I joined the Center for Constitutional Rights through the Ella Baker Summer Fellowship Program to understand better how I, when I become a lawyer, can be more responsive and accountable to social movements that I care about and have been active with. I began my internship the day after New York Governor Cuomo issued an executive order that effectively blacklists organizations and companies that have taken the ethical position of boycotting, divesting from, or advocating for sanctions against Israel and corporations complicit in the illegal occupation of Palestine and continuing human rights violations against the Palestinian people. I have been fortunate to strategize with other organizations and activists involved in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (“BDS”) campaign how to respond to this unconstitutional action by the Governor. Early on, I took on a primary role in drafting a request for documents related to the executive order under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, which was submitted by CCR, Palestine Legal, and Jewish Voice for Peace.
At the same time, I have been involved in other cases seeking to directly challenge human rights abuses against the Palestinian people. It is one thing to work on a challenge to a law that violates First Amendment free speech rights; it is quite another to search for accountability in an ongoing situation with civilians murdered, safe havens for refugees bombed, homes demolished, collective punishment against the families or neighbors—even entire cities—of armed resistance fighters, humanitarian aid workers targeted and killed, civilian bodies found burned. First Amendment rights are violated regularly in my home town of Minneapolis, and I've even seen protest squashed and protesters arrested in my own law school, at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, to prevent criticism of the Israeli government's war crimes. But my own personal experience is so dramatically different from what Palestinians are experiencing under occupation that it is hard to acknowledge that it is real, hard to feel connected to people over 6,000 miles away, or like I can do anything to meaningfully support them.
Still, this experience has taught me about the strength of Palestinians, especially Palestinian human rights lawyers, who practice in unimaginable conditions, some of whom are not even allowed into Israel to fight for justice in court, but who keep working. From them I have gained the strength to keep struggling for justice no matter what obstacles I personally face.