For the exemplary courage of her advocacy for the basic rights of the Palestinian people.
For more than two decades, Felicia Langer (1930-2018) single-mindedly fought a system of Israeli lawlessness, administered in particular through military courts. After the Six-day War in 1967, Langer was shocked by the oppression and injustice of the Israeli regime in the occupied territories and began to defend Palestinian victims. Langer, who was a lawyer, called for an end to the occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
Her accounts of the treatment of her Palestinian clients by the Israeli military make chilling reading: systematic and widespread torture, sometimes culminating in death; confessions extracted under duress; routine violation of the international laws against deportation and collective punishments, such as demolition of the homes of those who ‘confessed’ to crimes, thereby rendering their whole families homeless.
For this work, Langer suffered enormous abuse and hardships at the hands of her fellow Israelis and lived under the permanent threat of violence. She left Israel in 1990 and moved to Germany, but kept close contact with the peace movement in Israel and Palestine.
Felicia Langer arrived in Israel from Poland in 1950 with her husband, who was a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps. After studying law she had her own legal practice in Tel Aviv from the mid-1960s.
Whereas Jewish settlers obtained grants of land at the expense of Arabs, Palestinian families were denied reunification and sometimes even any sort of nationality. As the only solution to this situation, Langer called for an end to the occupation and an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank.
Her secretary said that Langer could seldom walk down the street without suffering some form of verbal or physical abuse. A fellow lawyer has said that it is rare for an advocate to endure the harsh conditions of the military courts for more than three years: Langer's more than two decades was unique. In addition to her legal work, Langer wrote three books during her time in Israel: With My Own Eyes(1975), These Are My Brothers (1979) and An Age of Stone (1987). Since then, she has published several more books. She also undertook numerous speaking tours in Europe and the USA, exposing human rights violations in her country and mobilising support for the Palestinians and the Israeli peace movement.
In 1990, Langer moved to Tübingen in Germany to take up a university post. On leaving Israel she told the Washington Post in an interview: "I decided I could not be a fig-leaf for this system anymore. I want my quitting to be a sort of demonstration and expression of my despair and disgust with the system...because, for the Palestinians, unfortunately, we cannot obtain justice."
After moving to Tübingen, Felicia Langer spoke at public meetings, all over Germany, Switzerland and Austria, trying to mobilize solidarity with the Palestinian people and the Israeli peace movement. In 2009, she received Germany's Federal Cross of Merit, 1st Class.
Asked in an interview with Right Livelihood in 2005 about what motivated her, Langer said:
"Love, devotion, impossibility to live with injustice, compassion and the will to help those oppressed and dispossessed, the will to support just solutions like peace with justice for the Palestinian and the Israelis," and continued:
"I feel quite powerful during my public meetings and lectures, she also said in the interview. I did not feel powerful in front of the discriminating Israeli judges, while the judicial system towards the Palestinians turned to be a farce."
Israel and the Occupied Territories: With My Own Eyes, 1967-73. Pt.1. Ithaca Press 1975.
Israeli oppression in the occupied territories. Ithaca Press 1979.
Israel and the Occupied Territories: These Are My Brothers. Pt.2. Ithaca Press 1979.
An Age of Stone. Quartet Books 1988.
In German are furthermore available:
Report aus den Besatzungsgebieten Israels. Eine israelitische Anwältin berichtet. Pahl-Rugenstein 1982.
Die Zeit der Steine. Eine israelische Jüdin über den palästinensischen Widerstand. Göttingen, Lamuv 1994.
Brücke der Träume. Eine Israelin geht nach Deutschland. Göttingen, Lamuv 1994.
Wo Haß keine Grenzen kennt. Göttingen, Lamuv 1995.
Miecius später Bericht. Eine Jugend zwischen Getto und Theresienstadt. Göttingen, Lamuv 1999.
Laßt uns wie Menschen leben! Schein und Wirklichkeit in Palästina. Göttingen, Lamuv 1999.
Quo Vadis Israel? Die neue Intifada der Palästinenser. Göttingen, Lamuv 2001.
Zorn und Hoffnung. Göttingen, Lamuv 2003.
Brandherd Nahost. Oder: Die geduldete Heuchelei. Göttingen, Lamuv 2004.
Die Frau die niemals schweigt – Stationen eines Lebens. Göttingen, Lamuv 2005.
Die Entrechtung der Palästinenser. 40 Jahre israelische Besatzung. Göttingen, Lamuv 2006.
Um Hoffnung kämpfen: Was die Alternative Nobelpreisträgerin bewegt.Göttingen, Lamuv 2008.