This is the second of two posts written by pupils from Friends’ School Lisburn, who came to Brussels for a week of work experience with QCEA. During their stay Chloe Hassard and Caroline Finney attended a number of meetings and gained an insight into European NGOs and institutions. In this post, Caroline discusses her thoughts on human rights.
I live in the European Union, where the human rights of prisoners are being highlighted in relation to the right to vote. It seems incredible to me that, at the same time, human rights violations akin to those under apartheid are being perpetrated in Palestine with little more than feeble protests from the international community.
My name is Caroline Finney, and I am a sixth form student at Friends’ School Lisburn. I recently spent a week at QCEA, attending meetings such as: ‘The Cyprus Conundrum’, ‘Renewables in Turkey: Refocusing EU Turkey energy cooperation’, ‘Restoring human security to conflict affected and fragile states’, and ’Civil society promoting peace in the Korean peninsula’. However, what I found most compelling was a film-showing and discussion held in the European Parliament. The film was the result of a three day visit by a delegation of MEPs to the ‘West Bank’ in Palestine to see what it is really like to live there. The results were shocking.
Bit by bit, Israeli soldiers and state are eroding Palestinians’ most basic human rights. The right to travel, for example, is restricted by 521 Israeli checkpoints in the Hebron area alone: women who are held up at check points deliver their babies far away from basic medical aid and equipment, tragically leading to deaths during childbirth. This is a phenomenon that should not occur in the 21st century and deserves the highest level of condemnation from the international community. Furthermore, children are delayed on their way to and from school, held up by soldiers harassing them and checkpoints that turn their home into a prison. Unfortunately, these restrictions on travel are not the only transgressions of the UN Declaration of Human Rights sanctioned by the Israeli state. The rights to a safe place to live, health care, and drinking water, to name but a few, are all being violated.
QCEA sees the suffering experienced by both Palestinians and Israelis. Quakers believe that there is that of God in everyone, including victims and perpetrators of violence and human rights abuses, and we endeavour to ensure that this is reflected in all of our work.
QCEA’s work on European policy in this region is based on the firm belief that all people have a right to exist in peace and security. It follows that both Israelis and Palestinians must be guaranteed this right. Whether this is in two separate states or in one state, it must be based on viable states, within secure borders, where equality for all is guaranteed and where democratic participation is available to all citizens.
Our approach is based on an unshakeable commitment to nonviolence; we do not nor will we ever condone violence on the part of anyone: individuals, groups, or states.