Archive for ‘Africa’

May 20, 2012

Israel Deploys Heavy on the Egyptian Border

by Gedalyah Reback

The prospects for the future between Israel and Egypt are still ambiguous. Egypt’s Sinai is more of a worry than it’s been at any other point in the past 30 years. Since last year’s Egyptian Revolution, Egypt’s natural gas pipeline exporting fuel to Israel has been attacked 14 times. Amidst Israel’s lacking popularity with Egyptians, their government suspended its gas deal with Israel two weeks ago, claiming the deal undervalued the exported fuel and demanded renegotiation. But without the threats to the pipeline, there would have been little motivation to implement the move.

This is the first significant move by Israel’s military to prepare for engagement along the Egyptian border. Two major concerns hang over the heads of Israeli security personnel, on the one hand something a near-term concern and on the other a long-term one. Firstly, like with the pipeline, Bedouin in the Sinai desert might present a threat to Israeli tourists in Egypt. There have been terrorist attacks on resorts in the Sinai before, but the concern is more acute now. Egyptian police initially abandoned the Sinai during the revolution last year. They’ve slowly returned to respond to local instability, though after months of sabotage attacks. With some Bedouin motivated by Islamic militancy, the concern is more terrorists might try to infiltrate Israel.

But, Israel took the initiative last month when the high brass of the IDF requested the Knesset authorize a larger reserve call-up than usual to patrol not just the Syrian, but also the Egyptian border. According to the Reserve Duty Law, updated in 2008, veterans can be called up once every three years unless the IDF requests permission to call up more people more frequently. In this case, six battalions will be split between the two borders with permission to call up 16 more if necessary. The threat from armies is not the priority, but the one posed by smuggling and border raids by terrorists. In the words of Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Harel, “The army needs a better ‘answer’ than in the past to the threat.”

There is a fading worry Bashar al-Assad would start a war with Israel to distract Syrians from instability at home, focusing rage on an external tormentor. That would probably split the feeble Syrian army at this point. The real concern is Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Here’s why:

Guns to Gaza

The peninsula is home to two different concerns. In Northern Sinai, Bedouin manage smuggling routes into Gaza. In the beginning of May, the Egyptian government captured a massive cache of weapons heading there. That includes huge caches of captured weapons Libya’s rebels sold to Hamas last year. The north’s main city is slowly slipping out of reach of the rest of Egypt. El-Arish is littered by pictures of the fundamentalist presidential candidate Hazem Abu-Ismail, showing where Egypt’s Sinai is headed. Construction supplies are stolen by corrupt workers and sold off to be smuggled to Gaza. But most unsettling of all, human trafficking is enforcing the industry of these same crime rings, including kidnapping for ransom, torture, rape and organ theft.

Bedouin leaders are unsettled by where their tribes are going. With unemployment as high as 90% in the Sinai, they receive a lot of lip service from the country’s leaders but little practical help. Consequently, smugglers continue to invest in their businesses, the more and more brutally. Despite whatever imperative local chiefs have, they don’t have the power and few have the will to make progress.

Human Trafficking, Organ Trafficking and Slavery

Egypt’s Bedouin are closely related to the tribes in the Israeli Negev. The international border between the two territories is only 100 years old, and for much of that time Israel had control of both areas and no fence separated the areas. Bedouin still wander the desert, crossing borders with ease and without hesitation. Consequently, crime syndicates on the Egyptian side would be well-connected on the Israeli side.

Sudanese and Eritrean refugees are caught in the middle. Escaping the conflict zones in their countries, they head for the closest First World state they can – Israel. Traveling north through Egypt, they hire Bedouin trackers to get them across the desert to an unguarded gap in the Israeli border. Presumably they can restart new lives or head to Europe. But many of them are turned on and kidnapped by their handlers. Taking $3,000 for the service of guiding them through the desert, their relatives are called with demands of $30,000 or even $40,000 for their release. Contacts report the captives are tortured with electric cables, even as they are put on the phone to plead for their families’ help. With Egyptian police failing miserably to enforce order, families are left to sell all their possessions with slim hopes anyway. The European Union has a resolution on the table demanding Egypt do more, acknowledging the situation.

