Along with my khaver, Arieh Lebowitz, and other friends, I attended New York’s rally in Central Park for Darfur, part of an international day of protest. The following thoughts are based upon an e-mail discussion inspired by this event.
Clearly, there should have been more Christian and African-American involvement and there should be more support from the anti-war movement. I met the UFPJ coordinator of Palestinian issues at an event of my own last Friday (more on this tomorrow); he was busy planning their protest Tuesday at the UN, against Pres. Bush. The only visible presence of the UFPJ at the Darfur event was to advertise their rally.
The Darfur cause makes for some strange moments. I can only guess the real meaning of the Harlem-based Muslim cleric who seemed to warn AGAINST action against the Khartoum regime and indicated the evil role of oil interests at the same time that he opposed genocide in Darfur. Actually, there is some cynical role of oil interests in this affair; the Chinese have been blocking an effective UN role because, according to Thomas Friedman’s NY Times column of Sept. 27, “the China National Petroleum Corporation owns 40 percent of the Sudan consortium that pumps over 300,000 barrels of oil a day from Sudanese wells.”
Still, I guess that the imam was squaring the circle, articulating the kind of excuses the far left uses for their lack of action on Darfur, at the same time that he was raising his voice FOR the Darfuris. All he needed was to mention the sinister “Zionist” presence in the movement (to my relief, he did NOT) to make his troubling and confusing statement complete.
The Jewish presence was substantial – running the gamut from modern Orthodox yeshiva students to Habonim Dror youngsters in their blue shirts with red lace. Our small group holding Jewish Labor Committee placards drew attention and Arieh was interviewed and quoted by a JTA reporter for his article. Arieh also posted on this blog in May with info on the ideological idiocies of opponents of the Save Darfur/anti-genocide movement.
A strength of the Darfur issue is that it is or should be a unifying cause for Jews, Christians and Muslims, whites and blacks, right-wingers and liberals. Theoretically, Bush and McCain are on our side, as are evangelicals.
One of those who opined on e-mail with me proposed:
a ‘national night of bonfires’. We’re all aware that the Janjaweed are killing infants and children by burning them alive on bonfires. If this were happening to white European children, the outcries would be deafening. Where is the outrage?
My response was that white European children were burned in huge numbers during the Holocaust, as were other white Europeans slaughtered in Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. Neither episode stirred effective “outrage” until the killings were mostly done. What does this tell us? “Never again” remains a slogan and not a successful rallying cry for action.
I’m struck by how in the first half of the last century, nations mobilized millions of soldiers to slaughter each other but still cannot bestir themselves to find a relative handful of a few thousands – a few tens of thousands at most – to safeguard innocents. (I wrote on this for the New Jersey Jewish News, “While Europe Slept…” – the editor’s choice of title.) It’s probably past time for the UN to have its own fairly small, professional standing army available for such emergency situations.