"DIANA BUTTU Explores the Dynamics of Palestinian Life Under Occupation"
Author: Brittany Card
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Dubai Initiative
“Nothing in my Canadian upbringing had prepared me for a life under occupation. As much as I had read about it, I still did not know what it was like not to be free”, said Diana Buttu, research fellow with the Belfer Center Dubai Initiative, of her experience living the West Bank. Buttu’s extensive education in universities did not prepare her for a life under occupation. However, her experiences combined with dedication to the Palestinian cause led her to become a legal advisor to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in its negotiations with Israel from 2000-2005 until she was appointed as a legal and communications advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2005.
A Canadian-Palestinian herself, she immersed herself in the Palestinian cause when she was 16 years old. Her activism stayed with her through university and law school, during which she spent her summers working for human rights organizations in Palestine. This work in Palestine evolved her knowledge of the conflict past what any text book taught her.
Buttu learned first-hand of the insecurities that Palestinians face every day. “I had never experienced check-points. I had never experienced bombings or military campaigns. I had never experienced this great disconnect between peoples living on this one small piece of land.” This reality of Palestinian life allowed her to greater represent the Palestinian people and brought her to the attention of President Abbas.
Her work as an advisor to the PLO and President Abbas offered Buttu important insight into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. “The problem with international law,” she said, “is that there is no way of actually ending an occupation. So in comes the peace process.” The peace process is not working because the “two sides are negotiating in two very different ways.” Palestine is insistent upon the application of international law while Israel focuses on power negotiations. Buttu believes that without a third party, the peace process is going to fail entirely.
The Belfer Center's Dubai Initiative is now home to Buttu's research. Buttu said, “The Dubai Initiative is unique in that it brings together academics, practioners, people from a wide array of practices and fields, which allows for a fantastic exchange of ideas.” During her stay at the Belfer Center, she is researching the dynamics of the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations through her research project, "Negotiating in the Absence of the Law: Palestine's Refugees and the Palestinian-Israeli Negotiations, 1993-2007".
For the complete transcript, see http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/20858/interview_with_diana_buttu.html?breadcrumb=%2Fexperts%2F2316%2Fdiana_buttu
For more about Diana Buttu, see: http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/experts/2316/diana_buttu.html
For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.
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