Shlomo Lifshitz

The new weapon against BDS: Lawyers!

Solving Israel’s “Lawfare” Problem

When we think of the threats and challenges Israel faces, we typically focus on physical dangers, like Iran and Islamic terrorism.  In reality, however, the difficulties confronting the Jewish state are far more varied, and the methods employed against it more sophisticated.  Beyond the traditional military dilemma, Israel is subjected to a plethora of sustained and powerful attempts to defame and delegitimize it in courts of law and court of public opinion, not least of which is the BDS Movement – Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions – which not only target Israeli interests and Israeli products but even Israel’s supporters around the world.

The Lawyer Gap

These ongoing assaults on Israel’s right to exist take advantage of the country’s lack of qualified international lawyers.  That’s not to say, of course, that Israel suffers from a dearth of lawyers.  But considering the efforts both within Israel and abroad to harm and inhibit the Jewish state via lawfare, the need for high quality English-speaking lawyers interested in and capable of working either for state bodies or pro-Israel NGOs is beyond Israel’s domestic supply.  The resulting lawyer gap has left Israel insufficiently defended from slander and economic harassment.

Attracting English-speaking lawyers capable of navigating complex matters of international law is hardly straightforward.  Some NGOs try to recruit native English-speaking lawyers, but those already settled into a successful practice are rarely willing to change careers midstream.  There are, however, alternatives bolstering the ranks of Israel’s Anglo lawyers.

Immigrant Lawyers for a Nation of Immigrants

Perhaps the most promising new development is the opening of a bilingual Hebrew-English LLB program in Israel’s College of Law and Business (CLB).  Targeting oversea students and Anglo immigrants, the bilingual LLB enables new arrivals to ease their way into Israeli law school – and society – taking the baby steps approach to integration and education in Hebrew.  The three and a half year degree track begins with a full year of English-only instruction, along with a comprehensive Hebrew language Ulpan class to help participants build a solid foundation in Israel’s native tongue.  Ulpan studies are bolstered by language tutors, giving students the support they need.

Arguably the most crucial element of the CLB bilingual degree program, however, is the sense of community it helps to foster amongst students.  Since the program is designed and marketed specifically for English-speakers, immigrants and overseas students they share the experience of adapting to a new environment and a new language.  Professors take their students’ unfamiliarity with Hebrew into account, and special consideration is given with tests and papers, allowing students to complete much of the work in English.

Supply and demand

Of course the CLB’s bilingual LLB program isn’t directed particularly towards those with an interest in working in international law or serving NGOs or government agencies, and graduates from the CLB go on to work in the many fields of law available. In fact, 90% of all CLB graduates enjoy relevant job placement within the first year.  The importance of the new LLB for native English-speakers lies in its ability to significantly increase the overall supply of Anglo lawyers in Israel.  Fluency in English is a valuable commodity for lawyers in Israel, and without a general rise in the supply of such lawyers, too many of those few in the system get snatched up by high-paying firms in the business sector, leaving little for NGOs and agencies working on Israel’s behalf.  With schools like CLB helping Anglo’s enter the world of Israeli law, they not only help immigrants open doors to more careers but also give Israeli causes a fighting chance.

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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