Human rights and Apartheid

Key tags: Apartheid, Refugees, Freedom of religion, Freedom of expression, Freedom of movement

The foundations of modern human rights were laid during the French and American revolutions. Subsequently, two world wars led to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution adopted in 1948. The declaration was succeeded by the European Convention on Human Rights, a binding convention drafted by the Council of Europe in 1950 and signed by 47 countries. Two subsequent UN human rights covenants sought to universalise human rights in treaty law in 1966. These now set out the most basic human rights prescribed in international law.

The UN Human Rights Council was established in 2006. It is responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and making recommendations on them.

Application to Israel

Israel has a population of roughly 80% Jews and 20% Arabs (including Arabs in East Jerusalem). The Israeli Declaration of Independence of 1948 expresses full equality without legal institutional discrimination. Nevertheless, cultural rifts occur in Israeli society, which does have human rights failings.

The international human rights system, however, has become very politicized and is instrumentalized to undermine and delegitimize the Jewish state. It characterizes Zionism, which is the Jewish aspiration to national independence, as racism and apartheid. In the 2001 Durban Declaration, which purports to address racism and xenophobia the world over, Israel is the only state mentioned in the global manifesto, which identifies Palestinians as “victims” of Israeli racism.

The NGO “UN Watch” documents that, in 2022, the UN Human Rights Council adopted more resolutions against Israel than against all other countries in the world combined. This reflects a pattern of ongoing Council voting, as part of which which Israel is the world’s only country fixed as a permanent annual agenda item. No human rights parameters can explain this anomaly. A reform of the UN Human Rights Council should refocus its work on investigating major human rights violations and end its demonstrable bias against Israel. Meanwhile, many major human rights violations are disregarded, due to the Council’s extraordinary focus on Israel.

Unfortunately, Palestinian NGOs that officially promote human rights, support discriminatory treatment of Jews. Furthermore, several Palestinian human rights NGOs justify violent resistance and terrorism, and operate without transparency while indirectly financing political violence. However, these human rights matters are disregarded by the Council. 

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