In response to a question from New York’s African American Inner City Press during the UN General Assembly debates Sept. 20, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is vying for a seat on the Security Council, said he would need more time to study the question of Darfur before recommending sending peacekeepers. Another Inner City Press report filed that day noted that Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir told reporters, “Everyone knows who is the real power behind the transition to a UN force… It’s an attempt to dismember Sudan” and divide it into five pieces. When asked about all those demonstrating under the banner of “Save Darfur” that weekend, al-Bashir said that “Zionist organizations organized the rallies.” Days earlier on Sept. 12, AP reported that Ismail Haj Mussa, a senior member of the Sudanese Parliament, told state-run Radio Omdurman that Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the United States are leading a conspiracy against his government, which “began as a political campaign in the UN and is now taking the form of a military intervention.”
Just because Khartoum is exploiting charges of ulterior motives in the “Save Darfur” campaign doesn’t mean there isn’t something to it. The question is explored exhaustively in a feature story in the October issue of WORLD WAR 4 REPORT:
SAVE DARFUR: ZIONIST CONSPIRACY?
Exploiting African Genocide for Propaganda
by Ned Goldstein, WW4 REPORT
The death toll in the Darfur region of western Sudan has reached between 200,000 and 400,000 as of Oct. 1, with 2.5 million displaced. The UN warns that the death toll could escalate precipitously if the situation is allowed to deteriorate. The dictatorial — and genocidal —Khartoum regime led by Omar al-Bashir, is possibly the world’s most brutal and murderous.
The conflict in Darfur is rooted in the long oppression of marginalized groups seeking political and economic equality. Ethnic identification has become increasingly polarized in Darfur, the tribes from which the rebels draw their numbers generally characterized as Black Africans, and the Sudanese army and its proxy militias described as Arab.
While the debate over what to do about Darfur continues, the Sudanese government and critics of the US-based Save Darfur coalition have continued to accuse the movement (or, at least, elements of it) of having ulterior motives: namely, to benefit Israel—both by diverting attention from Israeli war crimes to those of the Khartoum regime and its supporters in the Arab world, and, more ambitiously to actually destabilize Sudan’s Islamist government.
Khartoum and Israel: Mutual Exploitation?
The Sudanese government has, unsurprisingly, stressed the participation of Zionist and Jewish groups in the Save Darfur movement—and flatly accused Israel of being behind the insurgency in Darfur.
As early as Dec. 21, 2004, Republic of Sudan Radio reported that Sudanese Interior Minister Ahmad Harun, flanked by two other government ministers, “accused the Zionist entity of supplying the rebels with weapons in the framework of Israel’s plan that targets Arab nations.”
In May 2005, the Sudanese State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Samir al-Shaybani told a Syrian interviewer: “We can even say that these powers want to dismember Sudan and replace this government with another one that serves their strategic interests, represented in obliterating Sudan’s Arab identity. Top among these powers is the Zionist lobby, which considered the Darfur issue primarily a Jewish issue requiring solidarity between the Jews and some African tribes, which claim to be in conflict with Arab tribes. The Darfur issue has thus been depicted within the framework of mass annihilation. The Zionist groups and US Administration played on this theory and dedicated huge resources and large media and diplomatic campaigns to promote this erroneous diagnosis of the conflict.”
Some of the Sudan government’s accusations are rooted in the history of the 30-year civil war, in which Israel is believed to have aided the southern rebels. This war came to an end last year in a power-sharing agreement between Khartoum and the southern guerilla groups, even as the situation in Darfur was escalating towards genocide. Another factor is prominent Israel advocate Charles Jacobs’ anti-slavery efforts targeting Sudan. But the most pronounced accusations started after the Darfur crisis first erupted in 2003.
The Jerusalem Post reported Dec. 16, 2004, that for the first time, Israel was providing aid to relief efforts in Sudan, in order to “help alleviate the humanitarian crisis” in Darfur. The Post said “Israel joined with several US Jewish groups, including the American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the Union for Reform Judaism, the New Jersey MetroWest Federation and UJA-Federation of New York in sending $100,000 to support the International Rescue Committee and aid children in Sudan and Chad orphaned by the civil war in Sudan’s Darfur region.” Darfur native Muhammed Yahya said his countrymen were “grateful for the assistance and astonished by its source.”
“We have been taught for all our lives, from the primary school to the university, that you are the top enemy for Muslims and Arabs all over the world,” Yahya said of the Jews and Israelis behind the $100,000 effort. Now, he said, “we realized that what we have been taught all our lives is a kind of a rumor. When we have been killed, you are protecting us; when we are displaced, you are trying to save us; when our people are murdered and raped, you are there trying to help us.”
