Global, Israel, Justice

Alarm Bell for the Collective Conscience

As perfect a 21st century Jewish mission statement as you are going to find – here’s a taste from a recent Ha’aretz editorial on the plight of Darfurian refugees who are currently seeking asylum in Israel:

Too soon we have forgotten the suffering that is the lot of the persecuted. Perhaps we have grown accustomed to concern ourselves only with our own plight after absorbing Jewish refugees since the founding of the state. Today, when we are more prosperous, when the reservoir of Jewish refugees has dried up, there is fortunately no reason to scan the globe for people who could be considered Jewish and coax them to come here. And there is no reason to remain indifferent to the suffering of non-Jews who could contribute to the State of Israel as much as any Jew.
Darfur and its refugees are like an alarm bell for the collective conscience, and that bell is supposed to ring also when non-Jews are suffering.

Another great take (again in Ha’aretz) comes from the venerable Israeli Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer.

15 thoughts on “Alarm Bell for the Collective Conscience

  1. Taking refugees in from a conflict area is like increasing welfare to stop unemployment. Refugees are a symptom and the conflict is the disease. We must end the conflict but how? The Save Darfur protesters would have you think that you could boycott the conflict into submission. This is not true. The Janjaweed wouldn’t even notice a boycott. They can survive on dry grass and tree bark. They can kill just as easily with a sword or knife as they can with an AK47. If you wanna assist the Janjaweed in completing their ethnic cleansing then take in more of the refugees that they are trying to get rid of. If you want to end the conflict then we must go and exterminate the Janjaweed. This is the only thing that can stop them.

  2. Aaron,
    The Ha’aretz editorial did not purport to set forth a plan to end the genocide in Darfur – it set out to address Israel’s moral responsibility to the welfare (yes, welfare) of the Darfurian refugees seeking safety within its borders.
    But while we’re on the subject of ending the conflict, I was interested in your fascinating solution: exterminating the Janjaweed. In point of fact, the Janjaweed are not the ones actually directing the genocide – they are a nomadic tribal militia armed and directed by the Sudanese government. Perhaps you meant to suggest we should exterminate the entire leadership of Sudan?
    I’m sure glad you aren’t in charge of anyone’s foreign policy…

  3. I’m down with that. Need some new boots though (my soles melted in Miami Beach). Will the Ethiopians provide air support?
    Should we call it the Israel Africa Defense Force?
    Who will provide the funding?
    Lets save some Xtians and shut the mouths of the haters.

  4. Who in Israel is working to help the refugees? I would like to get involved and could use some contacts.

  5. Not a good idea. Many of these refugees are muslim. Once the first generation dies their children will remember none of the gratitude their parents had for the state of Israel. You will end up with the same situation as every european country who has taken in muslim economic migrants: gratefull hardworking first generation muslims, ungrateful second generation bums.
    In case someone wants to claim the darfur refugees are one day going to return, yeah right. And which Israeli politician is brave enough to forcibly deport these “poor black people”? I don’t see it happening. Not with all the heartbleeding going on there.

  6. NIF grantee Migrant Workers Hotline is the agency which assists the shelters in Tel Aviv where these refugees (when they’re not stuck in jail for crossing the border illegally) live and hope to be granted permission to live and work in Israel. Without work permits, they must work under the table, subject to the vulnerability to exploitation that goes with black market labor.
    I was just at one of these shelters a month ago with some first-time young adults — it was powerful and scary to see the haunted faces of real-life genocide survivors. Not like a Holocaust survivor whose memory is 60 years old, but someone who saw their relations killed before their eyes…five years ago, one year ago, in a couple cases, under nine months ago. Absolutely shocking to the soul.
    When asked “Why are there more men here?” the Sudanese organizer explained, “The women and children don’t survive the walk.” As in, the walk from Sudan. Mind you, we had been at Yad Vashem just days before.
    They were the most patriotic non-Israelis I’ve ever met, so thankful for Israel, even though they were living in a big room full of floor mats in a country which was debating, as Olmert put it, “What do we have in common with them anyway?”
    The issue is morally complex for Israel because the UN refugees absorption panel was created at Israel’s insistence — and was one of the first signers. Now her participation is bound into an obligion which contributes to her demographic whillies.
    And formermuslim — according to many of the articles, these particular refugees claim to be Christian. Not that this would influence my support to let them into the country, and let them stay indefinitely.

