This week celebrated the 62nd anniversary of the establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To mark it, the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), along with An Najah University and the Independent Commission of Human Rights, organised an event entitled âSpeak Up! Stop Discriminationâ. The event was held today at An Najah University in Nablus, and human rights defenders were invited to speak to the students and receive an award in appreciation for their tireless work in ending injustice and promoting human rights. Stop the Wall Campaign was one of the organisations nominated and chosen by the OHCHR to receive this award.
Jamal Jumaâ, Co-ordinator of Stop the Wall Campaign, when receiving the plaque highlighted that this award symbolised the importance of human rights work throughout Palestine. He noted that the award should be dedicated to all those who have lost their lives defending their future for the next generation, who have defended their families and villages from racism, colonisation and apartheid. It is for all the activists and popular committees who face arrest, detention or deportation; for the internationals who work to eliminate all borders and prove that human rights are not divided, and should not be applied to one race or group whilst being denied to others. It is also for all the international activists who are standing for Palestinian rights and have started BDS campaigns around the world. The students from An Naja who also received this award should continue their work and encourage other students to do the same; they should be the most committed and uncompromising in their defence of human rights, as they represent the next generation on which Palestineâs future rests.
We should remember that human rights defenders are not only organisations, but also individuals from the communities throughout the West Bank which are constantly under threat from Israelâs expansionist and racist policies. These individuals work tirelessly to peacefully resist the Occupation and all its illegal practices, despite growing repression by the Occupation Forces which subjects them to regular harassment, raids on their houses, arrests and arbitrary detention. Repression also comes from within, with regular targeting of human rights defenders by the Palestinian Authority. The work of the human rights defenders thus includes challenging any policies which deny freedom of expression, freedom of thought and freedom of association and assembly. It should emulate the words of Voltaire: âI do not agree with a word you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say itâ.
Despite the daily repression of human defenders, we are now witnessing growing international recognition of Israelâs apartheid regime, an increasing number of Palestinian and international activists taking part in the weekly protests against the Wall, and a BDS campaign which is gaining momentum throughout the world. These actions show the importance and urgency of protecting the work of human rights defenders. This award gratefully received by Stop the Wall and others should thus send out a clear message that our actions are not in vain, and that every person who has lost their family, livelihood or village to the Wall and settlements has a right â recognised by the United Nations – to speak up and stop discrimination. Whilst many Governments stand by and watch the Occupation continue its colonialist agenda, we need human rights defenders â from the villages throughout Palestine â to have their voices heard and amplified. We hope that the UNâs recognition of human rights defenders will lead to greater protection of all those in Palestine and around the world seeking to end the oppression and injustice of the Occupation.