Tuesday, Jun. 08, 2004

The Arab Advocate

Suhad Hammoud Dahleh
To Suhad Hammoud Dahleh, it seems that every day an Israeli tells her she should stop complaining about her minority status as a Palestinian citizen of the Jewish state and go see how she would like life in an undemocratic Arab country. "No way," Hammoud replies. "This is my homeland. The way things are in the Arab countries is no excuse for the way Israel treats us. Palestinians are living in the margins of Israeli democracy." Rather than leave, Hammoud wants to make democracy work. Hammoud, 29, grew up in a Jewish neighborhood of Acre, an ancient town on Israel's northern shore. She recalls discrimination there even in kindergarten, when toddlers called her a "dirty Arab." Hammoud went on to earn her law degree at American University in Washington and work as an intern at the American Civil Liberties Union. After returning home, she and husband Muhammad Dahleh founded their own law firm, focusing on the human rights of East Jerusalem's 260,000 Palestinians. Hammoud won a surprising victory last summer, when her lawsuit persuaded Israeli authorities not to build their new security fence through the middle of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher. Just before she and Dahleh founded their firm two years ago, they started a family. They named their son Omar, after the second caliph of Islam, whom she describes as "the first democratic leader in the Arab and Muslim world."