March 24th is an important mourning day in our country. Yesterday marked 35 years since the beginning of the last dreadful dictatorship (1976-1983) in Argentina, in which more than 30,000 people were "disappeared" by state terrorism and about 500 children were kidnapped and given to adoptive families denying their identity.
The purpose of this day is to remember and to pursue justice, and this is the meaning of the demonstration at Plaza de Mayo (an important square situated in front of Casa Rosada - the government house) and the reason why this day was declared a national holiday.
The construction of every democratic, pluralistic and fair society requires policies that consider the issue of memory. It means that something has happened in our history that it is still among us. There is something that it is missed and, in spite of significant efforts, cannot be recovered at all. This is the deep meaning of tragedy: something is inevitably lost. However, there is something to do. We have to be fair with our heritage. As Jacques Derridá explains, “one always inherits from a secret – which says “read me, will you ever be able to do so?”.
Was the struggle for a “New South Africa” analogous to the current struggle for a “New Middle East”?Written by Caylee Talpert
Reflections on South Africa’s Human Rights Day
This week South Africa commemorated Human Rights Day, this year marks 50 years since the inauspicious day on 21st March 1961 that became known as the Sharpeville Massacre. On this day, which has since been declared the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by the United Nations, police shot dead 69 unarmed protestors and injuring 180 more who were protesting the carrying of the dompass, an identity document meant only for black South Africans.
This event proved to be a watershed in South Africa’s liberation struggle, it lead to widespread violence and bloodshed around the country, made international headlines around the world and culminated in the banning of black political parties a month later. In many respects it propelled Black South Africans’ struggle for freedom to a new stage in the struggle against Apartheid. The African National Congress (ANC) went undercover, many ANC members went into exile and the party’s military wing Umkhonto We Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) was established the following year. It would take 30 years however until the ultimate goal of establishing a democratic South Africa would be realised.
“Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people, right on
Say you want a revolution
We better get on right away
Well you get on your feet
And out on the street
Singing power to the people”
With waves of revolution convulsing across the Middle East and North Africa, a new era of democracy seems to be dawning. Oppressed peoples living under the heel of various despots are courageously standing up against the machinations of dictatorship and demanding their long withheld human rights.
It was one of his last diplomatic gestures, and it was an important one. In early December 2010, only a few days before leaving his job to his successor and disciple Dilma Rousseff, Brazilian President Lula recognized the independent state of Palestine in its pre-1967 borders.
The decision came as a response to a letter sent by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in late November. Addressing President Lula, President Abbas claimed in his letter that Brazil’s recognition of the Palestinian State would “be an important and historic decision, because it will encourage other countries on your continent and in other regions of the world to follow your position and recognize the state of Palestine. This decision will also lead to the furthering of the peace process and to the promotion of the Palestinian position, which seeks the international recognition of the state of Palestine.”
This article was originally published in New Voices on 3/11/11 and can be found on the New Voices Blog.
Like most New Voices editors before me, I’ve felt a compulsion to criticize the Jewish Establishment. And while I may not be as contrary as my predecessor, I–along with the rest of our writers–have had no problem admonishing Hillel, AIPAC, (of course) the ADL or any other large Jewish organization.
So when the American Jewish Committee invited me to an event last year about dissidents in Iran as part of their ACCESS program for young professionals, I was wary. After all, you can’t get more “Establishment” than the AJC. They have all of the criteria down:
My childhood was full of magical, well known tales, about characters like Tevye the Milkman, as well as tales of love and joy and everyday life in the shtetls of Poland, told with warmth and wit by my grandparents.
There were Moyshe and Sorale and Feygele from the shtetl of Zamosc; people I never met, but who were brought to life through my grandparent’s stories.
Some of them became my childhood heroes. As a little boy yet unaware of Auschwitz, I wondered about my grandmother’s sadness: Even when telling funny stories, she seemed to laugh with one eye and cry with the other. I don’t remember when I found out that all characters, so alive in these vivid stories, were murdered in Auschwitz.
Most of the people I meet are reasonable by nature. Most of them are genuinely searching for the right answers to the problems that are manifest all around, from Israel to determinations on budget cuts.
And most of them understand that we operate in a complex world, and that wearing ideological glasses colors our judgment without contributing to its wisdom.
But as I look around at our country and at our own Jewish community, which is not wanting for communal resources or intellect, I am at a loss to understand the incredible degree of polarization that is so evident.
Yes, people should be passionate in their convictions – I too hold deeply felt beliefs about some of the issues that make headlines – but why only preach to the choir? Why get worked up in a frenzy without engaging the other side?