Ayre Mekel, Israel’s Council-General in New York at the time, said “The State of Israel is following the developments in Darfur carefully, and as a people who has gone through persecution, we could not sit idly on the sidelines through such a devastating humanitarian disaster. This is according to the Jewish values.”
In 2004, the Save Darfur coalition was launched in the US. An article in the April 27 2006 Jerusalem Post, describing the April 30 rally in Washington DC, the first large mass action on the Darfur issue, declared, “US Jews leading Darfur rally planning,” and introduced the “Save Darfur” coalition that is now placing full-page ads in major newspapers and ubiquitous television spots. “Little known, ” the paper said, ” is that the coalition, which has presented itself as ‘an alliance of over 130 diverse faith-based, humanitarian, and human rights organization’ was actually begun exclusively as an initiative of the American Jewish community.” The paper adds that it continues to be “heavily weighted with a politically and religiously diverse collection of local and national Jewish group.” In New York, the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, United Jewish Communities, UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs sponsored the first full-page ad in the New York Times. The paper also noted that while large evangelical Christian groups were in the coalition, that these groups had not done the “kind of extensive grassroots outreach that will produce numbers.”
The Washington Post reported April 27 that the rally organizers scrambled at the last minute to add two speakers from Darfur because of objections from Sudanese immigrants that the speakers list contained eight western Christians, seven Jews, four US politicians, several celebrities, but no Muslims and no one from Darfur. James Zogby of the Arab-American Institute participated, explaining that “it was important that Arab Americans make clear our deep concern with the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Our presence in this multi-ethnic multi-religious coalition sends this message.”
Zogby did admit to some reservations, but concluded: “And while we may have had questions about… the groups involved in the Save Darfur effort, the coalition included significant respected US and international organizations as well. The International Crisis Group, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Amnesty International, the AFL-CIO/Solidarity Center and a number of US Muslim groups had signed on as sponsors.”
The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), a national organization which “coordinate[s] communal activity” nationwide — including pro-Israel advocacy — chartered buses from all over the country, eight from upper Manhattan alone. The JCRC in San Francisco is currently headed by former American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) top honcho Thomas Dine. An Israeli flag was waving prominently at the rally. Predictably, the Sudanese regime denounced the rally more Zionist pressure.
The April 27 Jerusalem Post also claimed the main organizer behind the rally was former Manhattan borough president Ruth Messinger and the organization she heads, the AJWS, which acts as a Jewish peace corps worldwide. In 2006, Messinger ran for a seat in the World Zionist Congress on the left-liberal “Hatikva” slate.
Messinger told the Washington Post on April 27, “we are interested because this is a humanitarian crisis and we are the Jewish organization that responds to crises around the world. But we are also interested because this is a genocide which has particular meaning to Jews who have sworn never again.”
The AJWS started organizing the coalition after the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC issued a first-of-its-kind “genocide alert,” about Darfur. Critics have noted that mass death in conflicts in Ethiopia, the eastern Congo, the Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, and Uganda, where the violence is seen as African-on-African, rather than Arab-on-African, have not elicited similar responses from the Holocaust museum. Many of the other concerned parties in the west that have focused on Darfur have likewise ignored conflicts of similar scale elsewhere in Africa. Neither the UN nor the European Union have been willing to apply the “genocide” label to Darfur, as the US has.
The Jersualem Post also said: “There are critics who say the heavy Jewish involvement might have deterred some other groups from joining. The fact that the aggressors in Darfur are Arab Muslims – though it should be said that the victims are also mostly Muslim – and are supported by a regime in Khartoum that is backed by the Arab League has made some people question the true motives of some of the Jewish organizations involved in the rally.”
While the Jewish organizers tried to play down the Jewish composition of the rally, large African-American groups like the NAACP and Africa Action were noticeably absent. By the time of the coordinated global action for Darfur on Sept. 17, the NAACP was on board. But at the Sept. 17 rally in New York’s Central Park, African-American participation was still small, despite outreach efforts on the part of the Save Darfur coalition. One speaker from Harlem, Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, noted that the coalition was so tenuous that if they got together in a room to discuss other issues in the Middle East, it would quickly fall apart. He echoed the rest of the speakers in condemning Khartoum’s behavior, but disagreed about calling for UN peacekeepers, warning that the Darfur issue was being exploited by those who sought to destabilize Sudan and gain access to its oil. Abdur-Rashid instead preferred pressure on the Khartoum regime and the rebels to go back to the negotiating table.
Abdarahmane Wone, a North America representative of the African Liberation Forces of Mauritania (FLAM), who attended the rally, told WW4 REPORT that he supported the call for UN peacekeepers, but regretted that the political left has ceded the initiative to the right wing on the Darfur issue.
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