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Human Rights: Palestine-Israel Case - A Brief Analysis.

The Human Rights concept has a special place in the contemporary socio-political structure of the world. It is a discourse that has undergone many notable historical periods, and its central role in the construction of polity has been eminently crucial. The idea of human rights, on a metaphysical level, is embedded in human beings from birth. The right to life or equality is the essence of a human being, as these attributions have been there since the first existence of an individual. The laws according to which all individuals are entitled to live and provide prosperity and truthfulness are divinely predestined. However, it takes a different route once the individuals find themselves involved in complex social interactions, which from time to time leads to the theological foundations becoming obsolete. The abandonment of the religious base is a step towards the deviation from the predestined path and hence transgression of the laws of nature. This was mentioned by John Locke (1980), the famous 17th-century philosopher, in his prominent book Second Treaties of Government where he extensively set down the idea of the state of nature by arguing that individuals are destined to live under the laws of nature that are God-given. This serves as means of preserving individual rights, such as life, liberty, etc., and those who violate those measures jeopardize the peace and stability in society. Because in the contemporary period the metaphysical understanding has become obsolete and religion, for many people, has become general and abstract, individuals found themselves in a position of vulnerability since no impediment would keep the people safe and protected from each other on psychological and physical levels. This goes back to the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes who argued that in a state of anarchy, individuals find themselves in a situation of survival which turns into “every man against every man” (Hobbes, 1994, p.125). In any case, it became essential to design a legal framework that would legally secure the rights and make them more practical where the human being will be guarded against any damages that might be caused by another human being, by the government or by any political and economic entities.

History has witnessed various forms of legal enactments that have outlined the set of human rights. The adopted framework of principles served as a mechanism of political scrutiny where the individuals and the state officials were equal under the same law. The principles that dictate the correctness of the actions of people toward each other and the actions of the government toward the people can be traced back centuries ago. For instance, a great charter of 1215, known as the Magna Carta provided security to all the citizens of England under the law or simply speaking served as a human rights outline. The adaptation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights became the pivotal point in the history of human rights discourse. The legal enactment adopted by UN after the World War II (1939-1945) became a holy scripture to communities around the globe, and the main characteristic of the declaration was its power over the international community, which means that it became an international law that was applicable in the global scope. The adaptation of universal human rights meant a change in the international order as it took a permanent place on the global agenda and, according to Jack Donnelly, became the fundamental set of principles and norms of the “global human rights regime” (Donnelly, 2017, p.499).

Figure 1: King John endorsing the Magna Carta, 1215.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The general description of the history of human rights evolvement above is done for the purpose of demonstration and persuasion that the idea of human rights is an essential component of historical development and that it has played a colossal role in the political and socio-economic formation of Western countries. The human rights discourse has developed into a non-negligible element in the societal structure of Western countries to the extent that human rights represented by the UDHR, is strongly anticipated to be an integral part in every corner of the globe. The ideological stand of UDHR has been an issue of controversy and one of the main concerns that came out of the international declaration and international law on human rights is why the architects and representatives of the UDHR itself are turning a blind eye to the continuous violations o fundamental rights of individuals in the Palestine-Israel case.

The analysis of Human Rights discourse in the context of contemporary politics substantially differs from its metaphysical examination, hence the purpose of this proposal is to investigate the case of the Palestine-Israeli situation from the perspective of international human rights declaration and law. It is to argue the efficiency, competence and truthfulness of the United Nation Declaration on Human Rights to its agenda and the states who identify themselves as true representatives and protectors of these human rights.

Even though this proposal does not go into the depths of the historical conceptualization of the case, the historical context, on the other hand, is significant as it involves the analytical grip on the religious, socio-political and economic conditions that are necessary to debrief in order to grasp the bigger picture.

Palestine-Israel Case.

Although the Middle Eastern region involves a rich religious background, Palestine-Israel began to be an issue of dispute in the global scope from the initiation of the Balfour Declaration of 1918. The Balfour Declaration of 1918 as a legal framework was a reinstated version of the Basel Program, that was designed by the World Zionist Organization, even before the beginning of WWI in regards of mass migration of the Jewish population to the lands of Palestinians (Ned Lebow, 1968). Hence, the atrocity towards the Palestinian people was a long-awaited plan that became a reality from the ratification of the Balfour Declaration and later the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. It is to be noticed that the Balfour Declaration was not purely a British imperialistic agenda, rather it was a mutual collaboration among the American and European Zionists. According to Ned Lebow (1968), in order to gain support from Woodrow Wilson and his approval of the declaration, American high-level officials reassured him that the Jewish settlement would) be a peaceful act which will also give the Palestinians self-determination from the Turkish despotic rulership in achieving the democracy and overall development. Therefore, the project was not purely a British imperialistic agenda directed towards geo-political and economic gain, rather it was an expansionist project directed towards securing a homeland for Jews and as the contemporary period evidently demonstrates, the mass migration brought with it destructiveness and brutality causing a violation of fundamental human rights as well as violation of the International laws.

