Saturday, July 24, 2010

What are human rights?

Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.

Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the forms of treaties, customary international law , general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights law lays down obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.

Universal and inalienable

The principle of universality of human rights is the cornerstone of international human rights law. This principle, as first emphasized in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948, has been reiterated in numerous international human rights conventions, declarations, and resolutions. The 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, for example, noted that it is the duty of States to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems.

All States have ratified at least one, and 80% of States have ratified four or more, of the core human rights treaties, reflecting consent of States which creates legal obligations for them and giving concrete expression to universality. Some fundamental human rights norms enjoy universal protection by customary international law across all boundaries and civilizations.

Human rights are inalienable. They should not be taken away, except in specific situations and according to due process. For example, the right to liberty may be restricted if a person is found guilty of a crime by a court of law.

Interdependent and indivisible

All human rights are indivisible, whether they are civil and political rights, such as the right to life, equality before the law and freedom of expression; economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to work, social security and education , or collective rights, such as the rights to development and self-determination, are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent. The improvement of one right facilitates advancement of the others. Likewise, the deprivation of one right adversely affects the others.

Equal and non-discriminatory

Non-discrimination is a cross-cutting principle in international human rights law. The principle is present in all the major human rights treaties and provides the central theme of some of international human rights conventions such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

The principle applies to everyone in relation to all human rights and freedoms and it prohibits discrimination on the basis of a list of non-exhaustive categories such as sex, race, colour and so on. The principle of non-discrimination is complemented by the principle of equality, as stated in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Both Rights and Obligations

Human rights entail both rights and obligations. States assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfil human rights. The obligation to respect means that States must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights. The obligation to protect requires States to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses. The obligation to fulfil means that States must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights. At the individual level, while we are entitled our human rights, we should also respect the human rights of others.

Related Links

Human Face for Human Rights

Human Rights Day

Human Rights in the World

International Human Rights Law

Rape conviction: A preposterous verdict and a dangerous precedent - Blog Post By Omar Baddar

Rape conviction: A preposterous verdict and a dangerous precedent - Blog Post by Omar Baddar

Gaza children set world record for basketball

Friday, July 23, 2010

My letters to the IHT & the LATimes RE When Arabs Tweet By Rami G. Khouri & U.S. filmmakers craft documentary on genocide survivors

RE: When Arabs Tweet By Rami G. Khouri

Dear Sir,

Is Rami G. Khouri advising Western leaders to divest from the Middle East- to give up on Arab youth before Arabs even have a chance to figure out how to be heard locally- as well as globally? I hope not! Yes new information age technology can be used as a toy and a distraction- but one never knows what might happen next, or who might be able to figure out how to help disarm the hostility and ignorance that leads to war and terror and religious tyranny.

Somewhere a bright child is learning how to think clearly- how speak coherently and compassionately about things that matter... somewhere a poet dreams... somewhere a dancer is learning how to build a stage.... somewhere a future scientist is exploring neurones for the first time... Somewhere a serious professional is perfecting his craft... Somewhere is every where and any where potential might hide- in every human being.

Anne Selden Annab

RE: U.S. filmmakers craft documentary on genocide survivors, 'The Last Survivor' chronicles how four people — survivors of the Holocaust, Rwanda, Darfur or Congo — rebound from atrocities and find new meaning in their lives. It was recently shown in Israel.,0,5771836.story

Dear Editor,

Israel systemically persecutes , impoverishes and displaces the people of historic Palestine for six decades and counting... BUT Palestinians are edited out of a compelling documentary about genocide. Edited out.... echoing a pervasively cruel daily reality as sovereign Israel pushes indigenous non-Jews into forced exile and then refuses to respect their inalienable legal right to return to original homes and lands.

Israel has been obviously creating and exasperating the largest, longest running refugee crisis in the world today: How many more Palestinians have to be murdered, and how many more Palestinians homes and families will be destroyed, how many more Palestinians have to be pushed out into forced exile and demonized because they dare object before one is allowed to whisper the word "genocide" to describe this crime?

