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Why I Advocate for Human Rights: Musings of a Frustrated yet Empathetic Human Being

March 25, 2018

SETH HARRISON VIA THE JOURNAL NEWS

 

Palestinian human rights are often the subject of much contention, especially when pitting it against a background of violations complicit with Israel. Initially, I was nervous about mentioning Israel in this, or venting my frustrations about how Palestinian human rights are often regarded as “controversial” or “debatable”. But I need to ask: when did human rights become so politicized? The extent of polarity with human rights is quite alarming and unquestionably detrimental to any future progress for co-existence with Palestinians and Israelis.

 

As an individual growing up in Canada and learning about the atrocities First Nations tribes were subject to in Canada, I resonated with them in a way that I had never understood until speaking to the Musqueam people of Vancouver about the losses and grievances they had endured. I, as a settler, living and growing up in this privileged land, understood the suffering they had experienced, in which the audacity for people to question Palestinian rights became such a surprise to me that it almost suppressed my need to constantly speak up about this topic. We live in a world where everything we say is scrutinized and nitpicked to shreds, and this is the problem. I shouldn’t have to fear losing a job, getting blacklisted, or even getting comments from individuals against my advocacy simply for choosing to stand up for crimes against humanity. It's not fair, and frankly it’s idiotic and hypocritical. The silence and torture Palestinians and First Nations alike have to endure just to fight for fundamental principles is unjust and harrowing. Human rights should never be politicized nor quantified. Advocating for human rights shouldn’t cause you to fear for your life and silence you into submission. I will not be silenced into submission, nor will I be shamed for being a compassionate human being who wants to see justice served in an era dominated by bigotry, hypocrisy, and corruption. Why can’t we discuss these topics without people retreating into fearful shells refusing to utter a word because they don’t want to “offend” anyone?

 

Let’s be real. People don’t want to advocate for Palestinian human rights because of the opposition it attracts. It is a hard truth that everybody knows but nobody wants to acknowledge. I’m sick and tired of having to explain myself and explain this narrative, because we all need to consider the atrocities occurring globally. This society is plagued by a multitude of crises from Syria to Myanmar, we simply cannot get away from it, and we shouldn’t want to. We need to stand up for what we believe in, and we need to lend a helping hand worldwide, regardless of race, gender, or ethnicity. And don’t get me started on the stereotype that Palestinians and Israelis can’t be friends. This misconception that Palestinians and Israelis’ can’t co-exist together is perpetuated by radical politicians venting their beliefs akin to childish ramblings. And these aren’t ramblings from an angry individual, as some might choose to call this, but there is a universality with this cause, from South Africa to Catalonia. History has long oppressed Palestinians and this rhetoric has been dominant for decades and will continue to persist if we don’t find an alternative to this constant need for defending this cause. Palestinians and Israelis share the nation and that’s not going to change, and it would be unrealistic to say otherwise, but the discrimination and displacement Palestinians have faced from politicians in Israel isn’t justified, and this is my concern.

 

“I don’t follow politics”, “I can’t say anything about this”, these responses I constantly hear are getting lackluster, and truly don’t explain the lack of awareness, or in this case, caring at all. I would also like to add that the moral right to resist is the foundation of the Palestinians’ legal right to resist the illegal Israeli occupation. Considered within that framework, Israel’s suppression of Palestinian protest and resistance becomes even more striking and perverse. And as a Canadian-Palestinian with a rather liberal and tolerant mind, I’m open to all kinds of opinions and beliefs, but truthfully, I’m exhausted and I’m only 20 years old. Please think about the language you use, and speak up. Don’t remain engulfed in your safe bubble, learn about global issues and form an educated opinion based on facts, even if those facts aren’t what you want to hear. We owe it to ourselves as human beings to stop perpetuating these cycles of incomprehensible horrors and injustices. “I don’t know enough” is no longer a viable excuse; we’re called the generation of savvy millennials for a reason. Google it, watch the news, crack open a book, speak with a professor, heck, talk to anyone. Healthy dialogue and proper facilitation is the only step forward, because I don’t want to keep having to defend my morality, principles and my advocacy, nor should I need too.

 

Obviously, I can’t please everyone, and I’m going to stop trying to, this doesn’t mean I’m a bad person, on the contrary, it’s quite the opposite. Western countries—especially the United States—resist international rights cooperation from a concern that it might harm business, infringe on autonomy, or limit freedom of speech. The world struggles to balance democracy's promise of human rights protection against its historically Western identification. No longer will I hesitate to declare my affiliation with an extremely unpopular cause. As one of my favorite intellectuals Edward Said once stated: “We cannot fight for our rights and our history as well as future until we are armed with weapons of criticism and dedicated consciousness.”

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