Human Rights and Anti-Semitism after GAZA

By Grosfoguel, Ramon | Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Human Rights and Anti-Semitism after GAZA


Grosfoguel, Ramon, Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge


This article discusses the consequences of the latest Israeli massacres in Gaza in relation to its global consequences for Human Rights and Global Anti-Semitism today. The first part is a discussion of the consequences of Gaza towards Human Rights. The second part is a discussion of the consequences of Gaza towards global anti-semitism. The last part is a discussion about Fundamentalism in the world today.

I. Human Rights After Gaza

Any discussion of Human Rights today needs to acknowledge the following three postulates:

1st Postulate: Human Rights in the mid 20th century is a continuation of the Western Global/Colonial designs of Rights of People in the 16th century and Rights of Man in the 18th century.

As part of its global/colonial designs the West built over several centuries diverse global/colonial discourses that shifted overtime.

First, the Rights of People in the 16th century was Vitoria's, Sepulveda's and Las Casas' problem as part of the Spanish empire's colonization of the Americas. Their problem was how to define the people they encounter in the Americas. The debate over Rights of People was inside the ecclesiastical elites of the Spanish empire without ever considering the colonial subjects' will and points of views. However, it became the main discourse of the European colonial expansion during Spanish hegemony of the world-system in the 16th century. The discourse about Rights of People was from the beginning tied to a Universalist project defined provincially from a Christian-centric cosmology.

Second, once Rights of People was defined, Rights of Man became the new global/colonial design in the new secular Enlightenment project of the 18th century. The Enlightenment's Rights of Man continued the Western-centric and patriarchal concept of the Human that began with Rights of People. Women of all colors and non-Western peoples where not included in the concept of Rights of Man. As Eze (1997) and Mignolo (2000) have discussed at great length, the Kantian project of the transcendental subject and Rights of Man became more clearly stated in Kant's Anthropological writings. Kant conceived the White race as superior to the other races and the only one with access to reason. Behind the door of Kant's transcendental subject, hides a White Man. A few centuries later, Human Rights emerged in the mid-Twentieth Century as a new discourse under US hegemony in a context where overt forms of colonialism where already defeated by anti-colonial struggles in the Third World. Human Rights continued and combined elements of the Rights of People and Rights of Man in the new developmentalist project of the post-colonial era inaugurated by the rise of US hegemony in the World-System. The first article of the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights says:

   All human beings are born free and
   equal in dignity and rights. They
   are endowed with reason and conscience
   and should act towards one
   another in a spirit of brotherhood.

The concept of "human beings" used here like the concept of people and man before had Universal pretensions but provincially defined and narrowly applied. Without decolonizing the concept of the "human" from a Western-centric patriarchal gaze and without decolonizing the global coloniality of power from the hegemony of Euro-American White Supremacy as the leading country of the postwar Western Imperialist United Front, it was simply impossible to have a more cosmopolitan and multi-epistemic concept of human rights and to even implement the present hegemonic concept of human rights in a fair and coherent way. From the Korean War in the early fifties to the most recent Iraqi War, human rights were always a privilege of the West and only mobilized in non-Western spaces whenever the national state was controlled by enemies of the West.

2nd Postulate: The notion of "human dignity" in the first article of the UN Declaration of Human Rights is a Western-centric notion that privileges the individual over community-based definitions. …

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