Bertha Justice Fellow at Michael Sfard Law Office Hagai Benziman has been working with Comet-ME, a humanitarian aid organization, to protect marginalized communities’ access to basic services in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
After joining the Israeli bar in 2019, Hagai Benziman became an associate lawyer and Bertha Justice Fellow at Michael Sfard Law Office. He had learned the power of movement lawyering as a means for change when he was first there as an intern. Hagai believes lawyers who support and inspire each other, as well as strategize together, can become a powerful community that brings rights and justice to the oppressed. Hagai is a member of the legal advisory team at Michael Sfard Law Office, where he provides legal aid to humanitarian organizations and social change projects to fight against the oppressive and unjust policing of marginalized communities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
As part of his work, Hagai provides legal aid to Comet-ME, a humanitarian aid organization that designs, installs and maintains renewable energy and clean water systems to off-grid, marginalized communities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The facilities installed by Comet- ME offer communities access to electricity, clean water, cell phones and household appliances, such as washing machines. In a number of areas in Occupied Palestinian Territories, these facilities have been designated as illegal, and Israeli authorities have issued demolition orders.
Hagai supports Comet-ME to challenge such actions taken by the Israeli state. Challenging demolition orders can be complex and involve diverse interactions that may begin with local planning committees and, in some cases, end in the high court of justice. The arguments used by Hagai and the legal advisory team can vary between arguing technicalities around construction and planning laws to demonstrating that Comet-ME installations are humanitarian facilities. Therefore, according to international law they are protected, and demolishment is prohibited. In August 2019, a high court of justice case regarding a Comet-ME facility in the village of Jib-A Dib concluded when the Israeli state agreed to withdraw a demolition order and restore seized equipment. To this day, the people of Jib-A Dib have access to electricity and a clean water supply.
Hagai has shared that working at the Michael Sfard Law Office as a Bertha Justice Fellow has given him the opportunity to do amazing and concrete work using the law to fight for the people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Acknowledging that while not all Israelis are to blame for the occupation, it is their responsibility to fight to end it.