MICHAEL SFARD LIKES to say that The Wall and the Gate, was born on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway. The human rights attorney’s new book, which is subtitled “Israel, Palestine, and the Legal Battle for Human Rights”, deals with the history of Israeli litigation on behalf of the Palestinians over a half-century of occupation.
For about half of that time, Sfard has been one of the key players in this drama, representing Palestinian individuals and communities in challenging the expropriation and theft of their lands, attempted deportations, Israeli torture and administrative detention of “terror” suspects.
It was during the hundreds of drives back from the capital, after appearing before the Supreme Court, that, Sfard says, “all the tension that comes along with a hearing and with litigating evaporates, and I could unwind and begin thinking, okay, what have I accomplished today?”
For a long time Sfard had been aware of a dissonance between his goal of attaining relief for individual Palestinian clients and his desire to force a change in Israeli policies. A telling example is his most dramatic legal victory, when in 2007 the High Court rejected the state’s claim that the route of one segment of the security barrier erected during the second intifada had been based solely on security considerations.
Instead, it accepted Sfard’s argument that the authorities had allowed the desire to include more West Bank land for settlements within the Israeli side of the wall to prevail, even to the detriment of security-military needs.
Sfard quickly recognised the double-edged nature of such victories. Yes, the damage wrought by the fence on individual Palestinian communities was lessened, but it came at the expense of the court giving its legal imprimatur to the barrier as a whole.
Israel arrested, sent 14-year-old Palestinian girl alone to Gaza (Haaretz)
The girl, who lives in south of Ramallah, was arrested while begging for money. Her address was listed as Gaza, where she was taken despite telling Israeli officers she does not reside there
Photo: Michael Sfard meets with farmers from the Palestinian village of Beit Furik, 2012 (Michal Fattal)