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New Platform for Debunking Israel at Harvard Law School's Mizrahi Legal Studies Conference
Editorial Note

Mizrahi Jews, the descendants of Jews from Arab and Muslim countries, are the center of a new initiative.  A newly-emerging field, Mizrahi Legal Studies, is having its first-ever international conference at Harvard on December 10-11, 2019. The central tenet of the conference is that the identity of Mizrahim has "traditionally been neglected in legal academia". One of the organizers is Lihi Yona, a doctoral student at the Columbia Law School, a Shusterman fellow, and a former student at the University of Haifa where she co-founded an Arab-Jewish student political movement.    

All the panels at the conference discuss the following issues: Mizrahi Interventions in Political/Legal Thought; Mizrahi Legal History/ies; Mizrahi Methodologies; Knowing Mizrahi Identity: Criterions, Records, Adjudication; Mizrahi Jews and Jewish Law; Shas; Mizrahi Discrimination and Clinical Education; Mizrahi Representation and Speech Regulation; Spatial Dimensions and Mizrahi Positionality. 

According to conference guideline, the first wave of legal writing on Mizrahi issues has focused primarily on the "absence" of Mizrahi Jews from Israeli law, "Despite a robust tradition of critical writing on Israeli law, as well as prolific research in Mizrahi Studies in other disciplines such as history, sociology, and anthropology, the Mizrahi perspective has been traditionally neglected in Israeli legal academia."  

The conference keynote speaker is Prof. Yifat Bitton, 
a pioneer in the field, who's Hebrew language article, "Mizrahis and Law: Absence as Existence,” published in Mishpatim Law Review, in 2011. Her thesis is "The Mizrahi population is discriminated in Israel. This population, which is suffering from ongoing and proven discrimination, is invisible in Israeli law and is not recognized in it as a category of discriminated groups.” Bitton notes that the Israeli Prohibition of Discrimination Law indicates that the judicial system reflects and at the same time allows ignoring its existence in Israel as a discriminated group.” She calls this phenomenon, "denial dynamics" which "allows hardship to the structure in which the struggle of Mizrahim for equality is a limited struggle, and the analysis of the use of the law to prevent discrimination reflects these limitations in a sharp and systematic way. " 

The conference brochure shows a photograph of the 1971 Black Panther's movement demonstrating in Haifa, while holding signs "How long would a ten member family reside in one room?" The Panthers were protesting the dire living conditions of the poor. The fact that the conference is using a dated image of the Mizrahhim is telling. It allows Bitton and her cohorts to conveniently ignore that in the past forty years since the Black Panthers were founded, the Mizrahim have made tremendous progress. Some of the wealthiest Israelis are Mizrahim, and many Mizrahim have also reached the top positions of the political, cultural, financial, and legel realms of Israeli life. Bitton herself was a candidate for a position on the Supreme Court until the media disclosed she is a member of the New Israel Fund International Board, a politically-tainted organization.  

The conference is hosted by the Harvard Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law. Its director, Prof. Noah Feldman, has been writing articles postulating that a Palestinian democracy is possible and that Islamic law is compatible with democracy.   As befitting an activist professor, the conference has a political agenda of building a Palestinian-Mizrahi alliance. This has been a long staining goal of radical Israeli scholars like Yehuda Shenhav who, as well known, went to great length to “prove” that the Mizrahim are “ Arab Jews.” 

To push for the new alliance, the conference invited papers on the "Mizrahi positionality and identity vis-à-vis Israel/Palestine." Several speakers address the issue.  Yael Berda, a partly Mizrahi, will be speaking of "Reversing Internal Colonialism – Towards Administrative Principles of Affirmative Inclusion" Berda's scholarship is mostly focusing on entry permits obtained by Palestinians to travel or work in Israel; Lana Tatour, Palestinian Israeli, will speak on On "the (Im)possibility of Palestinian-Mizrahi Alliance". Tatour is a Palestinian citizen of Israel, who was a post doctoral student at the Hebrew University and received grants from the AVI Fellowships for Ph.D. Studies; British Friends of Hebrew University; and the Anglo-Israel Association; Alexandre Kedar, of Ashkenazi origin, speaks of "Mizhrahi Jews under the Israeli Land Regime: Between Asheknazi Founders and Indigenous Palestinians"; Fady Khoury, a Palestinian Israeli and a Doctoral student at Harvard Law faculty and formerly a student at the University of Haifa, presents "The Ambiguity of Segregation Regulation in Israel in Relation to Palestinians and Mizrahim." Khoury has been a Palestinian human rights lawyer living in Israel. 