  7. KFJ,
    You make good points about the moral imperative to assist such people.
    But, even if they are “the most patriotic non-Israelis” ever, their offspring likely won’t be (why would they?)
    As you state, though, it is a morally complex issue for Israel.

  8. “And formermuslim — according to many of the articles, these particular refugees claim to be Christian. Not that this would influence my support to let them into the country, and let them stay indefinitely.”
    Christians invented anti-semitism. They are the pioneers, muslims are late adopters to use marketing jargon.
    Has anyone here looked into Greek Orthodox christianity and it’s stance on the Jews? If you haven’t I suggest you do. The majority of christian palestinians are of this denomination. It’s not pretty.
    Granted, the darfurians may not be Greek orthodox, but how immune will they be you think to the propaganda from their christian brethren? And once the gratitude wears off, and I guarantee it will, what are you going to do?
    All I’m saying is, make sure they leave once the crisis is over.

  9. >>“But while we’re on the subject of ending the conflict, I was interested in your fascinating solution: exterminating the Janjaweed. In point of fact, the Janjaweed are not the ones actually directing the genocide – they are a nomadic tribal militia armed and directed by the Sudanese government. Perhaps you meant to suggest we should exterminate the entire leadership of Sudan?”
    It is obvious that the mass murder of Darfuris will not end until somebody makes the cost of continuing the mass murder greater than the benefit that accrues to the Sudanese leadership. In the real world that means violence. Economic or “political” measures (Oh no! Not another UN resolution!) will continue to be ineffective fig leaves to excuse Western disinterest.
    If people are seriously interested in stopping these exterminations and saving the innocent, we should be lobbying hard for Western special operations forces to move into Darfur and hunt down and kill the perpetrators of the genocide.

  10. Eric, your approach to this conflict is so mind-blowingly childish. The region is fighting because there’s no FOOD. Killing people isn’t going to help the lack of FOOD. Or stable government, or foreign investment, or education, or anything.
    Mind you, I support real UN intervention with UN forces permitted to use weapons. But come on! Be a little more sophisticated about this, please.

  11. Kung Fu,
    The inhabitants of Darfur are not being murdered en masse because the Sudanese rulers in Khartoum lack food (!). They are not being murdered because of inadequate foreign investment (plenty available from China and Europe), or insufficiently “stable” government (the government is at least “stable” enough to coordinate a multi-theater mass murder campaign utilizing air and ground forces guided by intelligence data), low literacy rates or any other tangential curiosities.
    They are being murdered because the Sudanese government has decided that it is in the government’s interest to commit genocide and presumably clear out Darfur of those pesky black African inhabitants for good. Sudan believes the benefits of committing this genocide are greater than the costs. So far Sudan is correct.
    Considering the UN’s record of ignoring or assisting mass-murder, including in areas where UN forces are deployed under the premise of preventing it, I find your appeal to the UN strange. Are you aware of the UN’s track record and modus operandi in this regard? For reference see: Bosnia (Srebrenica), Cambodia, Rwanda, Congo, Burundi, Timor-Leste, Somalia, Chechnya, Tibet, North Korea, Burma, Syria (Hama), Sierra Leone etc. etc. etc. Your earnest faith that this time “UN forces” are going to walk in and stop a genocide is touching but also baseless. After waiting over 5 years do you think the people of Darfur share your confidence in the UN? If they’ve ever spoken to the people of Rwanda, probably not.
    If you doubt that the mass murder of Darfuris is being managed and implemented as national policy by the (adequately nourished) rulers of Sudan, I suggest reviewing this recent talk by French writer Bernard Henri Levy.
    Neither the aerial bombs that blast the people of Darfur into dismembered corpses, nor the Sudanese Air Force planes that drop them, nor the pilots who fly them, nor the political leaders who issue their orders are wanting for “food”. They are wanting for murder and have found a good, integrated strategy to deliver it. They will continue to deliver it until the price becomes too high and their ability to succeed is destroyed.
    You may have the inclination to wait for a few more years and a few dozen UN resolutions. But I suspect most Darfuris are too busy dodging death squads and aerial bombardment to share your comfortable patience.

