Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Some disputes will always be subjective

  • Print

DEAR EDITOR,

Send a Letter to the Editor

  • The Free Press welcomes letters from readers

    To send a letter for consideration on our Letters page: Fill out our online form at the link above, or Email letters@freepress.mb.ca, or Fax (204) 697-7412, or Mail Letters to the Editor, 1355 Mountain Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R2X 3B6.

Re: The war against the Holocaust (April 2). There's been enough said by now about the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association campaign against the permanent Nazi Holocaust gallery to justify characterizing UCCLA -- on this topic at least -- as a marginal group partially blinded by resentment.

However, I take issue with one passage of Catherine Chatterley's article, where she states: "Subjective feelings are influencing content and design choices (of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights) rather than objective historical and legal reality and this does not bode well for the international reputation of this institution."

I agree with Chatterley about the Nazi Holocaust. There is nothing subjective about the view that the genocide perpetrated upon the Jews by the Nazis was a unique historic low for human dignity and rights. Only historical relativists might think otherwise.

But the notion that disagreements about whether particular actions constitute violations of human rights are always resolvable on the basis of "objective historical and legal reality" is questionable.

For example, I doubt very much the debate about whether certain actions by the Israel Defence Forces in the Gaza Strip are part of a pattern of human rights violations by Israel against the Palestinians can be objectively resolved by scholarship.

Certainly there are live disputes about real history that are relevant and objective research may resolve such disputes. But what also looms large are the particular commitments of the historical actors and observers.

In the conflict between Israel and Palestinians, proclamations by some that certain actions are violations of international law are viewed by others as untrue or beside the point for a group whose very survival is at issue. A purportedly objective legal opinion will not end this disagreement.

While all reasonable people may, in light of the history of the last 2,000 years, affirm that a gallery commemorating the Nazi Holocaust obviously fits with a museum for human rights, the consensus of the reasonable will evaporate when you get down to the particulars of living conflicts.

There is a political element to conversations about human rights. That doesn't mean that everything is reduced to subjective feelings. Ideals of human freedom and dignity form a very real and objective shared context to guide particular debates.

However, it seems doubtful that historical scholarship can always lead from these general, inspiring ideals to answers as to whether -- to continue with the example -- the experience of Palestinians should be a theme for an exhibit (and if so, what kind of exhibit) in the CMHR.

The pretensions of human rights scholarship to rise categorically above the politics of human rights should be rejected. Those who direct the CMHR should accept that political conversations will be part of their future even if the politics result in unease and doubts about the viability of a human rights museum.

MARTIN KRAMER

Winnipeg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 6, 2011 A11

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Tree remover has special connection to Grandma Elm

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A golfer looks for his ball in a water trap at John Blumberg Golf Course Friday afternoon as geese and goslings run for safety- See Joe Bryksa’s 30 day goose challenge- Day 24– June 15, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A pelican comes in for a landing Wednesday afternoon on the Red River at Lockport, Manitoba - Standup photo- June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should Manitoba support the transport of nuclear waste through the province?

View Results

Ads by Google