The conference, not surprisingly, is "Drawing on critical race theory and critical legal studies," which suggests that empirical evidence is highly unlikely. As IAM repeatedly reported concerning the neo-Marxist, critical scholarship, it tends to lean on polemics rather than evidence.  


Focusing on the Black Panthers intends to draw the connection between Mizrahim and Palestinians as expressed in the article "When Israel’s Black Panthers found common cause with Palestinians," published by the Palestinian Electronic Intifada earlier this year. It uses the same photograph of the Black Panthers. It interviewed Black Panther founder Reuven Abergel, who reatrated the fact that the Black Panther's demonstrations were taken place because people were incredibly poor. He said, “The movement came from the people who were suffering. It all started from the pain... The reality was so hard. We didn’t have time to sit and plan. We protested because it was a response to the difficulties we faced in our everyday lives."  Another Electronic Intifada interviewee was Sami (Shalom) Chetrit, a Mizrahi scholar who wrote a book on the Mizrahi experience in Israel, titled Intra-Jewish Conflict in Israel: White Jews, Black JewsChetrit has told The Electronic Intifada that around 55 percent of Mizrahi children have dropped out of school during the time the Black Panthers was founded. “Kids were just on the streets and no one really cared,” Chetrit said. Likewise, 80% of welfare-supported families were Mizrahim.  “It was not just quantitative poverty; they were also deprived of their families and structure. The family and community structure that was so strong in their countries of origin completely collapsed... People [Mizrahim] who came from very stable communities for many years found themselves living in slums. It all happened in front of your eyes, within four or five years, hundreds of thousands of people suddenly had no community. Their whole lives collapsed,” Chetrit said.  The purpose of the article is to show how the Mizrahim have been treated badly by the authorities, just like the Palestinians.


The conference invites all those who are "interested in the inner-Jewish racial rift," ignoring the fact that the extensive intermarriage levels in Israel have shrunk the ranks of the Mizrahim. As noted, the need to resurrect the Black Panthers movement and the socio-economic reality which existed in the early 1970s is a symbol of the desperation of the conference organizers. Ironically, the only large identifiable “pure” Mizrahi group are the followers of Shas, an ultra-orthodox Mizrahi party, who harbor extreme anti-Palestinian positions.  In fact, Shas has been a constant fixture in the right-wing Likud coalition.  


To admit this reality would, of course, undermine the critical, neo-Marxist approach of the conference organizers.  With no empirical limitations on their writings, they can indulge in the old dream of “Arab Jews,” a.k.a. the Mizrahim, ready to create an alliance with the Palestinians.  







Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law

Mizrahi Legal Studies Conference Program

Day 1 (Tuesday December 10, 2019)

9 – 10am: Opening Session: Noah Feldman and Pnina Motzafi-Haller

10:15– 11:30am: Mizrahi Interventions in Political/Legal Thought
Chair:  Lihi Yona
Yael Berda: Reversing Internal Colonialism – Towards Administrative Principles of Affirmative Inclusion
Lana Tatour: On the (Im)possibility of Palestinian-Mizrahi Alliance
Claris Harboun: Critical Thoughts on Mizrahi Legal Studies

11:30 – 11:45am BREAK

11:45 – 1:15pm: Mizrahi Legal History/ies
Chair: Pnina Lahav
Karin Carmit Yefet: A Voice of One’s Own: Mizrahi Feminism in Israeli Abortion Law
Inbal Maimon Blau: Mass Torts in Israel and the Mizrahi Identity – Legal, Social and Historical Aspects
Barak Atiram: Judicial Silencing of Mizrahi Voices
Omer Aloni: For There is Peace in the Village: Reflections of Orientalist Perspectives in Early Israeli Law

1:15 – 3pm: LUNCH and Roundtable: Mizrahi Methodologies
Hadar Aviram, Yifat Bitton, Sapir Slutzker-Amran, Yofi Tirosh

3 – 4:30pm: Knowing Mizrahi Identity: Criterions, Records, Adjudication
Chair: Rabea Eghbariah
Issi Rosen-Zvi: The Right to Mizrahi Culture v. The Right of Mizrahim to Culture
Yofi Tirosh: Dance Club Door Profiling Adjudication: The Ambiguity Trap of Mizrahi Identity
Sigal Nagar-Ron: Statistical invisibility and its Implications: the Case of an Ethnicity-blind Approach and the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics.
Hadar Aviram: The Ethnic Djinn Comes Out from the Tin

