Combating Double Standards Is the Key To Human Rights for All | Opinion

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which turns 72 years old today, prescribes the responsibility of all countries to ensure that all people are guaranteed fundamental freedoms—to life, liberty, safety and more. Critical to promoting, protecting and upholding that mandate as trustees of international law is the equal recognition and application of these rights and freedoms. The singling out and denying of any of these rights to any group, individual or country undermines the entire system.

The example of the history of the Jewish people demonstrates the imperative to combat double standards—not just for the sake of the Jewish people, but in order to secure the broader system of rights for the benefit of all.

The Holocaust provides just one example of Jews being singled out and systematically targeted, and the world stood by in silence as six million Jews were slaughtered. International law, its institutions, reparations and Holocaust remembrances are all part and parcel of the pledge to "Never Again." Indeed, the UDHR was adopted in response to historic realities that are too terrible to believe, but not too terrible to have happened.

Nonetheless, persistent instances of double standards are ignored and unaddressed, enabling the possibility of "again and again" by empowering a continued culture of impunity in a world that claims to be "woke," progressive and overly sensitive to the suffering of some individuals—but not others.

Last week, we marked the Commemoration for Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands and Iran—a day recognizing 850,000 Jews who were ethnically cleansed last century from the Middle East, wiping out communities of 2,500 years. The result of a continued lack of recognition of these historic events, to this day, is that rights granted to refugee communities all over the world are not provided to these Jewish refugees. This is further compounded by the clear double standard in comparing Jewish refugees to the Palestinian refugees, which boast a dedicated U.N. agency and idiosyncratic refugee status that is passed down from generation to generation—thus denying individual agency and ensuring reliance on financing from the international community.

Old City of Jerusalem during COVID
Old City of Jerusalem during COVID EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images

The singling out of Israel—the only Jewish state in a world where approximately 42 percent of all countries are religious in some way—is unacceptable. It is Israel that is being targeted in an annual bashing campaign with 17 resolutions at the U.N. General Assembly. It is Israel that has a blacklist against it at the U.N. Human Rights Council. It is Israel's two deceased soldiers and two civilians who are held captive in a six-year standing violation of international law by a genocidal terror organization, with little to no action following international condemnation. And it is Israel that is singled out, even in the midst of a global pandemic, by the World Health Organization. Israel—the Jew amongst the nations—is the only state treated with such consistent condemnation by the international community and its institutions, even as mass human rights violations are committed in China, Iran, Syria and elsewhere.

These double standards exist beyond the formal political and physical sphere, seeping into the virtual space as well. For example, Twitter's policy "flags" world leaders for certain politically charged comments, but allows the Iranian supreme leader's calls for genocide against the Jewish state and its citizens to remain posted, considering such comments to be mere "saber-rattling." Current policies created by social media giants claim to protect "Jews," but enable rhetoric that replaces the word "Jew" with "Zionist, thus violating the widely accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, which includes delegitimization, demonization and double standards. By doing so, not only are social media platforms empowering double standards, but they are overtly ignoring Article 2 of the UDHR: "No distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty."

As we mark Human Rights Day and commemorate the adoption of the UDHR, we must ensure that its fundamental principles and the most fundamental element of the document—namely, universality—are upheld. The case of double standards against the Jews and the Jewish state is but one example of the failure of the international community to ensure consistent application of equal rights and laws for all. As once stated by President John F. Kennedy, "The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened."

Michal Cotler-Wunsh is a member of Knesset for the Blue and White Party in Israel.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.