“Torture of Palestinian detainees, including children, is rampant”: Israeli human rights lawyer Lea Tsemel

Israeli human rights lawyer Lea Tsemel is the subject of “Advocate” a film about her determined efforts to defend Palestinians caught up in the nightmare of Israel’s justice system. On May 24th, OFIP interviewed Ms. Tsemel about her work. By coincidence the webinar took place just as Israel was starting mass arrests of Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and inside Israel itself. She described the unfairness of the Israeli system. “Torture is rampant”, she told OFIP viewers. Read more and watch the interview...

Lea Tsemel defends Palestinians: from feminists to fundamentalists, from non-violent demonstrators to armed militants.

As a Jewish-Israeli lawyer who has represented political prisoners for five decades, Tsemel, in her tireless quest for justice, pushes the praxis of a human rights defender to its limits. As far as most Israelis are concerned, she defends the indefensible. As far as Palestinians are concerned, she’s more than an attorney, she’s an advocate.

OFIP arranged a special screening of “Advocate’ a film about Lea Tsemel that was featured in 2020 at the HotDocs festival. We followed up with a private webinar with Lea for those who had watched the film.

When we arranged the session with Lea we did not know, of course, that the tensions between Israel and the Palestinians would soon quickly to extreme violence.

Nor did we anticipate that after the truce, Israel would launch a wave of arrests targeting hundreds of Palestinian citizens of Israel who rallied in support of Sheikh Jarrah, Al-Aqsa and Gaza. Some Palestinians have described it as a “declaration of war” by Israel against Palestinians.

More than 1,550 people have been arrested over the past two weeks, the Israeli police said on Monday, on suspicion of involvement in the recent outbreak of mob violence between Arabs and Jews that convulsed cities across Israel”, according to the New York Times, the vast majority of them Palestinians.

In our one hour webinar, she was joined by Palestinian Canadian Nahla Abdo, a professor at Carleton University. Professor Abdo and Lea Tsemel were good friends many years ago. They both shared similar political positions on the Israeli state and occupation.

The interview was carried out by Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP) and Arthur Milner a Jewish Canadian playwright and a member of OFIP’s council of advisors.

The webinar

If you find this video informative, please feel free to send it on to friends.

Dont miss OFIP’s next video on June 3rd – an interview with British Journalist and blogger Jonathan Cook. Cook, an Israeli citizen, will discuss Israel’s peculiar citizenship laws and what they mean for its non-Jewish citizens. To register, click here:


After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.

Want to learn more about us? Go to http://www.ottawaforumip.org


  1. Palestinians being tortured by Israel, is nothing new.It always has been one of the pillars of Israel’s zero tolerance to any form of resistance by the Palestinians.
    It was about ten years ago, (If my memory is correct) that I got to know that since 1967, sixty three Palestinians died as the result. Tortures intensified mercilessly in the era of suicide bombers and continue up to today.
    It has been said by people with knowledge of this subject, that Israel either is the biggest torturer or among the the biggest in the world.

    1. Peter as an aside (and perhaps I’ve missed this if already discussed) but in follow up to your April article about what’s happening in sheikh jarra, France 24 reported in a news video on May 28 that the same is happening again but with even more families ready to lose their homes this time, in Batn Al hawa in south Jerusalem.

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