6:30pm – Dinner for Conference Speakers and Chairs

Day 2 (Wednesday December 11, 2019)

9 – 10:15am: Mizrahi Jews and Jewish Law
Chair: Noah Feldman
Zvi Zohar: Core Characteristics of Sephardic Halakhic Thought in Modern Times
Benjamin Brown:  Mizrahi/Haredi Legal Interactions
Chagai Schlesinger: The Dual Chief Rabbinate in Israel: Centralism, Pluralism, Discrimination

10:15 – 10:25am: BREAK

10:25 – 11:25am: Shas Roundtable
Chair: Noah Feldman
Moshe Arbel: Shas and the Emmanuel Affair
Sagit Peretz-Deri
: A Feminist Critique of the Evolution of Shas

11:25-11:35am: BREAK

11:35 – 1pm: Mizrahi Discrimination and Clinical Education
Chair: Emily Broad Leib
Reut Cohen: Challenges and Dilemmas of a Clinic Director in Representing Mizrahi Jews in Poverty Law Issues
Efrat Fudem: Anti-Mizrahi Discrimination and Legal Education
Vardit Avidan: Representing Mizrahi Women
Neta Ziv and Sapir Slutzker-Amran: Mizrahi Cause Lawyers in Israel: Harnessing Ethnic Consciousness and Legal Professionalism

1 – 1:30pm: LUNCH

1:30- 2:15pm: KEYNOTE
Yifat Bitton, Chairwoman, Tmura, the Israeli Anti-Discrimination Center, COMAS Striks Law School

2:15 – 2:30pm: BREAK

2:30 – 4pm: Mizrahi Representation and Speech Regulation
Chair: Oshra Shaib Lerer
Magi Otsri: David Levy Walks into A Bar: Regulating offensive anti-Mizrahi humor on Israeli TV
Shoshana Madmoni-Gerber: The Politics of Mizrahi Representation, and the Fight for Justice: The Yemenite Babies Affair
Natalie Haziza: Traces of Absence: How the trauma of the Yemenite, Mizrahi and Balkan Kidnapped Children Affair is presented in home-movies and photographs
Joshua Lipson: The Ashkenazi Revolution Affair and the Forming of Mizrahi Ethnic Politics

4-4:15pm: BREAK

4:15 – 5:30pm: Spatial Dimensions and Mizrahi Positionality
Chair: Derek Penslar
Yishai Blank: Mizrahi Legal Studies at a Crossroad: Between Classical Critique and Critique in an Era of Liberal Decline.
Alexandre Kedar: Mizhrahi Jews under the Israeli Land Regime: Between Asheknazi Founders and Indigenous Palestinians
Fady Khoury: The Ambiguity of Segregation Regulation in Israel in Relation to Palestinians and Mizrahim

5:30pm: Closing Remarks


Speaker and Chair Biographies:

Omer Aloni is a Doctor of Law at the Zvi Meitar Center for Advanced Legal Studies, Tel-Aviv University Buchmann Faculty of Law. Omer obtained his LLB and BA in General History (cum laude), as well as his LLM with thesis (cum laude), from Tel-Aviv University. After submitting his PhD dissertation, he joined the University of Potsdam Law Faculty as a postdoctoral researcher. Between 2016 and 2018, he was a visiting scholar at the Rachel Carson Center for Environmental and Society, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, and is a recipient of the Minerva Fellowship, funded by the German Federal Government. In 2017, he collaborated at The Max Planck Institute for European Legal History (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt), sponsored by the Dialogue Scholarship.

MK Moshe Arbel is a Rabbi and a politician. He currently serves as a member of the Knesset for Shas. Moshe graduated from the Nahalat David Yeshiva in Petah Tiqva. After being ordained as a rabbi, Moshe started to study law in the ultra-Orthodox campus of Ono Academic College, where he earned both an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree in law (magna cum laude). He studied at Harvard Business School and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Haifa and previously held a clerkship at the Ramle Magistrate Court.

