6.3.7 Compliance with International Human Rights

Compliance with international human rights is a useful measure of good governance; breaches result in popular indignation

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 (the UDHR, see Appendix 1) was negotiated after the Second World War, to set governance standards and to protect people from politicians who abuse their powers.  It was adopted by the UN General Assembly, with “over 50 Member States participating …  with eight nations abstaining from the vote but none dissenting”.  As described earlier (4.2.4), it has considerable moral authority.  Countries individually decide how to implement its provisions.

Instead of people asking themselves why they would submit to principles defined by other countries, they should ask themselves why they would allow their governance to fall short of what others see as best practice.  There is no obvious reason why any government cannot meet most of the requirements of the UDHR – although socio-economic rights depend upon affordability, and authoritarian governments don’t comply with Article 21.3 (elections).

The UDHR is not legally binding in international law, except for countries that have placed themselves under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (5.3.6.2) or the Geneva conventions (5.3.6.3).  Even without incorporation into the law, though, compliance with international human rights is a useful criterion for judging the performance of national politicians and putting pressure on them.

A country, or group of countries, can also decide to incorporate some human rights in its own laws (5.4.7).  The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, for example, is binding on EU countries and is a test for new applicants.  The American Constitution is another example which offers considerable protection to its citizens; it is enforced by the Supreme Court, which acts as a constraint upon politicians.  The decision to embody human rights in national laws is an endorsement of their legitimacy.

Israel has paid a heavy price for ignoring the human rights of Palestinians.  As reported by the BBC in August 2023, Palestinian fears grow amid rising Israeli settler attacks:

“There’s been a dramatic rise in violence carried out by extremist Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank this year, with more than 100 incidents reported a month according to the UN. It warns that some 400 people have been driven from their land since the start of 2022.

…Israel’s new government, its most right-wing and nationalist to date, has openly declared its intention to double the number of settlers to one million.

Most of the world sees settlements as illegal under international law, though Israel disagrees.”

As Israeli provocations increased, a violent response came from the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas on the 7th of October 2023.  A Reuters report described How an Israeli kibbutz ‘paradise’ turned into hell in Hamas attack.  1400 civilians were murdered, and hostages were taken in an appalling act of terrorism.  By definition (7.2.8), terrorists behave badly – but governments are held to higher standards.  Benjamin Netanyahu’s government responded by trying to completely eliminate Hamas, with what has been described as Death and Destruction in Gaza.

His government was held to account in the court of public opinion in the following months, during which time more than 30,000 Palestinians were killed and much of Gaza was reduced to rubble.  His alleged war crimes, and failure to observe the human rights of Palestinian civilians, drew widespread condemnation in what became a political disaster for Israel and for Jews everywhere:

●  Sky News described how Protesters take to streets around the world to show support for Palestinians.

●  It was reported that Israel [is] facing growing international criticism for Gaza war: “The diplomatic pressure on Israel is growing”.

●  Israel’s refusal to let sufficient food reach Gaza resulted in the headline: Gaza starvation could amount to war crime, UN human rights chief tells BBC.

●  The BBC reported that UK antisemitic hate incidents hit new high in 2023, says charity.

●  NPR reported that As Israel fights to destroy Hamas, the group’s popularity surges among Palestinians.

Most western governments supported Israel’s right to defend itself, but its lack of compliance with international human rights has aroused indignation.  Its reputation has been severely damaged and public support for it is dwindling.  The Israeli government, and many Israelis, appear not to have realised how counterproductive its strategy of repression has been.

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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/637a.htm.