The most common and widely recognized rationale behind the implementation of the Balfour Declaration as well as the establishment of the state of Israel, which is circulating in the academia, is the precarious state of Jews in Europe. This idea was put forward by the founder of modern Zionism - Theodor Herzl, who argued in his book The Jewish State that Palestine is a “historic home”, and it is an answer to anti-Semitism (Herzl, 1998, p.96). However, it is crucial to understand that the idea of anti-Semitism, in the past and, especially, in the contemporary period, has been a strategic key in opening many doors for certain countries for accomplishing their sinister objectives. The case of Palestine is a clear example of the misusage of anti-Semitism in achieving a specific goal. The consequences of the exploitation of the idea of anti-Semitism, which functions as an engine of Zionist ideology, are self-evident, and the political Zionism filled up with the abuse of anti-semitism leading to the “dispossession and structural racism”against Palestinians (Dana&Jarbawi, 2017, p.5).

Figure 3: Basel Program

Moreover, it is crucial to understand that what is prevailing in the region is not simply an aggressive political movement with the notion of colonial settlement but also this colonial project is filled with an endorsement from the belief system. The belief of Jews in supporting the establishment of Israel in that region is a Zionist ideology based not only on a nationalistic movement but also a religious one. The foundations of the ideology are based, from the metaphysical level, on the perception that the Jewish community that strongly supports the settlement in Palestinian territories considers themselves to be divinely appointed of being inhabitants of that particular land. As Dana and Jarbawi underlined in their article, the Zionist followers consider themselves to be “chosen people” from the biblical stand of point and the reinvention of an “ethnonationalism group” should be done in the “promised land” (Dana&Jarbawi, 2017, p.3). This leads to an understanding that Christian Zionism in the face of Europe and America along with Jewish Zionism are attempting not simply to forcefully seize the territories but also eliminate the Muslim presence in the region.

If there is a belief, in the fact that Jewish religiously motivated actions towards the Palestinians are acceptable due to religiosity, which ought to be untouched otherwise it's a violation of religious rights, then what is the stand on the religious rights of Palestinians?

UDHR strongly endorses the idea of religious freedom. Article 18 of UDHR, states that every human being has a fundamental right of manifesting his religion in practice or worship (UDHR, 2015, p.38). The Israeli government, in order to demonstrate its obedience to the international law set up by the United Nations as well as show their ‘peaceful’ annexation of lands, adopted a law in 1967 that promised the protection of holy sites from “desecration and any other violation” (Jahangir - UN Report, p.3, 2008). However, in reality, this is not the case. First, back in 2017, the Israeli government has been implementing all the methods in limiting the religious freedom of Palestinians by placing metal detectors within the holy site of Muslims. Even though metal detectors were removed as a result of pressure from the Arab countries, the government replaced the detectors with “smart cameras” (Shaoul, 2017, p.1). This is an attempt by the state of Israel to minimize the freedom of Muslims by monitoring and controlling their actions. Moreover, the violations continued as in 2022, Israeli powers invaded the holy place of the Muslims - mosque Al-Aqsa. The General Assembly and Security Council of the UN accused Israel of a violation of international law and ordered it to reaffirm the status quo of Al-Aqsa (United Nations. General Assembly, 2022). Even though the events that are taking place around the holy sites are dehumanizing yet it is not as concerning as the direct attack on the worshippers. Palestine, for Muslims around the globe, is a symbol of their belief. Therefore, by invading the holy sites, Israel demonstrates its abhorrence towards the Islam as a religion, and by the attempt of seizing of the holy mosque, the perpetrators showing their determination in eliminating the religious group and by that are waging a war against the Muslims around the world. If the precarious actions against the Jews is considered to be anti-semitic and illegal as it is discrimination on the bases of a belief system, then why the continuous bloodthirstiness of Israel towards the Muslims are not considered to be unlawful and Islamophobic? Even though the violations became a matter of attention to the United Nations, the cruel actions toward the Palestinians is a continuous matter. The UN has been issuing warnings to the Israeli Occupational Forces since the establishment of the state; however, the end result has not been changed. If UDHR is being inefficient in its agenda, then what is the solution for the continuous violations?

