Shlomo Lifshitz

Stopping Bullets with Pens: Why Peace Activists Should Study International law

allowed-for-resuseProtests, hunger strikes, and boycotts are just a few of the tools in the peace activist’s arsenal, but material achievements in preparing for, establishing and keeping peace must be firmly rooted in recognized international legal frameworks.

“Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.”
Baruch Spinoza, one of Western philosophy’s most important thinkers.

“True peace is not merely the absence of war but the presence of justice.”
Jane Addams, “Mother of Social Work”.

“Peace and Justice Are Two Sides of the Same Coin.”
Dwight D Eisenhower, 34th President of the US.

These historical figures have so eloquently put in words that which we all know to be a fundamental truth – justice and peace go hand in hand.  You cannot claim peace, or for that matter, to have said to resolved a conflict, if one or more parties to the peace are suffering from injustice.  However, there is more to the statements of these distinguished individuals, than to emphasize the connection between peace and justice.  Indeed, very importantly, they imply that the glue of any peace is a framework of laws, treaties, rulings and more, accepted by all parties, as is required to uphold any form of justice and just as one of the mainstays of democratic governance is the rule of law.  Moreover, these legal foundations must be recognized internationally, for peace is commonly between nations and has a global impact.

 Activism and International Law

Now that we have established that peace and conflict resolution, justice and international law are a package deal, we can take a closer look at what this means to your goals as a peaceful peace activist.  Ask most people, what is the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the words “peace activist” and you will get a wide array of responses from very public venues such as non-violent protests and vigils, to individual efforts, such as volunteering in refugee camps and make-shift field hospitals.  However, you will not often hear people say things like “hmm, I think of the sewage and water reclamation article of the peace treaty”, or “… of Judith, that big heart who managed to get Jake out of jail”.  However, if you really think about it, every aspect of making and maintaining peace also has a legal side to it, something that every great peace activist in history has been well aware of, for example: Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela were themselves trained in law and one of Martin Luther King’s close friend was the attorney Clarence Benjamin Jones, who served not only as Mr. King’s personal counsel, but as a confidant, an advisor, and draft speech writer.

Advantages of Knowing International Law

Breaking down the importance of international law to peace activism even further, here are just a few of the benefits you will see from being able to understand, speak and deal with the legalities of conflict resolution:

  • Knowing your rights and limits – be aware of what you can do to raise awareness for your cause within the boundaries of the law.
  • Be able to speak with politicians, lobbyists and attorneys in their own legal jargon
  • Understanding all sides of the peace story will allow you to assist in drafting agreements, treaties, laws, or whatever is needed to give teeth to a peaceful resolution.
  • Identify loopholes, point them out, or, if necessary, exploit them.
  • Perhaps, most significantly, there is a dire need for activists whom are fluent in international law. For instance, the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations is continually looking for senior advisors in justice and corrections to join their task forces.

An Interdisciplinary Approach to Conflict Resolution that Includes International Law

At the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, one of the top ranked higher learning institutions in the world, more specifically, the Faculty of Law, and the Swiss Center for Conflict Research, Management and Resolution at the Faculty of Social Sciences, they have taken the peace-law connection to heart, and have introduced an interdisciplinary, international M.A./LL.M. degree program in Conflict Resolution: International Law and Conflict Resolution. Offering an incomparable mix of location, coursework and faculty encourage you to learn more about this unique opportunity. For more information and to register, click here.

Register now for the International Law and Conflict Resolution program through the Study in Israel English speaking enrollment center, and give a boost to your career as peace activist.

About the Author
With over 30 years of experience, Shlomo (Momo) Lifshitz was the founder and president of Oranim Educational Initiatives, which at its peak was the largest operator of Birthright-Taglit tours. Oranim has run over 1,201 Birthright groups. After selling Oranim in 2012, Momo turned his sights to promoting educational programs to Israel, and serves as the director of Study in Israel LLC and Lirom Global Education, promoting the and brands.
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