On the Israeli side of the border, the situation is being overlooked. Ministers are actually more concerned with deporting refugees already in Israel than they are about the ones already lost on their way. Concerns, however exaggerated, range from thinking Islamic militants are sneaking into the country to parts of the country being over-run by refugees. No matter the motivation, it is a PR nightmare for the country that the focus is on gettign rid of the refugees rather than saving their brethren from an apparent common enemy.

South Sudan

Israel has built a relationship with South Sudan. The country only went independent last year and has seemed to be the natural ally, being the enemy of Arab northern Sudan. It’s that Sudan, the north, which has fueled much of the conflict that drove refugees to Israel in the first place. Jerusalem has been concerned with arranging deportation with the South Sudanese government, but has invested little into fighting a Bedouin threat that South Sudan also wants stamped out.

Israel will need to shift its focus if it wants to get ahead of the game in the Sinai Peninsula. Bringing attention to the human component of Bedouin crime rings in the Sinai will go a long way in pressuring Egypt to be more aggressive in policing what is supposedly its own territory.

Without more aggressive measures from Cairo, Israel’s different branches of military will have to do the work themselves. That should not mean a full scale invasion, but it would imply a lot more covert activity, making alliances with certain tribes and not others, as well as working with South Sudanese to penetrate and neutralize groups that are smuggling as much armor as they are human cargo.

April 25, 2012

Israel’s Navy Could Be Fighting off Africa

by Gedalyah Reback

Despite the fact India lacks what might be becoming a standard element of modern navies, its services have been in high demand from other countries seeks its help in the Indian Ocean. The European Union wants to protect shipping along the African coast, for example against Somali pirates. European countries are trying to build the naval abilities of “Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya and Tanzania.” Where Israel is in this project is a question for market researchers as much as it is for Israel’s political leaders. The project is trying to hand over responsibilities to local actors, and India is the natural choice. But Israeli private contractors have operated in the region for years, even preventing one pirate attack on an Italian ship.

Israel has strong relations with Kenya & Tanzania, so she’s perfectly placed to make an impact with its own thriving defense industry. Even Russia & China are part of international efforts to patrol the area, joining NATO’s (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) Operation Ocean Shield.

Where’s Israel’s leadership comes in is here, with NATO. Recently, Turkey refused to allow Israeli reps at a NATO conference in Chicago. Every country in the alliance has a veto on policy decisions, and Turkey has used its power several times in the past. Other Mediterranean countries who are not part of the alliance were also in attendance. Until the fallout with Turkey, Israel’s relationship had been growing with NATO, virtually to the point of being an unofficial member. As Israel’s naval powers grow, it will want to extend its reach further, especially off the coast of countries where Israeli diplomats have been attacked and Islamist militant organizations are operating, i.e. Somalia. Israel will get that chance this summer, when Turkey’s other rival and Israel’s new energy business partner Cyprus becomes the President nation of the European Union. That will put Israel’s navy in an optimal position to be more directly involved with the European Union in both the Mediterranean & the Indian Ocean defense project.

The European Union is the backdoor for the IDF to cooperate with European armies when Turkey is blocking its access to NATO. The two organizations, despite being headquartered in the same city and actually having 21 members in common, do not coordinate policy, projects or operations well at all. The main reason is actually the Turkish dispute with Cyprus, making the second half of 2012 one of the more interesting times for European politics in recent history. With disputes about the Euro, possibly a new French president and the relationships in the eastern Mediterranean deteriorating, diplomats will be busy trying to patch up Turkey’s faltering diplomatic relationships before they infect European initiatives in both the EU & NATO.

Israel's been aiming to expand its diplomatic footprint in Africa itself for years.

But Cyprus will be in command, and the Cypriots have used their political position against Turkey before. In 2005, Cyprus vetoed another idea, to invite Turkey to join the so-called “European Defense Agency.” That agency is more a loose accord to get armies from the EU and outside the EU to talk to each other. The contracts Cypriots have been signing with Israelis over joint exploration for gas & oil make it a real opportunity for Israel to get into the economic and security projects of the European Union.

Personally, while I’d like Israel and Turkey to patch things up, Israel needs more leverage in future negotiations over the two countries’ relationship in order to make getting back together worth it. This is an opportunity for Israel to do that.

