Every winter and summer, Shurat HaDin is privileged to mentor interns that come from all over the world to our offices in Ramat Gan, Israel. Shurat HaDin interviewed Crystal F, a student at the University of Texas School of Law, to discuss her background, her plans for the future, and the how the internship impacted her perspective on the legal world. Crystal’s original blog post follows the interview.
Where are you from?
Born in Connecticut; resident of Austin, Texas
How old are you?
Why did you go to law school?
After I was legally emancipated when I was 16, I personally realized the positive impact that litigation can make and decided to incorporate advocacy in my future career.
Please describe something you have learned about Israel that surprises you or that interests you.
This is my first visit to Israel. I expected to learn mostly about the political difficulties and policies that Israel faced, but I was often more impacted and impressed by the intimacy of the Israeli community structure and the openness and acceptance in the Israeli family structure.
How did you hear about Shurat HaDin, and what inspired you to apply to the internship program?
I heard about Shurat HaDin through my law school’s job application bank, and was inspired to apply to the internship because I hope to begin my law career in an international environment, and am also drawn to the national security aspect of the legal realm.
What are some of the takeaways from the internship program that you will apply to your studies and future career?
The practical application of legal education during the Shurat HaDin internship in innovative new ways contributes to the use of basic legal policy (learned in first-year law classes) to expand bold and creative legal processes necessary in litigating a unique field of law. I have also learned a significant amount about the difficulty in balancing international diplomacy and national patriotism, and the necessity of maintaining both of these in the extremely volatile situation to which Israel is subjected.
What are your future plans and goals?
I would like to pursue a career in international law, and pro bono work remains—and always will remain—an important part of my legal career.
Check out Crystal’s original blog post below:
“Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
The recent escalation of violence in Gaza has drawn every political activist’s eye to scrutinize this small strip of land in the Middle East. Often, reactionary measures are abruptly taken as a response to the observance of pictures of the tumultuous areas, just as our hearts urge us to take action when we watch the ASPCA commercial featuring sick dogs and cats pathetically shivering in shelters to the tune of Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel.”
This public scrutiny has led to the investigation by the UN of war crimes committed by Israel. Meanwhile, the UN aid organizations, which receive money from donations all over the world through UNICEF, contribute (albeit perhaps unknowingly) to terrorist acts in Gaza. I argue, however, that recent events should instead lead us to investigate UNRWA.
The UN seems insistent on drawing attention away from its hand in the terrorist actions of Hamas. UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) shocked the international community when it first released a statement regarding its “strong condemnation” of the use of its schools in Gaza as a weapons cache for terrorist groups. However, it became clear that UNRWA’s “demands [of] full respect for the sanctity of its premises in Gaza” were not heeded when another cache of rockets was discovered in an UNRWA school a few days later. Then yet another cache was found about a week after in another UNRWA school.
So what does this “strong condemnation” and these “demands” effect? Not very much. UNRWA schools are funded by governments, NGOs, and individuals who may not be aware how their money is actually spent. The largest UNRWA donor is the United States. Perhaps the realization that donations are abused in this manner prompted the Dutch parliament to call for the halt of funding to the Palestinian Authority, but other governments are too slow to follow suit.
The problem of NGOs acting as a front to fund terrorist groups has been noted, and especially the problems with anonymity and the internet. The FBI has released a statement that “in the United States, the majority of Hamas’ financial support is generated through the fund-raising efforts of various NGOs.” Thus, when an ‘armchair activist’ picks up their credit card while taking the mission statement of their intended charity at face value, they run the danger of enabling terrorist organizations. When a government entity does so, the impact is even worse.
John Ray tells us that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. While I sympathize with the unfortunate plight of the Palestinian citizenry, it seems clear that the current handling of the situation by UNRWA is not conducive to the citizens. UNRWA funding contributes to schools that have been converted into legitimate military targets because of the storage of weapons there. It would seem that money spent in an investigation would be better delegated to the removal of arms from UN institutions.