Anne Selden Annab

In 1948 United Nations (page 4 on the PDF file ) Mediator Count Folke Bernadotte pointed out that "It would be an offence against the principles of justice if those innocent victims [Palestinian refugees] could not return to their homes while [Zionist] immigrants flowed into Palestine to take their place."

UN Resolution 194 from 1948 : 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

"The United Nations had certainly not intended that the Jewish State should rid itself of its Arab citizens" 5 May 1949 Application of Israel for admission to membership in the United Nations

Refugees and the Right of Return

"Palestinian refugees must be given the option to exercise their right of return (as well as receive compensation for their losses arising from their dispossession and displacement) though refugees may prefer other options such as: (i) resettlement in third countries, (ii) resettlement in a newly independent Palestine (even though they originate from that part of Palestine which became Israel) or (iii) normalization of their legal status in the host country where they currently reside. What is important is that individual refugees decide for themselves which option they prefer – a decision must not be imposed upon them."

THE Arab Peace Initiative

Refugees, Borders & Jerusalem...

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."Eleanor Roosevelt

Omar Baddar: "But, as I noted earlier, this incoherent attempt at legal and moral gymnastics is but a thin veil for the serious racism problem that exists in Israel. Today, some 50% of Israeli high schoolers oppose giving equal rights to Arabs, 68% say they would refuse to live in the same building as an Arab, and chants of "death to Arabs" are, according to the Israeli Supreme Court, "all too common," leading to concerns about public safety. That's the sort of environment in which discovering that the person one had sex with was an Arab can lead to rape charges and a conviction."

"The Palestinian Revolution was not designed merely to lift one yoke from the neck of Palestinians. It was designed to lift all of the yokes of oppression, including those that come from within." Ray Hanania Palestinians should not be forced to chose between faith and freedom

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gaza children bounce balls in Guinness record bid

Thousands of Palestinian children throw basketballs to the air to celebrate their attempt to break the world record for the number of basketballs bounced simultaneously, in the destroyed Gaza international airport in Rafah southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, July 22, 2010. The top U.N. aid official says more than 7,000 Gaza children have simultaneously dribbled basketballs for five minutes in an attempt to enter the Guinness Book of World Records (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Gaza children bounce balls in Guinness record bid

RAFAH, Gaza Strip – The top U.N. aid official in Gaza says more than 7,000 children in the Palestinian territory have simultaneously dribbled basketballs for five minutes in an attempt to enter the Guinness Book of World Records.

The event took place on a bombed-out airport runway near the southern Gaza town of Rafah.

Local U.N. chief John Ging says he expects to know in a few days if the children set the record. To do so, they must beat a 2007 record set in Indiana.

The event was part of the U.N.'s summer camps for about 250,000 Gaza children.

The U.N. said Gaza children set their first world record last year by simultaneously flying more than 3,000 kites — a record they will try to break next week.

The Myth of 'Never Again'

"The time has surely come to ask some hard questions about “traditional” Holocaust education, and perhaps to rethink some of the assumptions on which it has been based. Are programs focusing on the Nazi system and ideology, and particularly on the horrendous experience of their millions of victims, an effective response to, or prophylactic against, the challenges we face today?

It is easy to identify with the victims. But if we want to prevent future genocides, is it not equally important to understand the psychology of the perpetrators and bystanders — to comprehend what it is that leads large numbers of people, often “normal” and decent in the company of their own family and friends, to suppress their natural human empathy with people belonging to other groups and to join in, or stand by and witness, their systematic extermination? Do we not need to focus more on the social and psychological factors that lead to these acts of brutality and indifference, so that we know the warning signs to look out for in ourselves and our societies?" Kofi A. Annan

The Myth of 'Never Again'

Israel intensifies West Bank Palestinian home demolitions

Israel intensifies West Bank Palestinian home demolitions

© Amnesty International">The UN says at least 198 Palestinian structures in the West Bank have been demolished this year © Amnesty International

21 July 2010

Amnesty International has today called on the Israeli authorities to stop the demolition of Palestinian homes and other buildings in the West Bank, after a further 74 were destroyed in the Jordan Valley earlier this week.

