Are international human rights stifling freedom?

By GIDON BEN ZVI
September 21, 2019 21:26
2 minute read.
Benjamin Netanyahu announces that if reelected, he will extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan V

Benjamin Netanyahu announces that if reelected, he will extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, September 10 2019. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)

What’s striking about the international community’s reaction to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent pledge to apply sovereignty to Jewish communities in the West Bank, and the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to revoke the autonomy of Indian-administered Kashmir, is the sound of crickets.

Kashmir has been such a nothing-burger that a United Nations diplomat called the UN Security Council session that was convened to deal with matter the “lowest level of council action,” and stated that members hadn’t even issued a press release about the proceedings. Governments around the world are largely treating the Kashmir issue as an internal Indian matter, the result of a lengthy and complicated democratic process.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s latest annexation proclamation was widely perceived as the Israeli premier’s latest last-minute attempt to capture a few more votes days before an election. Notwithstanding perfunctory Arab League and UN condemnations, the cause of human rights for Palestinians seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Between the threats posed by ISIS and Iran, Arab leaders are scrambling to hold on to power. At most, Palestinian independence is paid occasional lip service.

But are the human rights of Kashmiris and Palestinians being ignored as a result? The most vocal proponent of Kashmiri self-determination is Pakistan. But this Islamic republic is itself an egregious human-rights violator. The part of Kashmir administered by Pakistan denies people their most fundamental political and human rights. And you can forget about self-determination: pro-independence groups such as the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front are routinely targeted and repressed by the government in Islamabad.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights recently released a report on human rights in Kashmir. It noted that human-rights abuses in Pakistani Kashmir were of a “different caliber or magnitude” to those in Indian Kashmir, and included misuse of anti-terrorism laws to target dissent and restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and opinion, peaceful assembly and association.

Back in Israel, Netanyahu’s plan to apply Israeli sovereignty to large swaths of the West Bank has fanned the sacred fire of liberty. Turkey, Syria, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are among a rogues’ gallery of human-rights villains who are lining up to support Palestinian liberation. The same Middle East governments extolling the virtues of freedom are cracking down on civil society actors and political opponents at an increasing rate.

And what of the Palestinian Authority, tasked with the responsibility of midwifing the political and economic reforms needed to usher independence? More than 25 years after the Oslo Accords granted Palestinians a degree of self-rule over the West Bank, systematic arbitrary arrests and torture perpetrated by the PA are in gross violation of the human-rights treaties it has signed.

 It’s hard to not become disheartened when the very concept of human rights has been hijacked by the world’s worst human-rights violators. Palestinians, Kashmiris and stateless people everywhere will only taste the sweet nectar of freedom once they demand, protest and fight for a transparent, accountable, democratic form of government that respects and guarantees their inalienable human rights.

Their cause would be best served by taking their destiny into their own hands and allowing their ostensible supporters to quietly rot on the ash heap of history.


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