When speaking of democracy, the question of human rights always pops up.
The United Nations states that international human rights instruments need to be utilized in order to promote a common understanding of the principles, norms, standards and values that are the basis of democracy.
Yet, for many officials in the U.S, democracy seems to be void of human rights. If that were not the case, then how come Washington’s relations with the Tel Aviv and Riyadh—the world’s most retrogressive regimes— are this close?
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, “is intended to strengthen, protect and promote the US-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of the United States and Israel,” according to its mission statement.
The organization also stresses that the two share the same values and a common commitment to democracy and freedom.
“Commitment to democracy, the rule of law, freedom of religion and speech and human rights are all core values shared between the United States and Israel,” AIPAC states on its website.
This declared commitment to human rights, however, seems to exempt Palestinians who are living in the shadow of the Israeli occupation.
In fact, the Israeli regime was declared the world’s worst human rights violator by the U.N Human Rights Council in 2016.
A Human Rights Watch Report published this year listed the ongoing breaches of human rights.
“Israel continued in 2015 to enforce severe and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians’ human rights, and to build unlawful settlements in and facilitate the transfer of Israeli civilians to the occupied West Bank. Israeli authorities also arbitrarily detained peaceful Palestinian demonstrators, including children,” the World Report 2016 stated.
The mere fact that the Israeli regime was founded on land taken away from Palestinians should be good enough reason to mistrust the colourful depiction it advertises of its democracy.
In recent years, the United States and Saudi Arabia have been said to be experiencing a “Special Relationship.”
Former President George Bush and current President Barack Obama both have close relations with the Saudi royal family.
Mutual interests have kept the two countries at a proximate distance from oil to regional issues, to declared foes, to arms sales.
As a matter of fact, in 2010 the US State Department informed Congress of a plan to make the biggest arms sale in American history with a $60 billion purchase by the Saudi Kingdom. Since then, the Obama administration concluded deals for about $48bn.
The long record of human rights violations with Saudi’s name on top has not impeded such efforts to strengthen cooperation between the two states.
Washington has barely reprimanded authorities in Riyadh over their crimes against their own people as well as their neighbours.
Protests demanding freedom and equality, two basic tenants of democracy, have been met with brutality and restrictive measures. Many of those involved in the 2011 uprising remain in political detention while security violence has killed scores of demonstrators. Restrictions on freedom of speech, women’s rights, and migrant worker’s rights are also major topics of concern.
The US has also fallen of short of taking action against the monarchy over its role in the Bahrain events. It is well-known that Manama requested the Saudi military’s help to suppress the 2011 revolution. Saudi-backed security forces are guilty of crimes against Bahrainis whose calls for democracy continue to be raised high.
When the aggression on Yemen began, some kind of US action was anticipated against its ally in the region. The crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Saudi-led coalition should have at least pushed the US to take some measures against the Saudis, to save face. However, again, the US failed to take a stance that reflects the essence of democracy.
In 2002, the Commission declared the essential elements of democracy which included: respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, freedom of expression and opinion, and transparency and accountability in public administration. However, the US’s cordial relations with the Israeli regime and Saudi Arabia at the expense of human rights, proves that officials in Washington deem little respect for the values of democracy.
In conclusion, Washington’s foreign policies do not necessarily reflect the democracy it claims to promote. A brief look at its recent war history that involved and continues to involve launching acts of aggression and coups d’état in the name of democracy when it serves interests, while maintaining friendly relations with regimes that perpetrate crimes against human deflecting the notion of democracy, shows this discrepancy.
A joke tapping into this fact has been circulating among political analysts and observers. It goes as follows:
Q: Why will there never be a coup d’état in Washington?
A: Because there’s no American embassy there