From the Israeli perspective, there could not be any more frustrating a dilemma. Since the advent of the Darfur genocide in 2003, thousands of Darfurian refugees have made the grueling journey to Egypt, and a sizeable portion of them through the treacherous heat and dangers of the Sinai desert, to reach Israel’s borders.
They represent the difficulty of balancing caring for the victims of an enemy state like Sudan with the need to preserve the Jewish demographic considerations of the country. The worry is that an explicitly open-door policy will encourage untold amounts more of refugees to come to Israel with no way of perceiving an end to that influx.
Israelis’ sympathies – dare I say, empathies – no doubt lie with these victims of murder, torture, and rape. They have experienced their own Holocaust. Unfortunately for them, their Nazis remain in power unchallenged by determined superpowers like the United States and the Soviet Union.
However, their entrance into a visual Israeli consciousness provides an opening for the country rediscover its sense of existence. With our legitimacy challenged and our existence persistently wished away, the proper response in regards to these refugees is likely the proper response for ourselves – to challenge the regime in Sudan.
Body left to rot after village pillagings during the Darfur Genocide, circa 2004
As we speak, the Darfur crisis is giving way to a potentially more potent and bloody conflict between the regime in the capital Khartoum, and the nascent state of Southern Sudan centered in Juba. In 2005, Sudan saw a halt to a long-running and brutal civil war between the northern and southern regions of the country, pitting the north’s authoritarian, Arab regime against black Christians and African traditionalists in the south. That war brought 1.9 million deaths, the indisputable majority of them southerners, plus 4 MILLION refugees, DOUBLE the number of people who have fled Iraq since 2003.
The agreement signed in 2005 enables the provisional government of Sudan organize a referendum to vote on the question of independence. On January 9, 2011, that referendum is scheduled to happen. The regime in the north is more than poised to prevent the region’s independence. The loss of 80% of current Sudan’s oil to the long-embattled south seems cause enough for the regime in Khartoum to prevent secession.
The brutality of Sudan toward its inhabitants – in Darfur and the South – and the failure of foreign intervention represent a collosal dilemma for the entire world. Rwanda and Darfur are on the verge of repeating themselves, and no one seems posied to stop a genocidal Sudanese army and its accompanying, pillaging militias.
On the other hand, Sudan is in the proximity of, as evidenced by the convenience for the country’s refugees, the State of Israel. Israel and Sudan are officially at war, a reason more tremendous than demographics to fear a sudden influx of Sudanese refugees. In recent months, the Israeli government has alerted border security and airport-based agents around the world to screen for Sudanese spies – but not from the incomign refugees. Suspicions abound that they are not just a threat to the security of Israel’s citizens, but are specifically on a mission to inform on the activites of Darfurian refugees who have made the harrowing journey to the Jewish state and thus make reprisals against their families more targeted.
Sudanese President – Omar Bashir
The Sudanese state was caught red-handed moving a shipment of weapons to Hamas during Operation Cast Lead. The Israeli Air Force annihilated the convoy while it was still in Sudanese territory, killing dozens of its organizers.
Israel has demonstrated an unusually strong capability to attack Sudan despite the logistical challenges. It’s intelligence services have adequately identified threates emanating from that country in several forms, and can continue to penetrate deeper.
As you read this, Israel’s, and the Jewish people’s integrity are on the line. Will the words “Never Again” actually have a chance to reign true against a genocide in the offing? Or will Israel join a pathetic assembly of countries that have dismissed their fortitude to prevent genocide? Armenia. Rwanda. Darfur. EUROPE.
The Question of a Jewish State should be paramount here. What does it mean to maintain a Jewish state? If the country’s residence cease to practice Judaism, does it remain the state that we envision it to be? Now consider the possibility that the mantra and accompanying values it entails, “NEVER AGAIN,” is ignored by the very country which has sworn itself to prevent such a targeted destruction again (not by Babylon, not by Rome, not by Nazi Germany and not by Revolutionary Iran). Will human rights not be a priority for the Jewish people and its nation-state? Should we expect ourselves to be taken seriously if while we give credit where it is due to an Israeli government constantly fending off charges of human rights violations, we fail to advocate for the needs of other nations?
Sudan represents an intense threat to Israel, but the refugees are not the source of it. By stemming the flow of these refugees, we can help them and ourselves. We might very well be at the epicenter of the most pertinent issue facing modern humanity. And thank God we are in a position where we have the logistical and intellectual capabilities to do something about it. Israel can be the advocate Sudanese victims have long sought from the Western world.
The Jewish people have long sought to prevent genocide and speak out against it. It is by all accounts a unifying point for the Jewish communities of the world. The rage created by the Holocaust has gotten Jews in the most unlikely circumstances to become outspoken, The one Jewish member of the Iranian parliament publicly took Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to task for his incendiary statements about the Shoah. Jews feel little fear in demanding respect for the victims and their descendants, despite fears it might provoke latent resentment.
That attitude is somewhat expected of the representative Jewish polity on earth – the State of Israel. In an age where Iran’s leadership downplays the significance and even very existence of the Holocaust, and Turkey’s Prime Minister denies that genocide is even possible at the hands of the Sudanese government, Israel must stand a challenger to a rising tide of cynicism toward human suffering. No policy of Israel’s has ever approached the atrocities committed by the Ottomans against the Armenians, Nazis against the Jews nor Sudan against Darfur. Before we learn to regret it, Israel as a mouthpiece for the Jews of the world should not be afraid of the cynical ridicule of Arab states when it gets up and challenges the policies of the Sudanese state in open forum, and perhaps with covert force.