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June 16, 2010
Human rights laws existed before the Magna Carta
With all due respect to that Iron Lady, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a woman I truly admire, human rights did not begin with the Magna Carta as she is quoted in yesterday's commemoration of the anniversary of the document by Robert Morrison.
A few thousand years before England's King John signed the Magna Carta against his will and the English were just another group of lawless, warring tribes, the Jews, former slaves who fled Egypt on their way to the Promised Land of Israel, willingly received the Torah at Sinai. Codified and interpreted by generations of rabbis, human rights were an integral way of life within Jewish communities, including those who lived in England in 1215 at the time of the signing of the Magna Carta.
And when 75 years later the generation following the one which forced the king to sign the Magna Carta expelled the Jews from England in 1290, the Jews still followed the precepts of their law, including respect for human rights.
Given the often brutal history of British imperialism, where the British ignored many of the fine precepts embedded in the Magna Carta, and the often cruelty of their class system perhaps the soon to come 800th anniversary of the document will spur them to remember and observe.