As most already know, the international community welcomed a new nation on July
9, as South Sudan officially gained independence from its former Northern
overlords. On July 14, the UN accepted South Sudan as its 193rd member state.
But behind the jubilation throughout that country and among its exiles worldwide
lurk feelings of doubt and even despair.
Their newborn state is one of
the poorest in the world, with economic and public-health shortcomings that
dwarf other international causes for concern, such as Gaza’s so-called
humanitarian crisis. More than one in 10 children in South Sudan die before the
age of five due to easily preventable diseases, while 90 percent of the
population lives on less than $1 per day.
Although there is abundant
cause for concern, there are also reasons to be grateful for the opportunity
that now lies before the people of South Sudan and the international community.
The country will serve as a critical test case for Western nations as they seek
to learn the lessons of previous failures in Africa and the Third World. Israel
can play an important role in transforming South Sudan into a shining beacon of
peaceful development for the region.
As World War II ground to a halt in
1945, the two new superpowers, the US and the USSR, made it known that the era
of colonialism was over. Although their ideological and pragmatic disputes would
soon lead to the Cold War, both victors agreed that European nations such as
France and Britain needed to grant independence to their erstwhile African and
Teh colonialist nations left their former possessions in
shambles – hobbled by poor infrastructure, ethnic disputes, arbitrary borders
and economic systems designed for the benefit of the colonial power, and not the
denizens of the colony.
Nations like Senegal, Nigeria and Angola were
abruptly cast off, left to fend for themselves like the infant boys Romulus and
Remus in Roman mythology.
And like Romulus and Remus, these countries
were then raised by wolves.
Demagogues like Nasser and Castro molded the
newly independent states into the Non-Aligned Movement, and set them firmly on
the path of left-wing kleptocracy, authoritarian paranoia, and hatred for the US
and its allies, notably Israel. This bloc became the “automatic majority” in the
UN General Assembly – nations that, in the immortal words of Abba Eban, would
pass a resolution “declaring that the Earth was flat, and that Israel had
flattened it” by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.
Sudan, the West has an opportunity to show that it has learned the lessons of
At a time of debt crisis in the EU and
wrangling over the debt ceiling in the US, it will not be easy to dedicate
millions of dollars to feeding the starving children of South Sudan. But if the
developed world is serious about bridging the massive equality gaps that plague
our planet, now is the time to do so.
Israel has a critical role to play.
Both Israel and South Sudan earned their sovereignty only after traumatizing and
hard-fought wars of independence. And both nations are saddled with question
marks over their borders, as South Sudan prepares for a drawn-out struggle with
its former Northern overlord over the provinces of Abyei and South
South Sudan will need a modern, professional military to defend
itself against the bloodthirsty dictator and alleged war criminal in Khartoum,
and Israel can certainly help in that regard. But more importantly, the Jewish
state can also nurture democracy and sustainable development.
years, Israel has become home to approximately 15,000 refugees from East Africa,
although exact figures are difficult to determine. About 2,000 are said to be
from South Sudan. As Israeli politicians from across the spectrum hailed South
Sudanese independence, Interior Minister Eli Yishai of Shas was quick to propose
the repatriation of these migrants, who are seen in some quarters as an economic
and demographic boondoggle.
YISHAI’S APPROACH is foolish and
wrong-headed, especially since most of the refugees have no desire to return
immediately. Rather than shipping the South Sudanese asylum seekers back to
their newly sovereign homeland, Israel and international Jewish organizations
should team up to provide them with the best education Israel has to offer.
After a few years at Israeli universities in fields such as agriculture,
politics, medicine and communications, these former refugees can then return to
South Sudan and use their newfound skills to build the country.
the only true democracy in the Middle East, can help breed the political class
that will make South Sudan the only true democracy in East
Farming techniques that help grow fish in Israel’s Hula Marshes
can help raise fish in the Sudd, the giant marsh that dominates South
Israel’s extremely advanced solarpanel technology can be easily
transplanted to South Sudan, one of the sunniest nations on Earth.
massive benefits to South Sudan are clear. The world’s newest nation will
receive tangible and desperately needed help from Israel in the form of cash,
technology and even human capital. Who better to help the South Sudanese “start
up” their nation than the Middle Eastern state famously dubbed the “Start-up
Nation”? In its own small way, South Sudan can also begin to reward Israel’s
massive investment in its future. At some point in September, the UN will hold
its muchanticipated vote on a unilateral Palestinian bid for independence, in
direct violation of the 1996 Oslo Accords.
If the UN’s newest member
bucked the Third World trend and voted against the Palestinian bid, or even
abstained, the symbolic boost to Israel and its allies would be
To be sure, the motion would still pass by a large margin in the
General Assembly, and would still likely be vetoed by the Americans at the
But this gambit by Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas was never about attaining real independence, because even he knows
that fine words and meaningless UN resolutions will not give his people a state.
Rather, the Palestinian campaign is all about empty rhetoric and advancing the
goal of delegitimizing the Jewish state. A fiery, impassioned speech by the
South Sudanese delegate decrying Arab duplicity and expressing solidarity with
Israel would work wonders to take the wind out of anti- Zionist
Befitting their status as a newborn nation, South Sudanese leaders
will find themselves with a host of foreign-policy decisions that require urgent
For this reason, it is essential that Western nations act
quickly to prop up this new African state, and do their part to expunge the sins
of mismanaged decolonization from their collective conscience.
too, needs to approach South Sudan immediately, before the Arab League can
beguile its politicians with bribes and false promises of aid. The events of the
past weeks represent a critical foreign-policy opportunity for the West, for
Israel and for South Sudan.
From Juba to Jerusalem, let freedom ring! The
writer is a student at the University of Toronto specializing in International
Relations and Near and Middle Eastern Studies.