sudan darfur market 88.2.
(photo credit: AP)
The accusation that Jewish interests are behind calls for international peacekeepers in Darfur "does not even merit a response," Elie Wiesel told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
Nonetheless, he added that he was "definitely" in favor of the idea of the presence of an international force in the strife-torn region of southern Sudan.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who has urged Israel to grant Darfur refugees asylum, spoke to the Post on the sidelines of a conference in Petra, Jordan. He was among several Jewish luminaries and groups to condemn Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's statements accusing "Jewish organizations" of pushing for UN peacekeepers in Darfur, while supporting the concept of intervention in the bloody conflict.
Early this month, a UN Security Council delegation toured Darfur. The US and Europeans have been pushing for a large UN force to take over peacekeeping from the African Union's poorly equipped 7,000 troops, who have been unable to halt the violence in the west Sudanese region.
"This shall never take place," Bashir told reporters at a press conference with South African President Thabo Mbeki on Tuesday. "These are colonial forces and we will not accept colonial forces coming into the country."
When journalists pressed Bashir on his objection to UN troops in Darfur, he replied: "It is clear that there is a purpose behind the heavy propaganda and media campaigns" for international intervention in Darfur.
"If we return to the last demonstrations in the United States, and the groups that organized the demonstrations, we find that they are all Jewish organizations," he said.
He was referring to the rallies held in Washington, New York and Philadelphia earlier this year which were addressed by figures such as actor George Clooney and former basketball star Manute Bol, a Sudanese, as well as Jewish figures such as Wiesel.
Jewish groups played a major role in organizing the events, which in the end enlisted "130 diverse faith-based, humanitarian and human rights organizations," according to the Save Darfur Coalition, which sponsored the rallies.
"We in the Jewish community take pride in our leadership role in opposing this genocide and calling for international intervention. The Sudanese leader's ranting is a badge of honor for the Jewish community," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.
"In pointing the finger at Jewish involvement in the campaign to draw attention to genocide in Darfur, President Bashir is playing an old game. Those who engage in or tolerate genocide always try to divert attention from their actions. Blaming Jews is a favorite choice."
Bashir's government has long showed reluctance to approve the UN peacekeeping deployment in Darfur, saying the conflict there should be dealt with by Africans. Officials and tribal leaders have often stirred up public opposition by painting the force as colonialist or prompted by Jewish or Israeli pressure.
However, Sudan already has 10,000 UN peacekeepers in its south, where they are helping to implement the January 2005 peace agreement that ended more than 20 years of civil war between the north and the south of the country.
Nearly 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million displaced in Darfur since members of ethnic African tribes rose in revolt against the Arab-led Khartoum government in early 2003.
The government is accused of responding by unleashing Arab militias, known as the janjaweed, who have been accused of the worst atrocities. But it denies any involvement.