Human Rights Violations

In 2019, according to the report of Human Rights Watch, Israeli forced implemented lethal force on the Palestinian demonstrators, who were protesting the Israeli restrictions of mobility imposed on the Palestinians, which caused the killing of 189 people (Human Rights Watch, 2019). This case took place back in 2019, and it involves a few striking points that need to be analyzed. Freedom of movement or mobility rights is one of the essential concepts in the constitutions of countries, and it remains one of the core components of international law and international legal enactments on human rights. People decided to move across borders or within borders for various reasons, especially, since they are urgently in need. Unfortunately, this has been highly disregarded and completely ignored in the Palestine-Israeli case. As a result of geographical separation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, thousands of Palestinians remain isolated as they have no access to the other parts of the territory. By implementing a separation strategy, Israel has violated the mobility rights that are protected by Article 13 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, which clearly states that everyone has the right to freedom of movement within the borders of each state. This is followed by the second section of the same article, which states that individuals have the right to leave and return to their country (United Nations, 2015, p.28). Besides clear violation of human rights by imposing discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians, Israeli forces by doing so cause harm and destruction to the individuals and their lives. Simon Reynolds (2017), noticed that by imposing the restrictions, Palestinians are simply denied access to essential services that cause social and economic hardships. This, as a consequence, leads to a life-threatening situation for Palestinian civilians. Therefore, by violating international human rights, the Israeli occupational forces create a life-threatening environment for the livelihoods of Palestinians.

Furthermore, the second important point is the demonstrations. Because of the restricted mobility rights that limit the access of Palestinians to basic needs, such as electricity and water, the victims are demonstrating their defiance through protests. However, these protests had been met with a brutal and inhumane response from the Israeli forces, which resulted in the death of hundreds of people including children. If the protests remain one of the essential components of democracy and an inseparable part of every country’s constitution, in the case of Palestine it is regarded as an act of terrorism and violence. Now it is important to compare this scenario with the protests taking place in the Islamic Republic of Iran. If the international community is publicly showing their concerns with Iran’s policy brutality against the demonstrators, then in the case of Palestine it is parallel. The USA implemented various sanctions on Iran, its morality police and senior government officials as a response to its brutality against protestors to make the regime accountable for its actions. However, this reaction is selective (Loft, 2023, p. 27. If the USA is a country that postulates justice around the globe and plays the role of being the defender of humans, then it has to act accordingly without being biased. The drastic difference in reaction shows hypocrisy. Even if the countries rhetorically state their condemnations against the actions of Israel, it has no impact as the ongoing violence is continuing in the region.

Another significant issue that is necessary to examine is the displacement of Palestinians from their homelands. Deracination of Palestinians began a long time ago, and it has been an ongoing issue. According to the Report by the Secretary-General, for instance, as a result of Israeli military operations in 1999, nearly 700 Palestinians were forcefully dispossessed of their homes (United Nations. General Assembly, 2013, p.9) This scenario is a clear-cut example of the atrocious actions of the perpetrators against innocent civilians and is an example of the violation of fundamental human rights. The extensive appropriation of the territories and intentional destruction of the private property of Palestinians is an ongoing issue, which demonstrates the main motive behind the Israeli settlement. In 2021, for instance, according to Human Rights Watch, nearly 700 Palestinian homes were destroyed by the Israeli authorities, which resulted in the displacement of 958 people (Human Rights Watch, 2021). Even after decades of the establishment of the human rights agenda, the dispossession rates are rapidly increasing. With time, Israel has been implementing political mechanisms that are directed towards the full annexation of the territories from the Palestinians, which leaves Palestinians without any property, as well as without any possibility of the construction of a home for their livelihood. According to Simon Reynold, the Israeli forces use the strategy of zoning and planning policy to continue pursuing the displacement of the people (2017, p.28). This is an example of forceful dispossession and colonial settlement, and United Nations has also noted that Israel’s strategy is directed towards annexations of the territories. From the perspective of international law, Israel violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that the destruction of property either private or state-owned is illegal (Amnesty International, 2017). Besides forceful actions, Israel has undertaken legal frameworks to justify the dispossession of Palestinian people. For instance, according to Israel's jurisdiction, in Area C of the West Bank, the annexed lands are reserved for the construction of Israeli infrastructure, and the remaining part of the areas, which is nearly thirty percent of the land is under the Palestinians (Reynold, 2017, p.29). However, to be able to build infrastructure, there needs to be a detailed scheme to be approved according to the law 1966. The expansionist policies of Israel deprive the Palestinians of the right to life, liberty and security. All in all, the dispossession of Palestinian people is a direct violation of human rights that is also acknowledged by the United Nations; however, accountability for the illegal actions is missing.

