Sudan rebel leader meets top Israeli defense official
Sudan Liberation Movement chief in Israel to drum up support for rebel's fight against Sudan government.
The leader of one of the rebel groups in Sudan's Darfur region visited Israel to request its support in the rebels' fight against the Sudanese government.
Abdel Wahid al-Nur is the head of the Sudan Liberation Movement. While in Israel, he met with Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, who heads the Defense Ministry's political-security department. However, since he was not an official state guest, he did not meet with Foreign Ministry personnel.
Al-Nur came to Israel earlier this month at his own initiative, to attend the annual Herzliya Conference. He came with a group of European Jews, most of them French, who have been active on behalf of the Darfur refugees. He did not speak at any of the sessions, but did observe several.
At the conference, he was introduced to Gilad, and the two arranged a meeting, which took place a few days later at the Defense Ministry.
The ministry responded, "In the interests of national security, various and sundry meetings are held. We are not in the habit of giving responses after each of these meetings."
The Sudan Liberation Movement was founded in 1992. It is a secular group that opposes the Islamist regime of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, and its official stated goal is to turn Sudan into a democracy that grants equal rights to all its citizens. However, it also has a military wing that has been fighting government forces in Darfur since 2001.
Al-Nur fled to France in 2007 and has not been back to Sudan since then. He has won support from international human rights organizations and is considered very close to French Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy. In the past, he has spoken in favor of establishing diplomatic ties between Sudan and Israel, and a year ago, he even announced that his movement was opening an office in Tel Aviv, staffed by Sudanese refugees who found asylum in Israel after fleeing the massacres committed by Bashir's forces in Darfur. However, this was his first visit here.
Israel currently has more than 600 Darfur refugees, and Ehud Olmert's government decided to grant them all asylum and work permits. This decision was made in part because Bashir's government announced that any Sudanese refugee who set foot in Israel would be considered a "Mossad agent" and would therefore be sentenced to death should he or she ever return to Sudan.