A better understanding of Israel and its policies leads to more
acceptance and appreciation for the country, according to Brad
Sugar, co-director of the 3rd Annual Academic Conference on
Israel.

With this goal in mind, students, faculty and the public
gathered at the Michigan League yesterday for the conference,
titled “Israel: The Successes, The Setbacks, The Road
Ahead.” Participants discussed issues related to the Middle
East and listened to speakers throughout the day, including Israeli
Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner.

“The purpose of the conference is to expose the general
public not only to the Arab-Israeli conflict, but also to other
topics in Israel and to debunk some of the myths about the
Arab-Israeli conflict,” Sugar said.

Sugar hoped the conference would unite people through open
dialogue. The event’s purpose was to help people understand
the difficulty of the Arab-Israeli conflict and Israel’s
progressive agenda, Sugar said.

Dorner closed the conference by delivering a keynote address
focused on democracy in Israel and titled, “Protecting Human
Rights in the New Age of Terror.”

The court system is a vital part of the democratic process in
Israel, Dorner said. “The government of Israel has never
questioned the authority of the court. The court is the protector
of human rights, especially in times of emergency,” Dorner
added.

The Israeli Supreme Court has played a key role in upholding
human rights in several cases, she said. The court ruled in favor
of Lebanese citizens who were being held as “bargaining chips
for the future.” The court also ruled that it was illegal to
use force to elicit information regarding future terrorist
activities.

Although some may argue that national security is more important
than human rights, the court made these decisions because
“human rights must prevail,” Dorner added.

Israeli law is based on a partial constitution, which is
composed of two basic laws. The first basic law affirms the value
of human life and dignity and the second provides for freedom of
occupation, Dorner said. Although Israel is currently developing a
more complete constitution, she stressed that the most important
thing is to have an independent court system.

“The best constitution is nothing without the courts to
enforce it. That’s what I teach all law students.
What’s important is the independence of the courts and a
state that accepts the decisions of the courts — even if they
don’t agree,” Dorner said.

Although the Arab-Israeli conflict is an important issue in
Israel today, Dorner said the court is helpless to resolve it.
“The Israeli Supreme Court doesn’t deal in politics and
can’t do a thing to resolve the conflict. But I must be an
optimist so I hope for the best that one day we’ll have peace
in this country,” she said.

“I’m an optimist because when the state was first
established, we were really in danger of being extinct. But we
survived, and today there are people forging papers to come into
our country. Israel, with all its problems, is a state that’s
not bad to live in,” Dorner added.

Many students said they came to the conference to further their
understanding of terrorism and the Middle East conflict.

“I’m interested in the topics because I have a
friend serving in the Israeli army. I want to get a more broad
understanding, especially from this (lecture) because it’s
about terrorism,” LSA sophomore Sam Maxbauer said.

Students also attended the lecture to learn more about Israeli
law and what they can do to help combat terrorism. “I want to
get more of an understanding about the political situation in
Israel. I’m pro-Israel. … I feel that the terrorism is
tragic and destructive,” Rackham student Anne Welsh said.

Dorner said she came to the University because she felt it was
her duty to her country. “It’s a day about Israel, to
explain our problems. Hearing some of the questions, I think I did
good,” Dorner said.

She said she also wants to spread awareness about the positive
political situation in Israel. “Israel’s experience as
a democracy can serve as a guide for others,” she added.

The conference consisted of several other events, including a
lecture by Lt. Col. Amos Guiora, commander of the Israel Defense
Forces School of Military Law and Education.

Michigan Daily editors moderated the talks by Guiora and
Dorner.

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