Hastings International and Comparative Law Review


George Bisharat


This brief introduction outlines the premises of a conference entitled "Litigating Palestine: Can Courts Secure Palestinian Rights?" where two articles from this issue of the Hastings International and Comparative Law Review were first presented. The conference premises were: first, that Palestinians have human, civil, and collective national rights; second, that Israel has a lengthy and well-documented record of violating Palestinian rights; and third, that it is an empirical fact that a number of efforts have been launched to protect Palestinian rights in a number of court systems throughout the world. This being the case, it seems appropriate to evaluate these efforts, and to identify ways in which Palestinian rights can be advanced via legal and peaceful means. Many questions may be raised concerning the use of law to advance Palestinian rights, among them: can Palestinians get a fair hearing in courts? If so, where? What strategies are likely to be most effective? What are the costs of litigation, beyond actual fees and tangible expenses of trying cases? How can success in litigation be accurately measured? What if litigation proves futile? What other means exist to advance Palestinian rights for those who are committed to legal and peaceful means of resolving disputes? And what does the use of courts to protect Palestinian rights contribute to broader theoretical discussions either about the use of courts to effect social or political change, or the circumstances under which lawyers working for justice and human rights can hope to succeed?