Barak Atiram is an Assistant Professor in Sapir Academic College, teaching corporate law, contract law and class actions. Dr Atiram obtained his PhD from the Tel Aviv University Law School, where he wrote his doctoral thesis under the guidance of Prof. Henry Smith of the Harvard Law School and Prof. Roy Kreitner from TAU.  Dr. Atiram’s doctoral thesis describes collective action as a valuable opportunity for grassroots empowerment, distributive justice and social mobility.  Barak attained an undergraduate and graduate (cum laude) degree in law from Tel Aviv University and another graduate degree from Harvard Law School. Articles based on his research were published in leading universities’ law journals, including Tel Aviv University (Luney Mishpat); Hebrew University (Mishpatim); Haifa University (Mishpat Umimshal); Berkeley University (Berkeley Journal of African American Law and Policy).

Vardit Avidan is a feminist lawyer with years of experience in cause lawyering and civil society organizations. Vardit served as senior director of The Tmura center, the Israeli Anti-Discrimination Center, in which she initiated and led groundbreaking legal action using tort law for protecting and promoting equality and the rights of crime victims. Additionally, she was the professional director of the Equality Legal Clinic at the College of Management Law School.  In 2018, Vardit won the Yaffa London Ya’ari award for promoting marginalized women’s rights. The prize includes a monetary award of 15,000 NIS that will go toward further sociolegal aid for women.

Hadar Aviram is the Thomas Miller Professor at UC Hastings College of the Law. She holds law and criminology degrees from Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a PhD in Jurisprudence and Social Policy from UC Berkeley, where she studied as a Fulbright Fellow and a Regents Intern. Professor Aviram specializes in criminal justice and civil rights from a socio-legal perspective. She is the author of Cheap on Crime: Recession-Era Politics and the Transformation of American Punishment (2015), The Legal Process and the Promise of Justice (2019), and Yesterday’s Monsters: The Manson Family Cases and the Illusion of Parole (forthcoming 2020). Professor Aviram is a frequent media commentator on politics, immigration, criminal justice policy, civil rights, the Trump Administration, and the Mueller Report.

Yael Berda is currently the Gerard Weinstock visiting lecturer on sociology at Harvard University. She is an assistant professor at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Hebrew University. She received her PhD from Princeton University; MA from Tel Aviv University and LLB from Hebrew University Faculty of Law. Berda was a practicing human rights lawyer, representing in military, district and Supreme court in Israel. Her second book Living Emergency: Israel’s Permit Regime in the Occupied West Bank came out with Stanford University Press in 2017. Berda was an Academy scholar at the Harvard Academy for international and area studies 2015-2017. Berda has been highly engaged in social and political struggles in Israel. In 1997 she co-founded and led the student movement Mahapach – Taghir, and has been involved in public actions for equality in education, housing, and public participation, including the strollers protest in 2011 and the struggle against the privatization of prisons. Berda teaches Sociology of Law, State Bureaucracies, Sociology of Empires and Society in Israel.

Yifat Bitton is a legal academic and a social activist for equality. She is co-founder and chair of Tmura, the Israeli Anti-Discrimination Center and also works with the Israeli Clinical Center for Equality, where she litigates human rights torts case.  For her human rights work, Bitton has won myriad social and legal awards and prizes. Among them: The Alliance Prize for Education and Social Change, 2016; The Minister of Social Equality Award for Organizations Fighting Violence against Women, 2016 (given to Tmura); “Honoris Causa” Award, the Israeli Bar Association, 2015; The Safra Award for Excellence and Contribution to Israeli Society, 2015; Forbes’ 50 Most Influential Women in Israel, 2015 (nominated); The Bernice Tennenbaum Prize for innovative feminist, The Hadassah Foundation, 2014; The Human Rights Activist Award, The London Human Rights Annual Dinner, 2014; and Dafna Izraeli Fund’s Prize for Israeli Feminist Leadership, 2013.  Bitton was shortlisted twice for Israel’s Supreme Court in 2018, making history as the youngest woman to ever appear on the list and the first woman of Mizrahi descent to appear on the list. Bitton is an Associate Professor of Law at The Haim Sriks School of Law of the College of Management Academic Studies and she holds a PhD from the Hebrew University, a LLM, Yale University Law School and was a Visiting Researcher at Harvard University as a Fulbright Fellow in 2005.

Yishai Blank is Professor of Law, the Chair of the Graduate Committee, and former Vice Dean (academic affairs) at Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law. He is also serving as the Chair of the Israeli Association of Public Law. His teaching and research focus on local government law, administrative law, global cities, urban theory, religion and secularism, sexuality, and legal theory. Professor Blank is a graduate of Tel Aviv University (LLB and BA in philosophy), and of Harvard Law School (LLM and SJD), and served as a clerk of Chief Justice Aharon Barak, the President of the Israeli Supreme Court. Professor Blank’s articles have been published in top law journals, including Stanford Law Review, Cornell Law Review, Harvard Journal of International Law, Harvard Civil-Rights Civil-Liberties Law Review, North Carolina Law Review, and Fordham Urban Law Journal. Yishai has been a Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School, Cornell Law School, Toronto Law School, Queen’s University Law School, Sciences Po Law School (Paris), and Hamburg University.

