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Anat Biletzki, “Politicizing Human Rights in Israel/Palestine”

Anat Biletzki, a long-time philosophy professor at Tel Aviv University, will present a lecture entitled, “Politicizing Human Rights in Israel/Palestine.”

Along with her work at the Tel Aviv University, Biletzki has also traveled widely, as a visiting scholar/professor at, among others, Cambridge University, Harvard University, and MIT. Her publications include books and articles on Ludwig Wittgenstein, Thomas Hobbes, analytic philosophy, political thought, digital culture, and human rights.

Outside academia, Biletzki has been active in the peace movement and in several human rights projects in Israel for almost four decades. During the first intifada she was one of the founders (and in charge of communications) of the peace movement, “The Twenty-First Year” – a group devoted to promoting civil objection to the Occupation. In 1997-1998 Biletzki helped establish the human rights movement “Open Doors” which worked on the problems of administrative detention in Israel. She has also been active as one of the leaders of Hacampus Lo Shotek – “The Campus Is Not Silent” – at Tel Aviv University, and is on the board of FFIPPI-Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace. She was chairperson of the board of B’Tselem – the Israeli Information center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories – during the second intifada (2001-2006). In 2005 she was chosen as one of “50 most influential women in Israel” by Globes, the Israeli business monthly, and was nominated among the “1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005”.

Biletzki is spending the 2014-15 school year at the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle, North Carolina, working on a book provisionally titled Philosophical Investigations into Human Rights in Israel-Palestine.

Co-sponsored with the Forum for Scholars and Publics and the Center for Jewish Studies.
Below is a reflection on the talk by Bryce Cracknell, a freshman undergraduate Duke student.

Anat Biletzki is a professor and former member of B’Tselem. Today she spoke about the politics of human rights in Israel/Palestine, making the argument that human rights is and should be political. She made it clear not political in the partisan sense but political as in questions of power. Biletzki claims that human rights is the idea of universalism, the “universal” human being, that we should protect the rights of all human beings.

Biletzki reflected on the role of NGOs and their role as a political entities. She believes that often times these groups try to avoid being political or taking sides so people will look at them as unbiased and respectful institutions. However, if you ask anyone in Israel whether human rights NGOs are on the left or right, the overwhelming answer is the left. So what good does it do to try to remain in the middle without taking a side? Biletzki thinks that it is ridiculous for groups to try to remain unpolitical because human rights is obviously political issue. She goes on to say that if you are for human rights then you are for a one state solution with Israel and Palestine. Biletzki uses three reports where B’Tselem tries to avoid being political and concludes by saying Zionism is a violation of human rights. The idea that the state belongs to one group is a violation by decision of Israel.

This talk was very informative and I appreciated Anat Biletzki’s clear stance on the issue. Her conclusions were a result of many years of work and you could see the passion she had for these issues. What we discussed was systemic and ultimately a criticism of her own left minority of pro-human rights for not being more political. Biletzki expressed how difficult it is to be an Israeli leftist because the group is diminishing and hope is decreasing. Outside of the room, Anat Biletzki may be considered somewhat radical. However, the way the left sees it is the radical group became the political majority in Israel.


March 3, 2015
11:00 am - 12:30 pm


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