Tag Archives: Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Palestinian Struggles for Rights and a Political End-Game

The status quo in Palestine & Israel is an interminable nightmare for Palestinians living under military occupation for 70+ years, and a shameful failure of the human rights framework adopted and promoted during that same time.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt

The Israeli declaration of independence in May 1948 was the Palestinians’ Nakba (disaster, catastrophe).

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 1948) was (is?) the world’s beacon of hope, an aspiration for a better life for every person.

 

Our failure (the international community’s failure) to secure a just and lasting resolution in Palestine & Israel cannot be swept under the rug and forgotten. It’s an indictment upon all of us.

Sam Bahour, a Palestinian American living in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, captured a succinct history of the military occupation and the current struggle when he spoke with his daughter. (He shares that beginning at 18:50).

How does the unbearable status quo change?

In reality, the status quo is bearable to Israel and that government has no incentive to change it.

In reality, the international human rights regime is impotent and won’t change the status quo.

In reality, the U.S. is a hindrance, not a facilitator, to ending the status quo.

In reality, the Palestinian political leaders (Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Fatah) have proven themselves to be incapable of rising to the challenge and have not earned the respect and recognition from the Palestinian people they purport to represent.

There are individuals within Palestine and Israel who are asking and answering that question: how does the unbearable status quo change?

Jeff Halper, an American Jew who has lived most of his adult life in Israel, thinks the two state solution is no longer feasible. He and his compatriots are currently traveling around the world to build support for the One Democratic State program.

Sam Bahour frames the question differently. It’s not a matter of two states or one state, but a matter of political and individual rights in either case. What Sam fears is that more time will be lost (time measured in decades) as people and governments negotiate territorial jurisdictions while the rights of Palestinians continue to take a back-seat in those discussions. Sam writes:

We must get political. Civil society must build the necessary alliances to bring Palestinian rights to the forefront of the international agenda on Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution. Today, we have no choice but to accept the apartheid one-state reality that we are living in now, and keep the two-state door open, while simultaneously bringing the issue of rights to the forefront of our demands. Our strongest ally is international civil society, but we cannot stop at civil society; it would be stopping short of affecting change. Instead we must leverage the widespread support of civil society in all corners of the world to get states to act, politically and otherwise, to support our just and internationally aligned struggle for freedom and independence.

In May 2016, Mr. Bahour spelled out the dangers and opportunities available to the Palestinian civil society in changing the status quo.  (The paper is available here.) I hope the next generation of Palestinian leaders (whoever and wherever they may be) will read the paper.

In this paper, I will argue that a rights-based approach is the most conducive one to the current Palestinian national agenda and that a political end-game cannot be open-ended. Moreover, I will also argue that the struggle for national self-determination cannot come at the expense of the struggle for rights – and vice versa. I view these two processes as simultaneous dynamics: one process focuses on the rights of the individual (political, human and civil rights), while the second focuses on the rights of the nation (national rights, specifically self-determination). My argument is based on the mutuality of these two processes: the ‘individual’ sphere centered on rights, and the ‘national’ sphere focused on independence.

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Filed under Israel, Nakba, Occupation, People, Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations, Video

Movement

I’m reminded in so many ways that movement is a human right that many of us take for granted. And the politicization of movement is abhorrent.

Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that:

  • citizen of a state in which that citizen is present has the liberty to travel, reside in, and/or work in any part of the state where one pleases within the limits of respect for the liberty and rights of others,
  • and that a citizen also has the right to leave any country, including his or her own, and to return to his or her country at any time.

Consider the following:

President Trump has sent 5,000 troops to the US-Mexico border to erect concertina wire in an effort to thwart immigrants traveling in a caravan from Central America. The first are arriving in Tijuana this week.

A Palestinian friend from Gaza has recently been granted asylum in the UK (“Liberation from the Israeli occupation & oppression and freedom from social and cultural restrictions”) and he now has a UK travel document (“Reclaimed my freedom of movement”).

