Advent[ures] in Incarnation [6] | Born Free and Equal in Dignity


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.


4 responses to “Advent[ures] in Incarnation [6] | Born Free and Equal in Dignity”

  1. Karsten R

    If I´m allowed to make a critical remark on your post I would like to say, that I´m very disappointed that you narrow down something so universal as the declaration of human rights to a single conflict.
    Of course, there are real evils done by the Israeli government, but so are also their opponents deeds. And there is one big difference: Never have any arabs been threatened in such ways than jews (I´m from Germany so I know my topic here very well), this is not meant as an excuse but makes things understandable in some ways.
    Maybe you want disagree with me, but I would like to remind you that it is common talk to explain or even to excuse bad feelings even open hatred and terror, let say among africans towards europeans, by referring to the injustices of the colonial epoch. And these were by no means comparable to the 2000 years of exile, hatred, persecution of jews that culminated in the gas chambers of the concentration camps.
    One maybe gets an idea what such a legacy can inflict on the mindset of people in a way that they act and react to any real or even only perceived danger in the way they do.

  2. Karsten R

    There is also something more globally relevant to the topic:

  3. I’m not attempting to narrow it down, but rather focus it’s gaze on this one conflict at this particularly relevant time.

    Actually, I find the underlying message of your comment rather troubling. It suggests that ‘Africans’ have a good reason to hate ‘Europeans’, and in the same way Jews have a good reason to hate… everybody?

    Even if this were true, what possible reason do Jews have for hating Arabs? I could understand your argument a little more if Israel was pursusing a systematic land-grab and illegal occupation of German territory, but it is not. Nor is it waging war against a power that has any parallel resistance. Israel is backed by a superpower, and by voices like yours who refuse to criticise what it is doing out of shame for recent history.

    But we must speak out. Israel is the victim become abuser: repeating the violence and oppression meted out against it against Palestinians. Doesn’t it strike you as tragically ironic that Yad Vashem looks out over old Palestinian villages that have been ‘erased’ by Israel?

    You say that ‘one maybe gets an idea what such a legacy can inflict on the mindset of people in a way that they act and react to any real or even only perceived danger in the way they do.’ I’m afraid that this is very poor thinking, and I would strongly advise you to read something like The Holocaust is Over We Must Rise From Its Ashes by a former speaker of the Knesset to get some proper perspective.

  4. Karsten R

    I did not say that Africans have a good reason hating Europeans, I actually said that “it is common talk” here in Europe, especially I may add by “politically correct” thinking people, the political establishment, parts of the media etc. that´s all what I said. It´s also I may add too heard among “emergent christians” to ever and ever again repeat such arguments, so actually it seems to me that THEY think it a valid argument, lets say, for those afflicted by former injustices by “christian” europeans to draw the conclusion that because of this legacy, christianity las lost any credibility to them.
    Generally, for good or ill, past events just happen to have an influence on thinking and resulting actions, the greater the magnitude the events have, the more profound is that influence, and there is great difference between peoples how long this influence lasts.