Declaration on Judaism and Human Rights
Adopted in Montreal on April 23, 1974
The Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights of the American Jewish Committee
Canadian Jewish Congress
Consultative Council of Jewish Organizations
We, the undersigned, gathered in Montreal at the McGill International Colloquium on Judaism and Human Rights, have adopted the declaration that follows.
In the light of the contributions Judaism and the Jewish experience have made to human rights, we affirm:Human rights are an integral part of the faith and tradition of Judaism. The beliefs that man was created in the divine image, that the human family is one, and that every person is obliged to deal justly with every other person are basic sources of the Jewish commitment to human rights.
The struggles of Jews for freedom from oppression and discrimination in the modern era have helped advance the cause of human rights for all.
Jews and Jewish organizations have significantly aided efforts to secure national and international protection of human rights and freedoms.
We accordingly reaffirm our long-standing dedication to the advancement and protection of fundamental rights and freedoms for all persons.
To all governments and peoples, we commend the following principles and goals:
Brought into being by a joint effort of the nations and reflecting the varied cultures of the world, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons. However much nations may vary in their values, needs and priorities, the Declaration remains a universally applicable standard for the conduct of persons and nations.
The Interdependence of Human Rights
Civil and political rights are interdependent with, and indivisible from economic, social and cultural rights. Difficult though it may be to preserve individual civil and political rights under conditions of poverty and deprivation, it must be done; for abandoning or subordination them will only exacerbate inequality and injustice, without ensuring economic betterment.
Conversely, a reasonable degree of economic well being is a precondition for the enjoyment of civic and political rights. On these as well as on humanitarian grounds, the distressing disparities in living standards, income distribution and availability of social services within and among nations, and the dire poverty and famine afflicting vast areas of Africa, Asia and Latin America, oblige all governments to promote, jointly as well as separately, the economic welfare of their people. Affluent nations must help less fortunate peoples through bilateral and multilateral aid programs and equitable trade arrangements.
Progress in Human Rights Law
Continuing development of effective international law is essential to further just relationships between individuals and their governments, among groups within a nation and among the countries of the world.
All nations should adopt bills of rights and make them effective.
All states which have not yet done so should ratify the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide, the Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and other human rights agreements inspired by the Universal Declaration.
Effective international institutions and procedures should be set up to implement the international law of human rights.
All nations should make the furtherance of human rights an integral element of their foreign policies.
The Integrity of Human Rights Law
Human rights laws should be interpreted in good faith to further the rights they seek to promote. They must be applied impartially, with a single standard for all, and any tendency to apply them restrictively so as to thwart their true purpose, directly or indirectly, must be resisted. Human rights issues should be treated on their merits; they should never be exploited for the extraneous political purposes.
Elimination of Racial, Ethnic and Religious Discrimination
Racism is an evil wherever or by whomever promoted or maintained, and all forms of racial discrimination and hatred deserve condemnation.
The same applies to ethnic hatred, as is recognized by the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which outlaws invidious distinctions based on descent and ethnic origins as well as on color and race, and which obligates all states to take immediate measures to eradicate discrimination and hatreds based on such distinctions.
By the same token, discrimination on the basis of religion should be uprooted. An effective human rights instrument against all forms of religious intolerance should be promptly adopted. Attempts to thwart promulgation of such a document should not be allowed to succeed.
United Nations bodies and agencies, Member States of the UN and non-governmental organizations should accelerate their efforts toward eradicating all manifestations of group discrimination and hatred, and should apply a single standard of disapproval to all such violations.
Governments, nongovernmental organizations and educational institutions should support the goals of the Decade of Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination, proclaimed by the United Nations on December 10, 1973. They should cooperate to the best of their ability with this program, so as to help eliminate all forms of injustice based on race or ethnic origin.
The Struggle Against Anti-Semitism
The current manifestation of anti-Semitism in various parts of the world, whether open or under one or another guise, are to be condemned and combated, in keeping with the International Conventions on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Vicious libels about Jews and Judaism are being disseminated in some countries, including certain Arab states and the Soviet Union. It is incumbent on all governments, citizen groups and private persons to desist from any anti-Semitic activity and to do all they can to curb it.
The Preservation of Cultures
Many agreements between two or more nations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, confirm the right of each of the world’s religious, ethnic and linguistic groups to preserve its unique cultural heritage; but this right is often denied in practice. Jewish minorities in particular have suffered grievously from such denials in some countries. All states should undertake or intensify action to safeguard the rights of all groups to their cultures, according to the existing commitments.
We call on the international community to take a stand against the deprivation of rights currently suffered by Jews÷deprivation they have undergone again and again in their history.
Today the Soviet Union denies vast numbers of Jews the right to leave, and harasses, abuses or imprisons those who seek to exercise that right. Soviet Jews also are prevented from freely teaching, practicing and preserving their religion and culture. In Syria, Jews are denied the right to leave, discriminated against and cruelly persecuted.
Silence or inaction in the face of such human rights violations is complicity in injustice. The international community must vigorously condemn and combat these violations.
We call on Jewish communities to preserve and sharpen the traditional sensitivity of the Jewish conscience to the plight of the downtrodden, whoever and wherever they may be. We reaffirm our faith in study, teaching and education as means to advance human rights throughout the world. More than that, we pledge to be advocates and activists for human rights.
We recognize the commitment and the contributions of other religions and peoples to human rights and recall our many joint efforts in that cause. We look forward to continued partnership in seeking to bring the blessings of human rights, fundamental freedoms and human dignity to all mankind.
Nobel Laureate Rene Cassin has eloquently recalled how Jewish leaders throughout the gages and in our own time have upheld the dignity of human beings and championed human rights. We respect and honor their example; we call upon our generation and our children to emulate them.
To labor for the human rights of all peoples has been an integral part of commitment to Judaism throughout our long past. We shall remain faithful to it in the future.