When I read Barak Ravid’s report on Israel’s lobbying the United States and European states such as France and Italy to bolster their ties with the brutal, murderous regime of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, I had that old feeling that the ground was shaking beneath my feet and I had no real refuge in this world.
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Since 1989, Sudan has been controlled by Bashir, one of the world’s most notorious dictators. In 2009 the International Criminal Court issued an international arrest warrant for Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity, for allegedly orchestrating atrocities – rape, torture, murder, extermination and forcible transfer – of residents of Darfur. Bashir’s efforts to exterminate my people and my family in Darfur are the reason I became a persecuted refugee and sought sanctuary in Israel.
I recognize that politics are always a complex game of interests. I recognize, too, that states often forge ties with controversial countries out of a desire to protect their own citizens and their interests. But Israel’s attempt to whitewash crimes against humanity perpetrated by a ruler who is on The Hague’s wanted list exceeds any argument of national interest. It is both an additional injury to my people and a betrayal of Jewish history.
Israel, together with the United States, was one of the first countries to recognize the genocide in Darfur. President George W. Bush’s promise, on behalf of the American people, to make every effort to stop the mass murders of innocent civilians in Darfur, was announced during his visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. U.S. synagogues, Jewish youth groups and individual Jewish intellectuals joined international campaigns to stop the killing in Darfur.
In September 2006, Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum published a statement calling for action to stop the genocide in Darfur.
“The fact that the Holocaust occurred, and was then followed by other genocides, demonstrates that the world must take seriously the early signs and threats of genocide. As the world watches genocide take place in Darfur, and is confronted by similar threats elsewhere, it must take decisive action,” the statement said, in part.
Speaking at the UN’s Geneva Office on January 27, 2006 at a ceremony marking the first International Day of Commemoration for Holocaust victims, then-Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Itzhak Levanon called on the world to also remember the victims of genocide in Darfur.
These public declarations implied that Israel’s leaders were committed to the principles of justice and equality expounded by the state’s founders. After the latest report in Haaretz, it’s hard to keep thinking that.
According to Ravid, Israeli officials argue that Khartoum severed ties with Tehran and is growing closer to the axis of Sunni Muslim states. Perhaps, but it doesn’t change the fact that Sudan remains on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Nor can Sudan’s cozying up to U.S. ally Saudi Arabia conceal the truth: Sudan continues to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity.
No one disputes that Israel and the United States may protect their interests. But does that justify ignoring the fate of millions of innocent people in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile who are being bombed day in and day out by the Sudanese regime? Don’t the lives of our families matter to you at all? Does Jewish ethics allow close ties with a state that slaughters its own people daily?
What is going on? What crime did we, the Darfurians, commit? How long will it take the international community to take concrete action, and not just empty pronouncements, for Darfur’s right to live in peace and security?
I am sorry, Mother Darfur. We have failed to protect you.
I am sorry, my Darfurian friends, it seems that no one cares about our problems and our lives. It turns out that human beings are not equal. Some are much less equal.
Anyone who dares to say “never again” should hang his head in shame today. It is an empty statement, both a lie and a self-deception. Before our very eyes, genocide is taking place again, and this time its past victims stand idly by, silent and sometimes even abetting.
The writer, among the leaders of the Sudanese asylum seekers’ community in Israel and the first to be granted refugee status in Israel, is a law student at Ramat Gan’s College of Law and Business.