2022 Congressional Briefing Series: Israel & Palestine – Hot Topics in Congress


The Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) and the Middle East Institute (MEI)  are proud to present our 2022 Congressional briefing series: Israel & Palestine – Hot Topics in Congress.

This series was co-convened and co-moderated by MEI’s Khaled Elgindy and FMEP’s Lara Friedman, and featured an array of Palestinian and Israeli voices, weighing in on some of the most pressing and timely Israel/Palestine-related topics in Congress.

This series was held virtually, in the form of weekly webinars held February 11-April 1, 2022. Participation in these webinars was open exclusively to members of Congress and Congressional staff. However, given the importance both of the issues dealt with in this series and of the expertise featured on each panel, we decided to make the full series available to the public — see links to the sessions below, followed by bios of all participants.

Also, check out MEI’s Middle East Focus podcast’s episode (April 8, 2022) discussing the briefing series with Khaled and Lara.


Part 1 – Whose Jerusalem?

Recorded February 11, 2022. Click here for a recording and resources shared during this session.

Featuring: Daniel Seidemann (Terrestrial Jerusalem), Dana El Kurd (Non-Resident Fellow at the Middle East Institute) & Munir Nuseibah (Al-Quds University)

In this session we explored issues related to Israeli policies in Jerusalem, including ongoing displacement of Palestinian residents and expansion of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, why Jerusalem continues to serve as a catalyst for Palestinian protest (and Israeli violence in response), and how Jerusalem continues to be at the heart of Palestinian and Israeli national aspirations.

Part 2: Talking About Apartheid

Recorded February 18, 2022. Click here for video of the event & a podcast version, as well as for resources shared during this session.

Featuring Salem Barahmeh (Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy), Hagai El-Ad (B’Tselem) and Sherine Tadros (Amnesty International).  

In this session we explored the increasing adoption by human rights experts of the term “apartheid” to describe the reality in Israel/Palestine, including on both sides of the Green Line, and the view that, today, Palestinians and Israelis live in a de facto one-state, apartheid reality.

Part 3: The Gaza Blind Spot?

Recorded Feb 25, 2022. Click here for a video of the event & a podcast version, as well as for resources shared during this session.

Featuring Mkhaimar Abusada (Al Azhar University in Gaza City), Jehad Abusalim (American Friends Service Committee), and Tania Hary (Gisha).

In this session we explored issues related to Gaza, including the longstanding Israeli blockade and deliberate isolation of Gaza from the rest of Palestine and the world; the competing and complementary roles of Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, Israel, and Egypt; and how Gaza fits into the broader Palestinian picture. 

Part 4: After 70+ years, why are Palestinian Refugees Still An Issue?

Recorded March 4, 2022. Click here for a video of the event & a podcast version, as well as for resources shared during this session.

Featuring Umar al-Ghubari (Zochrot), Hani Almadhoun (UNRWA USA) and Francesca Albanese (Georgetown University).

In this session we explored issues surrounding Palestinian refugees, including the plight of refugees inside and outside of Palestine, the role of UNRWA and the debate it engenders in Congress, and the Palestinian demand for a “Right of Return.”

Part 5: Why All the Fuss over Palestinian Prisoners/Martyrs?

Recorded March 11, 2022. Click here for a video of the event & a podcast version, as well as for resources shared during this session.

Featuring Jawad Boulus (Palestinian human rights lawyer), Sahar Francis (Addameer), and Shibley Telhami  (Brookings/University of Maryland).

In this session we explored issues surrounding Palestinian public views, and Palestinian Authority/PLO policy, related to Palestinians killed and imprisoned by Israel, and how this issue has become enmeshed in debates in Congress over U.S. assistance for Palestinians.

Part 6: What is the BDS Movement & What Does It Mean that the U.S Legislating Against It?

Recorded March 18, 2022. Click here for a video of the event & a podcast version, as well as for resources shared during this session.

Featuring Omar Barghouti (Palestinian human rights defender & co-founder of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement), Brian Hauss (ACLU) and Olivia Katbi (North America Coordinator for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement).

In this session we explored issues surrounding growing grassroots protest of Israeli policies, including via support of boycotts, divestment campaigns, and calls for sanctions (BDS) — and the parallel rise in efforts, including in Congress, to delegitimize and legislate against such protests.  

Part 7: Where’s the Palestinian Mandela?

Recorded March 25, 2022. Click here for a video of the event & a podcast version, as well as for resources shared during this session.

