What is
even more interesting is that one group chose a Mizrahi (Eastern
Jewish) lawyer, and the second group chose a 1948 Palestinian Woman
(Palestinian with Israeli citizenship.) The groups were then divided
into 3 bi-national teams, each with 2 chairpersons - 1 Palestinian and
1 Israeli. The first team chose to deal with the problematic topic in
military courts. The second team chose International Human Rights Law
and using the international tribunals to fight violations of human
rights in the occupied territories. The third team decided on creating
a joint forum of Palestinian and Israeli lawyers that will fight
together against human rights abuses. A unique and powerful thing was
noted in these sessions as the shift and transformation in ideas and
opinions were clear and both sides were very eager to work together.
Both sides have a tremendous amount of obstacles to overcome, but both
chose to set aside their cynicism and skepticism, and made a firm
decision to be optimistic about the future partnership. Nava added
that if this initial enthusiasm and dedication to the program is
sustained, big changes in society are inevitable.
Nava comments, "I saw with my own eyes the magical transformation of
a whole group of young lawyers. They passed from the early stage of
absorbing new knowledge, moved on to struggle with inner change, and
eventually they became a group that is ready to take responsibility
and act. This was an exciting process."
Above and Beyond/Future Endeavors
Due to the intense nature of the program, with many lectures and
seminars scheduled, the groups had insufficient time for dialogue.
When it was not possible to complete a discussion during the sessions,
the dialogue will would spill over into the participants’ "free"
time, such as coffee and lunch breaks. They would converse during and
after dinner, and on into the the early hours of the morning. Their
enthusiasm to speak to each other was evident; the groups even decided
to go on a 5-hour boat trip at the Red Sea together, rather than
The third component of this program starts July 18th and will be
followed by monthly meetings. It will be a series of eight
uni-national and bi-national lectures and seminars given by prominent
lawyers and human rights activists, including: Advocate Hassan
Jabarin, the Director of Adalah; Dr. Michael Kariani, resident of
WAS-NS and professor at the Hebrew University; Dr. Dafna Golan, Dr.
Jose Brunner; Professor Orna Ben Naftali in WAS/NS; Attorney Mussa
Dwake; Attorney Elia Theodor; Attorney Rafif Mujadeh and Dr. Rafq Abu
Ayash in Ramallah. Two of these meetings will be field trips to
Ramallah, where Israeli lawyers (accompanied by their Palestinian
counterparts) will be able to see the of occupation with their own
eyes. The lawyers are very eager to sit with each other and have asked
for more joint meetings, which gives hope. What we have here is
something unique. These are the beginnings of a grassroots
organization whose intention is a positive peace initiative that
fights against racism and the mechanism of oppression, and one that
struggles against the apathy and acquiescence of suffering.