Winner of the 2019 Palestine Book Awards, sponsored by the Middle East Monitor (MEMO).
Justice in the Question of Palestine is often framed as a question of law. Yet none of the Israel-Palestinian conflict's most vexing challenges have been resolved by judicial intervention. Occupation law has failed to stem Israel's settlement enterprise. Laws of war have permitted killing and destruction during Israel's military offensives in the Gaza Strip. The Oslo Accord's two-state solution is now dead letter.
Justice for Some offers a new approach to understanding the Palestinian struggle for freedom, told through the power and control of international law. Focusing on key junctures—from the Balfour Declaration in 1917 to present-day wars in Gaza—Noura Erakat shows how the strategic deployment of law has shaped current conditions. Over the past century, the law has done more to advance Israel's interests than the Palestinians'. But, Erakat argues, this outcome was never inevitable.
Law is politics, and its meaning and application depend on the political intervention of states and people alike. Within the law, change is possible. International law can serve the cause of freedom when it is mobilized in support of a political movement. Presenting the promise and risk of international law, Justice for Some calls for renewed action and attention to the Question of Palestine.
About the author
Noura Erakat is a human rights attorney and assistant professor at George Mason University. She has served as legal counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives and as a legal advocate for Palestinian refugee rights at the United Nations. Noura's research interests include human rights and humanitarian, refugee, and national security law. She is a frequent commentator, with recent appearances on CBS News, CNN, Fox News, and NPR, among others, and her writings have been widely published in the national media and academic journals.
"Noura Erakat's incisive exploration of the role of law in shaping the development of Israel/Palestine reveals the consistent genuflection of international legal institutions to Israel's reliance on well-established colonial practices. She also forcefully argues that the skillful use of international law as a tool of struggle can be generative of hope and possibility—for Palestine and the world. Justice for Some is precisely the book we need at this time."
—Angela Y. Davis, author of Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement
"A radical rethinking of the role of law and legal advocacy in the struggle for Palestinian rights. Noura Erakat tells how a refugee problem became a national liberation movement, and the tragic story of how initiative and momentum were squandered after Oslo. Brilliant, inspiring, coldly realistic—and hopeful."
—Duncan Kennedy, Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence Emeritus, Harvard Law School
"Without any doubt, Justice for Some is the best book on the law and politics of the Palestine/Israel struggle—sophisticated, learned, humane, and creative. Noura Erakat makes a profound contribution to our general understanding of the paradoxical role of law in the contemporary world."
—Richard Falk, Former UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine, author of Palestine's Horizon: Toward a Just Peace
"Anyone wondering how and why international law has failed so miserably to curb Israeli violations in Palestine and the deleterious effect this has had on the law itself should read this book. Noura Erakat communicates...with the skill of a lawyer and the passion of an activist. Justice for Some is both enriching and inspiring."
—Raja Shehadeh, founder of Al-Haq, author of Where the Line Is Drawn: A Tale of Crossings, Friendships, and Fifty Years of Occupation in Israel-Palestine
"Through a brilliant and bracing analysis of the Palestine question and settler colonialism, Noura Erakat offers a compelling story of how the antinomies of structure and indeterminacy shaped international law and its possibilities. Justice for Some is a vital lens into movement lawyering on the international plane. At once tragic and inspiring, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in decolonization and the politics of international law."
—Vasuki Nesiah, New York University, founding member of Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL)
"Noura Erakat brings a sophisticated understanding of the role of international law over the last century in the Question of Palestine. This brilliant book will be of great interest to anyone seeking to understand why the outcome, thus far, to the disposition of the Palestine problem has not been a just one."
—Rashid Khalidi, author of The Hundred Years' War on Palestine: Settler-Colonial Conquest and Resistance, 1917-2017
"Erakat's dissection of these legal and political histories is careful and captivating....This book asks that the Palestinian liberation struggle and Jewish-Israeli society each reckon with the impossibility of a two-state future, reimagining what their interests are—and what they could become. In rejecting the zero-sum formula's inevitability, Erakat sees, and demands, an alternative."
—Amanda McCaffrey, Jewish Currents
"[A] major scholarly contribution to the critical literature devoted to resolving the Israel/Palestine struggle in line with the dictates of justice....[I] urge a careful reading of Justice for Some by all those interested in the Palestinian struggle as well as those curious about the way law works for and against human wellbeing."
—Richard Falk, Mondoweiss
"[Erakat] meticulously reveals how Israel ignored international law, the laws of war, duties of an occupying power, and efforts brought through the United Nations to censure its actions....The book will interest those concerned with the law and ethics of war, international law, terrorism laws, and observers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its treatment by international bodies. Highly recommended."
—S. Zuhur, Choice
"Erakat's detailed analysis paints a dismal reality, yet it is one that must be acknowledged and worked from. Her meticulous discussion on the inherent injustice in international law propels attention towards what so far remains overlooked and calls the reader to reflect upon action that veers away from what the international community keeps demanding of Palestinians."
—Ramona Wadi, Middle East Monitor
"That international law is not an effective starting point for achieving justice in Palestine is a vital insight for leftists developing a progressive foreign policy.Justice for Somemakes clear that winning Palestinian freedom will require confronting the geopolitical power structure that gives international law its meaning."
—Gunar Olsen, Jacobin
"Noura Erakat eloquently shows that, yes, the Israeli state project has been consolidated and expanded on a platform of might making right since 1948—but not only that. Israeli governments have also actively sought to craft legal justifications for the conquest and colonisation of territory, and to harness international law in their favour....[Erakat] has written a book that is a story of Palestine but is also a story of international law itself. Some of its most important insights are more universal than specific. They are major conceptual contributions with value well beyond the immediate case study."
—John Reynolds, Dublin Review of Books
"Erakat's critical perspective on international law and the focus on how Palestinians have used it to support their cause is a much-needed addition to the international law literature on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict....This is a book brimming with acute insights that deserves the widest possible readership."
—Markus Gunneflo, Journal of Conflict and Security Law
"Justice for Some challenges the not infrequent characterization of efforts to resolve the struggle over Palestine as a dichotomy between law/politics, principle/pragmatism or an imposed/negotiated solution. As [Erakat's] incisive analysis points out, these binaries, while not completely inaccurate, are incomplete in that they mask Israel's skilled use of the law to advance its interests while overlooking the political reasons for shortcomings in the Palestinian leadership's use of law as a form of resistance."
—Terry Rempel, The Middle East Journal