April 19, 2012

Egypt’s Christians: An Intro

by Gedalyah Reback

As of 2012, the Middle East’s Christian communities are in wide retreat. From a population of about 1 million in Iraq before the US-British invasion, half have fled the country at some point since the war started and a great many have not yet returned. In Lebanon, the formerly majority Christian community has mostly emigrated. There are about 4 million Lebanese in Lebanon, maybe a third of whom are Christians. 15 million Lebanese live abroad, and virtually all of them are Christians. Other communities are in flight, including Palestinian Christians, whose numbers around traditionally Christian Bethlehem have extremely thinned out. One reason is Islamic militancy, another ethnic relations breaking down, and then the breakdown of political and economic stability. In Egypt, some have fled since 2011’s revolution, but most have not and probably never will. Here’s why.

Egypt’s Christians constitute the biggest Church in the Middle East. In a country of 70 to 80 million people, they take up about 10 million. Only the richest have fled to communities abroad in more affluent places like Brooklyn or Queens, New York. In general. Egyptian Christians have a much stronger connection to Egypt than the other communities. Even if they didn’t, they would have fewer places to run. None of the countries around Egypt have both the space and tolerance necessary to host a massive amount of Christian refugees.

But the situation in Egypt is not one of civil war. The large Christian community makes an impression on the political environment. Think of how the staunchly Shi’ite Hezbollah advocates (publicly) for tolerance of the extreme diversity in Lebanon (big communities of Christians, Sunni Muslims & Druze). That is also true in Egypt, where the community’s numbers give it recognition from significant Muslim leaders – political and religious.

Additionally, the community is highly organized on the religious level. It has one of the oldest churches in Christendom. The name “Copt” comes from another version of the Greek name for the country & is directly related to the English word “Egypt.” The Church also has direct influence over national churches in Israel, Ethiopia & across Africa.

But the religious strength of the community dwarfs its political activism. It’s a problem that’s become acute since the Egyptian Revolution, as Islamist politicians have risen rapidly to the front of the electoral pack. Over 70% of Egypt’s new parliament comes from members of the Muslim Brotherhood and more fundamentalist or Salafi groups of Muslims. Calls for more influence by Islam in a new constitution are adding immeasurable pressure on the Coptic community.

Since 2011, attacks against members of the community have grown. Clan rivalries in the Egyptian countryside have become full religious clashes on the streets of Cairo. In October, a spate of Church arsons sparked riots in Cairo. Twenty four people were killed fighting Muslims and eventually Egyptian soldiers trying to keep order:

Arsons have mostly been outside the capital. Other spates between Christians and Muslims include marriage issues. While intermarriage is a massive problem for any minority, particular incidents in 2010 purportedly had a Coptic priests’ wives leave them to convert to Islam. Those set off back and forth barbs between communities, as to whether the Muslim view is right or the Christians’ view that she was coerced into converting. The truth is rather elusive. Incidents like this have become absurdly common and underscore the tensions happening in the cities between the two communities.

There have been a number of holiday attacks on Christians in the last few years. In 2009, Muslim shooters killed Christians 4 people the day before Easter. In 2010 and 2011, there were attacks in January that killed about 20 combined, one of the attacks being a bombing of an Alexandria church on New Year’s.

Many Copts are resistant to the idea of getting more involved in politics, but many have already started go that way. The numbers of active Christians are low, but pressures on the community have stirred debate about needing to be more aggressive or at least pro-active. Copts have the largest Church in the Middle East and might be able to play a leading role for other Mideast Christians at a time of massive flight from their home countries. Only the Church leadership has played a significant political role in years past, and the choice of a new Coptic Pope later in 2012 (writing before the selection process begins) might lead to more or less involvement by Copts in the country’s politics.

July 12, 2011

South Sudan and Palestine: One is Different from the Other

by Gedalyah Reback

Benjamin Netanyahu was wise to immediately recognize the new Republic of South Sudan over the weekend. Some analysts saw it is as a convenient way to show Israel off as a consistent, ethical country. Recognizing a state which won its independence through negotiations is apparently the right message to send as it argues against Palestinian unilateralism. But the moment might present more implications for Israeli foreign policy which might have been unthinkable in 2010. An editorial by G Pascal Zachary recently published by The Atlantic challenged readers to rethink Africa and to rethink independence. He suggested that there is nothing rational about preserving Africa’s borders – they are artificial he reminds us, being inventions of European empires less than 200 years ago. They represent European divisions, not African ones, and forcing countries and their very diverse or combative tribes to stick together may be wishful thinking and mortally fallible.

