This Palestinian stands with Darfur

Intervening in the Sudanese crisis should be an Arab-American concern.

darfur 88 (photo credit: )
darfur 88
(photo credit: )
One would hope that what is going on in Darfur would bring people together. Instead the tragedy has blurred moralities because it has cast ethnic black Africans as victims of Arab oppression. Rather than subdue Sudan, the Arab League has stood by doing nothing, except to argue that bringing up the Arab aspect of the conflict is wrong. And why should the Arabs act when the United Nations - where Arab clout is practically non-existent - has done so little? The UN is characteristically shackled by larger political forces which have stymied plans to create a truly international force over four years of worthless rhetoric. Although Muslims around the world are quick to champion Muslim rights, even when they are "Muslim wrongs," there is a cultural hesitancy over Darfur driven by racism; the victims, who are mostly Muslim, are "Abeds" - the Arabic word for "slave," which, when used in this context, is equivalent to "nigger" in English. Much of the movement to protect the persecuted black Africans in Darfur from the Sudanese government's militia allies, including the notoriously brutal Janjaweed, is based in the West, where good causes make for great celebratory music festivals, fabulously huge fundraisers, and news media coverage for headline-addicted Hollywood types. THE JANJAWEED were unleashed by Sudan's government to repel a rebellion in Darfur, although the Sudanese claim they have no ties to or control over the Janjaweed. Yet the best that a spokesman for the government of Sudan can do is to blame it all on the Jews. During an interview with a Saudi newspaper, Sudan's defense minister, Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein, accused "24 Jewish organizations" of "fueling the conflict in Darfur." Hussein brushed off what the rest of the world decries as genocide as the result of "friction between farmers and herders and shepherds." Sudan's response sits well with many who would love to distract attention from the atrocities by claiming the negative publicity is being generated by a Jewish conspiracy. The logic goes that Jews are only too happy to help because Darfur refugees are not Palestinians but black Africans oppressed by Israel's sworn enemies, the Arabs. EVIDENCE CITED by Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein and other Sudanese officials is that often heading up the do-gooder campaigns such as Save Darfur are an array of Jewish American organizations. Actually, I counted nearly 50 US Jewish groups in the coalition. Yet overlooked is the presence of many Arab American and Muslim American organizations, too, including the Arab American Institute, Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), Muslim American Society (MAS), American Islamic Congress (AIC), American Islamic Forum, and the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA). Not included, however, is the largest Arab grassroots organization, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). Many of the 78 Arab American newspapers have run stories that reflect Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein's line of thinking. SAVING DARFUR is not a cornerstone of Arab or Muslim American concerns, and I suspect that even the involvement of many of the Arab groups participating in the coalition is related to politics; knowing full well that if they are not part of the effort, the Jews might turn Darfur into one big bash-the-Arabs (and Palestinians) campaign. But I ask: Is there anyone who just cares about the lives of innocent people? Can't we just help people without blaming things on "the Jews," or "the Arabs," or "the Muslims?" Sudan is no different than any other country in the world. The rich get richer, living off the enormous profits of the oil industry, while the poor get poorer, struggling to survive with dwindling food and water. Why should the Arab-Israeli conflict play a role in the Sudan crisis? It may be true that US Jewish organizations are seizing an opportunity to cast the Arabs in a bad light. But on the other hand, why bother when Arabs are already portrayed so negatively in the Western news media? Even if Jewish leaders may be enjoying the drubbing the Arab reputation is taking in Darfur, are the Sudanese government and Arabs in general saying the Jews started the fight there? From a Palestinian standpoint, I know it is exactly troubles like these that harm our cause. But we are undermining our cause if we insist that the world not pay attention to other crises as bad or far worse than our own. The first people who should be standing up to tell the Sudanese government to stop oppressing innocent people and to disband the Janjaweed are the Arabs, Muslims, and especially the Palestinians. The writer is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist, author and stand-up comedian.