A farmer in the occupied West Bank, cut off from his olive groves by Israel's controversial separation wall, asked Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard to petition the courts to allow a gate to be built in the wall. But while the gate would provide the farmer with relief, would it not also confer legitimacy on the wall itself? The defense of human rights is often marked by such dilemmas, which are especially acute in Israel, where lawyers must seek redress for the abuse of Palestinian rights from the country's High Court - that is, from the court of the abuser. In The Wall and the Gate, Michael Sfard chronicles this previously untold struggle, and examines the core ethics of legal work for human rights. Recounting key cases and issues - including deportations, confiscation of land, punitive home demolitions, torture, and targeted killings - he lays bare the reality of the occupation, and exposes the surreal legal structures that have been erected to put a stamp of lawfulness on clear violations of international law. Weighing the success of the legal effort, he reaches conclusions that are no less paradoxical than the fight itself.
Written with emotional force, vivid storytelling, and penetrating analysis, The Wall and the Gate offers a radically new perspective on a much-covered conflict and a subtle, painful reckoning with the moral ambiguities inherent in the pursuit of justice.
Michael Sfard, Israel's leading human rights lawyer, was educated at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and University College, London. A former conscientious objector, he received the Emil Grunzweig Human Rights Award and an Open Society Fellowship. Sfard has also taught human rights law and his writing on the subject has appeared in New York Times, Haaretz, The Independent, and Foreign Policy. He lives in Tel Aviv.