There are times when a Democracy recalls its seminal moments and rises to its defense. The US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley did just that in elegant fashion. Will other leaders do so as well?
Human Rights as Foundation of the USA
In 1776, the United States of America declared its independence from Great Britain. The US’s foundation principle laid out the argument that God gave people basic human rights and the primary role of government was to protect them. If the government could not do so, it no longer served its basic function and thereby lost its legitimacy and reason to exist.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
On June 6, 2017, almost 241 years later, Nikki Haley brought up America’s founding principle to the United Nations Human Rights Council in an effort to prod the global agency to live up to that mission that is dear to Americans.
“My country has a unique beginning, founded on human rights, holding self-evident the truth that all men are created equal with rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Of course America did not invent these rights – God did. Simply by our birth, human beings are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. These rights belong to all of us. They are not the gift of any government. They cannot legitimately be taken away by any government.
The American idea is that government exists to serve the people, not the other way around. Government should secure our rights, not violate them.”
Haley went on to admonish the global agency for neglecting its basic purpose of defending human rights by simply politicizing human rights:
“The Human Rights Council has been given a great responsibility. It has been charged with using the moral power of universal human rights to be the world’s advocate for the most vulnerable among us. Judged by this basic standard, the Human Rights Council has failed.
In case after case, it has been a forum for politics, hypocrisy, and evasion – not the forum for conscience that its founders envisioned. It has become a place for political manipulation, rather than the promotion of universal values. Those who cannot defend themselves turn to this Council for hope but are too often disappointed by inaction.
Once again, the world’s foremost human rights body has tarnished the cause of human rights. The United Nations must now act to reclaim the legitimacy of universal human dignity….This is a cause that is bigger than any one organization. If the Human Rights Council is going to be an organization we entrust to protect and promote human rights, it must change. If it fails to change, then we must pursue the advancement of human rights outside of the Council….In the end, no speech and no structural reforms will save the members of the Human Rights Council from themselves. If they continue to put politics ahead of human rights, they will continue to damage the cause that they supposedly serve.”
Not everyone in the United States believes in God, but almost everyone still believes that people have a basic right to liberty and a pursuit of happiness. Some liberals – like former president Barack Obama – may mock fellow citizens that “cling to God and guns,” but they will still promote expanding the protection of liberties aggressively. On the other end of the political spectrum, conservative Americans may believe that ever-expanding government regulations impede personal liberties. All of these groups debate the tactics of defending human rights, but each believes in the foundation principle of the country of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as the ultimate goal.
Holy Land as Foundation of Israel
Judaism is a unique religion in that it has a tie to a specific piece of land.
Laid out clearly and repeatedly throughout the Old Testament, God first promises the land of Canaan to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendant in Genesis, and then to the Children of Israel on their return from Egypt in the other four books of the Bible. The later prophets add a third chapter of the promise of the land: that Jews will return home to the land of Israel from their period of exile.
International law did not focus on God’s gift of the land of Israel for the Jewish people, but it recognized Jewish history and the rights of Jews to their homeland in 1920 and 1922. It would take until 1948 for the Jewish State to be reborn, in just a portion of their homeland. Similar to the 1920 San Remo agreement and the 1922 Mandate of Palestine, Israel laid out its foundation principle in 1948 as based on history, not religion, in the Israeli declaration of independence:
“The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.
After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.
Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, defiant returnees, and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country’s inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood.
In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country.
This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz-Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.”
These days, the United Nations has sought to undermine Israel’s foundation principle that it clearly understood a hundred years ago.
Several times in recent history, UNESCO has passed resolutions denying Jewish history in its holiest city of Jerusalem. In December 2016, UN Security Council denied that Jews have any legal rights to live east of the invisible 1949 Armistice Lines, including in Jerusalem.
It is not too dissimilar to Haley’s complaints about the pathetic actions at the United Nations. However, a stark difference is that all Americans know and defend America’s foundation principle, but many members of the Israeli government and population do not defend Israel’s foundation principle.
Consider that the Arab Joint List is the third largest political party in Israel’s 20th Knesset. One its members, Hanin Zoabi, has stated: “we threaten the Jewishness of the state. It’s true, but it’s not my problem, this is the problem of the racist definition of the state (of Israel) as a Jewish state… I do not represent the State of Israel nor do I speak for the State of Israel, but rather in the name of a struggle that performs the exact opposite of the role of the Israeli Knesset, according to its vision.”
Other members of the Arab Joint List advocate against Israel, such as Ahmed Tibi who claimed that Hamas is not a terrorist organization, despite its stated goal of destroying Israel and killing hundreds of Israelis.
Another Arab MK in the Joint List, Masud Ganaim, has denied basic Jewish history, that the Jewish Temples existed on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, stating “historically, religiously, it is a Muslim site, period. The State of Israel knows that Jews and Israel have no legitimacy to the site, except for their legitimacy as an occupier — a legitimacy (won) by force.”
Many left-wing radical Jews welcome this negation of Israel’s foundation principle and Jewish history.
In November 2015, a group of left-wing radicals invited Zoabi to speak in Amsterdam in an event to commemorate Kristallnacht when Nazis killed Jews. They applauded her as she compared Israel’s policies to those of Nazis.
The liberal Israeli paper Haaretz hosted a conference in which it removed the Israeli flag because it offended some Arab speakers. One of the paper’s columnists said that Jews making aliyah, moving to Israel, is a crime as Jews have no rights to the land.
Left-wing extremists then continue to advance the cause of BDS – boycotting Israel – to the cheers of other members of the Joint List like Ayman Odeh. The circle of #FakeNews and hatred reinforces itself.
Nikki Haley is fully aware of the foundation principles of the United States and is not shy about taking her passion to the global stage. She knows that she has the support of Americans of all political leanings.
However, the situation in Israel is peculiarly dysfunctional. There are many Jews and members of the Israeli government that have politicized their emotions. In their desire to assist beleaguered Palestinian Arabs, they have attacked the fundamental underpinnings of Israel, that by right of history, Jews have an inalienable right to live as independent sovereign people throughout their homeland.
When Jews and many members of the Israeli government undermine the foundation principle of the Jewish State, how can it expect fair treatment on the global stage?
The poisonous venom of denying Jewish history and rights must end, as it corrodes the foundation of the state. It must be given no air. Starting at the Israeli government itself.
Anytime any member of Knesset denies basic facts of Jewish history, the government should label the comments as #FakeNews and begin to deny such MK speaking privileges in the Knesset. The Israeli government should also permanently install the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s exhibit “People, Book, Land – The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People and the Land of Israel,” in the Knesset lobby (that same exhibit which the Arab League successfully got UNESCO to cancel).
It is right and commendable that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes the floor of the United Nations to proudly review Jewish history in the Jewish homeland. It is time for him to do more in Israel itself.
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