Felicia Langer, an Israeli lawyer and activist who has worked extensively for Palestinian human rights. Felicia Langer has written numerous books that describe Israel’s widespread use of torture against political prisoners as well as human rights violations.
Felicia Langer was born in Poland in 1930 to a Jewish family who fled from Poland to Russia before the Nazi invasion of their country. As Jewish refugees, Langer’s family lived in poverty as an underprivileged minority, and she lost her father due to the harsh living conditions. When the war ended, Langer and her mother returned to Poland to find that most of her extended family had been killed by the Nazis. This traumatic childhood experience would haunt Langer and help shape her world view.
In 1949, Langer married Mieciu Langer, a survivor of five Nazi concentration camps. Together the couple relocated to Israel where Langer studied law at Hebrew University. She received her law degree in 1965. The 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem was a crucial event for Langer.
She opened a law office in Jerusalem to defend the Palestinians of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. In her professional career she fought against home demolitions, land confiscations, deportation, torture, and other abuses. Moreover, she documented these abuses and made them public. She was vice president of the Israeli League for Human Civil Rights.
“When I met Palestinian refugees for the first time, I could feel their pain,” Langer said during an interview for The Daily Star newspaper. “You never forget the horrifying experiences of life as a refugee.”
Langer published many books that she based on notes from her diaries, including With My Own Eyes (1975), These Are My Brothers (1979), From My Diary (1980), The Story Written by the People (1981), An Age of Stone (1988), the autobiographical Fury and Hope (1993), and Quo vadis Israel? The New Intifada of the Palestinians (2001).
These books describe Israel’s widespread use of torture against political prisoners as well as human rights violations. She also traveled on speaking tours of the United States and Europe, spreading the stories of her clients about the suffering of Palestinians under the occupation and as political prisoners.
In more than two decades of legal aid to the Palestinian peoples, representing them in military courts, Langer was exposed to both verbal and physical abuses by her fellow Israelis, and she often received death threats. In 1990 she closed her law office as a public statement about the fallacy of Israel’s legal system.
Most of the clients she represented lost their cases to the Israeli military courts. She left Israel for Germany where she accepted a teaching position in a German university.
Langer received many awards for her work for Palestinian human rights and justice. In 1990 she received the Right Livelihood Award, which is an alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize, and also became an honorary citizen of the city of Nazareth.
In 1991 Felicia Langer was honored with the Bruno-Kreisky Award for Outstanding Achievements in the area of human rights. In 2005, Langer received the Erich-Mühsam-Prize for her ongoing work with the struggle for Palestinian human rights.
UPDATE: Felicia Langer, Tireless Defender of Human Rights, Passes Away
Felicia Langer, an Israeli-German Holocaust survivor who won both plaudits and attacks for her activism and legal work in defence of Palestinians, has died aged 87 in Germany. She rose to prominence in the 1960s and 70s defending Palestinian detainees from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, also authoring several books highly critical of Israeli forces. The left-wing activist – who drew much scorn for calling Israel an “apartheid” state – in 1990 emigrated to Germany, where she became a citizen in 2008.
Langer was awarded the 1990 Right Livelihood award, sometimes dubbed the Alternative Nobel Prize, and in 2009 Germany’s Federal Cross of Merit by then president Horst Koehler. The German prize sparked bitter controversy and led some previous recipients to return their own awards. The Central Council of Jews in Germany charged that the country had honoured a person who had been been “obsessively demonising” Israel.
– Felicia Langer Biography and Profile (afsc)