The demolitions were carried out by the Israeli military in the villages of Hmayyir and 'Ein Ghazal in the area of al-Farisiya on Monday, displacing 107 people, including 52 children.

According to UN figures, at least 198 Palestinian structures in the West Bank have been demolished this year, resulting in the forced displacement of almost 300 Palestinians, half of them children, while 600 others have also been affected.

"These recent demolitions intensify concerns that this is part of a government strategy to remove the Palestinian population from the parts of the West Bank known as Area C, over which Israel has complete control in terms of planning and construction," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Among the property destroyed by the Israeli military on Monday were residential tents, separate kitchens and washrooms, agricultural buildings, and animal pens.

The army also damaged water tanks, wheat for human consumption and animal fodder.

The demolition came three weeks after the military handed out eviction orders in the village. Residents were told they had 24 hours to leave the area.

Unlike many other areas of the Jordan Valley, the communities of Hmayyir and 'Ein Ghazal had not experienced demolitions in the past.

According to Palestinian and Israeli media reports the Israeli military authority said the evictions were ordered because the homes are in a "closed military zone".

Most of the Jordan Valley area of the occupied West Bank has been declared a "closed military zone" by the Israeli army or has been taken over by some 36 Israeli settlements.

In a "closed military zone" Palestinians are forbidden from carrying out building construction and development.

On 24 June, the Israeli military also served eviction notices on two families - 15 people including five children - in the village of 'Ein al-Hilwe in the northern Jordan Valley and on a building for housing livestock in the nearby village of 'Ein al-Beida. Both villages are in Area C.

The buildings have not yet been demolished.

On 15 July, two buildings situated in a part of Area C southwest of Hebron in the West Bank were destroyed.

According to a report in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz on 19 July, the Israeli military authorities in the West Bank are acting on government orders to intensify its enforcement against what they deem to be "illegal" building in Area C.

Under the Oslo Accords, the Israeli authorities retain both civil and military control over areas designated as Area C, which make up more than 60 per cent of the West Bank.

The estimated 150,000 Palestinians living there face severe restrictions on building and also on their freedom of movement.

There are no Palestinian representatives on the planning institutions for Area C and, moreover, Palestinian residents in these areas have only very limited ability to submit objections to eviction and demolition.

"The current system whereby the Israeli military has sole responsibility for what Palestinians can or cannot build in the majority of the occupied West Bank is unacceptable," said Philip Luther. “Planning and building decisions should lie with the local Palestinian communities.”

Read More

Israeli authorities must stop demolitions of Palestinian homes (News, 16 June 2010)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Naomi Shihab Nye: Famous


by Naomi Shihab Nye

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

ATFP Gala 2010: Building Palestine, the Indispensible State for Peace... Honoring the Contributions of Palestinian Americans

Gala 2010: Building Palestine, the Indispensible State for Peace
American Task Force on Palestine’s Fifth Annual Gala

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ritz Carlton, 1150 22nd Street, NW Washington, DC

Honoring the Contributions of Palestinian Americans

To learn more about ATFP, go to, or
check out our President, Dr. Ziad Asali’s recent testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by clicking here! You can also visit our website to check out the wide array of silent auction items we have this year!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Six years on, Barrier casts shadow over West Bank life

Life on the margins

For many Palestinians in the West Bank, Israeli measures have severely restricted people’s access to land, jobs and basic services, leaving refugees particularly vulnerable.

UNRWA works to protect refugees and safeguard their basic rights and freedoms. Poverty and unemployment levels are higher among West Bank refugees than non-refugees, and they are also more likely to lack access to sufficient food.

Here we highlight the difficulties facing vulnerable groups, including a Bedouin community and a family badly affected by the Barrier.

Six years on, Barrier casts shadow over West Bank life

9 July 2010

View of Walaja showing Barrier constructionSix years ago today the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the construction of the West Bank Barrier breaches international law. Despite the ruling, construction has continued, and to date 60 per cent of the Barrier’s planned route has been completed, with a further 10 per cent currently under construction.

