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...for the exemplary courage of her advocacy for the basic rights of the Palestinian people.
For 22 years, Felicia Langer single-mindedly fought a system of Israeli lawlessness, administered in particular through military courts. Her accounts of the treatment of her Palestinian clients by the Israeli military make chilling reading: systematic and widespread torture, sometimes culminating in death; confessions extracted under duress; routine violation of the international laws against deportation and collective punishments, such as demolition of the homes of those who 'confessed' to crimes, thereby rendering their whole families homeless.
Felicia Langer arrived in Israel from Poland in 1950 with her husband, who was a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps. After studying law she had her own legal practice in Tel Aviv from the mid-1960s.
After the Six-day War of 1967, in which Israel seized all the land from Jerusalem to the west bank of the River Jordan, Langer was shocked by the Israeli regime in the occupied territories and began to defend Palestinian victims of oppression and injustice. For 22 years she single-mindedly fought a system of Israeli lawlessness, administered in particular through military courts. Her accounts of the treatment of her clients by the Israeli military make chilling reading: systematic and widespread torture, sometimes culminating in death; confessions extracted under duress; routine violation of the international laws against deportation and collective punishments, such as demolition of the homes of those who 'confessed' to crimes, thereby rendering their whole families homeless.
Whereas Jewish settlers obtained grants of land at the expense of Arabs, Palestinian families were denied reunification and sometimes even any sort of nationality. As the only solution to this situation, Langer called for an end to the occupation and an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank.
For this work Langer suffered enormous abuse and hardships at the hands of her fellow Israelis and lived under the permanent threat of violence. Her secretary said that Langer could seldom walk down the street without suffering some form of verbal or physical abuse. A fellow lawyer has said that it is rare for an advocate to endure the harsh conditions of the military courts for more than three years: Langer's more than two decades was unique. In addition to her legal work, Langer wrote three books during her time in Israel: With My Own Eyes (1975), These Are My Brothers (1979) and An Age of Stone (1987). Since then, she has published several more books. She also undertook numerous speaking tours in Europe and the USA, exposing human rights violations in her country and mobilising support for the Palestinians and the Israeli peace movement.
In 1990, Langer moved to Tübingen in Germany to take up a university post. On leaving Israel she told the Washington Post in an interview: "I decided I could not be a fig-leaf for this system any more. I want my quitting to be a sort of demonstration and expression of my despair and disgust with the system...because, for the Palestinians, unfortunately we cannot obtain justice."
Since moving to Tübingen, Felicia Langer speaks at public meetings, all over Germany, Switzerland and Austria, trying to mobilize solidarity with the Palestinian people and the Israeli peace forces. In 2009, she received Germany's Federal Cross of Merit, 1st Class.
December 9th, 1990
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to express my profound gratitude to the Jury of the Right Livelihood Award for granting me the Award this year and to everybody who contributed to it.
The noble, pioneer idea to introduce Right Livelihood Award, referred to by the public as an "Alternative Nobel Prize", for vision and work contributing to making life more whole healing our planet and uplifting humanity is a ray of hope and trust in the spirit of man.
My family, my friends and all the loved ones enabled me to proceed in the way, from 1967 on, defending the defenseless and building bridges between our two peoples, until this very day here, in Stockholm.
I am carrying in me the dead of my family, victims of fascism and Nazism, who had never a grave and the victims of tyranny and oppression of all continents.
I am carrying in me the pain and the sorrow of the Palestinians, oppressed upon the orders of the government of my homeland. This government, which like its predecessors betrayed our dead.
I am proud of those thousands of our sons and daughters who refuse to oppress, who prefer prison cells instead of serving in the army in the occupied territories, who demonstrate and solidarize with the oppressed. They are the conscience of Israel, faithful to the bright traditions of the Jewish people, not ready to betray our dead.
Today is an extremely meaningful date, the third anniversary of the Palestinian uprising, the Intifada, which political message was and remained: no to the occupation, yes to independence, to peace with Israel, through establishing a Palestinian State in the occupied territories, alongside Israel, a message officially introduced in Algier, on the 15th of November 1988 by the P.L.O.
So clear, so logical, so legitimate, according to the right of self-determination of peoples, which we have claimed and have executed. Millions through over the world are supporting this message of peace, among them many thousands of Israelis.
But our consecutive governments, and in particular the last one, leading us to catastrophe, is determined to continue the belligerent occupation, contrary to the Law of Nations, and to break the Intifada, mercilessly. They did not succeed, because the Intifada is circulating like blood in the Palestinian flesh, but they are not sparing that flesh. Their "achievements" are 800 dead Palestinians, tens of thousands of wounded, among them, hundreds of women and children, legions of disabled without hope of rehabilitation in the framework of the neglected and oppressed Palestinian health system, thousands of detainees, hundreds of demolished houses, thousands of uprooted trees; an abyss of hatred and cruelty.
