Human rights. The phrase rings of hope. It evolved since the times of the bloody wars of Europe in the 19th century, through the founding of the International Red Cross and ultimately was canonized by the United Nations in 1948 after the Holocaust (and Pearl Harbor) in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also brings freedom, sometimes at the great expense of other violations by the victors in the name of realpolitik, as if the moral absolutes of the ends justify the moral relativism of the means: the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the carnages by Joseph Stalin in Russia and Eastern Europe.
Today’s context is Libya, the stage of the novel The Fifth Horseman where a nuclear weapon arrived by a freighter in New York because of the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The dramatis personae are intimately familiar: Moammar Gadaffi, the Libyan dictator and terrorist turned ally of the United States since 2008 for having given up his program of weapons of mass destruction, perhaps afraid that former President George Walker Bush would invade his country also just as he had invaded Saddam’s Iraq. So, America had tolerated him until the streets, empowered by Egypt, rose up peacefully against the Gadaffi dynasty.
“River of blood will run through Libya” said the British-educated-Ph.D-heir-apparent to the elder Gadaffi, in a Moses pretense but ironically using the dreaded words “final solution” in a live global television broadcast after which all foreign media access was cut off. A man with his education and responsibility must know that it reminds people of Hitler’s Final Solution unless he is not being careful with his words. The father was nowhere to be seen until he was seen fleetingly to rhetoricize that he was in charge, when he was really not. The pesky turbulence on the streets was upsetting the transition of power underway in Libya from the elder Gadaffi to the younger Gadaffi, even as America and Europe were watching, because of oil, for this was the American and European calculus in Egypt, where the military is friendlier and more amenable to change given a more mature domestic political opposition.
The contagion of liberty in MENA pestilence for the autocrats, a nervous paradoxical geopolitical moment for the West, but hope for its humanity ultimately put everybody on the spot: oil or freedom. A choice had to be made. And it appears both the European Union led by France and the United States have made the right choice: freedom. Iran, formerly Persia, even took some of its ships through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean, barring the irresponsible rhetoric against the territorial integrity of Israel, as if signaling that the majority in the region, not Israel as a proxy of the West, will be in charge of safeguarding their oil in the Persian Gulf. It was also a signal to Israel to come to the table in the neighborhood it lives in to resolve the Palestinian question in due fairness to both sides. This is the emerging reality on the Asian (Shem) and African (Ham) coasts of the Mediterranean, across from the European (Japeth), as if the three sons of Noah and the forefathers of Abraham before his faiths existed, are seeking their common humanity.
Human rights. The phrase has been used again. Today. By President Barack Obama of the United States signaling, perhaps, a permanent change in US policy in MENA to balance the interests of the peoples of both Israel and its neighbors. It once again, rings of hope. Oil diplomacy is over. The Gadaffi regime could be toppled soon on the grounds of human rights violations, perhaps replaced by Libyan expatriates who have already called for the dictator to step down. The trial of the regime on human rights charges is another matter. It needs to take its own separate course disconnected from the transition to a legitimate democracy which must be done immediately. The events in MENA must take their course to, hopefully, leading to a coming-from-within resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, led by Israel and Palestine and the regional neighbors; result in a proactive commitment from MENA countries to become legitimate democratic republics, a state religion being a matter of country choice; and US and EU must move aggressively with domestic comprehensive energy policies.