Featuring Ahmed Abu Artema (Palestinian writer and activist) and Marwa Fatafta (MENA Policy Manager at Access Now).

In this session we explored issues surrounding Palestinian civil society, and in particular human rights defenders and democracy activists, and the challenges and threats they face — including direct attacks by Israel, targeting by Palestinian authorities, and apathy/indifference from the international community in the face of these attacks. 

Part 8: A New Era of Palestinian Unity? 

Recorded April 1, 2022. Click here for a video of the event & a podcast version, as well as for resources shared during this session.

Featuring Lana Tatour (University of New South Wales, Australia) Dr. Yara Hawari (Al-Shabaka), and Tareq Baconi (Al-Shabaka).

In this session we explored how years of fragmentation of the Palestinian people are today being challenged/overcome, both in terms of connections across the Green Line and grassroots engagement and connections around the world.  

Participant Biographies

(in alphabetical order, updated as new participants are added)

Francesca Albanese is an affiliate researcher of Georgetown University and the American University of Beirut. She is the co-author, with Lex Takkenberg, of The Status of Palestinian Refugees in International Law: a Tale of Fragmentation and Opportunity (published by Oxford University Press in August 2020 – link to book). She worked as legal officer in the UNRWA Department of Legal Affairs and before, for OHCHR.

Umar al-Ghubari is a political educator and group facilitator with Zochrot, an NGO working since 2002 to promote acknowledgement and accountability for the ongoing injustices of the Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948, and the reconceptualization of the Return as the imperative redress of the Nakba and a chance for a better life for all the country’s inhabitants.  He worked in the informal education sector as a facilitator and afterwards as a regional coordinator in the Karev educational program. Prior to joining Zochrot in 2006 he was the coordinator of Youth Activities at the School for Peace at Neve Shalom/Wa’hat al- Salam. He was born in Mshierfeh (near Umm al Fahm) and currently resides with his family in Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salaam.

Hani Almadhoun serves as UNRWA USA’s director of philanthropy.  Thanks to a university scholarship from the LDS Church he was able to earn his Masters in Public Administration and BA in International Studies and Latin American Studies at Brigham Young University. After his studies, Hani settled in Washington, DC where he fell into the world of fundraising for various causes that spoke to him, including civil rights and social justice groups for Muslim and Arab Americans and charities that serve the Palestinian people and other marginalized communities in the Middle East. In his personal capacity, Hani frequently shares updated stories from Palestine to increase awareness of the plight of the Palestinian people. After more than 15 years of fundraising at multiple organizations, Hani joined as Director of Philanthropy at UNRWA USA. Hani volunteers with a number of educational institutions (Marriott School of Management), health (PAMA, AMHP), and professional organizations (AFP and MUPPIES).

Tareq Baconi serves as the president of the board of Al-Shabaka. He was Al-Shabaka’s US Policy Fellow from 2016 – 2017. Tareq is the former senior analyst for Israel/Palestine and Economics of Conflict at the International Crisis Group, based in Ramallah, and the author of Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance (Stanford University Press, 2018). Tareq’s writing has appeared in the London Review of Books, the New York Review of Books, the Washington Post, among others, and he is a frequent commentator in regional and international media. He is the book review editor for the Journal of Palestine Studies.

Salem Barahmeh is the Executive Director of the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy (PIPD). He is currently a Non-Resident Fellow at the US Middle East Project and previously worked as an international affairs advisor to Dr. Hanan Ashrawi at the PLO and the Palestine Investment Fund. He has also worked at Portland Communications in London, as a Policy and Public Affairs Advisor to Gulf governments, and for the Palestinian Embassy to the United States. Salem received a BA in Government from Lawrence University and an MA in Law and Politics from King’s College London.

Omar Barghouti is a Palestinian human rights defender. He is a co-founder of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and a co-recipient of the 2017 Gandhi Peace Award. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering from Columbia University, NY, and is pursuing a PhD in Philosophy (ethics) at the University of Amsterdam. He is the author of, BDS: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights (Haymarket: 2011). His commentaries and views have appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, AP, the Nation, and on MSNBC, CNN, BBC, among others.

Jawad Boulus is a renowned Palestinian human rights lawyer, political commentator, and author. Boulus was born into a Christian family in the small Arab Galilee village of Kafr Yaseef in 1956, and graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1980. As a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, Boulus has been deeply involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the fight for Palestinian human rights for over 40 years. He currently publishes a notable weekly opinion column in Arabic which is circulated in numerous local and international printed newspapers and online magazines. He is the Director of the Legal Unit of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club in Ramallah. He serves as Co-Chair on the Board of Directors to ‘Hand in Hand,’ a network of integrated bilingual schools for Jewish and Arab children in Israel. Boulus also serves as Secretary to the Mahmoud Darwish Association for Innovation. His own law firm is based in Jerusalem, where he resides with his wife Jumana.

