Tomorrow (10th) is ‘International Human Rights Day,’ commemorating the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN. Article 1 famously reads:
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
Incarnation is about embodiment in a particular place and time, and at this time of advent we reflect on God’s decision to be embodied in a particular place at a particular time – what is now Israel/Palestine.
His position in society would certainly have been lacking some basic rights. He was not a Roman citizen. They were the occupying power and could make unreasonable demands of Jews, and treat them cruelly. Movements could be restricted. Jesus, as a poor Jew from a northern village was certainly not ‘free and equal in dignity.’
His birth place is in what is now a Palestinian territory. Surrounded by a huge concrete wall and guarded with armoured road blocks, it is under occupation by the Israeli government. The following is taken from an email I received today from the Arab Association for Human Rights:
61 years after the adoption of the UDHR, Israel continues to pursue clearly discriminatory policies and practices and the violation of Palestinians’ human rights have persisted, and escalated.
This year began with Israel’s devastating 23-day offensive on the Gaza Strip, (‘Operation Cast Lead’). This military offensive resulted in the killing of over 1,400 Palestinians, the vast majority of whom were civilian, and the devastation of the Gaza Strip’s infrastructure. To date, Gaza continues to suffer a humanitarian crisis due to Israel’s unrelenting illegal blockade, which has, inter alia, rendered reconstruction – and thus recovery – impossible.
Over the course of 2009 existing illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land have expanded and new settlements have been established. The confiscation and annexation of Palestinian land has continued unabated, and intensified in East Jerusalem. In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the Annexation Wall is a violation of Israel’s obligations under international law. However, construction continues.
The systematic violation of Palestinians’ human rights cannot be allowed to continue any longer. As the international community celebrates International Human Rights Day, we as Palestinian non-governmental organisations, remind the Member States of the United Nations to uphold their pledge “to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms”, as enshrined in the UDHR.
So as we head into International Human Rights day, let’s think on the land where Jesus was born – bound and undignified – and act to lobby hard for peace in the region.