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Diana Buttu

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Diana Buttu
Diana Buttu

NationalityCanadian, Palestinian, Israeli
Alma materUniversity of Toronto
Queen's University
Stanford University
Northwestern University
Years active2000–present

Diana Buttu is a Palestinian-Canadian lawyer and a former spokesperson for the Palestine Liberation Organization. Best known for her work as a legal adviser and a participant in peace negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian organizations, she has since been associated with Stanford University, Harvard University, and the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU).

Early life and education

Buttu was born in Canada to Palestinian Arab parents. According to a brief biography of Buttu at the Institute for Middle East Understanding, her parents "did not discuss their Palestinian identity." Buttu said that they tried "to insulate me," having left Israel "because of the sheer discrimination."[1][2]

She received a B.A. in Middle East and Islamic Studies and an LL.M. from the University of Toronto, a J.D. from Queen's University Faculty of Law, a J.S.M. from Stanford Law School, and an M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.[3]

Negotiator and analyst

Buttu began her work as negotiator in 2000, shortly after the outbreak of the Second Intifada, by serving as a spokesperson for the Negotiations Support Unit of the Palestine Liberation Organization.[4] The Economist described her in 2005 as being part of the closest thing to a Palestinian makeover.[5] Al-Ahram Weekly ran an op-ed piece in 2005 in which she was lauded for projecting an image that was the opposite of the stereotype of Palestinians as villains.[6]

Buttu has since gone on to work as a political analyst at the Institute for Middle East Understanding, "an independent non-profit organization that provides journalists with quick access to information about Palestine and the Palestinians, as well as expert sources, both in the United States and in the Middle East."[7]

Academic activities

Buttu has held a fellowship at the Stanford Center for Conflict Resolution and Negotiation and is currently listed as an instructor at Harvard Extension School. She taught a Harvard course entitled "Negotiations Skills: Strategies for Increased Effectiveness" as part of the September 2013 program and the 2014 March, July, and October programs.[8]


In an NPR interview given early in her tenure as a PLO adviser, Buttu suggested it was the responsibility of the U.S. to solve the problem between Israel and Palestine.[9][10]

"I had mixed feelings about negotiating," Buttu has said. "There is a structural problem when Palestinians negotiate with Israelis. It's like negotiating with a gun to your head; where the people under occupation have to negotiate their own release."[1]

In a 2008 CNN interview, Buttu insisted that Palestinian rockets do not have explosive warheads, and suggested that Hamas is a result of the Israeli occupation.[11]

Buttu proposed in a 2010 article that the U.S. make its aid to Israel contingent on its withdrawal from West Bank settlements.[12]

In 2011, after the Palestine Papers were made public, Buttu called for the resignation of Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator, saying that the documents revealed how "out of touch and unrepresentative" the Palestinian negotiators were.[13] In a 2011 interview, Buttu said that she was aware that the Palestinians had been willing to give up West Bank territory to the Israelis as part of a peace agreement.[14]

Buttu maintained in a 2012 op-ed that Palestinian-Israeli negotiations are "futile" given the power imbalance between the two parties. "Every Israeli proposal, and later the underlying premise of the negotiations," she additionally argued, "sought to accommodate Israel’s illegal behavior."[15]

In a CNN interview in November 2012, Buttu said that conflict between the Palestinians and Israel would not end until Israel was held "to account under international law." This, she explained, meant forcing Israel to "completely withdraw from the West Bank and from the Gaza Strip," thus allowing "all Palestinians to live in freedom."[16]

In a November 2012 op-ed for the Globe and Mail, Buttu called Gaza "an open-air prison" and charged that "Israel's latest bombing campaign...does not distinguish civilian from combatant, adult from child." She accused Israel of setting "policies on the minimum number of calories needed to prevent malnutrition" and of strictly limiting Gaza's access to the sea.[17]

Buttu reiterated in a January 2013 interview that the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, both before, during, and after her involvement, had failed "primarily because we had two very unequal parties." In the same interview she expressed the desire that Mahmoud Abbas would "sign on to the International Criminal Court," "hold Israel accountable for the settlement construction and expansion," and "declare this apartheid."[18]