Hagai El-Ad is the executive director of B’Tselem בצלם بتسيلم, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Previously he was director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI, 2008–2014) and the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance (JOH, 2000–2006). In 2014, El-Ad was among Foreign Policy’s “100 Leading Global Thinkers”. In 2016 and again in 2018, he spoke before the United Nations Security Council calling for international action in order to end the occupation.

Khaled Elgindy is a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute where he also directs MEI’s Program on Palestine and Israeli-Palestinian Affairs. He is the author of the newly-released book, Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians, from Balfour to Trump, published by Brookings Institution Press in April 2019. Elgindy previously served as a fellow in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution from 2010 through 2018. Prior to arriving at Brookings, he served as an adviser to the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah on permanent status negotiations with Israel from 2004 to 2009, and was a key participant in the Annapolis negotiations of 2007-08. Elgindy is also an adjunct instructor in Arab Studies at Georgetown University.

Dana El Kurd is a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute. She holds a Ph.D. in government with concentrations in comparative politics and international relations, and has focused her work on authoritarian regimes in the Arab world, state-society relations in these countries, and the impact of international intervention. She has published in peer-reviewed journals such as PS Political Science & Politics, Journal of Global Security Studies, Middle East Law and Governance, Siyasat Arabiya (an Arabic peer-reviewed journal), Contemporary Arab Affairs, Parameters, and more. Her book titled Polarized and Demobilized: Legacies of Authoritarianism in Palestine was published in 2020 with Oxford University Press.

Marwa Fatafta is a Palestinian writer, researcher and policy analyst based in Berlin. She leads Access Now’s work on digital rights in the Middle East and North Africa region as the MENA Policy Manager. She is also an advisory board member of the Palestinian digital rights organization 7amleh. Previously, she worked as the MENA Regional Advisor for Transparency International Secretariat. Marwa was a Fulbright scholar to the US, and holds an MA in International Relations from Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She holds a second MA in Development and Governance from University of Duisburg-Essen.

Sahar Francis has since 2006 been the General Director of Ramallah-based Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, a Palestinian NGO providing legal and advocacy support to Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli and Palestinian prisons. An attorney by training, she joined the association in 1998, first as a human rights lawyer, then as head of the Legal Unit. With over sixteen years of human rights experience, including human rights counseling and representation, Ms. Francis also was on the Board of Defence for Children International Palestine Section for 4 years, and currently sets in the Board of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.

Lara Friedman is the President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP). With more than 25 years working in the Middle East foreign policy arena, Lara is a leading authority on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, with particular expertise on the Israeli-Arab conflict, Israeli settlements, Jerusalem, and the role of the U.S. Congress. She is published widely in the U.S. and international press and is regularly consulted by members of Congress and their staffs, by Washington-based diplomats, by policy-makers in capitals around the world, and by journalists in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to her work at FMEP, Lara is a Contributing Writer at Jewish Currents and a non-resident fellow at the U.S./Middle East Project (USMEP). Prior to joining FMEP, Lara was the Director of Policy and Government Relations at Americans for Peace Now, and before that she was a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, serving in Jerusalem, Washington, Tunis and Beirut. She holds a B.A. from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service; in addition to English, Lara speaks French, Arabic, Spanish, (weak) Italian, and muddles through in Hebrew.

Tania Hary is the Executive Director of Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, whose goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents. Hary received her B.A. in modern literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz and an M.A. in international affairs, with a focus on socioeconomic development, from the New School in New York. Prior to joining Gisha, Tania worked on advocacy and fundraising initiatives for not-for-profit organizations promoting human rights in Iran, children’s rights in Argentina, and the rights of refugees. Tania regularly travels to the United States and Europe, giving lectures and presentations about access in Gaza. She is relied upon as a source of information and analysis by diplomats, foreign offices and international organizations and has been published in Haaretz, the Forward, Ma’an, and +972 Magazine.

