OpinionMiddle East

Has the concept of human rights been hijacked?

How has it come to pass that the world’s most vocal champions of human rights are also its most egregious violators?

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the opening of the 40th session of the Human Rights Council, Palais des Nations, Feb. 25, 2019. Credit: U.N. Photo by Violaine Martin.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the opening of the 40th session of the Human Rights Council, Palais des Nations, Feb. 25, 2019. Credit: U.N. Photo by Violaine Martin.
Gidon Ben-Zvi
Gidon Ben-Zvi contributes to The Algemeiner, The Times of Israel, The Jerusalem Post, CiF Watch and blogs at Jerusalem State of Mind.

Perhaps most striking about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent pledge to apply sovereignty to Jewish communities in the West Bank and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to revoke the autonomy of Indian-administered Kashmir was the sound of crickets that followed them.

Indeed, Kashmir has been such a “nothing burger” that a United Nations diplomat called the U.N. Security Council session 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 is widely perceived as the Israeli premier’s last-minute attempt to capture a few more votes days before an election. Between the threats posed by Islamic State and Iran, Arab leaders are scrambling to hold on to power; at most, Palestinian independence is paid occasional lip service to.

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 JKLF are routinely targeted and repressed by the government in Islamabad.

The office of the U.N. 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.

With regard to Israel, Turkey, Syria, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are among a rogues’ gallery of human rights villains lining up to support Palestinian statehood. 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 in Palestinian independence? Over 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 P.A. 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 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.

Gidon Ben-Zvi contributes to “The Algemeiner,” “The Times of Israel,” “The Jerusalem Post,” CiF Watch and blogs at Jerusalem State of Mind.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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