In honour of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations’ adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Secretary of State Antony Blinken sponsored a meeting with representatives of human rights organisations LAST WEEK. However, by deft stage management, the State Department made arrangements for Blinken’s endorsement of human rights to be captured on camera and broadcast worldwide, preventing human rights activists from responding to America’s support of Israel’s war on Gaza.
A significant historical moment was the Universal Declaration. Although it lacked legal effect because it was merely a statement of principles, it was still highly motivating and served as the foundation for many other treaties and legislation. It has been translated into more languages than any other document, over 550 total, ranging from Abkhaz to Zulu, according to Guinness World Records.
It makes sense why the internet erupted in sour laughter at Blinken following the meeting on December 7. Beginning the State Department meeting, Blinken told the assembled that “there is a serious challenge to the universality of human rights, and there are far too many instances where rights are violated.” Naturally, during a fight, atrocities occur. Of course, yes. A resolution in the UN Security Council urging a ceasefire in Israel’s attack on Gaza was vetoed by the United States just one day later, on December 8.
I joined human rights leaders for the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and in recognition of their courageous work. We know that when more people in more places have their rights respected, the world is more peaceful, more secure, more prosperous. pic.twitter.com/nWOBHJjtTZ
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) December 8, 2023
Notably, “everyone has a right to a nationality” is stated in the Universal Declaration. On December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration was ratified, one day ahead of the United Nations Resolution 194 adoption. Resolution 194 made the famous declaration that Palestinian refugees “wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date” following the creation of Israel earlier that year. The State Department has not held any events to mark this anniversary.
The entire Blinken affair was, in fact, every bit as obscenely comical as the Russian government’s recent commemoration of the Universal Declaration, during which it expressed grave concerns about “the human rights situation in Ukraine.” This is when stage management by the US government becomes useful.
There were representatives from four human rights organisations there, including Agnès Callamard from Amnesty International, Tirana Hassan from Human Rights Watch, Jodie Ginsberg from the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Michael Abramowitz from Freedom House.
This is evident from the fact that Blinken himself joyfully tweeted a picture of all four leaders. And The Intercept was able to corroborate the existence of all four groups. However, when pressed, the State Department refused to provide the attendees’ identities, stating that the discussion was held in a “private setting.”
On the State Department’s website, which is open to the public, you can view a video of this intimate setting in addition to the picture that Blinken submitted. One of his bored employees may be seen at 0:59 while Blinken drones on.
“We don’t need another symbol of the Biden administration’s commitment to human rights,” says Roth in response. Enforcing the Universal Declaration in the Middle East, which has basically become the Biden administration’s human rights black hole, would have been a more meaningful approach to celebrate the document.
The State Department arranged the conference in its Thomas Jefferson State Reception Room, which was a thoughtful touch that allowed the attendees to be supervised by a portrait and a statue of Jefferson. Jefferson served as the country’s first secretary of state and wrote the Declaration of Independence, which is regarded as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ ancestor in certain respects. Throughout his life, Jefferson also raped the half-sister he owned from his deceased wife and sold 600 other people into slavery. He is perhaps arguably the best example in American history of lofty speech paired with a far harsher reality.