EDITORIAL: Grassroot efforts to promote the rights of religious minorities will complement the Knesset’s actions

By ISAAC BYKHOVSKY, The Jerusalem Post

As the debate in LEGAL wears on, a recurring question surfaces—what grassroot efforts can the United Nations implement to spark religious tolerance within its member states?

Simply put, the UN should build a system reflective of Israel’s policies.

In yesterday’s debate, the Delegation of Russia pinpointed their “Progressive System for Integration Plan” (PSI). PSI aims to curb religious intolerance from the bottom up, focusing on specific communities within a nation to build tolerance with the hope that it permeates through upper levels of government.

As debate continues today, similar points arise. The Delegation of Benin introduced the “Guideline for Enforcement and Advocacy for Religious Minorities,” (GLEAM). Like Russia’s PSI, GLEAM aims to curb religious intolerance through a three-stage process: universal protection guidelines, strict enforcement and strong advocacy. In a move to create substantive debate, Benin stated this system was introduced to stream the debate away from focuses on “pedantic definitions and futile arguments.”

While “pedantic” and “futile” are strong words to use, they are very fitting.

Adding more labels and clarifications to an already misconstrued issue will only add confusion to the debate. A focus on labels and differences between groups will only further drive a wedge between them.

The prime example of this is our own Nation of Israel. Built from the fallout of history’s most infamous case of religious intolerance, the State of Israel created the Middle East’s most tolerant nation without a focus on names and labels, but through a system of nationalization and a fair means to legal protection.

The most recent example of this is The High Court’s decision to allow many businesses to remain open on Shabbat. In a move that favors the power of local governments, this decision Is a clear reflection of Israel’s understanding of the broad religious and ethnic spread of its population, and the necessity to solve this through grassroots efforts. By allowing communities to pass laws that reflect their own religious makeup, this action allows for religious communities to function outside the umbrella of the Knesset.

Self determination is the key to limiting religious intolerance by a powerful regime. More important, however, is fair representation in the face of governing powers.

Unknown to many who label Israel as an intolerant state, the court system of Israel functions to limit religious intolerance as much as possible. By having a system of both secular and religious courts, criminal offenders can be prosecuted by a system that agrees with the nations laws as well as the offender’s religion. This is done specifically to limit injustices within the court system.

Moving forward with the committee, LEGAL needs to keep the success of this system in mind. Reflecting upon the ideas of Russia, Benin, and Israel are crucial to creating a comprehensive resolution to this issue. By granting autonomy to local municipalities, religious tolerance will have the opportunity to permeate through a government. The discussion in LEGAL should focus on grassroots efforts and institutional mechanisms—not definitions of religious intolerances.

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