Rattling the Cage: Israel's response to Arab genocide

Israel doesn't view black Africans as slaves like Arab Muslims in Sudan and Egypt commonly do.

larry derfner 88 (photo credit: )
larry derfner 88
(photo credit: )
I think Israel is being amazingly callous by keeping about 200 Sudanese refugees, a large proportion of whom fled the Darfur genocide, in jail now for up to a year. I hope Israel realizes soon that these Sudanese are not enemies, but rather victims of an enemy government, and take the advice of Elie Wiesel and others by granting them asylum. Until then, Israel deserves to be deplored for its paranoia-fueled mistreatment of some of the most ravaged people on earth. And if it ends up deporting them, Israel will deserve all the condemnation it will certainly get. No matter how its enemies behave, Israel should be held to the highest standard of behavior. But Israel's enemies should be held to the same standard, and they're not, are they? MOST OF the world, including the anti-Zionist wing of the Israeli Left, seems to take Arab-on-Arab injustice or Muslim-on-Muslim injustice for granted, and only objects strongly when Israel is doing it - even when Arabs or Muslims are doing it to their own in an incomparably worse way. For instance, in the case of the Sudanese refugees sitting in Israeli jails. Nearly all of these black, non-Arab refugees are Muslims. Who were they running away from? At first, they were running away from mainly lighter-skinned Arab Muslims of the Janjaweed militias who've slaughtered some 400,000 civilians in the Darfur region, or from mainly lighter-skinned Arab Muslim troops of the Sudanese army who've slaughtered about two million civilians in the southern part of the country, while forcing hundreds of thousands into slavery. And after these 200-odd black refugees now in Israeli prisons escaped from Arab Sudan, where did they go first? To neighboring Egypt. So why did they leave Egypt over the last year and steal across the border into Israel? Why are they here? Because of the Egyptians' open racism and brutality against black Africans, according to two Darfur refugees who went to Egypt before escaping to Israel. One of them, whom I'll call "Noah," and who is now in the custody of a humanitarian couple at Kibbutz Tze'elim after spending six months in Israeli juvenile detention, told me: "When Egyptian people saw us on the street, they'd call us names. 'Chocolate' and things like that. In Egypt they think of black people as slaves. They call you 'slave' to your face. In Khartoum it was the same for people coming from Darfur. Arabs think they are white people and we are their slaves." Another Darfur refugee, a prisoner in Israel I'll call "B.," is described in court papers filed by his attorney as having "suffered the antagonism of Egyptian society due to his skin color and ethnicity. When out in public, he was frequently arrested. He was insulted by passersby who told him he didn't belong there and should go back where he came from and stop ruining Egypt." Noah fled to Israel after his Egyptian farmer boss in Sinai refused to pay him and his Sudanese co-workers, threatening them with a gun if they tried to escape their enforced slavery. B., like most of his countrymen now in Israel, came here after Egyptian police killed at least 27 Sudanese refugees in a December raid on their protest camp outside the UN building in Cairo. ISRAEL, FOR its part, has nothing to be proud of in its treatment of black African workers, or foreign workers in general. These people are commonly exploited by their Israeli employers, as well as being harassed and at times assaulted by Israeli police. But Israel does not commit genocide against them like Arab Muslim Sudan does. Israel doesn't massacre dozens of them like Arab Muslim Egypt did. How many people in the world ever heard of that police raid? Imagine how many people would have heard, and what they would have heard, if it had been Israeli police, not Egyptian police, who'd done such a thing. Israel doesn't view black Africans plainly and simply as slaves like Arab Muslims in Sudan and Egypt commonly do, but then Israel doesn't have a centuries-long history of enslaving them like Sudan and Egypt have - a history that continues in Sudan to this day. When I asked Noah what led him in Egypt to imagine that life in Israel would be an improvement, he said, "I figured the Arabs were fighting Israel, and the Arabs were fighting us, so Israel might be better for me." THERE ARE two morals to the story of the Sudanese refugees' flight from their homeland to Egypt to Israel: (1) that the Jewish state is failing its historical responsibility to identify with refugees from genocide, and (2) that the worst racism and brutality Muslims face in this world - by a very long shot - comes from other Muslims, especially Arab Muslims. By rights, the world should accuse Israel on the one hand and Sudan and Egypt on the other. But it should also understand that there's no equating the two sides' culpability - that Sudan is guilty of genocide against these 200 refugees' people and Egypt is guilty of massacring and dehumanizing their people, while Israel, by contrast, is guilty of imprisoning this one group of victims and refusing, for now, to give them refuge. But, of course, that's not the way the world sees things. When the Darfur genocide began coming to international attention, there was no end of demands on the Arab and Muslim world to force Sudan to end it. Those demands aren't heard much anymore. The Arab and Muslim world pays only lip service to this genocide against non-Arab Muslims, and nobody is too surprised because nobody expected any more from the Arab and Muslim world in the first place. The world has entirely different expectations of Israel, however, which is why the mistreatment of some 200 Sudanese refugees here is an international story. The world obviously applies a double standard, a starkly contrasting double standard, to Israel and its enemies. It's unfair. It can make you mad. But it should actually give Israelis and their friends a sense of satisfaction, and Arabs and Muslims a sense of shame. This double standard shows the world's underlying respect for Israel's morality, and its underlying contempt for the morality of Israel's enemies.