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Sunday, April 20, 2014

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Human rights reminder

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Sixty-four years ago, on Dec. 10, the United Nations promulgated and its members adopted the International Declaration of Human Rights. Ever since, International Human Rights Day has been “celebrated” on the same date. 

Written after World War II as the sun had just begun to rise over the darkened, brutalized terrain of so much of the world, the document enshrines the highest values and aspirations of civilized men and women. The document hoped to open a door onto a new world.

It begins: “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world…

“Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind…

“Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations…”

How should we respond, therefore, when not one leader of the Arab world, let alone the purportedly moderate Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the call to genocide last weekend by Hamas chief Khaled Meshal?

Meshal fulminated against Israel. “We are not giving up any inch of Palestine. It will remain Islamic and Arab for us and nobody else. Jihad and armed resistance is the only way. We cannot recognize Israel’s legitimacy. From the sea to the river, from north to south, we will not give up any part of Palestine — it is our country, our right and our homeland.” 

Was it only a fool’s grasp at a straw to hope that Abbas, the anointed of the western world, would have publicly protested: “No! That is no longer the way. We wish to live alongside, not instead of, Israel.”

But it would appear that despite the new UN state status conferred upon Abbas’ PLO, the Palestinian leader believes the provisions of the declaration do not apply to him. Of course, in this belief, he is at one with all the members of Arab League who applauded Meshal and the various other political leaders who regard the declaration as merely a decorative plaque to hang on a wall hiding a crack in the plaster rather than as an earnest, meaningful expression of human values.

But the protection of human rights must not only concern us when it is beyond our borders. CJN reporter Andy Levy-Ajzenkopf reminds us in a compelling, two-part series about the predicament of the European Roma that we must ensure our own laws – here in Canada – conform to both the spirit and the letter of the International Declaration of Human Rights. 

We firmly believe that the recognition of the inherent dignity and equal rights of all members of the human family is indeed the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. We must therefore practise what we believe if we are to point out the disgusting and cynical hypocrisy of men like Mahmoud Abbas.

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