Linked with our presentation of Edward Said (1935-2003), by Anat Biletzki.
And linked with our presentation of B’Tselem.
She is one of the 1000 women proposed fort the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: “For the past years I have been engaged in the effort to intertwine philosophy with politics, gradually drawing the desired idealism closer to the existing realism.”
Anat Biletzki – Israel
She works for The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (B’Tselem).
She writes: Abstract – The oft-repeated mantra of human rights organizations is that “human rights are not political’,” human rights being grounded in universalism, which is diametrically opposed to political partisanship. The philosophical question to ask is: how can rights discourse be anything but political? This gives rise to a conceptual paradox concerning the very fundamentals of human rights; it also leads the way to pragmatic quagmires in which “global” human rights organizations find themselves. But the epitome of this (conceptual and concrete) dilemma is to be found in conflict situations where local/national human rights groups operate, for these groups literally embody the contradiction between universal moral principles and particular human interests. Does this mean, then, that the ideological opposition between politics and human rights, as originally contrued in standard and traditional human rights talk, has brought the concrete manifestation of human rights to a dead-end? Is there any way for local human rights organizations – real, operational, organizations that are not globally oriented – to substantiate their particular focus without reneging on universal demands? Or are they doomed to represent, in their respective agendas, their political, “biased” context?
Finally, and going back to the conceptual level – does this imply that the foundational idea of human rights indeed harbors an irreconcilable paradox? The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the human rights organizations that accompany it, will serve as a very germane illustration of this problematic. From the semantics of human rights concepts (“victim”, “perpetrator”, “non-combatant”, “conscientious objection”, etc.), to the pragmatics of human rights discussions in a specific area and time of strife, one can identify the alienation of universalism as the clear and almost immediate consequence of a context so rife with “politics”. Social and cultural phenomena within each society (Israeli and Palestinian), the convoluted state of the relationships between their respective NGOs, and the tensions arising between local and global organizations provide a working example, a case-study, of the “real” implications of this inherent paradox. (Read on cceia.org).
Professor Anat Biletzki is a leading human rights activist. She is chairperson of the board of the B’Tselem and has been involved in peace-building projects in Israel for over 25 years. She stands firm in her uncompromising defense of Palestinian human rights and desire to educate the Israeli public to respect human rights. Biletzki’s academic and public work is intertwined to mobilize and accompany the constant commitment to these pursuits. Born in Jerusalem in 1952, Professor Anat Biletzki spent much of her childhood and schooling in the United States and Canada. She has been teaching in the Philosophy Department, Tel Aviv University since 1979. Now she serves as Head of the Department. She has also traveled widely: as a visiting professor in the department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University, the Philosophy Department at Harvard University, and the School of Social Science in the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.
Anat Biletzki has been active in the peace movement and in several human rights projects in Israel for over 25 years. She views her life as a synthesis between philosophy – in a wide sense – and politics – in a wider sense. During the first Intifada she was one of the founders of the peace movement “The Twenty-First Year” – a group devoted to promoting civil insurgence against the Israeli occupation. In those same years she also worked with the Beta Committee that aimed to coordinate rehabilitation efforts for the West Bank village, Beta.
In 1997-1998 Anat helped to establish the human rights movement “Open Doors” which worked for the liberation of Palestinian administrative detainees in Israel – especially 11 detainees who had been incarcerated, without trial or due process, for over five years. (Normally within a year almost all the administrative detainees were released.)
Since 1996 she has been active as one of the leaders of Hacampus Lo Shotek – The Campus Speaks Out: a campus group, made up of faculty staff and students at Tel Aviv University (recently branching out to other Israeli universities), which runs campus events dedicated to ending the occupation and ensuring justice for the Palestinians.
In 2003 she was one of the initiators of the Israeli-Palestinian Action Group for Peace that worked on unifying the several movements and organizations dedicated to a just and lasting peace.
Through many peace movements and organizations, Anat has been working hard for the past 37 years to put an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands. One such organization is B’Tselem – the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories – a unique human rights organization, which is the only Israeli NGO whose mandate is explicitly to monitor, protect and advocate for the human rights of people in the Occupied Territories. Anat Biletzki has been on the board of B’Tselem since 1995, and since 2001 has served as chairperson of the board, involved in casting the organization’s policies during these turbulent times.
From the 1990s onward, B’Tselem, as a human rights organization, has faced several complex issues, such as the role of human rights in a peace process (following the Oslo Accords) and then in an armed conflict (this current Intifada). Despite heated debate and a very hostile environment, the organization has remained steadfast and outspoken in its unequivocal dedication to the universality of human rights. Keeping B’Tselem on its path of always trustworthy research based on independent fieldwork and legal analysis, the board has also been called upon to support innovative projects such as novel public education and advocacy strategies, a checkpoint-monitoring program and tours of Israel’s separation barrier. B’Tselem has been devoted to raising awareness of human rights violations in the Occupied Territories and bringing about changes in Israeli policy.
Both internationally and within Israel, B’Tselem has attained a reputation for accuracy and reliability, even among those who disagree with the organization’s positions. B’Tselem’s research, education and advocacy work have drawn attention to issues around which there was for many years a “conspiracy of silence” in Israeli society, and generated media and public debate on these topics. During the present Intifada, when all human rights organizations in Israel are suspected as “collaborators” with the “enemy”, it has become even more mandatory to explain and integrate the universality of human rights into public discourse.
B’Tselem is on a constant treadmill, attempting to balance the horrors of the current situation with a commitment, on the part of the authorities, the media, the armed forces, and the public, to human rights. This Sisyphean task is rarely rewarded with easily recognizable achievements. Some local successes, in reporting and exposing human rights violations, are routine; more long-term effects are to be hoped for with the end of occupation and a sustainable peace. Anat Biletzki represents Israel’s leading human rights organization in its uncompromising defense of Palestinian human rights and its efforts to educate the Israeli public to respect human rights. The organization serves as a model to human rights organizations around the world in its high professional standards, creative methods and untiring resolve to make human rights truly universal. Her academic and public work – in the university, in international contexts, and in political activism – is mobilized to accompany the constant commitment to these pursuits. (Read on this 1000peacewomen website).
At Boston University in the fall semester of 2006, Professor Biletzki will teach “Reasoning and Argumentation” (PH160) and an advanced seminar entitled “The Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights” (PH459/659). (Read more on Boston University).
See a long book review of Anat Biletzki’s ‘(Over)Interpreting Wittgenstein’, reviewed by Arthur W. Collins, CUNY Graduate Center: … Anat Biletzki presents an organized characterization of the enormous volume of Wittgenstein interpretation initiated by the appearance of Russell’s Introduction to the English translation of the Tractatus more than 80 years ago … ff.