Today, December 10th is Human Rights Day. This day is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the importance of human rights in our increasingly interconnected world. Human Rights are basic freedoms which all humans are entitled: the right to life, the freedom of thought and expression, and equality before the law. But are these rights applied equally, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and other differences?
Last month I traveled on a two-week delegation to Palestine and Israel organized by Interfaith Peace-Builders. During my trip, I spoke with many individuals, both Israeli and Palestinian, and heard their personal stories. With every experience, my eyes were opened to the harsh reality of life in this region. I couldn’t help but feel outraged, knowing that the US government is an ally that provides major funding to the Israeli government.
Israelis are living in a state of fear that fuels much of their national policy; policy that by nature violates the rights of their Palestinian neighbors. Israel’s fear may be justified by the brutal treatment of European Jews, but does that history give Israel the right to deny human rights to Palestinians?
I thought I was prepared for the situation I found in the Palestinian communities we visited, but I was shocked at the depth of the pain I witnessed. Many Palestinians have been forcibly displaced from their villages, sometimes massacred, often thrown in jail without charges. Families have been torn apart, separated by walls, barbed wire fences, and endless military checkpoints, all erected by Israel.