Caption: Al Walaja seen from afar, the trench marking the start of Barrier construction can be seen on the right

One place where construction is ongoing is the village of al Walaja, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Ruquya al Hajj Abdullah is a 68-year-old grandmother living in al Walaja. She recently woke to the sound of heavy machinery and found workmen digging a large trench near the back of her house.

The digging uprooted 100 of Ruquya’s olive trees. Once the trench was dug, a fence was erected, cutting Ruquya and her family from their farmland on the other side.

Encircled village

Trench for Barrier at bottom of gardenRuquya is one of many Walaja residents who have lost trees and access to their lands because of the Barrier, the planned route of which will completely encircle the village. Not surprisingly, Ruquya and her neighbours are worried.

Caption: The trench near Ruquya’s house

She explains: “We’ve seen what has happened to other communities in the West Bank. Though the Israeli authorities promise us that we will still have access to our land, this has not been the case in other places.”

In fact, UNRWA and OCHA have been monitoring communities living near the Barrier in the Governorates of Tulkarm, Jenin, Salfit and Qalqiliya. They have found that after construction of the Barrier in this area, only 18 per cent of farmers were able to reach their land because of the permit system and the physical obstacle.

Ruquya describes her unease: “I am not comfortable. I feel I can’t move freely in my own house and my own land.” She fears losing her land and also her house, whose structure may have been damaged by the construction of the Barrier so close to its foundations.


This is not the first time that Ruquya has faced dispossession. She was born in old al Walaja, which is located on land that became Israel following the war of 1948. Though a child at the time, she remembers the shooting and bombing. She remembers having to live in caves on the family’s farmland where they would later build their home, and where the new al Walaja now stands.

For Ruquya and her family the spectre of a second dispossession is very real. And despite going to the courts on several occasions they have been unable to stop the construction of the Barrier through their land.

Haitham, Ruquya’s son, describes their frustrations. “Imagine you are living peacefully in your house, looking only to achieve a minimum standard of living for your family, and you are not allowed even that.”

Read the al Walaja factsheet (PDF)

OCHA map: route of the Barrier around al Walaja (PDF)

More stories about communities affected by the Barrier

More Life on the margins

West Bank Bedouin facing crisis

The Bedouin community of Um Al Khayr near Hebron lives mere metres away from the Israeli settlement of Karmel. Though they share a hilltop on the other side of a high wire fence, life for the residents of these two communities is a world apart.

Read the story of Um Al Khayr

Family struggles in seam zone limbo

“I want to study to be a doctor,” 10-year-old Sally Mas’ud says, beaming. But Sally’s family live in the West Bank seam zone, between the Green Line and the Barrier, and access restrictions place increasing strains on her education.

Read Sally’s story

"There is no military victory available to either Israel or the Palestinians to resolve this conflict... "

"Let's begin with some very simple axioms: 1) there is no military victory available to either Israel or the Palestinians to resolve this conflict; 2) if the conflict is to be resolved, it must therefore be resolved by an agreement; 3) this is therefore the only way to end the occupation and achieve Palestinian national independence; 4) the only alternative to an agreement that ends the occupation and the conflict is continued occupation and conflict. A fifth probability, that does not rise to the level of an axiom but that comes extremely, disturbingly, close, is that this continued conflict will almost certainly become increasingly religious, bitter, violent and intractable, and is likely to morph from an ethnic struggle over land and power to a religious holy war over God's will and sacred spaces. I take these four points as axiomatic and virtually self-evident as I see no arguments capable of contradicting any of them. If anybody has any are not fanciful and actually take into consideration the array of forces (social, economic, political and military) that produce real political outcomes in the real world, please forward them to the Ibishblog immediately as they will be an original contribution and possibly a breakthrough in thinking on the conflict. I'm not holding my breath.

One usually gets, in response to some version of these four axioms, fanciful alternative scenarios that I have often described as “science fiction” because they do not take into consideration the forces that produce outcomes I keep referring to. The consolidation of a greater Israel, the victory of an Islamic state from the river to the sea, the democratic, South Africa style one-state solution, the so-called Jordanian option, various notions of Israeli-Palestinian Confederation and regional EU-like “unions of the children of Abraham” or some such folderol, are all examples of fanciful scenarios that fail at the most fundamental level because in each and every case at least one of one of the parties that would have to accept such an outcome cannot plausibly be imagined as accepting it. As long as one party central to an outcome will neither accept such an outcome nor can be plausibly militarily forced to accept it, we can say with a great deal of confidence that such an outcome is extremely unlikely to the point not being worth serious consideration.