Another Palestinian friend sits with me at an outdoor cafe in Cairo and looks up into the sky. He points to the commercial airplane flying overhead and tells me “We never see such planes in the skies over Gaza; only Israeli military jets and drones.”

A Jewish American lawyer has been working with refugees in Greece for several years in their applications for asylum. She has recently come under attack with death threats by Nazis who want to scare her away.

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The Erez Crossing between Israel and Gaza. http://www.guardian.co.uk

A DHL employee in Cairo tells me that DHL can’t ship a box of books to Gaza for me, only envelopes. He says Israel has returned boxes with no explanation.

I want to speak with my US Embassy in Cairo about getting permission to travel across the Sinai to Gaza. The earliest available appointment is December 10, in one month. Are they really THAT busy?

Walking around the pyramids at Giza, my Palestinian companion is stopped twice by different security forces who take him aside. They want to see his travel documents, and pat him down. I step closer to him and when they see that we’re traveling together, they wave us both through.

Movement is power. If you can move freely, you have power. If you can prevent another from moving, you have power.

Movement is essential for accessing any other rights or freedoms. No movement = no health.  No movement = no education.  No movement = no dignity.

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Israel’s separation barrier

While the U.S. and Israel spend their bloated military budgets ostensibly on security, but practically on thwarting the basic right of freedom of movement, the world grows ever more dangerous and deadly for many more people.

What would happen if we redirected our military budget into a global humanitarian budget, while welcoming refugees with open arms?

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Peaceful, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy

Walking the Talk

Friends and I made a large human peace sign at UNM on Friday (9/21/18).  I reflected on the forces that have marched us towards many more wars since the signing of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights 70 years ago. Perhaps we are less safe, less secure and less peaceful than the human community was in 1948.

my gaza5k 3The next day I joined the #Gaza5k run/walk in DC virtually by walking 5k in Albuquerque around the UNM Golf Course. I measured my distance with my Steps App and felt a sense of accomplishment, although I wish I could have been with my friends in DC. Action together is more fulfilling than solitary action.

During my personal #Gaza5k I meditated about the extreme hardships occurring in Gaza today which are preventable, fixable and avoidable if only the U.S. government had the political will to stand up for the oppressed, rather than kowtow to Israel’s every whim.

Today (9/23/18) I attended the First Unitarian Church in Albuquerque and met Gilbert. He was staffing the table for the Immigrant Justice Task Force and informed me about the work of the group called No More Deaths. They travel to the southern expanses of desert in Arizona and New Mexico to leave water, food and clothes for the immigrants crossing this dangerous border. The volunteers work together in teams during all seasons of the year risking arrest. A friend of mine has taken donations from Albuquerque to this group in the desert. It is noble work they are doing.

UU Church

The sermon really resonated with me too.  It was about generosity and the take away message for me was that every gift, donation or contribution is meaningful but the most meaningful gifts we can make, whether large or small, are those that are made with a generous heart.

I invite you to make a gift, donation, contribution to my #Gaza5K campaign to help UNRWA provide important mental health services to Palestinian refugees in Gaza.  No matter the size, your generous heart will connect with the Palestinians. Online tax deductible donations can be made here.

Over the past three days, I’ve learned that action is important — whether taken alone or together with others. We must walk our talk to make this world a better place.

 

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Filed under Peaceful, People, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized, United Nations

The Great Return March

UN_Palestine_Partition_Versions_1947

Many Americans know that the United Nations called for the creation of the State of Israel following a U.N. vote A/Res/181(II) in November 1947.

Some Americans may be aware that the actual founding of the State of Israel occurred on May 14, 1948 in Tel Aviv when David Ben Gurion stood up before the Jewish People’s Council gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum and read a declaration. 

Ben Gurion

 

I bet few Americans have a clue that under international law, and Resolution A/Res//194 (III) (adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 11, 1948)  the Palestinian refugees have the right to return to their properties, homes and businesses in what is present-day Israel.

Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible;

Haaretz columnist Uri Avnery claims the Palestinian right of return is not such a complicated issue, (Oct. 18, 2017 article) but nothing strikes dread into the hearts of Israeli leaders (and perhaps many Israelis) more than the thought of millions of Palestinians pouring across Israel’s undefined borders. The demographics challenge, they fear, would be insurmountable for their Jewish state. Israel now wants Trump to remove the ‘right of return’ from the negotiating table. (January 2018 article).

The Palestinians are planning to put the ‘right of return’ front and center — on every dining room table in Israel, every board room in executive suites, and in the heart of the Knesset. The Great March

Beginning Friday, March 30, Palestinian refugees will begin 46 days of non-violent action entitled “The Great Return March”.

 

The “Great Return march” is a popular Palestinian peaceful march, where the participants (men, women, children, elders, families) will start marching from the Palestinian communities in the occupied territories (Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Jerusalem) and from (Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt) to their homes from which they were forcibly displaced in 1948.

From the Coordination Committee:

The organizers of this march and their participants will never use any means of violence, and will only be limited to a peaceful march in accordance with the truce plan, bearing in mind that this march will be totally peaceful and doesn’t involve harming or threatening any country or using any means of violence.

It should be noted that the implementation of the Great Return march will be carried out peacefully in accordance with the rules of international law and in line with the UN resolutions on the return of the Palestinian refugees and other relevant international resolutions on the Palestinian issue.

In other words, the march will for the first time, employ the popular dimension to effectively compel the Israeli occupation state to the international resolutions and recommendations that it denies and refuses to implement, which over the past decades has constituted a clear threat to international peace and security.

Great_March_of_Return_2016-

 From the 2016 Great March of Return.  VERSO

The Legal Basis for the Great March of Return:

The UN Resolution 194 of the third session, issued on 11 December 1948, constitutes the international legal basis for the great return march, especially that it clearly called for the return to be allowed as soon as possible to refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors, and compensation should be paid for the property of those who decide not to return to their homes, and for every missing or injured person … “as well as international laws, especially which organize the legal framework for refugee rights, and the universal human rights principles that obligate the international community (States – International Organizations ) to help refugees return to their land and ensure their human dignity.

Based on the foregoing, we inform you of the Palestinian refugees intention to realize the right to return to their homeland in a peaceful and legal manner, under the legitimacy of the United Nations and the international community and with a legal reference based on international humanitarian law, international human rights law and United Nations resolutions relevant to the Palestinian cause.

general_assembly_adopts_newresolutioninfocus

United Nations General Assembly

Call for Support and Assistance:

We expect the Israeli occupation forces to use excessive and lethal force against the unarmed participants in the great return march. To avoid casualties, and based on the rights granted to civilians in the occupied territories under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which the occupation state signed and its Additional Protocol I of 1977, and under the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court, which incorporated certain acts considered to be war crimes, the most important of which were: “deliberately directing attacks against civilians, civilian sites, personnel or facilities for humanitarian assistance functions as well as the deliberate launching of a military attack that may result human and material losses,” we urge you to exert pressure on your governments and force them to:

  • Exert sufficient political and diplomatic pressure to pressure the Israeli Occupation to respect human rights and prevent them from resorting to the use of excessive force or the implementation of any crime or violation.
  • Compel the Israeli occupation state to comply with General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948 as one of the conditions for its acceptance as a member of the United Nations at the time.
  • Obligate the Israeli occupation state to adhere to the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was issued on December 12, 1948, and was one of the conditions of its acceptance as a member of the United Nations, where the second paragraph of Article 13 states that everyone has the right to leave any country, including his country or to return to his country.
  • Obligate the Israeli occupation state to implement the International resolutions relating to the return of the Palestinian refugees, including the UN Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967, and all relevant resolutions as an inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, most important of which is Resolution 3236 of 22 November 1974, which in paragraph 2: “Reaffirms also the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return”.
  • Compel the Government of the occupation, as a State party to the Refugee Convention and Protocol, to not detain migrants and asylum-seekers, and not to criminalize asylum-seekers for irregular entry.

