Improving the lives of citizens of the West Bank through free legal care has been at the core of Moien Odeh’s career as a human rights lawyer.
Once a tax attorney, Odeh longed to use his legal skills to benefit the community in a more direct way, and when he saw that the ongoing Israel — Palestine conflict showed no signs abating, he took action.
“I worked for the biggest tax law firm in Israel, but I discovered that all I was doing was making rich people richer, so I decided it was time for me to start giving back to the community.”
Odeh started his own firm, Odeh and Partners, Co. The firm works largely on housing demolition disputes, specifically with those living in conflict zones near Jerusalem.
He says he decided to work in these areas because many neighborhoods lack municipal, infrastructure, and legal services.
After seeing an advertisement on the U.S. Consulate website, Odeh applied to participate in the Leaders for Democracy Fellowship (LDF), an exchange program run by the non-profit World Learning and funded by the U.S. Department of State that brings young leaders from the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region to the U.S.
Odeh says after meeting the other participants, he learned more about the issues their countries have faced and how they dealt with them.
“Sometimes when you’re surrounded by your own problems you don’t often recognize that other people are going through similar problems as well,” he says.
The program enabled Odeh to intern at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where he wrote a paper on the international community’s intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
During his time at the Wilson Center, Odeh met highly-networked people who would eventually help him look at the conflict in his home country through a different lens.
“[My supervisors] gave me a different perspective which I never thought about. This changed my view on U.S. policy itself, and might also change the way we work back home,” he adds.