Irit Kohn takes helm of Jewish lawyers association

Former international law director tells 'Post' she wants to see more young people join organization, assist in fight for Israel’s int'l legitimacy.

Irit Kohn, the recently elected president of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, wants to see more young people join the organization and assist in the fight for Israel’s international legitimacy and universal human rights.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, immediately following the conclusion of the group’s annual congress, Kohn presented her vision for the future and spoke about the importance of greater participation in the battle against those who would deny the rights of Jews and the State of Israel.
Kohn, who in the past served as head of the Justice Ministry’s international department, is well aware of the challenges that Israel faces in the international legal arena. She said that the world is currently in the midst of a resurgence of anti- Semitism, which hides behind the cloak of anti-Israel sentiments, a mix she describes as “toxic evil.”
Kohn said that much of the strength the organization enjoys comes from its status as a recognized NGO at the United Nations, which enables it to participate in the deliberations of various UN bodies.
“The association uses this status at the UN to advocate on behalf of Israel and present opposition in forums like the Human Rights Council, against its one-sided resolutions.
We have already signed up to take part in the Durban III world conference against racism, which is scheduled to take place in New York City in September and which formal Israel has decided to boycott, along with other countries,” said Kohn.
“An important aspect of our UN activity consists of interceding and lobbying with state representatives prior to votes on controversial resolutions,” Kohn said.
She was adamant that despite the politically charged atmosphere, professionally presented arguments combined with well-documented submissions can and do have an impact on delegations and UN officials, at least on those who are openminded or favorably disposed.
Kohn said she would like to see new members, particularly young people, beef up the ranks of the 1,000-member organization.
“Though already represented in roughly 50 countries, we would like to see more lawyers and jurists join our cause and help us meet our challenges,” Kohn said.
In her acceptance speech, delivered at the congress’s opening session in Jerusalem last Wednesday, Kohn highlighted some of the challenges the group faces, including: incitement to genocide by Iran’s rulers, the struggle to obtain humanitarian rights for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and the battle for Israel’s legitimacy in the international arena.
The congress itself, which focused on the issue of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, took place Thursday to Saturday at the Isrotel Dead Sea hotel, and was attended by 150 members from 14 countries.
Among the speakers who addressed the members were Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Kadima MK Nachman Shai, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Hebrew University law professor Ruth Gavison and a long row of legal experts from leading law faculties in Israel.
Former Canadian justice minister Prof. Irwin Cotler received a lifetime honorary membership in the organization for his work on Jewish and Israel-related issues.