Besides the United Nations and its human rights agenda, the USA has been playing an active role in the promotion of democracy and human rights agenda worldwide. However, the reaction towards the Palestine-Israel situation shows the absolute opposite of what the USA endorses. One of the responsibilities and duties of the USA’s foreign policies, according to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, is a commitment to being a protectorate of human rights of UN mandate (Dallal, 1987). There are many examples where US and its allies condemn the actions of the perpetrators oh human rights mandates. For instance, in the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the USA along with the UK showed its full support regarding the removal of Iran from the UN Commission (Loft, 2023, p.28). Because of the violation of human rights, it was decided to make the Islamic Republic accountable for its actions. The case of Palestine-Israel is horrifyingly different. It suggests that the Western hegemonic powers are pursuing a certain goal that favors the Zionist movement. The principal motive behind this particular case is an strong determination in cleansing the religious and ethnic grouping.

Figure 6: Demonstration in support of Palestine during an anti-Israel protest rally in Islamabad
US-UN Relations. Concluding Remarks

By examining the Palestine-Israel case and witnessing the inability of intergovernmental organizations such as the UN to implement necessary measures toward the resolution of the issue and hold accountable the violators of international laws and enactments, it becomes apparent that the current international world order is constructed upon specific rules and regulations that are designed by certain actors for self-interest. The applicability of the international laws and regulations imposed by various international bodies of governance is under serious question, as the case of Palestine, clearly demonstrates that not every country is equal under the law.

As some realists would argue, the global arena exists within the anarchy where every nation-state is in a state of war with each other, therefore, it pushes every actor to be mindful of preserving their security and sovereignty (Dunne&Schmidt, 2017). In order to avoid the anarchically structured world which could lead to an eruption of another destructive war, the global community has decided to establish a universal organization that would maintain peace and stability in the international arena. According to UN Charter, the first article states that the purpose of the United Nations is to create a wave of global peace and security by working collectively with the nations where the countries will conform with the “principles of justice and international law” to settle any kind of disputes (UN, 1945, p.3). Although in the theoretical understanding, the motive of the United Nations is to breach the anarchical state and preserve worldly peace and stability, in practical perspective, it becomes apparent that the United Nations has become a destructive project of the hegemonic superpower in the face of the United States. Post-WWII was an opportunity for the USA to introduce itself as a politically and socio-economically dominating power. The creation of different bodies of governance and the pursuit of democracy and a liberal mode of the economy became an American strategy. United Nations became a strategic tool through which the US pushes its agenda internationally. According to Ikenberry, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, through the rule-based system and tight partnership with the international actors, the American power created a world order based on multilateralism that could benefit the world. According to the congressional research service report, the USA is the single “largest financial contributor to the United Nations” (Ikenberry, 2015, p. 1). Being the biggest financial contributor to the organization, makes the United Nations to be operating under the US policies rather than acting as a completely independent entity. Therefore, the actions of the UN strongly depend on the regulations imposed by the USA.

Figure 7: Funding the UN

However, the US’s adoption of the United Nations is simply to display its commitment to multilateralism and international cooperation as the practice shows the US continues to pursue its unilateral self-interests. From anarchical order, international politics entered the realm of hierarchy where a specific actor remains a political, economic and culture-ideological hegemonic power.

The current international order with its mission of promoting diplomacy, justice, peace and stability among the nations is experiencing a deep crisis. Particularly, the existing relationship between the USA and United Nations portrays the critical position of the intergovernmental organization. Although John Ikenberry (2005) openly argues in his article that the establishment of institutional buildings, such as the United Nations demonstrates the institutionalization of the world governance where the countries’ foreign and domestic policies, in particular, the USA's are constrained, in reality, it is the opposite. Although the policies of the United Nation may restrain certain countries from promoting open, aggressive politics, the USA is excluded from those obligations. Rather, it is the USA that dictates the rules in the global arena through the United Nations. The contemporary historical events, especially the Palestine-Israel case, are clear exemplars of the fact that US foreign policy has taken a route towards unilateralism rather than pursuing the multilateral approach based on the establishment of cooperation in the pursuit of justice and peace. Zaara Zain Hussain (2011), in her article “The Reality of US-UN Relations” argued that US’s foreign policy is based on self-interest, which dramatically undermines the role of the United Nation. This statement is partially true. It is evident that the policies of the US are found upon self-interest and self-benefit, and certain actions in the international arena, for instance, the continuous support of the Israeli annexation of the Palestinian lands, may create a great resonance among the population around the globe which builds a distrust towards the UN’s mandate. However, the relationship between the USA and the UN is not based on a cooperation between the two different entities. Rather, the UN is an establishment that serves the hegemonic purposes of the USA. Hussain (2011) concluded in her article, the UN is a body of governance that represents the values and principles of the USA. However, the behaviour of the USA suggests that those principles apply only selectively. According to the congressional research service report, Congress has withheld funding and aid to specific bodies of the UN including UDHR in order to limit their activities related to Palestine (CRSR, 2023). Moreover, as it was mentioned above, comparing the cases between Iran and Palestine, the USA’s reactions are different. The Palestine-Israel case is a unique situation demonstrating to the world that the UN and its body - UDHR that exists in the contemporary international order is simply an outcome of the hierarchical structure of the world where the USA and its foreign policies dominate diplomacy and possess a danger to the global prosperity and peace.

