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  • Sangitha Namasoo

Diana Buttu and her fight for the Palestinian Cause


Diana Buttu is a Canadian-Palestinian lawyer and activist. While she was born and raised in Canada, her familial roots are Palestinian. During a trip to Palestine at the end of 1987, Buttu witnessed first-hand the first Palestinian uprising which had a profound impact on her. It was at this point that her life trajectory shifted and she decided to dedicate her life to the Palestinian cause.


Buttu began educating herself on the conflict and started learning Arabic, two things she had resisted doing in the past. She also pursued a degree in Middle East and Islamic Studies before obtaining law degrees from Queen’s University and Stanford University. While at university and even after, Buttu remained active and engaged with the happenings in Palestine. Over the summers, she would visit and even worked as a legal intern at a human rights organisation and the State Law Institute. Her dedication and skillset which included a combination of knowledge on international law, Israeli politics, history and society along with her now fluent Arabic led to her being offered a job in Palestine.


Upon accepting the job offer, Buttu moved to Palestine and became a member of the negotiation support unit of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Here, she participated in the negotiations to implement the Oslo Accords. According to Buttu, these negotiations were aimed to end the system of military rule in Palestine and to allow for a free Palestinian state. As part of these negotiations, Buttu attended meetings between senior Israeli and Palestinian officials and was involved in among other things advising, drafting and assessing proposals and dealing with diplomats and the media. While Buttu describes the negotiation process as fruitless and frustrating, it taught her a lot about power and the influence of the media.


These days, Buttu serves as a legal consultant working on cases involving human rights issues such as home demolitions and confiscations of land. One of her biggest successes has been to keep a primary school in a small Palestinian community standing despite it being slated for demolition. As a result of Buttu’s work, children from this community have completed their primary education and have gone on to secondary school.


It has now been more than twenty years since Buttu moved to Palestine. Despite the constant dispiriting and uphill legal battles she has faced, she is determined to dedicate her energy into making the world a better place for coming generations.


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