Brian Hauss is a staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. Brian was previously a staff attorney with the ACLU Center for Liberty, where he focused on combating religious refusals to comply with anti-discrimination laws. He also spent two years as the ACLU’s William J. Brennan First Amendment Fellow. Brian is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School. He served as a law clerk to the Hon. Marsha S. Berzon of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Dr. Yara Hawari is the Senior Palestine Policy Fellow of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network. She completed her PhD in Middle East Politics at the University of Exeter, where she taught various undergraduate courses and continues to be an honorary research fellow. She is also a frequent political commentator writing for various media outlets including The Guardian, Foreign Policy and Al Jazeera English.

Olivia Katbi is the North America Coordinator for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement. She also organizes with the Democratic Socialists of America, where she served as co-chair of the Portland, Oregon DSA chapter from 2017-2021, and founded the organization’s National BDS and Palestine Solidarity Working Group.

Munir Nuseibah is a human rights lawyer and academic based in Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, Palestine. He is an assistant professor at Al-Quds University’s faculty of law; the director (and co-founder) of Al-Quds Human Rights Clinic, the first accredited clinical legal education program in the Arab World; and the director of the Community Action Center in Jerusalem. He holds a B.A. degree in Law from Al-Quds University; an LL.M in International Legal Studies from the Washington College of Law of the American University in Washington DC and a PhD degree from the University of Westminster in London, UK, which he acquired after successfully defending his thesis entitled: Forced Displacement in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, International Law, and Transitional Justice.

Fadi Quran is a Campaigns Director at Avaaz, a 60-million person strong global movement mobilizing for change. He leads Avaaz MENA human rights work, as well as Avaaz’s counter disinformation efforts. Fadi is a leading community organizer in Palestine, and previously worked as UN Advocacy officer at Al-Haq. Fadi has appeared in the New York Times, NPR, the Guardian, the AFP, TIME Magazine, the Daily Telegraph, and other media outlets.

Daniel Seidemann is a practicing attorney in Jerusalem who specializes in legal and public issues in East Jerusalem. He has participated in numerous Track II talks on Jerusalem between Israelis and Palestinians and served in an informal advisory capacity to the final status negotiations as a member of a committee of experts commissioned by Prime Minister Barak’s office to generate sustainable arrangements in Jerusalem. He is the founder and director of Terrestrial Jerusalem, an Israeli nonprofit that works to identify and track developments in Jerusalem that could impact the political process or permanent status options, destabilize the city, spark violence, or create humanitarian crises.

Sherine Tadros is Deputy Director of Advocacy and Head of New York (UN) Office at Amnesty International. An internationally acclaimed journalist, before joining Amnesty International in August 2016, Sherine was a senior international correspondent and anchor for Sky News and Al Jazeera English covering stories across the globe based first in Europe and then the Middle East. In her role at Sky News role, Sherine led investigations into, and presentations of, several human rights and conflict issues across the MENA region, and set up – as Bureau Chief – Sky’s first office in Egypt. Before she joined Sky News, Sherine served in various roles at Al Jazeera English, including as a foreign correspondent in Beirut, Jerusalem, Gaza and Cairo and finally as a news anchor in Doha, Qatar. In 2011 Sherine was an integral part of the network’s coverage of the ‘Arab Spring’ reporting extensively from Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Before Al Jazeera, Sherine served on the faculty of SOAS. Sherine holds an MSc in Middle East Politics (cum laude) from SOAS, and a BA (Hons), Politics (cum laude) also from SOAS.

Lana Tatour is an assistant professor in global development at the School of Social Science, University of New South Wales, Australia. She was the 2019–20 Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University. She is currently completing a book provisionally titled Ambivalent Resistance: Palestinians in Israel and the Liberal Politics of Settler Colonialism and Human Rights.

Shibley Telhami is a nonresident senior fellow with the Center for Middle East Policy, in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings. He is the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland. In the past, Telhami served as a senior advisor to the U.S. Department of State, advisor to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, advisor to Congressman Lee Hamilton, and as a member of the Iraq Study Group. Shibley is an expert on U.S. policy in the Middle East, on Arab politics, and on shifting political identities in the Arab world. He regularly conducts public opinion polls in the Arab world, Israel, and the United States. Among his many publications are “The World Through Arab Eyes: Arab Public Opinion and the Reshaping of the Middle East” (Basic Books, 2013), “The Peace Puzzle: America’s Quest for Arab-Israeli Peace 1989-2011” (Cornell University Press, 2013), and the best-selling “The Stakes: America in the Middle East” (Basic Books, 2003), selected by Foreign Affairs as one of the top five books for that year. In addition, he was selected by the Carnegie Corporation of New York with the New York Times as one of the “Great Immigrants” for 2013.