Thought-Provoking Questions

It seems as if the unilateral annexation of Palestinian Territory is strongly endorsed by the external actors who identify themselves as protectorates of human rights mandates around the globe. Although the United States Department of State has recognized the violations in the region, its support for the illegal settlement is unbothered as the department continuously certifies Congress the fact that Israel by the law “reflects in practice the civil, political, and religious rights of its citizens” (Dallal, 1987, p. 16). It is also important to mention that the support for Israeli occupational forces is not simply an issue of public rhetoric but also a military and economic aid as the USA continues to be one of the crucial donors to Israel.

It has been more than seventy years since the adoption of the United Nations on Human Rights, and the abuse of Palestinian human rights is still a continuous issue. The Palestine-Israel situation is a very unique case as it demonstrates the truthfulness of the UN, as well as influential counties such as the USA to their ideological beliefs even if it causes subordination towards a particular group of people. This case has enlightened many people to the fact that in the contemporary period, the politics of the UNDH and the USA is strictly selective and biased. It designed to benefit only selective countries and by that the global international order and human rights agenda remain a Western privilege. The Zionist movement is a force that is detrimental by its nature, and the fact that its atrocious actions towards the Palestinians have not been subject to accountability from the Western powers, demonstrates the core of today’s world order. Rania Muhareb underlined in her critical article that the case of Palestine is a test for the “effectiveness of the international human rights system as a whole” (Muhareb, 2018, p.6). However, to be more precise it is not simply an example that demonstrates the inefficiency of the international law but a convincing illustration of the corrupt system.The issue of Palestine can be analyzed through different lenses yet all the diverse perspectives raise crucial questions that tackle the whole essence of the international order. If the USA, as a global protectorate of human rights, is directly and indirectly supporting the Zionist expansionist policies in the region, does that mean that what is prevailing in the region is a battle on religious grounds? Is the ultimate purpose goal to cleanse the region from the Muslim population? If the founders and supporters of the zionist expansionist policies were high-level officials in the USA, how then the USA can be a protectorate of human rights? The designers of the human rights agenda are those who endorse the violations. If the ones who withhold power over international law, then upon what can the victims rely?

What does that mean in a global scope? If the USA’s agenda is prevailing around the globe through the institutional mechanism of governance such as United Nations, then there is an absence of the power balance which would assure the security for the rest of the countries. The Palestine case clearly manifests that the world is dominated by a certain global power who in pursuit of its own ideological and materialistic interests would push the people on the edge of death.

Bibliographical References

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Dana, T. & Jarbawi, A. (2017). A Century of Settler Colonialism in Palestine: Zionism's

Entangled Project. Brown Journal of World Affairs, volume xxiv, issue i, pp. 1-23.

Danne, T. & Schmidt, B. (2017). The Globalization of World Politics. Realism. Oxford University Press. Pp. 101-116.

Donnelly, J. (2017). The Globalization Of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations. Human Rights. Oxford University Press. Pp. 497-514.

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Loft, P. (2023). Iran protests 2022: Human rights and international response. House of Commons Library. Pp. 4-32.

Muhareb, R. (2018). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Ongoing Nakba: 70 Years of Exile, Rights Abuses, and Israeli Impunity. Al-Haq. Pp. 1-6.

Ned Lebow, R. (1968). Woodrow Wilson and the Balfour Declaration. The Journal of Modern History. The University of Chicago Press, Vol. 40, No. 4, pp. 501-523.

Reynolds, S. (2017). Israel’s Forcible Transfer of Palestinians in the Occupied Territory. BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights. pp. 1-103.

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United Nations. General Assembly. (2013). Human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. Pp. 3-18

United Nations. General Assembly, General Assembly. (2022). Identical letters dated 1 April 2022 from the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly and the President of the Security Council.


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Kanan Babazade

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