Global Day for Darfur —but not Palestine

We agree that there is something utterly perverse about the fact that the Darfur genocide is now entering its fifth year, as the world stands by and watches. And of course the vast majority of those participating in the Global Day for Darfur actions are well-intentioned. But a part of what makes the situation perverse is the increasingly surreal spectacle of celebrity and “Holocaust Industry” (TM Norman Finkelstein) exploitation of the genocide. That Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocuast memorial, can moralize about Darfur while remaining silent about the oppression of the Palestinians far closer to home only confirms our cynicism. From Haaretz, April 30:

Yad Vashem officials call for immediate international action on Darfur
Yad Vashem officials on Sunday joined a global day of action against the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region, calling for immediate international intervention to halt the bloodshed that has killed at least 200,000 and displaced 2.5 million people.

In a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority Chairman, Yosef “Tommy” Lapid and Director-General Avner Shalev, wrote thousands more people are killed each day.

On Sunday, demonstrators rallied outside British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s residence as part of a global day of protests against the bloodshed in Darfur.

Protesters handed a letter to Gareth Thomas, a government minister with responsibility for international development, calling for the quick deployment of a strong peacekeeping force in the violence-wracked region of western Sudan.

They held a 2 meter hourglass filled with artificial blood meant to symbolize that time is running out to protect civilian lives.

The letter, addressed to Blair, urged the prime minister to use “your influence to push the international community to call for action.”

“Time is running out for the people of Darfur, and we urge you to keep the pressure on the government of Sudan until there is an effective peacekeeping force on the ground protecting civilians,” the letter said.

Organizers said 3,500 people attended the rally. Police did not immediately have an estimate of the turnout.

In Tel Aviv on Sunday some 400 demonstrators called for the release of Sudanese refugees from Israeli prisons. The refugees, who escaped the genocide and sought refuge in Israel, have been detained by Israeli authorities. The protesters lit 300 candles, to correspond with the 300 refugees that were able to infiltrate Israel through Egypt in the last 18 months. MK Dov Hanin of Chadash and MK Avishai Braverman of Labor addressed the crowd.

Demonstrations were planned in more than 30 countries Sunday, designated by campaigners as a global day of action against the conflict. Organizers said they chose the date, April 29, as the approximate fourth anniversary of the start of fighting.

As part of the campaign, celebrities including Elton John, Mick Jagger, George Clooney and Mia Farrow issued a statement Sunday calling for an end to the bloodshed and accusing the international community of failing to act.

“As we mark the fourth anniversary of the start of the killing, we have come together to say that time is up,” the statement said. The international community must end its stalling and take decisive action.

Rebels have been fighting the Sudanese army and the pro-government Janjaweed militia in Darfur for the past four years, turning the region into the world’s largest humanitarian disaster.

There are currently 7,000 African Union peacekeepers in Darfur, but they have been unable to stop the violence.

On Thursday, Ban Ki-moon said that he and Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir had agreed that a new United Nations-African Union joint peacekeeping force should be deployed in the region quickly.

Al-Bashir agreed in November to a three-phase UN plan to strengthen the African Union force, but has delayed allowing its implementation.

See our last post on Darfur.