(photo credit: AP)
Israel has nothing to lose and everything to gain by becoming the most outspoken supporter of human rights causes in the world. The recent reimprisonment of Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi provides an easy place to start.
Israel's position among the family of nations, while rarely enviable, puts it in a unique position to defend some of the most oppressed people in the world. While in diplomatic circles, being outspoken can be difficult and dangerous, Israel has an advantage of already being so reviled by the world's most repressive regimes, including Syria, Burma and Iran, as to have nothing to lose.
When confronting human rights abuses, especially within the walls of the United Nations, a nation has much to consider. Worries include which way the criticized country will vote in the future, and what kind of criticism it will fire back. Unsurprisingly, however, none of these oppressive regimes are going to be sharing a vote with Israel anyway, nor will any flinch from lashing out outrageously against the nation they believe has no right to exist. As such, Israel should speak out freely, with its enemies being unable to threaten it effectively, bar maintaining the status quo.
THE SHAM of a verdict in Burma, sentencing the nation's pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to a further 18 months in prison, thereby missing the nation's "elections" should present the perfect opportunity. While the rest of the world fumbles around for a few hours before coming out with feebly-worded condemnations and threats, Israel should be fiercely speaking up against those that block democracy, reminding the free world that Israel is one of them.
Such actions, in the case of Burma, and elsewhere, would also highlight the criminal contradictions of the anti-Israel movements in the UK and the world, who hold the pretense of being both pro-democracy and anti-Israel. For too long defenders of Israel have sat back and let them have their cake and eat it, but a choice must be made. Being pro-democracy, yet against one small democracy in a sea of dictatorships does not fit.
If these groups want to be virulently anti-Israel, the choice is theirs, but then they must be grouped with others that call for Israel's demise and defend the heinous records of China, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Were Israel to establish itself as a known outspoken defender of democracy and justice worldwide, it would also be cutting off the blood supply of those who would see it cease to exist, namely the notion that it is a pariah state and shows no regard to human rights.
Becoming such a defender of freedom and democracy would not only be a blow to Israel-haters everywhere, but would also act as a wake-up call to our friends and other Western democracies. If Israel speaks out while they remain silent on atrocities in China and Cuba, it makes their bullying of Israel on "human rights" issues all the more ironic.
Democracy is the way the world is moving, proven by the globally respected organization Freedom House's statistics showing the number of democratic countries has risen more than 20 percent in the last 20 years. We can assume, or at least hope, that in the next 20 years at least a few of the peoples in the world's 74 remaining dictatorships will finally realize their right to freedom. There can be no better way of winning friends around the world than aligning with their valiant struggles for justice. While these nations will never be Israel's friends under their current regimes, there is scope to win the hearts and minds of their oppressed peoples so that their future freely-elected leaders will rightly associate Israel with their values.
Becoming the world's most outspoken defender of human rights everywhere not only gives Israel enormous diplomatic and political scope, but also allows for the right thing to be done. With Aung San Suu Kyi's outrageous sentence, Binyamin Netanyahu should know where to start.
The writer is a frequent observer of the United Nations Human Rights Council and is currently working in this field from Geneva.