Inbal Maimon Blau is a lecturer at the Faculty of Law, Ono Academic Center and at Tel-Aviv University, and a research fellow at the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta. She earned her LLB, LLM, and PhD from the Faculty of Law, Tel-Aviv University.  Her dissertation, written under the supervision of Professors Neta Ziv and David Schorr, examines the socio-legal aspects of compensation mechanisms of mass body damage events in Israel through a historical perspective.

Emily Broad Leib is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, Director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, and Deputy Director of the Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation. As founder of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, Broad Leib launched the first law school clinic in the nation devoted to providing clients with legal and policy solutions to address the health, economic, and environmental challenges facing our food system. She has published scholarly articles in the Wisconsin Law Review, the Harvard Law & Policy Review, the Food & Drug Law Journal, and the Journal of Food Law & Policy, among others.

Benjamin Brown is a professor of Jewish Thought at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His main focus is Orthodox Judaism, which he studies in variety of aspects: Jewish Law (Halakha), Hasidism, Musar Movement and Haredi ideology (Hashkafah). Brown, a graduate of the Hebrew University in law and philosophy, often involves models based on analytic philosophy and legal theory in his researches on Jewish thought and law. Besides courses on Jewish thought, law and history he has also taught modern Western philosophy and political philosophy.  Among his most recent books are: The Haredim: A Guide to Their Beliefs and Sectors” (Am Oved and Israel Democracy Institute, 2017; Hebrew); ’Like a Ship on a Stormy Sea’The Story of Karlin Hasidism (Shazar Center, 2018; Hebrew). He is a co-author of When Judaism Meets a State (Yedioth Aharonot and Israel Democracy Institute, 2015; Hebrew) and Hasidism: A New History (Princeton University Press, 2017).

Karin Carmit Yefet is an Associate Professor at the University of Haifa Faculty of Law. She earned her LLM and JSD from Yale Law School and completed the LLB and LLM Honors program in Bar-Ilan University summa cum laude (valedictorian). Her award-winning scholarship on feminist legal theory and family law focuses on the impact of religion on various dimensions of women’s legal status from feminist, comparative, and constitutional perspectives. Recently she has been admitted as member of the Israel Young Academy and the Global Young Academy which includes the world’s top 200 young scientists across all disciplines.

Reut Cohen holds an LLB in Law from the University of Haifa (cum laude) and an LLM from the American University in Washington, D.C.  where she was a NIF fellow. She directs the Human Rights in Civil Law Clinic at Haifa University. Her work focuses on law and poverty, the right to live in dignity, the right to housing, the right to healthcare and anti-discrimination law. Previously, she worked at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Itach – Maaki Women Lawyers for Social Justice and Bar-Ilan University Legal Clinics. Reut is an activist in various feminist and LGBT arenas.

Rabea Eghbariah is an LLM candidate at Harvard Law School. He published about the criminalization of the Palestinian herb-picking culture, legal education, and imprisonment for nonpayment of fines, for which he was granted the 2018 Michel Halpérin prize by the Emile Zola Chair of Human Rights. Rabea previously worked as an attorney at Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and the Supreme Court cases department of the Public Defender office.

Noah Feldman is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Director of the Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law at Harvard Law School.

Efrat Fudem is a lawyer and social activist in Israel. She works to expand the use of the legal system as a tool to fight discrimination against weakened populations and promote social change. She serves as the head of the Clinic for the Promotion of Equality at the College of Management’s Law School where she lectures on legal theory. For the past seven years, Efrat has directed the Tmura Center which manages tort cases in civil courts to obtain monetary compensation for victims of discrimination. She holds a bachelor’s degree in law and political science from Bar-Ilan University and an LLM with an emphasis on human rights and international law from the Emile Zola Center at the College of Management. She is a graduate of the “Shaharit 120” political leadership reserve program. Efrat is the recipient of an award from the Minister of Social Equality for her work fighting violence against women.

