Advocate – a film about attorney Lea Tsemel

Advocate Film Rachel Leah Jones

Advocate: A film about the Israeli lawyer Lea Tsemel. Directed by Rachel Leah Jones and  Philippe Bellaïche.

I want to highly recommend this film, if there is a screening anywhere near you, or if/when it arrives on TV – run, don’t walk, and see it.

Lea Tsemel is an Israeli lawyer, who for over five decades has been doing one of the most thankless jobs imaginable: She represents Palestinian defendants in Israeli courts. Somehow, although she has literally never won a case for a Palestinian accused before the Israeli court system, she still believes in justice, and believes she can help bring it to the fore in Israel’s “justice” system.

In addition to archival materials and interviews with Tsemel’s family, coworkers, and professional colleagues, the film follows two contemporary cases of Palestinian defendants with extremely extenuating circumstances, who are nevertheless (not really a spoiler alert) convicted and sentenced to serious jail time. One of them, a 13 year old child. Because, as mentioned, there is not a single example of a Palestinian defendant being exonerated in Israel.

In addition to the constant frustration of her cases, Tsemel is regularly demonized in the Israeli press and by the Israeli public, called names, threatened, accused of collaborating with terrorists.

The film is edifying, interesting, frustrating, thought provoking, stimulating… I watched it with a sister activist, and at the end I wanted to kill the world, and she came out of it re-energized and ready for action. So I guess what you take out of it depends on what you took into it….

But no matter who you are – go see it. It’s a must.

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