  12. Eric, I think we need a couple other folks to school you on Darfur history. I sat with Sudanese refugees who explained their history of the conflict — whose English were pretty damn good — but let me not rely on first-hand. Let’s bring in some Wikipedia. These two articles are particularly enlightening:
    History of Darfur – increasing instability
    Darfur conflict – background
    What do both articles talk about? FOOD, dude, FOOD. Criminy — people fight over STUFF and use race, ethnicity, power as an excuse. A brief excerpt:

    In a longer term cycle, the gradual reduction in annual precipitation, coupled with a growing population, had begun a cycle in which increased use of arable land along the southern edge of the Sahara increased the rate of desertification, which in turn increased the use of the remaining arable land. Drought from the mid-1970s to early 1980s led to massive immigration from northern Darfur and Chad into the central farming belt. In 1983 and 1984, the rains failed. When the Khartoum government refused to heed warnings of critical crop failure because they feared it would affect the administration’s image abroad the Governor of the Fur-dominated administration in Darfur resigned in protest.[9]. The region was plunged into a horrific famine. When 60-80,000 Darfuris walked across the country to Khartoum seeking food, the government declared them be Chadian refugees and trucked them to Kurdufan in “Operation Glorious Return”, only to see them walk back to Khartoum as there was no food in Kurdufan.[10] The famine killed an estimated 95,000 Darfuris out of a population of 3.1 million and it was clear that the deaths had been entirely preventable.[11]

  13. Yes I’ve actually read those articles. Fascinating stuff. So your theory is that the Sudanese Air Force is bombing Darfuris because the Darfuris are too hungry…? Interesting.
    But the very articles you cite give no indication at all that the genocide is being committed for reasons related to food.
    The issues of food, poor governance, poor education (?), etc. are all utterly tangential to the fact that the Sudanese government is intentionally implementing a coordinated strategy of mass murder. For some reason you’re insisting on a material solution (“food”) to a non-material problem that gives no indication of even being connected to the solution you insist it must have.
    Food drops over Darfur would hardly help cure hunger (see Somalia) much less stop the people who are committing genocide. “Famine” is not murdering people in Darfur. “Reduced rainfall” is not murdering people in Darfur. Soldiers with orders coming from Sudanese policymakers are. Stopping those soldiers and stopping their masters will stop the murder.
    >>“Criminy — people fight over STUFF and use race, ethnicity, power as an excuse.”
    It’s nice that you’re utterly free of all traces of racial, ethnic, political, ideological or religious bias. But many people in this world are not. Some people care about things other than “STUFF”. And some of them are willing to use violence to achieve their goals. Among them are Sudanese politicians, soldiers, intelligence officers, deniable “militias” and air force pilots. They are raping Darfuris and murdering them with weapons and explosives.
    What’s your suggested solution to save the victims from their killers? Drop some food? A dramatic new UN resolution?

  14. Eric, after getting this far I think we’re arguing over a long-term and short-term strategy.
    I’m all for UN military action — hell, I’m for US military intervention, but I think empowering the African Union forces to use force is more practical.
    But it’s like Iraq — without the bigger picture, you just end up with an African Iraq. There’s got to be more involved.
    And in that, I think we’ve come out sounding severely opposed to one another when we’re not.

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