(By Daniel Greenberg)Western Jews are allowing an overly broad view of “Human Rights” to subvert the rights and liberties of individuals. China’s criticism of human rights in America argues that because of American mistakes 200 years ago, Americans should excuse the tyrannies of tomorrow. We should not be deterred. In our attempt to uphold the highest standards, the Syrian despot is a “reformer” on track to a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. Turkey’s steep descent into the radical authoritarian bloc continues. The theocratic regime in Iran continues to bloody its own citizens and proliferate weaponry and radicalism.
One might ask what these foreign issues have to do with our lives in democratic societies. Put simply, if a foreign government doesn’t care about its own citizens, it probably won’t care about ours. While we work to learn from past mistakes and improve society, our introspection has been perverted as anti-Western, anti-American and anti-Israel propaganda. Demagogues twist the minds of the Middle East’s restless youth, telling them that their miseries are rooted not in their own societies but in Western imperialism. The result is that their societies stay oppressed and our societies get terrorized. And why argue against this when America’s diplomats accentuate America’s imperfections and proclaim that these people are free and governed by the finest human rights advocates?
We have a brilliant liberty, a constitutional republican democracy that gives the individual as much freedom as possible to choose how to live the good life. The political purpose of Jews, and Americans, is to milk this liberty for all it’s worth and do what’s right. Young Americans with few meaningful commitments have great potential to defend American liberty against the propaganda war that has been fought against it since the sun set on the British Empire. This war has subsumed the dominant term of freedom, “human rights,” imparting it with one meaning: despots in Turkey, Syria, Gaza, and Iran are entitled to oppress and brainwash their people. Freedom, in this context, is the freedom to live in darkness with policed Internet.
Unfortunately, most people in the Middle East have never been taught more about freedom. Absent societal tolerance of the rights of individuals, a mere voting booth and one election is little more than a welcome mat for tyranny. It would kick democratic values when they’re down if the cruel and corrupt monopolized “human rights.” Perhaps more than anyone, young American Jews can be better classic liberals, better hippies, and better spokespeople for human rights than those who would send the message that dictators are first as humans with rights and Jews are not humans and have no rights.
“Sunlight,” Justice Louis Brandeis said, is “the best of disinfectants.” Absent light, people in the Middle East will remain in the shade of compromise with authoritarian darkness. We ought to make it clear that such compromises should not be made, and only result in state cultivation of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism aimed at quelling dissatisfaction. We can be moderates, but why not be radical moderates?
Borders, states, and the rest are old talk. Invisible lines and the mirage of stability don’t matter—individuals matter. The new discourse should focus on the natural rights of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and all others to pursue happiness in their countries without having their churches burned, their children murdered, or their dissidents locked in dungeons.
Regardless of politics or beliefs, we can be proud to be pro-Israel and proud to be Jews. Jews have a freedom now, rare in history, to do so. We can no longer shy away from a full discussion of human rights, because respect for the rights of Jews and minorities is the grindstone upon which societies can sharpen their respect for each individual.
At the core of delegitimization of Israel is delegitimization of Jews’ rights and roots in the Land of Israel. The discrimination against Jews is a proxy war upon individual liberties. I submit that it should be made clear without compromise or concession, now more than ever, that the People of Israel are real and our rights are real. If we aren’t determined enough to clarify the rights of individuals, who will be?