University of Pittsburgh
March 25, 2013

Pitt Law School’s Lawyering for Social Change Lecture March 28 to Feature International Human Rights Lawyer/Political Activist 
 Michael Sfard

Contact:  412-624-4147

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PITTSBURGH—The Jerusalem-born son of Polish parents who immigrated to Israel in 1968 under circumstances he describes as “forced emigration,” Michael Sfard fondly recalls being raised in a politically engaged family and community that voiced clear positions on democracy and human rights. 

“In the home I grew up in there was a very present allergy to the persecution of opponents of the regime … to the limitation of freedom of speech and freedom of thought,” said Sfard, whom The New York Times described as the Israeli human rights and peace movement’s leading lawyer. “It was present throughout my childhood and undoubtedly had an influence on me.”

In his dual role as human rights lawyer and political activist, Sfard will deliver a free public lecture at 7 p.m. March 28 in the Teplitz Memorial Moot Courtroom of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, 3900 Forbes Ave., Oakland. During the lecture, which is titled  “Can the Occupier Provide Justice? The Dilemmas of Human Rights Litigation in Israeli Courts,” Sfard will discuss some of the contentious Israeli-Palestinian issues in the Palestinian territories and the difficulties human rights activists face in their use of the Israeli legal system to effect change. 

Jules Lobel, the Bessie McKee Wathour Endowed Chair in Pitt’s School of Law and co-author (with David Cole) of the award-winning book Less Safe, Less Free: Why America is Losing the War on Terror (The New Press, 2007), will introduce Sfard.

Sfard has brought numerous human rights and land-use cases challenging Israel’s presence in the Palestinian territories. He also has represented Israeli conscientious objectors who refuse to serve in the military beyond the cease-fire lines established after the Arab-Israeli War of 1967. Viewing law as one part of a whole array of instruments for social change, Sfard cautions that law never stands on its own. “A legal procedure supports public action and … public action supports the legal procedure,” he said. 

The founder of the Michael Sfard Law Office in Tel Aviv, which opened in 2004, Sfard cowrote The Last Spy, a 2007 biography of Marcus Klingberg, a Polish-Israeli man who was convicted of espionage for the Soviet Union.

Visit Pitt Law’s News and Events page at for more information about the March 28 lecture. 

The Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education Board has approved the lecture for 1 hour of substantive credit, for which there is a $25 fee. Checks for CLE credit should be made payable to the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. 

A reception for attendees will follow the program in the Pitt School of Law’s second-floor Alcoa Room.