By Joshua Miguel Makalintal (FYEG, Junge Grüne)
Today, the world will observe the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This year’s theme is “learning from historical tragedies to combat racial discrimination today”. Indeed, as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said, this day serves as an “opportunity to renew our commitment to building a world of justice and equality where xenophobia and bigotry do not exist.”
Truly it is every human being’s responsibility to learn from our historical mistakes and acknowledge the great harm that generated racism across societies. It is every nation’s duty to educate and make their citizens aware of tragic racial discriminations of the past and it is every individual’s duty to eradicate these tragedies completely.
Today’s event will commemorate the 55-year anniversary of the mass shooting of peaceful demonstrators in South Africa during the apartheid regime. South African Human Rights Day will also be observed on this day to remember those 69 victims who fought for democracy and their fundamental rights to equality.
2015’s theme is a crucial one, for it is relevant in today’s current affairs. The world needs to start discussing the apartheid-like realities happening in the world, particularly in the Middle East; the hazards of something like that developing in Israel are of concern, since Benjamin Netanyahu’s renewed tenure as Prime Minister may hinder peace and development in the region.
One would argue that Israel has already become an apartheid state. Considering Netanyahu’s recent political antics, decrying Arab-Israelis for exercising their democratic right to vote and rejecting a two-state solution with the Palestinians (later backtracking the statement), this shows his opportunistic and immoral character that reflects the very danger of an unacceptable leader using racism as a means to gain power.
The damage has been done, regardless of Netanyahu’s withdrawal of his despicable statement. But it is inevitable for Israel to continue on being a fascist-like state if a sustainable resolution on the Israel-Palestinian conflict is not met. Others would consider this controversial comparison irresponsible. Even so, there exist a sad reality that equality of all Israeli citizens are not upheld, for Israeli law has a stark bias against non-Jewish citizens.
Back home in Europe, fear-mongering instigated by right-wing populist parties and movements has tarnished the dignity of the continent. By promoting discriminatory policies against minorities through islamophobic and xenophobic rhetoric, domestic politicians across the continent have spread prevalent hatred towards society’s most vulnerable.
Furthermore, the EU member states’ handling of the refugee crisis has put the Union in the spotlight. By conducting their external border operations, securing the fortress seems to be prioritized over respect for human lives and dignity. Of over the 52 million forcibly-displaced people worldwide, 15% of them seek refuge in Europe. Yet instead of aiding them, we let them die right by our doorstep. Europe should do more. They should stand by their founding principles and correct these shameful faults.
But we have to ask, what is Europe and who is Europe? Europe is us. It is we who should take a stand and acknowledge the fact that the fault is actually within ourselves. We adhere to these invented borders and beliefs that has made us deranged and has given us a pessimistic view of ourselves, which has slowly contributed to our moral destruction.
The flawed idea of “race” has disconnected us and the notion of nationalism has divided us. It has made us forget that we are all human beings, co-habiting the same blue planet. It’s time to start changing our mentality and progress beyond our pettiness. A world without borders is possible, but first we have to start abolishing the ones within ourselves.
Originally published on the FYEG’s Migration, Culture and Identity Ecosprinter blog.
Featured image courtesy of AP, news.com.au