The Price of Solidarity: Palestine, Indonesia and the ‘Human Rights’ Dilemma
By Ramzy Baroud
When I excitedly shared the news on social media that Indonesia had refused to host the Israeli team as part of the Under-20 World Cup, scheduled from May 20 to June 11 in Indonesian cities, some readers were not impressed. .
Although any news related to Palestine and Israel often generates two very different kinds of responses, Indonesia’s latest act of solidarity with the Palestinian people failed to impress even some pro-Palestinian activists in the west. His reasoning had nothing to do with Palestine or Israel, but the Indonesian government’s own human rights record.
This supposed dichotomy is as ubiquitous as it is problematic. Some of the most sincere acts of solidarity with the Palestinians – or other nations under pressure in the Global South – tend to take place in other nations and governments of the South. But since western governments and western-based rights groups often accuse the latter of poor human rights records, these gestures of solidarity are often questioned as lacking substance.
Apart from the weaponization of human rights – and democracy – by western governments, some of the concerns about human rights violations are worth pausing: can those who do not respect the rights of their own people be trusted? protect the rights of others?
Although intellectually interesting, the argument and question lack self-awareness, lack entitlement, and show a poor understanding of history.
First, the lack of self-awareness. In the west, advocacy for Palestinian rights depends on confronting, educating and lobbying some of the world’s most destructive colonial and neocolonial powers. This advocacy includes civil engagement with countries that, for example, invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, invaded Africa and continue to invade many nations in the Global South.
These western governments were also the ones that gave the Palestine deed – Britain – to the Zionist movement or supported Israel militarily, financially and politically for generations – USA and others.
Although little tangible progress has been recorded in terms of substantial political transition from Israel, we continue to engage with these governments in the hope that change will occur.
Western activists rarely make arguments like those made against Indonesia – or against other countries in Asia, Africa, or Arab or Muslim countries. Personally, I have never once been reminded of the moral conflict of pursuing solidarity from western governments that have long invested in oppressing the Palestinian people.
Second, the entitlement. For many years and, especially since the end of the Second World War, western governments have done their best to play the roles of judge, jury and executioner. They drafted international law, but applied it selectively. They passed the Declaration of the Rights of Man, but still self-determined who this humanity deserves. They launched wars in the name of protecting others, but left behind more death and destruction than before these ‘humanitarian interventions’.
Some human rights activists in the west rarely realize that their influence comes largely from their geographic location and, more importantly, their citizenship. This is why Hannah Arendt rightly argued that individuals can only enjoy human rights when they gain the right to become citizens of a nation-state. “Human rights lose all their significance once an individual loses their political context,” she wrote in her seminal book, The Right to Have Rights.
While some activists have paid a heavy price for their true solidarity with the Palestinian people, others understand solidarity in purely conceptual terms, ignoring the many political obstacles and, at times, endangerment that an occupied nation faces.
The fact that Palestinian civil societies launched the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement in 2005, in that particular order, reflects the awareness among Palestinians that ending the Israeli occupation and Israeli apartheid will take more than individual acts of solidarity. to dismantle. Divestment means that companies that benefit from the Israeli Way of Life must sever their ties to Israel – even if some of those companies have questionable practices.
The same logic applies to sanctions, which require strong political will from governments to expel Tel Aviv until its occupation ends, respect international law and treat Palestinians as equal citizens.
If a perfect human rights record is a prerequisite for government support, few, if any, countries will qualify. Oppressed people cannot have that title, because they do not have the privilege or the leverage to shape truly harmonious global solidarity.
Finally, the need for a better understanding of history. Before the signing of the Oslo Accords between the leadership of Palestine and Israel in 1993, the term ‘human rights’ was included as an important part of the Palestinian struggle. But he was not the only one or the main force behind the Palestinian quest for freedom. For the Palestinians, all aspects of the Palestinian resistance, including the pursuit of human rights, were part of a larger strategy of liberation.
Oslo changed all that. He defined terms as resistance and redefined the Palestinian struggle, from the struggle for freedom to human rights. The Palestinian Authority respected the task assigned to it, and many Palestinians played along, simply because they felt they had no other choice.
But, by raising the discourse of human rights, the Palestinians were caught up in the overall priorities of the west. Their language which, in the past, corresponded to the revolutionary discourses of anti-colonial movements in the Middle East, Africa and the rest of the Global South, was drawn back to western expectations.
This should not imply that anti-colonial movements were not conducive to human rights discourses. Indeed, such discourses were at the heart of the struggles and brave sacrifices of millions of people around the world. But for them, human rights were not an isolated moral position, nor a political position to be used or manipulated to highlight the moral superiority of the west over the rest or to allow poor countries, often for the sake of political concessions or economic intensity.
The Palestinians care about the human rights of other nations. They should, because they have experienced firsthand, what it means to be deprived of their rights and their humanity. But, also, they are not in a position, and they should not seek one that would allow them to condition solidarity from others on western political human rights agendas.
– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is “Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out”. Dr is a Senior Non-Resident Research Fellow. Baroud at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). There is a website www.ramzybaroud.net