Claris Harboun is an Arab-Jew/Mizrahi feminist and a human and social-economic rights lawyer and scholar.  She holds a doctorate in law from McGill University, and two LLM degrees from Yale Law School and Tel Aviv University Law Faculty. The socio-legal status of Mizrahis in modern Israel has been at the center of her work both academically and practically. Her work focuses primarily on Israeli land law, tracing the discriminatory impact of its Eurocentric foundations on Mizrahis in Israel, with special regard to public housing policy. Her work with Mizrahi women squatters, now forthcoming as a book (2020), is one of the very first interventions in the study of Israeli law that redefines legal categories from a Mizrahi vantage point, showing for the first time the interrelationship between Israeli law and the construction of Mizrahi, particularly women’s, socio-legal inferiority.  She founded and was involved in several anti-racist feminist NGOs and developed an innovative model for working with racialized minorities, mostly women of color.  She is also a published poet and children’s book author.

Natalie Haziza is a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at the City University of New York and is currently doing her internship training at Harvard Medical School/Cambridge Health Alliance. She received her BA in film from the Sapir Academic College and an MA in Communications and Culture Studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her dissertation examines intergenerational trauma among Yemenite, Mizrachi and Balkan families of kidnapped children.

Alexandre (Sandy) Kedar teaches at the Law School at the University of Haifa. He holds a Doctorate in Law (SJD) from Harvard Law School. He was a visiting professor at the University of Michigan Law School as well as a Grotius International Law Visiting Scholar there and a visiting associate professor at the Frankel Institute for Judaic Studies in the University of Michigan. His research focuses on legal geography, legal history, law and society and land regimes in settler societies and in Israel. He served as the President of the Israeli Law and Society Association, is the co-coordinator of the Legal Geography CRN of the Law and Society Association and a member of its international committee. He is the co-founder (in 2003) and director of the Association for Distributive Justice, an Israeli NGO addressing these issues.

Fady Khoury is an SJD candidate at Harvard Law School and a Graduate Research Fellow at the Program on Negotiation at HLS. His research interests include Comparative Constitutional Law, Human Rights, and the intersection between Law, Society and Politics. His dissertation research examines the potential utilization of constitutional law, power-sharing strategies and federal arrangements as conflict resolution and peace-building tools in deeply divided societies, with a special focus on Belgium, Lebanon, Northern Ireland and Palestine-Israel, exploring, both descriptively and normatively, the design and functions of the judicial branch within power-sharing political systems. Fady holds a Bachelor of Law from Haifa University. Before Harvard Law School, Fady worked as a civil rights attorney at Adalah – the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and clerked for Justice Salim Joubran at the Supreme Court of Israel.

Pnina Lahav is Professor of Law at Boston University.  She has published nearly 50 journal articles and three books, including the critically acclaimed Judgment in Jerusalem: Chief Justice Simon Agranat and the Zionist Century, winner of Israel’s Seltner Award (1998) and the Gratz College Centennial Book Award (1998).  She is presently completing a biography of Israel’s fourth prime minister, Golda Meir, a biography that asks how a lone woman surrounded by men makes it to the top. Among the prestigious research fellowships that Professor Lahav has earned are a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation. Professor Lahav delivered several endowed lectures, including the Lapidus Lecture at Princeton University in March 2015, the Rockoff Lecture at Rutgers University in March 2017 and the Taubman Lecture at the University of California in Santa Barbara in November 2017.

Oshra Lerer is the head of the Gender Equality Department at the Israeli Ministry of Education, as well as the head of several learning programs. She has served as a principal of both a High school and an elementary school. Oshra has an MA from Ben-Gurion University in Educational Management. She is a Mizrahi social activist that specializes in educational content and cultural changes.

Joshua Lipson graduated from Harvard with an AB in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. His thesis, “Ashkenazi Revolution: The Politics of Reaction, Heresy, and Suppression in 1960s Israel”, earned the Lewis and Selma Weinstein Prize, and was published in the Harvard Judaica Division Student Research Papers collection. He is a published poet, and is currently working on an MS in Psychological Sciences at William & Mary.

Shoshana Madmoni-Gerber has an MA in Communication and Journalism from Hebrew University and a PhD in Communication from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  She has worked as a journalist in Israel for several publications including: Yediot Aharonot, Shishi, Hadashot, and Hapatish newspapers, and did research for the investigative show Uvda on Channel Two. Shoshana joined the faculty at Suffolk University in 2004, and has been teaching courses in Journalism, Media, and Documentary Film. She is the author of Israeli Media and the Framing of Internal Conflict (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

Pnina Motzafi-Haller is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel (PhD Brandeis University 1988). Since 1995, her work has focused on Israeli society, exploring patterns of ethnic, class and gender inequality. Her recent book Concrete Boxes: Mizrahi Women on Israel’s Periphery was published by Wayne State University Press (2018). She is currently the President of the Israeli Anthropological Association.

