Isobel Mintz reflects on how her week with René Cassin has opened her eyes to a “unique perspective on human rights”.
Entering into any workplace full of professionals who have been researching into the field of human rights for years is daunting for any student. However, René Cassin made me feel like an equal in my week here. Sharing various ideas and viewpoints on indefinite detention, modern slavery, human rights across the globe and other political thoughts has opened my eyes to opinions that I wouldn’t have accessed outside of this workplace. This experience has been an opportunity to learn about a unique perspective on human rights that not many others are rising to the challenge to present; the Jewish perspective.
“sharing various ideas and viewpoints […] has opened my eyes to opinions that I wouldn’t have accessed outside of this workplace”
The concept of ‘human rights’ stems from the travesties of the Second World War, which saw the deaths of over six million Jews. This tragedy highlighted the need for a means within international law to prevent the same persecution from occurring again. However, in both recent history and current events, we see the recurrence of the blind racial hatred that scarred, and still scar, so many of my own community. It is now more unequivocally important than ever to keep telling the stories of our ancestors, to protect the rights of our future generations; it is vital for societies all over the world to keep reminding themselves of value of the rights we can sometimes take for granted.
“it is now more unequivocally important than ever to keep telling the stories of our ancestors, to protect the rights of our future generations”
Before this week, my knowledge on the present injustices suffered by the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) community were non-existent, as the community is commonly under-represented and not discussed often enough. Through the research for a project I was participating in, I realised that as supposedly civilised human beings, we are still been unable to overcome the tendencies of our societies to threaten the rights of minority groups, and this was a daunting realisation.
Disappointing that stats in news today show that hate crime is on the rise here in the UK. We are not born to hate, we are taught to hate. Watch our short #DontTeachHate film here pic.twitter.com/NX0v3fUMfc
— The Traveller Movement (@GypsyTravellerM) July 19, 2018
Through this I have realised that, as a member of a community that suffers similar prejudices, we, as Jews, need to do more to support other persecuted groups and be more outward looking in our aims. Just campaigning for Jewish issues isn’t enough, and René Cassin’s work with the GRT community is an inspiring example of what I can work on in the future, to ensure that I am not limited by my own personal aims.
This experience has exposed me to issues within the realm of human rights campaigning that I didn’t even know existed. René Cassin has allowed me to explore injustices beyond my existing passions of women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and minority rights in general. The projects I have seen and taken part in alerted me to the untold stories of 46 million people currently in forced labour globally and the GRT communities that the government aren’t doing nearly enough to aid.
I’ve learnt that if we want to strive for equality, we need to focus not only on our own injustices, but work in solidarity with other marginalised and persecuted groups. The idea of equality under the law for all can only be achieved if people perceive and treat one other as equals first. Complacency with the current situation will be to the detriment of minorities as a whole. Human rights are under threat for every minority, so we must continue to show concern for other groups as well as ourselves. Supporting others in our situation is vital, because uniting against adversity will make us more powerful, and power is what we need to combat the threat to all of our rights.