Diana Buttu: Lawyer and Analyst

December 31, 2014 IMEU
Diana Buttu: Lawyer and Analyst

As a child, Diana Buttu did not even know she was Palestinian. Ironically, years later she would become the well-known spokesperson of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Negotiations Support Unit.

Born and raised in Canada, Buttu's parents - who were Palestinian citizens of Israel - did not discuss their Palestinian identity. "My family did its best to insulate me," she says. "They consciously decided to leave Israel because of the sheer discrimination and they wanted to protect me."

In 1987, just days after the first Intifada started, Buttu visited Palestine. "Seeing the images and asking people about it created this personal awakening," she explains. "I realized I was Palestinian and a part of this big nation."

After earning a law degree from Queen's University in Canada and a Masters of Law from Stanford University, Buttu moved to Palestine in 2000. "I loved Palestine, yet hadn't really contributed." Shortly after her arrival, the second Intifada began and she took a position with the Negotiations Support Unit of the PLO.

"I had mixed feelings about negotiating," Buttu says. "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."

Buttu decided to explain the Palestinian story to the media. "At the end of the day the world will only accept what it perceives as fair," she explains. "So I decided to lay out the facts so people could understand life under occupation and the constant discrimination Palestinians face."

Her media work angered Israel's supporters and cost her her NSU job, but Buttu continues to speak out, working with journalists with the Institute for Middle East Understanding and teaching at Birzeit University. Buttu believes someday freedom and equal rights will come to the Palestinians. "I think this absurdity is going to lead to a real awakening and people will eventually hang their heads and say, 'What were we thinking?' I hope justice comes sooner rather than later."