Human Rights Is Becoming Europe’s New Religion

Dec. 18 2015

In a wide-ranging essay on the decay of Europe and its lessons for America, Roger Scruton observes that the notion of human rights has filled the gap left by the decline of religion:

Europe is rapidly jettisoning its Christian heritage and has found nothing to put in the place of it save the religion of “human rights.” . . . The notion of a human right purports to offer the ground for moral opinions, for legal precepts, for policies designed to establish order in places where people are in competition and conflict. However, it is itself without foundations. If you ask what religion commands or forbids, you usually get a clear answer in terms of God’s revealed law or the magisterium of the church. If you ask what rights are human or natural or fundamental, you get a different answer depending on whom you ask, and nobody seems to agree with anyone else regarding the procedure for resolving conflicts.

However, notes Scruton, there is one thing that human-rights doctrine does not oppose, namely, anti-Semitism:

It was inconceivable in my youth that anyone should voice an anti-Semitic sentiment, still more inconceivable that he should exhibit violence, contemptuous language, or any kind of assault towards others on account of their Jewishness. This has changed, and changed almost overnight.

Of course, people say that it is all the result of the bad behavior of Israel, but what is now considered bad behavior is precisely what was cheered on and endorsed a decade ago. The real cause of the new wave of anti-Semitism is the growing self-confidence and numbers of the Muslim minority—a fact that you cannot publicly declare in Britain, still less in France or Belgium, for fear of provoking the charge of Islamophobia and even the threat of legal action.

So much for the rights culture, which displays its foundationless character precisely in this matter, for which it should put itself aggressively on display. It is precisely the advocates of human rights as a social panacea who are the most ardent in seeking excuses for anti-Semitism.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Decline of religion, Europe, History & Ideas, Human Rights

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war