Human Rights Day – by Stephen Lendman
A commonly accepted definition calls human rights basic freedoms “to which all humans are entitled, often held to include the right to life and liberty, freedom of thought and expression, and equality before the law.”
The UN said “(o)n Human Rights Day 2011, we pay tribute to all human rights defenders and ask you to get involved in the global human rights movement.”
On December 9, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay will host a live online Facebook/Twitter/Weibo (Chinese) global conversation from 9:30AM – 10:30AM EST to answer questions participants ask. They’re your rights, she says. “Know them, demand them, defend them.”
December 10 commemorates the day General Assembly members adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948.
World leaders pledged to “complement the UN Charter with a road map to guarantee the rights of every individual everywhere.”
As a result, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was discussed at the General Assembly’s first session in 1946. It submitted the UNHR to the Economic and Social Council “for reference to the Commission on Human Rights for consideration….in its preparation of an international bill of rights.”
Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the UDHR drafting committee. Seventeen other political, cultural and religious figures joined her. She perhaps was its driving force.
In September 1948, its first draft was completed. Over 50 member states participated in its final drafting. On December 10, 1948, UN Resolution 217 A (III) adopted UNHR. No members dissented. Eight abstained. Despite emerging Cold War tensions, common ground was found.
UNHR’s 30 articles pledged “to promote respect for (fundamental human) rights and freedoms….both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”
It affirmed life, liberty, security and dignity. Said no one should be held in bondage or subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. It scorned arbitrary arrests, detention, exile, and other human rights violations.
It said everyone may leave any country and return freely. It deplored discrimination of any kind. It championed free expression, assembly, movement, thought, opinion and religion.
It said everyone has the right to work and receive equal pay for equal employment. It supported essential rights to healthcare, food, clothing, housing, and education.
It said “(n)othing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for the State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.”
World War II atrocities inspired it. The UN Charter’s Preamble vowed:
- “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war….”
- “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights….”
- to assure justice and international law is respected, and
- “to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom….”
Since founded in 1945, the world body failed dismally on all counts, despite modest successes in areas of health, education, food assistance, refugees, and more.
Hamstrung by America and its imperial partners, international law was trashed, permanent global wars rage, and human rights and democratic values became meaningless figures of speech.
Israel’s Deplorable Human Rights Record
On December 6, a Haaretz editorial headlined, “Human rights in Israel are in jeopardy,” saying:
“Israel ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” but never observed them.
Israel’s Knesset commemorates Human Rights Day on December 6. “However, it is hard to say the Knesset members are bound to it or to its spirit and principles, most of which are reflected in the founding document of the State of Israel – the Declaration of Independence.”
In its newly released 2011 human and civil rights report, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel revealed alarming violations. They include infringements on free expression, assembly, movement, political activity, and religion.
They show protests aren’t tolerated, women are politically, economically and social marginalized, discrimination is worse than ever, social rights are fast eroding, democratic values barely exist, and Occupied Palestinians face daily state terror.
“It is hard to believe (Israel) lurk(s) at the threshold of” destroying a free society entirely.
In its 2011 human rights report on Israel, Amnesty International (AI) condemned its systematic violations. Those listed include judicial unfairness, administrative detentions without charge, besieged Gaza, home demolitions, illegal settlements, torture and excessive use of force, free movement, speech and assembly restrictions, collective punishment of an entire population, and prosecution and imprisonment of refuseniks against militarism and occupation.
Daily headlines offer more proof. Past and present IDF commanders support violence in all forms. So do Netanyahu and dominant Knesset members.
Israeli Arabs wonder what’s next. So do Jews. Many vote with their feet and leave. Others took steps to follow, and still more consider going because of deteriorating social conditions, extremist governance, and constant threats of war.
Palestinians are especially endangered. Israeli incursions terrorize communities regularly. Peaceful protests are confronted violently. Gazans are bombed and invaded. Soldiers shoot children too close to Israel’s border. Others are arrested and imprisoned.
Torture is official policy. So are targeted assassinations, illegal settlements, home demolitions, land theft, dispossessions, mass arrests and imprisonment, state terror, occupation, persecution, and loss of all rights.
Jews are at risk like Arabs if they resist. Challenging state policy leaves no one safe. Police state justice rules. Democracy is a figure of speech. It’s fast disappearing entirely.
America’s Deplorable Human Rights Record
Notably under Bush and Obama, America’s human rights record is scandalous.
Perhaps George Bernard had them in mind when he said:
“Democracy is a form of government that substitutes election by the incompetent many for the appointment of the corrupt few.”
Obama especially upheld the tradition and then some. He’s done what supporters thought impossible. He’s governed to the right of George Bush domestically and abroad.
He looted the nation’s wealth, wrecked the economy, and consigned growing millions to impoverishment without jobs, homes, savings, social services, or futures.
His weapon of choice is war. He’s waging them globally on humanity and threatening more, perhaps with nuclear weapons. He deployed Special Forces death squads in over 120 countries.
He presides over the world’s largest gulag. He claims the right to detain US citizens indefinitely without charge. He believes democratic values are impediments to world dominance.
He’s heading America rapidly toward tyranny. He continued the worst Bush policies and added others. He uses repressive homeland police state tactics against enemies.
He targets Muslims, Latino immigrants, dissenters, whistleblowers, social justice/anti-war advocates, and environmental and animal rights called terrorists. He authorized killing US citizens abroad based on unproved suspicions of terrorism.
He spies more aggressively domestically than George Bush. He’s destroying public education and hard won labor rights. He’s eroding Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, public pensions, and living wage security in decent jobs.
He supports wealth and power at the expense of growing needs. He impoverished a third of US households. He’s destroying middle class society.
He trashed constitutional and international laws to reign terror globally. He made America universally feared and hated. He turned it into an armed camp. He made it unfit to live in socially, economically and politically.
He’s risking global war for wealth, power, and unchallenged dominance. He created crisis conditions threatening humanity’s survival. He reserved the right to use America’s superweapons preemptively to do it. There’s no place to hide or be safe.
Challenging Rogue State Dominance
Post-WW II, what human rights supporters envisioned lies in ruins. OWS supporters say “the only solution is world revolution.” They represent a cross-pollination for a new nation.
They’re grassroots activists for change. They want social justice replacing today’s dysfunctional system. They want government of, by and for everyone. They know getting it comes bottom up, not top down.
They understand struggles this vital are too important to lose. This one’s the mother of them all. They know change won’t come easily or quickly.
They want others joining them for what everyone deserves. New Hampshire’s state motto is “Live free or die.” Resisting tyranny is a universal right. Jefferson called it “obedience to God.”
John Locke said when government fails its people, its “trust must necessarily be forfeited, and the Power devolve into the hands of those that gave it, who may place it anew where they shall think best for their safety and security.”
Henry David Thoreau “Civil Disobedience” essay said:
“Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree resign his conscience to the legislator?”
“The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.”
“All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable.”
Essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, Martin Luther King, and others believed unjust governance should be resisted.
So did Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, saying people have a “right” and “duty to throw” them off, “and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
People have enormous power to use. Saul Alinsky said, “The only way to beat organized money is with organized people.”
The time is now. Goal one is going for it to assure future Human Rights Days have meaning.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.