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Darfur and the Jews, Part II

The American Jewish community was way out in front on Darfur-calling it what it was, demanding that the U.S. government respond, working up public outrage, and raising money for relief. And we were good at it-the African Union provided forces that protected the refugee camps; the United States provided airlift and other logistical necessities as well as sanctions on the Sudanese government; aid organizations helped to feed and clothe the survivors. Finally, in 2008, the UN indicted Omar Bashir for genocide, war crimes and murder.


The American Jewish community was way out in front on Darfur-calling it what it was, demanding that the U.S. government respond, working up public outrage, and raising money for relief. And we were good at it-the African Union provided forces that protected the refugee camps; the United States provided airlift and other logistical necessities as well as sanctions on the Sudanese government; aid organizations helped to feed and clothe the survivors. Finally, in 2008, the UN indicted Omar Bashir for genocide, war crimes and murder.

Odd, then, to read the reaction of Jewish “community leaders” to the Obama Administration’s decision to offer Sudan “incentives” for future good behavior-coupled with the threat of increased sanctions for future misdeeds-and no penalty for the past. We cite the reporting of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:

  • “It’s a great first step forward,” said the president of the American Jewish World Service.

  • “Exactly the right approach,” said the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, “It sends a very clear message of continued U.S. attention and engagement, and exactly what is expected of them to improve the situation.”

  • The department chair of Tikkun Olam at the Herzl/RMHA Upper School in Denver and founder of an international movement of high school students concerned with Darfur hedged a little. “It’s great in theory…We’re waiting to see how it’s implemented. We need to see a lot more action.”

  • The director of Jewish World Watch said, “We’ve heard policies, seen written statements, but at the end of the day the key is whether there’s actual change on the ground. We’re seeing a unified clear policy, but we need to be very cautious, and we need to hold the administration’s feet to the fire.”

We are talking genocide here-while it’s nice of them to take a “wait and see” attitude about the future disposition of Darfur and its wretched survivors, is there no one among the “leaders” who believes there is a need for the arrest and trial of Omar Bashir and his henchmen? Has “Never Again” become “Only Until They Stop”?

JINSA has always believed the people of Darfur needed rescue by the international community-as we would have wanted the Jews rescued. In 2007, we asked:

If it was 1943, would we be content to have Red Cross ensure food package delivery to Auschwitz? (Never mind that oven over there.) Would we demand financial sanctions on Goering or Mengele? That’s the level of proposal President Bush has put forward-and even that has no traction in the UN Security Council…

A “war strategy” might, in fact, be more effective and humane than a “peace strategy.” The militias, with government assistance, are waging war against the people of Darfur and warriors-people authorized to use violence-are needed to protect the people and kill, yes kill, the perpetrators. There is no reason to believe anything less will stop the ravaging of an already ravaged people.

To the extent that the Jewish community could convince the UN that killing the killers is the fastest route to peace, the people of Darfur may yet have hope. To the extent that we wash our cars for Darfur we are fooling ourselves into believing we are relevant when the issue is genocide.

Or post-genocide.