I’ll be writing more about this very important action as it unfolds. This week, I’m sending a letter to my two U.S. Senators and Congresswoman with a copy of this blog post, making them aware of The Great Return March. I’m also writing a letter to my local paper and will try to tie this action to something local so that they’ll print it.

Bravo to the Coordination Committee.  These future leaders of Palestine give me hope, just as the youth in America give me hope.

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, nonviolent resistance, Occupation, Peaceful, Uncategorized, United Nations

Which passport do you have?

I’m really, really, REALLY beginning to appreciate the freedom and flexibility that comes with my American passport.

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I’ve never thought about it much before, but after speaking with several different men from Arab and African countries, I’m feeling a bit of the weight they must carry with the lack of freedom to move about and travel whenever, wherever they want. Even when they have the financial resources and are multi-lingual, their passports are a stumbling block.  (Look at the passport rankings to see what I’m talking about.)

Don’t kid yourself. Our movement on this planet is not by plane, train or ship—-rather it’s by unearned privilege!  With my American passport in hand, I can book a ticket on the TransSiberian Railroad and travel more than 5,000 miles from Moscow through Siberia, across Mongolia and into Beijing, as a friend and I did in 2009. No questions asked.

The reverse is not true. Many people in the world (most in fact) cannot visit the USA or anywhere else unless they jump through many, many hoops and are fortunate not to stumble along the way.

Is that how the wealthy, “developed” Western countries maintain control, by restricting travel of the population from the “other” parts of the world?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the U.N. General Assemby in 1948, addresses the right of travel but doesn’t seem to be worth the paper it’s printed on.

Human-Rights-Council-logo

Article 13.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

 

Article 14.
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Ask the 1.8 million Palestinians imprisoned in the Gaza Strip about what they think of their right to leave and return to their country.

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Mural on Palestine Stadium entrance in Gaza

Ask the Palestinian beach soccer team, or Mohammed Naim Shahada (27), or Mohammed Tamraz (26), or Najah Yassin (53), or Fida Argelawi (32) or Samir Mustafa (55) —- all stuck in Gaza. As described in this Haaretz article in June 2015:

Samir Mustafa arrived [in the Gaza Strip] from the United States for a funeral in January, and has not been able to leave since. Mustafa immigrated to the United States 35 years ago and has U.S. citizenship. He lives in Maryland with his wife and their five children. In January this year he traveled to Gaza through the Rafah crossing to attend a family member’s funeral, and has not been able to leave. Mustafa worked in a spare parts warehouse, but was notified a month and a half ago that he has been fired for failure to show up for work.

“When I asked for assistance from the U.S. consulate they told me that I violated a travel warning that prohibits entry to Gaza since 2003, as if they’d forgotten that I’m from Gaza and I came to see my family,” said Mustafa. “Lately they’ve been telling me I’m on a waiting list, but I don’t know how much time I’ll have to wait. My wife and children have been living off the little savings we have, but it’s running out. I worked my whole life, in Israel as well, now I’ve spent six months walking around doing nothing in Gaza. I don’t understand why they don’t let me leave here and return to my wife and children.” According to Israeli authorities, since Mustafa did not enter Gaza through the Erez crossing, he is not allowed to leave from it, and therefore his only option is leaving through Rafah – which Egypt nearly always keeps closed.

Some small minds (Trump and Netanyahu for example) think that walls are the solution to keep the “others” out.

What would happen if, instead of focusing on keeping people out, we (the privileged Western nations) focused on ensuring that the benefits we enjoy are spread magnanimously around the planet.  There really is enough to go around. We have the resources, the technology, imagination and the brains to do it. We simply lack the heart and spirit of generosity.

This might explain in a small way why I’m so passionate about the rights of Palestinians, especially those imprisoned in the Gaza Strip. The burden of this illegal restriction on simple movement is unbearable to imagine, but it’s real and it must end.

 

 

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