Afew years ago, former prime minister Ehud Olmert reportedly said at the Knesset
when the issue came up of how to deal with Darfurians who had infiltrated into
Israel “Ma lanu velahem [What have they got to do with us]?” Today, the national
policy is to stop the infiltration of Africans from Egypt as drastically as
Despite some official statements and the involvement of a UN
refugee agency, there do not appear to be real efforts to differentiate between
Africans who try to enter the country because they want to improve their living
standards, and people who are escaping genocides or genocidal
This country has the right, of course, to deny entry and/or
insist on the departure of the first group, provided it maintains humanitarian
standards while doing so. Mainly two African groups are refugees from genocide:
members of Muslim black tribes in Darfur who are being massacred by a murderous
Sudanese government, and people from South Sudan, overwhelmingly Christians such
as the Dinkas, whom the northern Islamicists had massacred in the past.
genocide against the south that lasted 20 years, until 2005, when a so-called
peace agreement was signed due to pressure from the US, Norway and others,
claimed two million lives. The problem has spilled over to Israel, when recent
racist protests were directed against all Africans.
NEXT MONTH, a
referendum is supposed to be held in South Sudan to decide whether the
southerners wish to be independent of the Khartoum murderers. A similar
referendum was due to be held in Abyei, the oil-rich border region between north
and south. The oil concessions, and the pipeline between them and Port Sudan
(which is held by the north) are in considerable part owned by Chinese
interests, and China therefore defends Khartoum.
The north, led by Hassan
Omar al-Bashir, whom the International Criminal Court has accused of crimes
against humanity and genocide, wants to prevent the secession of the two
The south and Abyei are inhabited largely by black farming
tribes that in past centuries had been prey to Arab slave traders. The
autonomous south, now led by President Salva Kiir (a Dinka), has managed to arm
itself in the face of a very probable war resulting from the almost certain
decision to vote for independence. But the north is much better armed, with
weapons coming in from Russia, China and elsewhere, and despite the fact that
Sudan is in debt to foreigners to the tune of $38 billion.
target of the north is Abyei and its oil fields; the area is home mainly to
black Ngok Dinka farmers.
Khartoum is supporting a large Beduin tribe,
the Muslim Masseriyahs, who are fulfilling a function parallel to that of the
infamous Janjaweed militias in Darfur, the main perpetrators of the genocide
there, and who are attacking the Ngok Dinka even now.
Two genocides, one
in Darfur and one that is an immediate threat in the south, are the source of
the desire to escape to any possible haven.
The West, and the African
Union’s committee dealing with the Sudanese crisis, under the chairmanship of
ex-South African prime minister Thabo Mbeki, is in effect yielding to the
The north is developing a close relationship with
Iran, and is reported to facilitate arms shipments to Hamas, despite it close
relations with the anti-Iranian Arab League.
Difficult though it is,
Israel should differentiate between African economic migrants (including some
from Northern Sudan) and people fleeing from genocide and/or opposed to the
Khartoum government. The latter should be fully accepted as legal asylum
Such a policy would befit a country that claims to act as a
beacon of Western values. Why should we, as Jews, care? Does one really have to
answer that question, 65 years after the end of the horror?
The writer is
academic adviser to Yad Vashem and author of numerous books about the Holocaust.