Leah Tsemel

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Leah Tsemel, or Lea Tsemel (Hebrew: לאה צמל‬, born 19 June 1945) is an Israeli lawyer known for her work in support of Palestinian rights.[1][2]


Tsemel was born in Haifa, Israel in 1945.[2] She studied law at Hebrew University in the late 1960s.[3] She is married to anti-Zionist activist Michel Warschawski, and they have two children.[4]

Legal work[edit]

In 1971, Tsemel became an apprentice to human rights lawyer Felicia Langer.[3]

Tsemel represented activist Ezra Nawi.[5] An Israeli settler claimed Nawi hindered the settler from filming Nawi's assistance of Palestinians, and Nawi was convicted and fined.[5] On appeal, Tsemel successfully argued that the area the Palestinians were farming did not belong to the settler.[5] Nawi's conviction was overturned.[5]

Tsemel represented student Salah Hamouri after he was indicted on two counts: for planning to assassinate rabbi Ovadia Yosef and for being a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.[6] She advised Hamouri to plead guilty to the latter in exchange for a lighter sentence.[6]

Tsemel is "nondiscriminating about her clientele...whoever they might be and whatever charges they might face"[3] and is known for defending suicide bombers.[7]


Tsemel criticized Camp 1391, an Israel Defense Forces prison camp for "high-risk" prisoners in northern Israel,[8] stating, "anyone entering the prison can be made to disappear, potentially forever, it's no different from the jails run by tinpot South American dictators."[9] Tsemel was a participant in the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.[10]

She was a candidate for the Joint List in the 2015 general election.


Tsemel, together with Palestinian lawyer Raji Sourani, received the 1996 "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" award,[11] the highest human rights award granted by the government of France.[2][12] Tsemel, together with Palestinian advocate Mohammad Na'amneh, received the 2004 Hans Litten prize from the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights.[13]


  1. ^ Ciotti, Paul (April 27, 1988). "Israeli roots, Palestinian clients: Taking the Arab cause to court has earned Jewish lawyer Lea Tsemel the wrath of her countrymen" Los Angeles Times Retrieved on February 2, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c American Friends Service Committee (March 30, 2010). Leah Tsemel Retrieved on February 2, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c Hajjar, Lisa (2005). Courting conflict: The Israeli military court system in the West Bank and Gaza, pp. 168-69. University of California Press, Berkeley. ISBN 0520241932
  4. ^ Salokar, Rebecca Mae and Volcansek, Mary L. (1996). Women in law: A bio-bibliographical sourcebook, pp. 313-20. Greenwood Press, Westport. ISBN 9781567509144
  5. ^ a b c d Haaretz (22 December 2005). A humble house in the hills Haaretz Retrieved on February 2, 2014.
  6. ^ a b Ben-Ami, Nina (December 23, 2008). Affaire Salah Hamouri: la réponse de l'ambassade d'Israël, Le Nouvel Observateur. Retrieved on February 2, 2014.
  7. ^ Berg, Raffi (July 24, 2003). The Israeli who defends suicide bombers BBC News Online Retrieved on February 2, 2014.
  8. ^ BBC News (December 2, 2003). Israel court lifts prison secrecy BBC News Retrieved on February 2, 2014
  9. ^ Cook, Jonathan. Facility 1391: Israel's Guantanamo, Le Monde diplomatique (November 2003), reprinted Archived 2006-08-06 at the Wayback Machine. in CounterPunch (12 November 2003) Retrieved on February 2, 2014.
  10. ^ Russell Tribunal on Palestine (November 2011). Lea Tsemel Retrieved on February 2, 2014.
  11. ^ Commission nationale consultative des droits de l'homme, Prix des droits de l'homme Retrieved on February 2, 2014.
  12. ^ Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (December 7, 1996). Palestinian centre for human rights wins France’s highest award for human rights endeavours. Retrieved on February 2, 2014.
  13. ^ European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights (February 5, 2005). German Lawyers Association awards HANS-LITTEN-PRICE to Lea Tsemel and Mohammad Na'amneh Retrieved on February 2, 2014.