Thoughts about the Sept. 11 anniversary
As we approach the anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001 by terrorists from the Middle East, it is worth reflecting on the dire consequences of that event, not just for the many victims killed and maimed, and their families, but also for the rest of the world.
Direct consequences were the attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan and on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Although it was well known then that Saddam was a brutal dictator, the U.S. had supported him in his earlier disastrous war (1980-88) against Iran. Saddam’s defeat in 2003 by the U.S. and its allies was hailed then by President George W. Bush as a beginning of a “transition from dictatorship to democracy” and he said, “we will leave behind a free Iraq.”
We know now that the situation in the Middle East has worsened, not improved, and the influence of the U.S. there is much reduced, except perhaps in Israel — a country Bush did not mention in his 2003 speech, though he did commit “to freedom in Afghanistan, Iraq and in a peaceful Palestine.”
Did Bush, his government, indeed most Americans, understand the pillars on which democracy really rests in the U.S. as elsewhere, including Canada — in other words, not only on all citizens having a free vote but, vitally, also on respect for human rights for all, and a free judiciary?
Perhaps he thought that free elections was all that mattered. The U.S. probably led the way in 1948 in the UN definition of human rights for all — as it happens at the same time as the UN endorsed the creation of Israel. Both events were likely much influenced by general horror and remorse in much of the world over the suffering of Jews and others in the Holocaust.
However, fine words do not always match action!
While Israel included in its 1948 Declaration of Independence, that “it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture ... and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations,” the reality there was, and still is, hardly an example to follow, not least the massacres (well documented by eyewitnesses and confirmed by Israeli historians) being perpetrated already in 1947 against the Palestinian (Arab) communities it wanted emptied and in many cases destroyed — much as the Nazis had treated Jewish communities in the Second World War.
It is surely self-evident that Israel has never respected the human rights of Palestinians on the West Bank which Israel has occupied for over 50 years. Protests now in Israel against the recently passed Nation-State Law lay bare a long-standing disregard within the country for the rights of its minorities, including those that have collaborated with Israel.
Not that Canada should be smug on human rights here. However, we do have explicit federal and provincial laws on this, a legal basis for enforcement by our judiciary when that is called for.
The Newfoundland Human Rights Act of 2010 (amended in 2013) includes the statement: “the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, colour, nationality, ethnic origin, social origin, religious creed, religion, age, disability, disfigurement, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, family status, source of income and political opinion.” There is also explicit reference to the Innu and Inuit — the rights of peoples who were here long before later settlers and settler descendants (most of us).
John Molgaard St. John’s