A Tel Aviv–based human rights lawyer forcefully argues that Israeli treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is equivalent to apartheid.
Sfard, who represents Palestinian victims of civil rights violations, makes his literary debut with an unsparing indictment of Israeli racism, oppression, and injustice. Drawing on case documents and interviews with lawyers, peace activists, and human rights workers, he chronicles the legal battles in which he and his colleagues have been engaged: deportation; the construction of Jewish settlements, separation barriers, and unauthorized outposts; use of torture in interrogations; imposition of administrative detention; demolition of homes of families of suspected terrorists; and “targeted killings” or assassinations. The author fervently believes that litigation is a tool for social change, although the complexities of legal struggles sometimes make it difficult to know how to measure success: “The effect that litigation has on politics, on the media, and on social perceptions means that the judicial rulings…are only one element in the matrix of litigation’s outcomes.” Sometimes, remedy for his client grants legitimacy and positive publicity for the occupier; in other cases, achieving justice for a client has an impact on broader policy decisions; and, most ambitiously, legal fights may change the nation’s moral and ethical values. Israeli settlements clearly violate international laws of occupation, which hold that the occupied population must “resume their normal lives as much as possible.” Nevertheless, Israel continues to seize Palestinian land, arguing that the nation is not building new settlements but merely expanding those already established. Furthermore, Israeli courts repeatedly insist that settlements, barriers, torture, and killings are justified because of security needs. Palestinian villagers cut off from their farms, parents unable to take a sick child to a doctor, tankers barred from delivering water: all these result from draconian rules of entry. The “security charade,” Sfard asserts, continues to serve Israel “in its quest for a belligerent, unilateral solution to its conflict with the Palestinians” and gives its courts “standing and legitimacy in world opinion.”
A moving, well-documented testimony to lawyers’ tireless battles against a nation’s inhumanity.