The Cost of a Palestine Caveat: Biden Admin Chooses Politics Over Human Rights Expertise


In this episode of Occupied Thoughts, FMEP Non-resident Fellow Peter Beinart speaks to Maya Berry (Arab American Institute) and Jim Cavallaro (University Network for Human Rights) about the Biden Administration’s recent decision to rescind Cavallaro’s nomination to the serve as an independent expert on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Their discussion explores the Biden Administration’s pitiful profile on Palestinian human rights, and an optimistic take on where the Democratic Party might be headed.

Occupied Thoughts by FMEP · The Cost of a Palestine Caveat: Biden Admin Chooses Politics Over Human Rights Expertise

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Recorded March 15, 2023

Maya Berry is executive director of the Arab American Institute (AAI). In 1996, she established AAI’s first government relations department, which she led for five years before becoming a legislative director for U.S. House of Representatives Minority Whip David Bonior, where she managed the congressman’s legislative strategy and developed policies on international relations, human rights, immigration, civil rights and liberties, and trade. With a deep knowledge of public policymaking, Maya has helped expand AAI’s work on combatting hate crime, protecting the rights of securitized communities, and strengthening our democracy. In her personal capacity, Maya is a long-time Democratic Party activist who served as a member of the 2016 Democratic National Convention’s Platform Standing Committee and has attended all but one Democratic National Convention as a Delegate, Alternate or Standing Committee Member since 1992.

Peter Beinart is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Foundation for Middle East Peace. He is also a Professor of Journalism and Political Science at the City University of New York, a Contributing opinion writer at the New York Times, an Editor-at-Large at Jewish Currents, and an MSNBC Political Commentator.

James (Jim) Cavallaro is co-founder and Executive Director of the University Network for Human Rights. He teaches courses on human rights law and practice at Wesleyan University, Yale Law School and UCLA Law School. Prior to co-founding the University Network, he served as a professor of law at Stanford Law School (2011-2019) and a clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School (2002-2011). At both Harvard and Stanford, he established and directed human rights clinics and ran human rights centers. In 2014, Cavallaro introduced human rights advocacy into the undergraduate curriculum at Stanford. Cavallaro has overseen dozens of projects with scores of students in over twenty countries. In June 2013, Cavallaro was elected to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. He served as President of that body from 2016-2017. Jim Cavallaro has dedicated his thirty-year career to human rights advocacy. He has been actively involved in the defense of rights, critical reflection on the human rights movement, and the promotion of accountability at the international level. A prolific scholar and sought-after voice on international human rights issues, he is frequently called upon by the media and civil society to offer his expertise. Cavallaro received his BA from Harvard University and his JD from Berkeley Law School. He also holds a doctorate in human rights and development (Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Seville, Spain). In 1994, he opened a joint office for Human Rights Watch and the Center for Justice and International Law in Rio de Janeiro and served as director, overseeing research, reporting, and litigation before the Inter-American system’s human rights bodies. In 1999, he founded the Global Justice Center, a leading Brazilian human rights NGO. Cavallaro has authored or co-authored dozens of books, reports, and articles on human rights issues, a list of which is available below. He is fluent in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.