Human Rights

Lessons from Gaza: Human Rights (2009/​2014)

A youth holds-up a big Palestinian flag during a protest against the controversial separation wall in Ramallah

According to UN Human Rights High Commissioner, Navi Pillay, “there appears to be a deliberate defiance on the part of Israel in complying with its international obligations. We should not allow this kind of impunity. We should not allow this to go uninvestigated, or for these flagrant violations to continue.”1 She also affirmed that “deploying rockets in…

Demanding the Future: The Right2Water and Another Ireland

image

The American abolitionist Frederick Douglass once observed that if you find out ‘just what any people will quietly submit to … you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them’ and that such injustices ‘will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with…

A Walk in Yarl’s Wood

Yarls-Wood-from-the-air

On a fine winter’s day, the first fine day after weeks of storms and rain, I went for a walk in the country. I found myself in a typical English rural landscape, driving down hedge-​lined lanes that grew progressively narrower. A couple of dead badgers lay whitening on the edges of the road. At the gate of a farm the road turned abruptly…

The Five Extraordinary Features of the Sochi Winter Olympics

Circassians March for No Sochi 2014

Introduction On 7 February 2014, the Sochi Winter Olympics will commence. It is estimated that these games will cost at least US$51 billion — the most expensive in history — costing Russia more than the $40 billion that China spent on the 2008 Summer Olympics. The UK spent some US$15 billion on the Summer Olympics in 2012. Sochi was selected…

Socialism and rights: A reply to David Renton’s ‘Do socialists still have an alternative concept of rights?’

Eugène Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People

David Renton’s thoughtful and trenchant article in SL64 [Ed: republished 18 Nov 2013 on CLT] has done us all a great service, opening up questions of crucial importance to the Haldane Society. That is because we are socialists, committed to solidarity in resistance to the depredations of capital, and to fighting for its abolition. We are not simply…

Do socialists still have an alternative concept of rights?

Artist RJ Hamerton (Punch 1843)

An obvious starting point is Karl Marx’s position on human rights. We can begin with his response in 1844 to Bruno Bauer’s pamphlet The Jewish Question, in which Bauer opposed Jewish demands for political liberation on the grounds that no one in Germany was emancipated and that Jews should fight not for their liberation but…

The Alien Body in Contemporary Netherlands: Incarceration and Force-​feeding of Asylum Seekers

Naman Hadi,  Le Déraciné

On 22 May 2013, the Dutch State Sec­ret­ary of Secur­ity and Justice and Min­is­ter for Migra­tion offered the House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives a memor­andum issued by the Coun­cil of State con­cern­ing ‘the options to admin­is­ter food and drink to an alien in deten­tion who is on hun­ger and/​or thirst strike, against his will.’ This essay sets out to unpack the main premises of these recom­mend­a­tions in the frame­work of biopol­it­ics, its colo­nial her­it­age and con­tem­por­ary deploy­ment in the Neth­er­lands. Whilst under­stood in a his­tor­ical con­tinuum, this little doc­u­ment gains rel­ev­ance as it rep­res­ents a sig­ni­fic­ant step over the threshold of the human …

Palestinian Family Unification in Israel: The Limits of Litigation as Means of Resistance

Palestinian_Couple

At the end of March 2002, Eli Yishai, then the Israeli Minister of Internal Affairs, decided that all requests for family unifications submitted by Palestinian citizens of Israel married to Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) would be frozen until further notice. The media reported that the decision was made following the suicide attack…

Decolonizing the Teaching of Human Rights?

Mestizaje - Guayasamin

According to the new Bolivian constitution, education is “one of the most important functions and primary financial responsibilities of the State”; it is “unitary, public, universal, democratic, participatory, communitarian, decolonizing and of quality” (art. 78, I); and, throughout the entire educational system, it is “intra-​cultural, inter-​cultural and multi-​lingual” (art. 78, II), where its “inter-​cultural character…

Seven Counter-​theses on Human Rights

Street Art – Pablo Herrero and David de la Mano – Winter Haven

In his 2007 book Human Rights and Empire: The Political Philosophy of Cosmopolitanism, Costas Douzinas asks “Are human rights a defensive barrier against domination and oppression or the ideological gloss of an emerging empire?” (p.viii) In posts on this blog Douzinas has reprised many of the themes he unpacked in that volume. In the form of Seven…

Prisoners’ Hunger Strike in California

PelicanBaySHUExerciseYard

Daletha Hayden hasn’t hugged her son in four years. Since 2009, the only face-​to-​face contact they’ve had has been through thick glass. Even phone calls are not allowed in Tehachapi State Prison’s isolation unit. Despite the separation, she said she has seen the effect solitary confinement has had on him. “He has these bouts of…

Seven Theses on Human Rights: (7) Cosmopolitanism, Equality & Resistance

László Moholy-Nagy (1927)

Against imperial arrogance and cosmopolitan naivety, we must insist that global neoliberal capitalism and human-​rights-​for-​export are part of the same project. The two must be uncoupled; human rights can contribute little to the struggle against capitalist exploitation and political domination. Their promotion by western states and humanitarians turns them into a palliative: it is useful for…

Seven Theses on Human Rights: (6) Desire

Portrait

Liberal theories from Immanuel Kant to John Rawls present the self as a solitary and rational entity endowed with natural characteristics and rights and in full control of himself. Rights to life, liberty, and property are presented as integral to humanity’s well-​being. The social contract (or its heuristic restatement through the “original position”) creates society and…

Seven Theses on Human Rights: (5) Depoliticization

American Apparel Mannequins

Rights form the terrain on which people are distributed into rulers, ruled, and excluded. Power’s mode of operation is revealed, if we observe which people are given or deprived of which rights at which particular place or point in time. In this sense, human rights both conceal and affirm the dominant structure of a period and…

Seven Theses on Human Rights: (4) Universalism & Communitarianism are Interdependent

Guernica Sun

The debate about the meaning of humanity as the ground normative source is conducted between universalists and communitarians. The universalist claims that cultural values and moral norms should pass a test of universal applicability and logical consistency and often concludes that, if there is one moral truth but many errors, it is incumbent upon its agents…

Seven Theses on Human Rights: (3) Neoliberal Capitalism & Voluntary Imperialism

Barcode Prison

Why and how did this combination of neoliberal capitalism and humanitarianism emerge? Capitalism has always moralized the economy and applied a gloss of righteousness to profit-​making and unregulated competition precisely because it is so hard to believe. From Adam Smith’s ‘hidden hand’ to the assertion that unrestrained egotism promotes the common good or that beneficial effects…

Seven Theses on Human Rights: (2) Power, Morality & Structural Exclusion

Guantanamo

We will explore the strong internal connection between these superficially antagonistic principles, at the point of their emergence in the late 18th century here and in the post-​1989 order in the next part. The religious grounding of humanity was undermined by the liberal political philosophies of early modernity. The foundation of humanity was transferred from God…