New Course Looks at Israeli-Palestinian Conflict from a Purely Legal Standpoint

New Course Looks at Israeli-Palestinian Conflict from a Purely Legal Standpoint


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New York, Oct. 12, 2010—Professor George Fletcher set a challenging goal for this fall: to teach a course that takes an impartial, dispassionate look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Fletcher, the Cardozo Professor of Jurisprudence at Columbia Law School, is leading 35 students in analyzing the legal issues underlying the Israeli and Palestinian positions as a way to examine the history of the conflict and consider possible resolutions. The course, named simply, Israeli-Palestine Conflict, is believed to be the first at a U.S. law school to examine the dispute from a strictly legal perspective.

Fletcher, who is teaching the course with Associate-in-Law Maya Steinitz, is determined to ensure that the class remains balanced and constructive. “There is a danger of going to extremes,” said Fletcher.  “It’s my job to make sure the conversation progresses in an analytic way.”

In addition to teaching the class, Fletcher will moderate a conference at the Law School on Oct. 27,  "Law in Service of Peace," which will focus on the role lawyers and legal education can play in resolving conflicts in the region.

“We want to make a dent in this problem by leaving something behind that will continue to grow,” Fletcher said.

The course and the conference are being underwritten, in part, by an anonymous donor through the Jewish Funders Network. “We came to be involved at the request of one our members who felt there wasn’t enough understanding about the region,” said JNF President Mark Charendoff.

Fletcher said the course will steer clear of politics and instead focus on the situation within the context of international law.

“We'll examine questions like, ‘What are the theoretical possibilities for classifying Gaza under international law?’ and ‘How does that have an impact on the flotilla incident?’” Fletcher said. “These are open questions, theoretically, and I haven’t found any good discussions of them.”

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