Under the twenty-year old Israel-U.S. Civil Liberties Program, the New Israel Fund sends a pair of Fellows annually to the American University’s Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C. The Fellows receive a full tuition waiver as they complete the one year Master’s Degree in Law program (LL.M.), as well as a $2,000 stipend for living expenses. In exchange for the stipend and waiver, the Fellows must agree to return to Israel after completion of their studies and work for a year in a NIF-approved civil rights organization. The NIF in Israel is responsible for selecting the fellows, subject only to the condition that at least one of the Fellows must be a woman. In recent years, the NIF has unofficially adopted an additional condition that one of the Fellows must be an Arab.

The declared agenda of the NIF in choosing Fellows is to provide "academic and professional experience to Israeli lawyers specializing in civil rights" in order to create and maintain civil rights leadership in Israel.

The 2004 Jewish Fellow is Shamai Leibowitz. Since receiving the Fellowship, Leibowitz has devoted great efforts to advancing the cause of economic and diplomatic war against the existence of the Jewish state.

In June, 2004 Leibowitz participated in the Palestine/Israel Conference on One Democratic State in Lausanne. The Collective for Peace in Israel/Palestine, created in order to hold the conference, promotes the idea described in the P.L.O. charter of eliminating the state of Israel and replacing it with a single "democratic" state. The conference adopted a declaration calling for an end to the state of Israel, and its replacement with a single state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea that would be open to a Palestinian "right of return." Leibowitz’s reported address to the conference, entitled "The Care and Feeding of the Binational State," has not yet been published as a paper by the Collective. Doubtless, though, the address was similar to Leibowitz’s similarly unpublished "Legal Strategies for a One-State Framework," originally scheduled to be delivered at a November 13, 2003 Montreal conference of the Association for One Democratic State in Palestine/Israel.

In November, 2004 Leibowitz testified before the Somerville City Council in favor of a resolution imposing economic sanctions on Israel through divestment. According to Leibowitz, "divestment resolutions are an effective remedy for the severe violence plaguing the Israelis and the Palestinians for 37 years." Leibowitz claimed to have been ordered as a soldier in the I.D.F. to "commit grave human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" and that his platoon "shot and killed unarmed Palestinian civilians" and committed other war crimes as "daily occurrences." Leibowitz also railed against the peace process on the grounds that it merely constitutes "an excuse to divert world attention away from the infliction of suffering, humiliation and destruction upon the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories."

In March, 2005, Leibowitz published an article in the Nation claiming that "international law mandates the use of sanctions to force Israel to comply with UN resolutions and human rights treaties" and calling upon "American civic institutions to support a multi-tiered campaign of strategic, selective sanctions against Israel until the occupation ends." Leibowitz’s proposed sanctions against Israel would include barring Israeli politicians and military personnel from traveling abroad and hauling them before international courts for alleged human rights violations, barring all sales of arms to Israel, and ending all investment in any company that sells to the Israeli military. Leibowitz specifically singled out for praise the Presbyterian Church and World Council of Churches for their divestment efforts against the Jewish state.

During the same month, Leibowitz spoke at the Philadelphia Cathedral in support of the Presbyterian Church’s divestment campaign and urged other Christian churches to join in imposing economic sanctions on Israel. This followed on a speech in Oak Park, Illinois in February, 2005 similarly calling for economic sanctions against the Jewish state.

Leibowitz’s anti-Israel activity could hardly have come as a surprise to the NIF Leibowitz came out in favor of economic warfare against Israel several years ago. At the October 2002 Second National Student Conference on the Palestinian Solidarity Movement at the University of Michigan, Leibowitz accepted an invitation (link has expired) to argue for divestment alongside the likes of Sami al-Arien (under indictment for his longtime activities in the service of the Palestine Islamic Jihad terrorist organization).

Leibowitz’s legal work in Israel prior to his Fellowship is notable primarily for its political quality, rather than its devotion to civil rights. For several years, Leibowitz has served as counsel for International Solidarity Movement activists who illegally enter the state of Israel in order to foil anti-terror operations. Leibowitz has also attempted to intimidate reporters into silence through libel suits, such as the one he filed on behalf of I.S.M. activist Radhika Sainath against Jerusalem reporter Judy Balint for writing of Sainath’s efforts to help Palestinians avoid security checks (The suit was ultimately dismissed.). Employment of the law in order to chill political reportage is generally thought of as inimical to the promotion of civil rights.

Leibowitz achieved public recognition in Israel for his decision to represent Marwan Barghouti, West Bank leader of the terrorist al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in his murder trial in Israel. Leibowitz apparently took on the representation because of his admiration for his client, and he claimed that trying Barghouti was immoral, since Barghouti was the Palestinian Moses leading his people to liberty (Ha’aretz, 4 Oct. 2002). Leibowitz expanded on the theme in a column published by the Israeli news website nfc.co.il, where he argued that the proper understanding of the Exodus story is that the Almighty acted as a terrorist, killing Egyptian children and innocents as punishment for Egyptian arrogance in lording it over another nation, and it would behoove Israel to ask itself how it has become the Egyptians.

For Jewish audiences, such as readers of the Ha’aretz newspapers, Leibowitz has continued to claim to support justice in the form of "two states for two peoples" (Ha’aretz, 29 Sep. 2002). He has also repeatedly condemned all terrorism and killing of the innocent in the abstract, while continuing to extol the heroism of Palestinian terrorists and condemn anti-terrorist Israeli measures.

While Leibowitz is likely the most notorious of NIF Fellows, others have taken notable actions in the fight to delegitimize the Jewish state. Netta Amar, a 2001 Fellow was among 218 signatories to a public call in October, 2000 to the United States Congress to respond the outbreak of Palestinian violence by suspending all aid to Israel. Yohanna Lerman, a 2000 Emily Skolnick Law Fellow, is a member of Women in Black and signed (link has expired) the Al Awda petition in 2000 calling for Israel to yield to the Palestinian "right of return." Hassan Jabareen, a 1994 Fellow, founded Adalah; three of Adalah’s eight-person legal staff are former or current Fellows (Hassan Jabareen, Marwan Dalal and Gadeer Nicola). An additional two Fellows are listed by the NIF as having served as legal staff for Adalah (Jamil Dakwar and Suhad Hammoud), and another Fellow is listed as an Adalah board member (Muhammed Dahleh). Several of these NIF Fellows are listed in Adalah’s reports as having playing important roles in Adalah’s activities at the 2001 Durban conference against "racism," where Adalah actively promoted efforts to demonize Israel as an "apartheid" state committing "genocide" against Palestinians.

Avi Bell