The latest example of this is the right wing and settler version of the “one-state solution” being proposed by some extremist Israelis in which Israel would annex all of the West Bank, including Jerusalem, but not Gaza, adding about 1.5 million new Palestinian citizens to Israel, but keeping their political rights in various forms of check to ensure the state remains “Jewish” and Israel rather than anything else. Is the subject of a feature article in this weekend's version of Ha'aretz. The idea that this would end the Palestinian national struggle and the conflict because West Bank Palestinians would be delighted for the occupation to become permanent and to receive third or fourth class Israeli “citizenship” over time, of course while being colonized and repressed more ardently than ever, and that the rest of the Palestinians don't count and the national movement would simply collapse is a wonderful example of political “science fiction.” From a serious point of view, we needn't bother with it, but one is unfortunately obliged to take the time to debunk the idea lest sensible people be seduced by it any way." Hussein Ibish

Everyone remembers a good teacher, but pupils at an UNRWA school near Nablus have more to remember than most.

Teacher makes a song and dance for students

14 July 2010
Everyone remembers a good teacher, but pupils at an UNRWA school near Nablus have more to remember than most.

Balata Basic Girls’ School headteacher Serene Dweikat uses music and drama to help her pupils overcome some of the difficulties they face as Palestine refugees in the West Bank.

Like many UNRWA schools, classes at the Balata school are overcrowded. Students suffer from social and psychological pressures because of their situation as refugees in the occupied territory. These conditions are reflected in the students’ poor academic performance.

Better academic results

Serene has hit upon some creative teaching methods to help her students achieve their potential.

She started by transforming science lessons into songs, which the children would learn by concentrating on 'performing’ the lessons. After this was successful, she changed some other subjects into music too.

Serene’s creativity has been recognised at conferences and award ceremonies. She won the first prize at the Elham Palestine Competition for using music in students’ performance. The prize was in recognition of local innovations in media, education and IT.

She began teaching with UNRWA in 1985, after graduating from Al-Najah University with a BA degree in Arabic. Starting out as an English teacher, she obtained her MA in 1998.

Innovative teaching methods

Her use of music and drama has now expanded to find solutions to some of her students’ negative behaviour, such as violence in schools. Serene has adapted her methods to tackle these problems, strengthen school democracy and support the student parliament and its leadership role.

She also provided moral support and guidance for teachers to transform these creative ideas into activities for pupils. She does this by dedicating the last class of the school day for such activities.

Discovering new talents

Serene believes that her innovative methods are a way to discover talent and develop children’s personalities, giving all children the opportunity to take part.

Music also lets students and teachers alike discover their strong points, and gives alternatives for some of their weaker skills.

In addition to being a teacher, Serene writes songs and drama texts, which she tried to disseminate among all UNRWA schools to improve children’s education levels.

She thanks her teachers and students for their collaboration and teamwork, without which her success would not have seen the day.

More details
Public Information Office +972 2 589 0409

No peace without the repatriation of the maximum possible number of Palestinian refugees and full compensation, not merely resettlement...

"By the late 1960s, Ireland was increasingly preoccupied with the fate of the Palestinian Arab refugees, whose numbers had swelled following the Six Day War in June 1967. Speaking in 1969 in the Dail, the lower house of the Irish parliament, Irish Foreign Minister Frank Aiken described the settlement of this problem as the "main and most pressing objective" of Ireland's Middle East policy. By the time Aiken left office later that year, Irish policy was set in stone: There could be no peace without the repatriation of the maximum possible number of Palestinian refugees and full compensation, not merely resettlement, for the remainder."

Why the Irish Support Palestine

Once upon a time, Ireland was a huge supporter of Jewish aspirations in the Promised Land. What happened?