Sigal Nagar-Ron is a sociologist at Sapir Academic College. Her research focuses on the intersectionality between gender, ethnicity and class. She is also interested in feminist epistemology and methodology.  In her current project, funded by the Ministry of Science, she explores the ways in which different educational systems (college graduate, Ulpana students and general high-school education) effect Mizrachi women and former Soviet Union immigrants, living in Negev development towns.  Nagar-Ron is also a Mizrahi-feminist activist.

Margalit (Magi) Otsri is a Lady Davis post-doctoral fellow in law at the Hebrew University. Her doctoral dissertation, supervised by Prof. Menahem Mautner and Prof. Asa Kasher, proposes a normative theory to determine the legal treatment of offensive humor.

Derek Penslar is the William Lee Frost Professor of Jewish History. His research specialties are the history of modern European Jewry, Zionism, and the state of Israel.

Sagit Peretz Deri is a lawyer, a political and social activist. She has earned her LLB from the Bar Ilan university, and teaches at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. She is passionate about both learning and teaching the Talmud and Sephardic Halacha, and devoted to social justice, women empowerment and the revival of Mizrahi culture and communities in Israel.

Issi Rosen-Zvi is Professor of Law and the Vice Dean at Tel Aviv University’s Buchman Faculty of Law. Professor Rosen-Zvi obtained his LLB degree (magna cum laude) from Bar-Ilan University, his LLM degree in law and sociology from Tel Aviv University (summa cum laude) and continued his studies at Stanford Law School, where he received his doctorate in June 2002. Professor Rosen-Zvi clerked for the Honorable Chief Justice Aharon Barak of the Israel Supreme Court and practiced law at Kirkland & Ellis, LLP in New York. He published articles in prestigious law reviews, among them Stanford Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and UCLA Law Review. He is the author two books: Taking Space Seriously (Ashgate, 2004) and The Civil Process (Hebrew U. Press & Nevo Publishing House).

Chagai Schlesinger is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Law of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a research fellow at the Heshin Center for Advanced Legal Studies. His research focuses on the intersection between the centralist nature of the modern state and the pluralistic nature of religion, within Israeli contexts. Previously, he served as a legal clerk to the Israeli Supreme Court Justice Noam Sohlberg.

Sapir Slutzker-Amran is a radical human rights lawyer, a social and political activist.  Adv. Sluzker Amran is the founder and research fellow at “Archi-Parchi: The Activism Archive for Social Movements” at The College of Management, Emile Zola Chair.  She currently teaches courses on activism, law and social change. Sluzker-Amran is a fervent advocate and campaigner for poverty and underprivileged populations and leads numerous grassroots struggles to promote these causes. She is also the founder of The DocuRights Project, established to document and protect freedom of expression and protest in Israel.

Lana Tatour is Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University. She is currently working on her book manuscript, Ambivalent Resistance: Palestinians in Israel and the Liberal Politics of Settler Colonialism and Human Rights. Tatour completed her PhD in Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom in 2017. She was previously a fellow at the University of New South Wales(UNSW) Faculty of Law, UNSW School of Social Sciences, the Australian Human Rights Centre, and the Palestinian American Research Center.

Yofi Tirosh is Dean of the Sapir Academic College School of Law in Israel’s Negev region and a member of the Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law. She wrote her doctoral dissertation at the University of Michigan, and clerked for the late Justice Mishael Cheshin at Israel’s Supreme Court.  She has served as a visiting professor and scholar at NYU, Georgetown, Humboldt University of Berlin, and Queen’s University in Canada. For her impact through research and activism on civil rights issues she received the 2018 Gorni Award for Public Law, and the Katan Award for research and public advocacy for gender equality. She is a recent recipient of a significant research grant from Israel’s Science Foundation (ISF). Alongside her academic work, Tirosh is a public advocate against the rapid expansion of sex-segregation in Israel.

Lihi Yona is an JSD candidate at Columbia Law School, writing her dissertation on liminal recognition groups and workplace discrimination. Lihi has a master’s degree from Columbia Law School and a master’s in philosophy from Haifa University, where she also graduated with an LLB in law. She is the co-organizer of the Mizrahi Legal Studies Conference at Harvard Law School.