In a July 2014 interview with CNN, Buttu downplayed Hamas's alleged use of human shields, said it was not true, would be a war crime if it was, and suggested it was racist to assume many Palestinians would act as human shields. CNN host Jake Tapper said video of two senior Hamas officials calling for civilians to act as human shields to protect buildings targeted by Israeli airstrikes proved that it was a common tactic by the militant group.[19]

In a July 2014 debate, Buttu responded to Hillel Neuer's request that Buttu should renounce Hamas because it is "anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-human rights" with "if you want me to renounce [Hamas] because they are anti-woman, anti-everything then I will also renounce Israel which is also anti-woman, anti-free speech, anti-gay, anti-everything." To which Hillel replied "Diana, what you are saying is preposterous. In Tel Aviv there's a gay parade every year." Buttu explained her comment was in reference to "Israel deflecting blame from its war crimes" by blaming Hamas.[20]

In 2018, in an opinion piece in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Butto stated that she regretted being part of the Palestinian negotiating team. "It is repugnant that the world demands that Palestinians negotiate their freedom, while Israel continues to steal Palestinian land."[21]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Diana Buttu: Lawyer and analyst". Institute for Middle East Understanding. Archived from the original on 9 October 2007. Retrieved 20 November 2007.
  2. ^ Hoogstraten, Monique van (17 August 2013). "De Palestijnse staat is een gepasseerd station". Trouw (in Dutch). Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  3. ^ "Diana Buttu". Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 8 March 2011.
  4. ^ Williamson, Lucy (15 July 2005). "Middle East | Hopes and fears as Gaza awaits pullout". BBC News. Retrieved 6 June 2010.
  5. ^ "Israel and Palestine: The battle for public relations". The Economist. 23 May 2005. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  6. ^ "Focus | In praise of Al-Nakba". Al-Ahram Weekly. 28 September 2005. Archived from the original on 13 October 2010. Retrieved 6 June 2010.
  7. ^ "About". Institute for Middle East Understanding. Archived from the original on 17 April 2014.
  8. ^ "Negotiations Skills: Strategies for Increased Effectiveness". Harvard Division of Continuing Education. Archived from the original on 30 September 2013.
  9. ^ "Interview with Diana Buttu". KQED Forum, National Public Radio. 29 July 2002.
  10. ^ "Transcript". Useful Work. Archived from the original on 23 August 2013.
  11. ^ "Mideast War, Controversy Swirls Around Tennessee RNC Chair's Offensive CD". CNN. 29 December 2008.
  12. ^ Buttu, Diana (10 October 2010). "America should fund Israeli settlers to leave". Al-Shabaka. Archived from the original on 23 August 2013.
  13. ^ Arshad, Shazia (15 February 2011). "The Palestine Papers – a matter of public interest". Middle East Monitor. Archived from the original on 9 October 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
  14. ^ "Diana Buttu on Palestine Papers. Institute for Palestine Studies TV". 25 January 2011 – via YouTube.
  15. ^ Buttu, Diana (29 February 2012). "Palestine, Israel and the Struggle for Equal Rights". Harvard Crimson.
  16. ^ "Fmr. PLO rep Buttu: Hamas can't be willed away, Israel should be held to account under international law". CNN. 20 November 2012.
  17. ^ Buttu, Diana (21 November 2012). "Israel's attack underlines helplessness, hopelessness of Gaza Palestinians". The Globe and Mail.
  18. ^ "Apartheid Israel Palestine – Endless conflict Interview w. Diana Butto" – via YouTube.
  19. ^ "CNN's Jack Tapper demolishes PLO spokeswoman" – via YouTube.
  20. ^ "Hillel Neuer schools PLO's Diana Buttu & HRW rep in Gaza debate on Al Jazeera" – via YouTube.
  21. ^ I Advised the Palestinian Negotiating Team. It Was a Mistake to Have Negotiated With Israel at All, Diana Buttu, Sep 12, 2018, Haaretz

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