Among the victims were those shot to death, as an almost daily occurrence, those who were beaten to death by soldiers, those so called "wanted" who were executed, and others, suffocated by gas; victims of smaller or bigger massacres.
I have documented the death of many of them in my files, succeeded even to receive a permit to reopen some graves for a second autopsy, in my futile attempts to do justice by punishing the killers. But the justice of the occupier was reduced to nothing more than to an additional instrument of whitewashing the oppression, another token of our moral decay, another proof of losing our soul.
I understand, that the granting me the Award is an omen, that the Palestinian tragedy, which is now our tragedy too, is regarded as one of the most important topics on the international agenda, that it is unbearable to ignore the human suffering of a whole people, denied basic human rights in the last decade of our century, a whole nation without any protection. Blood is spilled daily all over the occupied territories and in Israel too, sometimes of innocent Israelis, who are falling victims of Palestinians' revenge for the government's atrocities; a vicious circle of violence, turning us into a nation of killers and killed, a new Sparta of the Middle East, where the fathers are burying their sons.
Today, the one of the most meaningful and solemn days of my life I would like to repeat the pledge I made in 1967, on the site of the three villages in the Latrun area, Yalu, Beit Nouba and Amouas, which were destroyed by the Israeli army in 1967, without any military necessity; their inhabitants were expelled, without to allow them to take with them their belongings. Standing at the site, where I have for the first time understood the meaning of the expression "not a stone remains", I took an oath to defend relentlessly the rights of the oppressed Palestinians. I have fully understood already then that the wrongdoers against the other people are the enemies of our people too.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart, that by granting me the Award you have helped me tremendously to go on in fulfilling my oath.
asked in 2005
1. What were the experiences that made you leave Israel?
I have not changed the front, only my position at the 'front', it means that my struggle for just peace goes on. My experience is, that you can influence with exact information and good will the public opinion, despite the conspiracy in silence.
2. Has the human rights situation in Israel improved or worsened since you left?
I have visited Israel/Palestine recently (May 2005), invited by Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations. The situation of the Palestinians is much worse. I am following it all the time, and alarming as much as I can.
3. From military courts to university teaching - where do you feel more powerful?
I am not teaching any more - it was till 1993; I left Israel in 1990. I feel powerful as much as I am able to influence the audience. I feel quite powerful during my public meetings (as well as lectures, before). I did not feel powerful in front of the discriminating Israeli judges, while the judicial system towards the Palestinians turned to be a farce.
4. What is motivating you?
Love, devotion, impossibility to live with injustice, compassion and the will to help those oppressed and dispossessed, the will to support just solutions like peace with justice for the Palestinian and the Israelis.
5. What can we do against the oppression and for a just peace?
Not to be silent in front of injustice, to try to disseminate the information about it, to demonstrate solidarity with the oppressed, to propagate the idea of the just peace based on international law to the benefit of the both parties.
6. What effect has the RLA had on your work?
It is one of the best kinds of assistance to my work and to my endeavours. I am very grateful for this prize, which is empowering me.
Israel and the Occupied Territories: With My Own Eyes, 1967-73. Pt.1. Ithaca Press 1975.
Israeli oppression in the occupied territories. Ithaca Press 1979.
Israel and the Occupied Territories: These Are My Brothers. Pt.2. Ithaca Press 1979.
An Age of Stone. Quartet Books 1988.
In German are furthermore available:
Report aus den Besatzungsgebieten Israels. Eine israelitische Anwältin berichtet. Pahl-Rugenstein 1982.
Die Zeit der Steine. Eine israelische Jüdin über den palästinensischen Widerstand. Göttingen, Lamuv 1994.
Brücke der Träume. Eine Israelin geht nach Deutschland. Göttingen, Lamuv 1994.
Wo Haß keine Grenzen kennt. Göttingen, Lamuv 1995.
Miecius später Bericht. Eine Jugend zwischen Getto und Theresienstadt. Göttingen, Lamuv 1999.
Laßt uns wie Menschen leben! Schein und Wirklichkeit in Palästina. Göttingen, Lamuv 1999.
Quo Vadis Israel? Die neue Intifada der Palästinenser. Göttingen, Lamuv 2001.
Zorn und Hoffnung. Göttingen, Lamuv 2003.
Brandherd Nahost. Oder: Die geduldete Heuchelei. Göttingen, Lamuv 2004.
Die Frau die niemals schweigt – Stationen eines Lebens. Göttingen, Lamuv 2005.
Die Entrechtung der Palästinenser. 40 Jahre israelische Besatzung. Göttingen, Lamuv 2006.
Um Hoffnung kämpfen: Was die Alternative Nobelpreisträgerin bewegt.Göttingen, Lamuv 2008.