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Felicia Langer

Felicia Langer

Published: March 30, 2010
Felicia Langer

Felicia Langer

Israeli lawyer and activist who has worked extensively for Palestinian human rights. She 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 she 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.

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