Chicago Law Professors Participated in Delegation to Israel
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Dr. Alex Grobman
Phone: (212) 213-8630
STATEMENT OF KENNETH J. BIALKIN, CHAIRMAN AND DR. ALEX GROBMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE AMERICA-ISRAEL FRIENDSHIP LEAGUE.
New York, January 31, 2012...This past December, a delegation of ten professors from schools of law throughout the United States completed a one-week mission to Israel sponsored by the America-Israel Friendship League (AIFL).
Among those who participated were Bernadette Atuahene, assistant professor of law at the Chicago-Kent Law School whose major research deals with confiscation and restitution of property; and her Chicago-Kent Law School colleague, Prof Joan Steinman, who teaches courses in civil procedure, complex litigation, and appellate courts. Prof Steinman has authored articles on the associational privacy privilege in civil litigation, class actions, and suits for financial damages to vindicate First Amendment rights.
They were joined by fellow professors of law from the University of Virginia, Stetson University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Michigan, Tulane University, and the University of New Mexico.
Jews and non-Jews, they represented interests ranging from land restitution to taxation and medical-legal issues to family law.
According to former New York Attorney General Robert Abrams, who serves as chair of the AIFL's Delegations Committee, the goal of the organization's missions is "to strengthen the bonds and reinforce the shared values between these two great, vibrant democracies."
"AIFL brings Americans, representing a wide variety of religious and ethnic backgrounds, to see the miracle of Israel, a nation of extraordinary growth and beauty, thriving despite real existential threats. AIFL mission participants see a nation filled with vibrant cities, impressive infrastructure, great universities, and state-of-the-art medical facilities. But they also see that, despite the headlines, Israel is a country in which Arabs and Jews live and work in harmony. The media likes to focus on the sparks on dissension; we show these American leaders the everyday truth about peaceful Arab-Israeli coexistence," he said.
The law professors' itinerary in Israel was planned to fulfill this goal while presenting legal issues facing the Jewish state. Thus, the trip included many briefings, such as one given at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Arthur Lenk, director of the ministry's legal department; Dr. Chaim Koren, an expert on Middle East Affairs; and Danny Ayalom, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.
After a tour of the Israeli Supreme Court, the Americans had a meeting with Justice Elyakim Rubinstein and Yisrael Beiteinu MK David Rotem, chairman of the Knesset's Committee for Law and Justice.
At the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the group met with Prof Barak Medina, dean of the law faculty; Einat Hurvitz, director of the Israel Religious Action Center's legal department; and Uri Bar-Ner, a former Israeli ambassador to Turkey and the current special advisor to the chairman of the AIFL.
In Tel Aviv, they met with David Benjamin, an expert on international law and a former member of the International Law Department in Israel's Military Advocate General's Office, and, in Haifa, they met with Moti Mironi, professor of law at Haifa University and a renowned Israeli mediator and arbitrator.
The group met with Neil Lazarus, an expert in Israel advocacy; Prof Dan Ben David, executive director of the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies, a Jerusalem-based socio-economic research institute; and Prof Aharon Barak, the former president of the Israeli Supreme Court who now serves as professor of law at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.
The itinerary did not shield the participants from exploring some of the more controversial issues challenging Israel. In Jerusalem, for example, they were given a tour of the Security Fence by Col (Res) Danny Tirza, who was in charge of planning the barrier which was erected to provide a measure of protection for Israeli citizens against Palestinian suicide bombers and other terrorists.
In Tel Aviv, the group met with Ifat Zamir, executive director of WePower, a feminist group devoted to helping women gain political power in Israel.
Others who addressed the group included Khaled Abu Toameh, a Palestinian journalist for the Jerusalem Post; David Horowitz, former editor of the Jerusalem Post; MK Einat Wilf of the Independence Party (the faction, a recent breakaway from the Labor Party, led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak); Druze leader Zaidan Atashi; Muki Zur, an historian and researcher of the Settlement Movement in Judea and Samaria; and Likud Minister Dan Meridor, who serves as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy in the Israeli Cabinet.
The trip allowed abundant time for individual and group tours of the sites for which Israel is renowned throughout the world, including the Western Wall, the Western Wall Tunnels, and the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian Quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem; Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in western Jerusalem; Masada and the Dead Sea; the holy sites on the Sea of Galilee, including Kibbutz Ein Gev; the ancient city of Jaffa; and the Peres Center for Peace.
The day before leaving the Jewish state, the group had the opportunity to glimpse into the future with a visit to Better Place, a venture-backed American-Israeli company that aims to reduce global dependency on petroleum through the creation of a market-based transportation infrastructure that supports electric vehicles. To accelerate the transition to electric cars, Israel has already enacted policies which create a tax differential between zero-emission vehicles and traditional ones.
Asked how the trip affected them, most participants said it was "life-changing."
"I cannot envision a more interesting or diverse group of speakers. The agenda was full and thought-provoking. We will always appreciate the friends we made in Israel and among our group," said Prof John Cooper, associate dean of International and Cooperative Programs at the Stetson University College of Law in Deland, Florida. He participated along with his wife, Professor Denise Cooper, a professor of molecular medicine at the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa.
Prof David D. Meyer, dean of the Tulane University Law School agreed. "The frank and deeply thoughtful conversations have been enormously valuable and deepened my appreciation for both the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for Israel and the region. I am eager to follow up on future opportunities to be of assistance and to build stronger ties with the Israeli legal academy and community," he said.
Calling the trip "informative and important," Prof Michele Bratcher Goodwin of the University of Minnesota Law School said she, as well as other members of the group, plan not only to keep in touch with one another but also to follow-up on some of the Israeli programs with which they became familiar.
Her colleague at the University of Minnesota Law School, Prof Gregory Shaffer, called the trip "extraordinary," and Prof Edward Goldman, of the University of Michigan School of Law whose career has combined law, ethics, public policy, teaching, writing, and community service, said it was "fabulous" and "full of unbiased information and good fellowship."
Despite the presentation of "difficult questions on the ground," Prof Goldman said the mission showed that, in the Jewish state, "daily life can and does continue."
Prof Charles Barzun, associate professor of law at the University of Virginia School of Law, said he felt "so fortunate to have been a part of [the delegation] and to have met so many interesting people, both those whom we met and the others in the group."
It was exactly the reaction Mr. Abrams expected. "AIFL's unique Leadership Delegations allow people to go beyond the headlines, to see the reality and learn the truth about Israel. Delegation participants discover Israel's human face and heart and each mission participant returns as a goodwill ambassador for Israeli-American support and friendship," he said.
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