Palestine, Israel and the Definition of Rights

Force of arms defines what is right

It might seem like a ridiculous truism to say that you don’t have a right unless you have it, and yet, at the heart of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a patent absurdity.

Article 1.  All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

No they’re not.  It simply isn’t true.  Human beings the world over are born neither free nor equal, no matter what the United Nations might have wanted to believe in the wake of the Holocaust, when the declaration was drafted.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool.

human rights

Human beings are born into a world full of inequality, where freedom is a rare thing and getting rarer by the day, and where dignity is the first thing to be traded for a crust of bread.

Try being gay in Nigeria, Kenya or Russia and see how free and equal you feel.

Try being a woman in Afghanistan.  For that matter, try being  a woman anywhere governed by extreme religionists, whether they happen to be Christian, Jewish or Muslim.

Let’s not labour our way through the pious list of aspirations set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document universally ignored by governments everywhere, but just for a bit of diversion, let’s alight here and there for a closer sniff.

Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Really?  Let’s see the very short list of countries where people have that right.  And let’s see the longer list where they have no such right, even though the Declaration claims they do.

Article 5. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Unless they happened to be the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, prisoners in Abu Ghraib, or locked up  in any Middle Eastern jail.

 Article 9.  No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Tell that to the prisoners in Gitmo.

Article 15.  (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.

Tell that to the Palestinians.

  • Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
  •  Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  • Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
  • Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
  • Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  • Everyone has the right to education.

No they don’t, no they don’t , no they don’t.  We might want everyone to have those rights, but wanting it doesn’t make it so.  Across most of the world, nobody has such rights, and that’s for a very simple reason:  nobody is born with rights.

We either take them or we are given them.  That’s the reality of any society, ancient or modern.  There is no such thing as a universal right, except in the broad, aspirational, entirely commendable but ultimately meaningless sense exemplified by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It would be wonderful if we had a world based on the UDHR, but we do not, we never had and we never will, as long as the human race continues to produce greedy, tyrannical, intolerant, dishonest power-grabbers.  In other words, as long as the human race continues to produce humans.

The word “rights” is meaningless unless we understand that it implies a greater force guaranteeing such rights, and by the same token, limiting them.   The notion of human rights for women in Europe means something very different than it does in Saudi Arabia, even if Ireland has some way to go in protecting rape victims against unwanted pregnancies, and that’s because rights are handed out by the State.   It doesn’t matter how much we complain about having rights if the reality is that we simply do not have them.

Our rights in Ireland have been hard won, sometimes by constitutional means and sometimes by force of arms, just as is the case in every other country, because that is the nature of a right.

It isn’t some touchy-feelgood sparkledust sprinkled on your organic kaftan by a Vegan fairy.

It’s a right that you fought for, and maybe even died for.

There are no universal rights, only freedoms won by hard effort.

How apt that the Declaration of Human Rights — a thoroughly decent document, in my opinion — should have been created as an expression of the world’s revulsion at the treatment of Jews in Europe, while we witness Israel depriving the Palestinians of almost every right enunciated in it.

And how doubly ludicrous that they should justify their barbaric treatment of the Palestinians by quoting a dubious element of the Hamas charter, namely its denial of the Israeli state’s right to exist.

What is this right?  Was it conferred by force majeure, or did it exist ab initio?

To put it another way, was the right given to them or was it always there?

If the former, we can all agree that the international community never gave Israel the right to extend its borders to their present limits, nor to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians in order to achieve that position.  If the latter, then we’re talking about a Biblical claim to dominance of Palestinian lands based on magical belief in a mythical deity.

Either way, Hamas seem to have a point for discussion at the very least, unless you happen to believe that they’re not entitled to hold a point of view.  But of course, that would be contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Universal Declaration of Human Rights




24 thoughts on “Palestine, Israel and the Definition of Rights

  1. ALL violence against the person is in breach of the UDHR.

    Saying that one only side in a war violates these rights, or is justified in so doing, perpetuates that war.

    Accepting that ALL violence has to stop is the only way forward.

    N. Ireland is an example of this – once the killing stopped, progress to resolving the issues started. Although there is a lot still to do, progress continues.

    These Mid East blogs, peppered with extremely partisan rhetoric, will resolve nothing.

    Does anybody have any contributions that might suggest how peace can be achieved, that doesn’t include one side winning, and the other losing?

    OR are we just blowing off?

  2. Partisan rhetoric?

    As opposed to balanced comment where the oppressed and the oppressors are treated as equals?

  3. Yep, that’s how it works.

    Then, when the killing stops, both sides end up with something they don’t have now.

  4. The Israelis end up with peace, and the Palestinians end up with the misery they’ve endured for the last 66 years?

    Yep. Seems fair.

  5. I think you’re right. The Palestinians should go back to their slow strangulation and stop causing trouble.

  6. Bock quote “Why are you telling people what they believe? You can’t see inside a person’s head.”

    Now you’re putting words into my mouth – your argument grows thinner and thinner!

    Just in case it hasn’t been clear to some – my view is that the only losers in this conflict ARE the Palestinians – caught as they are between a rock and hard place – two political beliefs that has no real concern for the pawns – and Israel has those too.

    To resolve the issue (a point that these blogs completely ignore), is for both of these sides to be compelled to STOP killing and start talking.