To me, this doesn’t only seem useless, it seems counterproductive. If anything, when we enclose ourselves in like-minded circles, we build a fortress around our ideas, and we start assuming the worst about people who hold different ones. And of course that builds not only a sense of false confidence, but also the barriers against anyone who thinks differently.
And to top that off, “joining the group” means accepting positions on the full range of issues. Even if we ourselves feel strongly about specific policy matters, there is no reason to swallow an ideology with all its pre-made answers whole.
In part, the problem lies in a lack of “spaces” – both virtual and real. Where exactly are the fora where we can confront our views with others? Where is there dialogue taking place? Is it still possible to learn, or have that building block of enlightenment, indeed that fundamental assumption democratic society – that it is beneficial for opposing ideas to confront each other so that the best ideas emerge – seem hopelessly naive?
There are very few places left where left and right can meet, and where people who care can listen to thoughtfully articulated viewpoints and decide for themselves.
AJC is one of them.
Yes, AJC has positions, but the process of deciding is quite unique here.
The board room is a real place of exchange and debate – we hear some of the most articulate presentations of positions head to head with the opposing views: our terrorism expert and our interreligious voice, our international relations experts and our local advocates – and of course many people who understand something of all sides and who try to figure out, on a case by case basis, what is right and best.
Often, those debates happen behind closed doors. I’m thinking we need to get the word out better, and have people share in the debate and decision making, not only in the advocacy that comes later.
Next Thursday, March 17, we’ll be holding one of those discussions. Two top academics will be going head to head on the issue of Israel today, hope vs. fear, realism vs. idealism.
And at our ACCESS conference April 29-May 1 will do the same.
The Israel track, being organized with the Reut Institute, will offer a chance for people across the spectrum to join together in the fight against the most extreme and violent anti-Israel voices. Not everyone needs to take the same tact, but everyone needs to recognize, as Reut says, that there is room for every player in the orchestra, and indeed, a real part to play. Working on human rights in Israel and focusing on BDS all have a place inside the tent.
The Civility track will bring youth leaders in from different ethnic and religious groups, primarily in the U.S., but with a smattering of international representation. Here too, there will be a chance to confront different viewpoints – with the goal of recognizing that certain principles, such as keeping disagreements civil and not hitting below the belt, are in the interests of all.
I hope you’ll join us. And I hope you’ll get in the game. We need your voice as we move forward.
JBI Applauds Historic UN General Assembly Action Suspending Libya’s Membership in Human Rights CouncilWritten by admin1
The Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI) welcomes today’s historic consensus decision by the UN General Assembly to suspend Libya’s membership in the Human Rights Council.
Today’s vote is unprecedented; never before has a state’s membership in any UN human rights body been suspended.
The resolution calling for Libya’s suspension was co-sponsored by more than 60 states that supplemented the original sponsors Botswana, Jordan, Lebanon, Nigeria, and Qatar. In introducing the resolution, Lebanon emphasized that the General Assembly’s action is procedural, exceptional and temporary, and that the General Assembly may review and change its decision to suspend Libya’s membership in the Council at a later date, perhaps following a change in government. Link to UNGA Resolution
Following the demise of Mubarak's authoritarian rule in Egypt we can see two important developments unfolding amongst Scandinavian media and decision makers: firstly, there is unanimous support for the success of the Egyptian people in their fight for democracy.
The determinative role of the military, giving its blessing for recent developments and, even more importantly, shaping the future of Egypt with the formulation of a democratic constitution, is by large not scrutinised, as focus is being placed on the power of the populace in shaping their own future. Secondly, when discussing a regional context, no references are made to Israel and its democratic tradition. An underlying reason could be that there has never been any public criticism directed against the lack of democracy or personal freedoms in Egypt, in vast contrast to attitudes towards Israel, a country frequently being portrayed as a violator of human rights and international law.
Tzipi Livni, the Head of Kadima, the biggest Party in the Israeli Knesset and the head of he opposition was scheduled to come to Cape Town to address the Jewish community a couple of days ago.
About two weeks prior to her expected talk I opened up one of the popular South African newspapers and read this title: "Pro-Palestinian groups seek arrest warrant for Tzipi Livni, who heads Israel's Kadima party, for alleged war crimes."
Finding a South African headline about Israeli affairs on its front pages is hardly a surprise (most often they are in a negative context). As a Shaliach (emissary) for the South African Jewish community I'm always delighted when Israelis from different backgrounds arrive to address the community here. These appearances are often accompanied by at least one article mention in the local papers; however, these usually occur in the "letter section", where ordinary people write in to express their points of view (similar to an op-ed piece).