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Panel with Human Rights Activists from the Occupied Palestinian Territories

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On Tuesday, April 12th, the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, together with Law Students for Human Rights (LSHR), Law Students for Justice in Palestine (LSJP), and the National Lawyers Guild-NYU (NLG), hosted a panel discussion featuring leading Palestinian human rights defenders Raji Sourani and Shawan Jabarin, alongside Amira Hass, a Haaretz correspondent in the Occupied Palestinian territories since 1993. In a rare visit to the United States, the panelists discussed the dynamic situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as some of the most serious human rights violations taking place in Israel and the Palestinian territories in the aftermath of the July/August 2014 offensive.

The panel was moderated by Jamil Dakwar, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Human Rights Program (HRP), who described the panelists as “relentless human rights advocates, outspoken on violations by both the Israeli government as well as the Palestinian Authority”.

Raji Sourani, founder and director of the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights and recipient of the 2013 Right Livelihood (also known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize”) award, discussed the effect of the ten year blockade and siege on the civilian population in the densely populated Gaza Strip, and emphasized how the military campaigns of 2008, 2012 and 2014 by the Israeli military had led to further deterioration in the living conditions of Gazans. As a human rights advocate, he discussed the ongoing efforts of civil society locally and globally to protect human rights, legally document the human rights violations in Gaza, and seek accountability, including before the International Criminal Court.

Shawan Jabarin, a well-known human rights advocate and the General Director of al-Haq, the oldest Palestinian human rights organization, discussed his current work in the West Bank. Jabarin feared that the ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories along with the policies of land grab and illegal land confiscation by the Israeli Government have created a desperate situation that not only threatens the future of the land but the societal structure itself. Characterizing the occupation as “colonial apartheid”, he discussed ways in which Palestinians’ right to liberty, right to freedom of movement and ultimately the right to life, are constantly at risk of violation.

Finally, Amira Hass, a renowned Israeli journalist and longtime correspondent for Haaretz who also serves as a member of the Global Faculty in Residence at New York University Gallatin School, criticized Israeli government policies and measures that exacerbate the disconnection of the Palestinian territories from one another, such as the strategic settlement policy. She described the challenges she faces as an Israeli journalist living in and reporting from the West Bank, including the difficulty of finding an appropriate platform and register to talk about the effect of discriminatory policies on the everyday lives of ordinary citizens living under occupation. Amira Hass also described the challenges facing Israeli activist groups, such as ‘Breaking the Silence’ and other grassroots organizations such as Taayush who face constant harassment from Israeli security forces for speaking out against the policies instituted by their government.

The panelists concluded their discussions by underscoring the importance of a deep understanding of how legally documenting and reporting on the stories from the ground can serve as a mobilizing tool that effectively empowers activists, and thereby touched upon the work on human rights fact-finding that CHRGJ has itself been conducting in recent years.

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