    So how about getting off the populist platform of “save the poor Palestinians” and the partisan rhetoric of calling just one side wrong (even Nazis) and make a more substantial contribution to the debate?

    PS I just know you’ll pick out the most negative element of this blog and throw it back at me…..

  7. Toff You ignore whats been going on in the lead up to this. Without Justice there will be no lasting peace. It is in the hands if Israel / USA to dole out justice, instead of Murder.

  8. Toff, nobody can argue with your false equivalence between what you call the two “sides”. It’s a waste of time trying to engage with an absence of logic.

    What we have here is aggressor and victim, not two competing ideologies.

    Who would not resist a foreign occupying power?

  9. Thanks Bock, and I mean that – “competing ideologies” is exactly correct.

    You folks just happen to take a side, for lots of good reasons I’m sure.

    BUT this approach solves nothing.

    Civilians on both sides were killed yesterday (yes, three Israelis were also killed), caught in the middle of this ideological battle.

    Still no solutions eh, just more of the partisan stuff?

    I guess we’ve flogged it to death (pardon the pun) – over and out!

  10. It seems that Toff just can’t and won’t expand his little mind to see the bigger picture.

    Those sort of ‘oh why can’t they just kiss and make up and stop fighting’ comments show little insight and understanding on his part into what the conflict is really about, the injustice, the lack of parity.

    If someone came into Toff’s house and fucked him out and changed the locks on the street he might have a vague understanding of what it feels like to be bullied and suffer injustice.

  11. From Toffy –
    “So how about getting off the populist platform of “save the poor Palestinians” and the partisan rhetoric of calling just one side wrong (even Nazis)”

    Yeah, Hitler had a bit of a competing ideology with anyone not classed as ‘Aryan’.. If only they could have compromised and been… Aryan.

  12. Toffy, If you say the pro Palestinian platform is “populist” It shows how little insight you have on this issue. Au contraire my dear Toff! Where do you think that stance is populist ? You have my attention.

  13. I think Toff has a point all the same. The bottom line is that innocent people are being killed because they are caught between two groups of assholes. The Israeli response to any aggression is as usual horrifically disproportionate. But why does Hamas keep firing rockets? They must know it’s pointless – unless of course their intention is to provoke this kind of response, which would mean they are being assholes too by using the people in Gaza as pawns in their game. I very much doubt that the average Gazan (is that a word) gives a flying fuck about anything other than regular normal stuff like going to work, feeding their kids, etc.

    I really do believe that neither side gives a shit about them….I think it’s normal for us to want to have a a clear good vs bad divide in situations like this, but here I’m pretty sure it’s bad vs bad – the “level” of badness is irrelevant.

    I think that trying to classify one side or the other at this point is..pointless. The killing has to stop from both sides, before anything meaningful can ever happen there. Blame can be apportioned by the bucket-load once innocent civilians have stopped dying.

  14. Slipping out of the headlines in the last week are the “advances” made by the Islamic State, or ISIS, or whatever they go by these days, blowing up mosques, churches, and expelling Christians out of Mosul. For the first time in 2,000 years, there are no Christians left in Mosul.
    While the Israel/Palestine saga rightly takes the headlines, the spread of ISIS is a far more sinister thing,

  15. I agree bazza, this ISIS is probably the most sinister development yet in that part of the world, and is just the other extreme to the Israeli zealots.

    Religion and/or race has been used as an excuse for all forms of crimes against humanity, since time began.

    The only stance any of us should be taking is against extremism on ALL sides – whilst the silent majority ignores or is distracted, the head-bangers continue to make gains.

    History just keeps repeating itself :(

  16. Peace without justice is not peace! There are two sides OK, but one is the oppressor, the aggressor, the racist, the liar, the thief, and the ethnic cleanser.

  17. Tommy, there wasn’t much real justice in the North, but that’s a pretty peaceful place these days..Both sets of belligerents are assholes in this case. Attempting to classify one side as bigger assholes than the other can only lead to polarisation. You cannot possibly have peace with polarisation. Only when both sides recognise that they are assholes, and agree to stop their assholery for once and for all, can there ever be any hope of peace.

    In fact, I will go so far as to say that in the aftermath of a situation like this, there cannot ever be justice and as bitter a pill that might be for some, it’s better than the current situation; there may be many who go to their graves unhappy about that, but at least their children will live on; and their children’s children…..Peace without justice is just this: Peace.

  18. Bock,

    I can see what you’re driving at here, but I think the criticism of the UDHR is wide of the mark.

    You’re right to point out that in many parts of the world people’s rights are denied, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that those rights aren’t innate.

    The struggles for the recognition of rights that you mention are predicated on the notion that there are pre-existing rights and freedoms that are being denied by an oppressor of some sort. If not, then armed struggle in pursuit of them would be difficult to justify, I think.

    It was important that after a global conflict in which fascists of various stripes had actively pursued the notion that some human beings don’t have a the right to live a declaration was made that such rights are innate, and not in the gift of a state or a regime or a society.

    And I think you’re wrong to say that people aren’t born free and equal. I think it’s important to recognise that they are, and that everything that impacts on that freedom and equality from the moment of birth is an artificial construct that should be seen as an outrage.

    If we revise the notion that “man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains”, it’s not long before people are telling us that those chains are natural and not to be challenged – as they did for centuries in feudal and other societal orders.

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