Neta Ziv is the Academic Director The Israel Affordable Housing Center and The Institute for Law and Philanthropy at The Buchmann Faculty of Law at Tel Aviv University. Between 1999-2014 she was the Director of the Clinical Legal Education Programs at the law school. Prof. Ziv teaches courses on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Regulation, Social Rights, Housing Rights, Poverty Law and the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Zvi Zohar is Chauncey Stillman Professor of Sephardic Law and Ethics (Emeritus) at Bar Ilan University, and a Senior Research Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. His research deals with the history and development of Halakha (‘Jewish Law’), and his special interest is in the writings and creativity of Sephardic Rabbis in Islamic Lands in Modern Times.  He has published over 90 scholarly articles in Hebrew, English, French and German, and several edited volumes. His most recent book is “Rabbinic Creativity in the Modern Middle East,” Bloomsbury Academic Press, 2013.


Mizrahi Legal Studies: an International Conference hosted by the Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law at Harvard Law School

by Susan Kahn
Type:  Conference
Date:   December 10, 2019 to December 11, 2019
Location:   Massachusetts, United States
Subject Fields:   Human Rights, Jewish History / Studies, Law and Legal History, Political History / Studies, Social Sciences

The positionality of Mizrahi Jews (descendents of Jews from Arab and Muslim countries) has traditionally been neglected in legal academia. Drawing on critical race theory and critical legal studies, the emerging field of Mizrahi Legal Studies examines the specific status of Mizrahi Jews in Israeli law and society. This conference will take a leading role in shaping this growing scholarly movement.

Contact Info: 

Susan Kahn, PhD
Associate Director for Content and Curriculum

Contact Email: 

CFP: Mizrahi Legal Studies Conference – Cambridge, MA

The Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law at Harvard Law School is pleased to announce its upcoming conference on Mizrahi Legal Studies, to be held at Harvard Law School on December 10-11, 2019.

The newly-emerging field of Mizrahi Legal Studies aims at highlighting the specific conditions, experiences, and perspectives of Mizrahi Jews in Israeli law and society, both historically and today. The discipline seeks to develop readings of Israeli law that expose the ethno-racial aspects of what may initially appear neutral, objective, or colorless.

The purpose of the conference is to explore, critique, engage and broaden this emerging area, promoting writing and critical discussion around Mizrahi issues in multiple sites of legal research, including both Israeli and Jewish law. The conference offers a forum to consider, define, and contest the field’s directions in light of comparative and concrete analysis, as well as theoretical inquiry. Despite a robust tradition of critical writing on Israeli law, as well as prolific research in Mizrahi Studies in other disciplines such as history, sociology, and anthropology, the Mizrahi perspective has been traditionally neglected in Israeli legal academia. Recent developments, including Yifat Bitton’s writings, have sparked new scholarship around the topic. This first wave of legal writing on Mizrahi issues focused primarily on the absence of Mizrahi Jews from Israeli law, and the importance of recognizing Mizrahi Jews as a distinct group within legal language and adjudication. And yet, scholarship that moves beyond this prism to analyze Israeli law from a Mizrahi standpoint is still scarce. The conference offers a unique opportunity to take a leading role in shaping this newly-emerging field. We welcome papers exploring Mizrahi perspectives on Israeli and Jewish law. These include, but are not limited to, papers on the histories of Mizrahim and the law, both before and after the establishment of the State of Israel; papers on Mizrahi approaches to rabbinic thought and Halakha, both institutionally and in theory; papers on discrimination against Mizrahi individuals and communities in the Israeli legal system and Israeli society; papers on Mizrahi deployment of political, cultural, and legal power through Israeli and Jewish law and legal institutions; papers that offer a Mizrahi perspective or reading of legal disciplines and/or doctrines; papers examining how Mizrahi narratives interact with national narratives; papers examining Mizrahi positionality and identity vis-à-vis Israel/Palestine, etc.

Abstracts (200-500 words) should be sent to Lihi Yona (ly2303@columbia.edu) by February 15, 2019. A limited number of bursaries will be available to help cover some of the costs for those lacking institutional funding.

Conference website.



The first-ever int'l conference on #Mizrahi Legal Studies! Dec 10&11 at @Harvard_Law. Check it out if you're interested in the inner-Jewish racial rift and be a part of what is going to be a landmark conference on race in Israeli legal studies. Details: https://bit.ly/2K3scjl 

2:21 AM - 8 Nov 2019


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