Re: “Nobel Peace Prize nominee continues struggle for human rights” (Jan. 20, page 5)

In response to Nobel Peace Prize nominee continues struggle for human rights, published January, 20, 2011.

Sonya Howard’s article regarding David Matas’s work on organ harvesting in China was not an accurate portrayal of David Matas, the “Human Rights crusader.” The article’s starry-eyed praise for the man should be taken with a grain of salt. Correspondingly, the institutions that have acknowledged him as a Human Rights crusader should also be scrutinized.

David Matas may be called a crusader for human rights, since he is a human rights lawyer, but it is a highly contestable claim to call him a crusader for Human Rights. Please note the differentiation between the upper and lowercase versions.

Howard uses the term Human Rights (upper case) to define Matas’s work. But Human Rights depend on universal applicability if the ideal is to be implemented in realty. As many people know, Human Rights don’t mean much beyond rhetoric, and Matas is a prime example of why that is. 

Matas has contradicted his title as a “Human Rights crusader” through his work as a senior legal counsel for B’nai B’rith. B’nai B’rith is not simply an organization “that tackles anti-Semitism” – it is a hard-right organization that provides widespread and absolutist support for the Israeli states occupation of Palestine (which actually proliferates real anti-Semitism). 

Israel restricts the movement of millions of Palestinian people (a violation of a basic Human Right) and allows only a quarter of the needed aid relief into Palestine. If Human Rights exist at all, Israel is blatantly violating the Palestinian people’s economic, social and political rights, and their right to self-determination. 

Meanwhile, Matas chooses to work for B’nai B’rith, which defends Israel no matter what the cost. As a human rights lawyer, it is deplorable for Matas to have anything to do with the organization.

If Human Rights are to ever actually exist, its time we criticize those like Matas who bastardize the idealist concept.

Matt Austman

– Matt Austman

Published in Volume 65, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 10, 2011)

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