January 2016 Legal Delegation
Co-Sponsored with the Center for Constitutional Rights
Lawyers' Delegation Describes January Trip as Unforgettable and Exceptionally Valuable
IFPB and the Center for Constitutional Rights Facilitate Unique Visit for Legal Academics and Practitioners
IFPB and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) worked together to send a delegation of prominent lawyers to Palestine/Israel to provide them with first-hand experience of the situation, legal issues, and movements for justice in Palestine/Israel. CCR, which was founded 50 years ago in support of the civil rights movement, is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.
Vince Warren, CCR’s Executive Director, wrote this after his first day in Jerusalem: “It feels to me like I have been getting prepared for this trip to Israel and Occupied Palestine ever since I first realized something could be done about injustice.” (Vince is pictured above right, along with colleagues at CCR who also traveled: Maria LaHood, center, and Baher Azmy, left).
The delegation was comprised of influential American lawyers and legal experts active on domestic US justice and rights-based work but who had little previous exposure to Palestinian rights issues. Delegates included six academics from five institutions, five practitioners from US domestic organizations, and three CCR staffers. (CCR staff are are pictured above, left to right: Baher Azmy, Maria LaHood, and Vince Warren).
What the delegates saw and experienced in Palestine/Israel moved, and in many cases, surprised them. Delegates called the trip “exceptionally valuable” and unforgettable for me.” On the last day of the trip, a delegate reflected, “I underestimated both the extent and harshness of inequality and discrimination, as well as the creativity, bravery, and clarity of the resistance.” After return, another said, “I hear the news in a completely different way. They are the same stories, but I have a different context to understand them. My eyes are opened."
“I underestimated both the extent and harshness of inequality and discrimination, as well as the creativity, bravery, and clarity of the resistance.”
Delegates traveled for nine days in early January 2016, meeting more than 45 individual Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders, legal experts, academics, and more than 20 groups and organizations.
The delegation also featured several unique experiences. Delegates attended Israeli military trials of Palestinians at Ofer Prison. Iyad Burnat led a tour of Bil’in village where community residents have been resisting Israeli detentions and land grabs. Raji Sourani spoke to the delegation from the besieged Gaza Strip by video conference. Residents of Dheisheh Refugee Camp led a tour of the camp. Delegates visited Hebron and spoke with leaders of Youth Against Settlements there. The last night of the delegation featured a visits unrecognized Palestinian Bedouin villages in Israel that are threatened with forced evictions and demolitions.
Interfaith Peace-Builders believes in the power of eye-witness experience and transformation. Given the opportunity to speak directly with Palestinians and Israelis, delegates return to the United States better informed, more energized, and with a deeper understanding of the possibilities for true justice in the Middle East.