The creation of South Sudan builds a case for more countries to be created. Somaliland, Puntland and Darfur are offered as African examples of appropriate candidates for independence by Zachary. The implications come in that Israel too should come to embrace this philosophy. This initially would seem counter-intuitive – pushing for the independence of new countries might justify the independence of Palestine at a time not of Israel’s choosing nor at its convenience. But this is not a self-defeating proposition. New countries offer new partners for Israel, whether they are partners in peace or partners in war.

It is in Israel’s immediate interest to facilitate the rapid build of South Sudan. The country needs roads, new oil pipelines and cheap means of transportation for 8 million people. It also sits in the heart of Africa and adjacent to traditional enemy, the Republic of Sudan, who has been caught twice in the past two years facilitating weapons supplies on their way to the Gaza Strip. So too, the deployment of ambassadors, CEOs and perhaps even generals is warranted to other would be republics in the now defunct Somalia, the “crumbling empire” of Sudan as Zachary so calls it, and all around the southern Sahara. Yigal Palmor said it himself in 2010, Israel might align with and recognize Somaliland as part of its fight against Islamic militants in the Horn of Africa

The Balkans and the Caucasus have seen the birth of Kosovo, Abkhazia and South Ossetia over the past three years. These examples will quickly be project into the Middle East. Libya faced the prospect of a long-term division just this year, and speculators foresee Syria too could split between ethnic rivals as well.

As Israel expands the reach of its ambassadors, it should opt for the less conventional path as well, embracing the breakaway states of the new world. These states face the same challenges tiny Israel fought in its struggle for recognition. Few states enjoy global support and some only enjoy the recognition of a single patron. Abkhazia and South Ossetia depend on Russia; North Cyprus on Turkey. They are likely to embrace back seeking support wherever they can find it. This could be the making of a modern incarnation of the Doctrine of the Periphery. It is well worth consideration.

February 8, 2011

Realingment in the Middle East

by Gedalyah Reback

Speaking from a perspective just before Shabbat here, with a week’s worth of headlines rattling around my brain, my instincts tell me this country, Israel, will simply need to continue punching above its own weight in the Middle East.

Along the Israeli-Egyptian Border.

No matter who takes over Egypt, things promise to get more difficult. But that can be limited. Everything gets better before it gets worse, but it does not have to stay that way. The truth is, Egyptians under a democratic regime would loathe the idea of going to war and would oppose an Islamic Brotherhood attempt to send the country into a collision course with Israel. Additionally, the party has to recover credibility it lost to years of being co-opted by the Mubarak regime.

Even so, Israel will have to prepare for the worst case scenario – the Muslim Brotherhood wielding absolute power, repealing the treaty between the two countries and arming Hamas. But the Muslim Brotherhood is not the only player in Cairo, and will have to deal with an emergent movement of opposition parties over the next few months. Iran’s proclamations Egypt is heading down the path of Islamic revolution is more rhetorical than actual. Besides, whatever gains made by the Muslim Brotherhood would be more than offset by new protests in Tehran itself, which seem to be inevitable.

Over the next few months, the Israeli government is going to have to redesign its foreign policy approach. Firstly, it should praise the revolution in Egypt, even if this causes fallout with Mubarak. In the same way Mubarak knows Israel cannot do a thing about anti-Semitic propaganda in state media, Mubarak has no choice for his own sake but to continue a strong embargo on Hamas and block arms shipments.

Over the next few years, the democratization of the Middle East, be it slow or quick, should be the cornerstone of an ideological foreign policy. It has to be. Without such support, Israel will not be able to shake an additional association with authoritarian regimes throughout the region. Simultaneously, democracy enables Israel to more easily lobby different constituencies in various countries seeking support for, at the least, treaties, and at the most, alliances. Minority groups in North Africa like the Berbers or Coptic Christians, the Kurds, Maronites and Druze of the Fertile Crescent, provide stark and realistic possible allies.

Most importantly, Israel will have to engage Egypt intimately and assertively. Congratulating Egyptians publicly for whatever achievements they obtain is a priority. Offers to protect a moderate and democratic government from the Saudis or Iranians should be made. Offers to mediate between Egypt and lower African countries (with whom Israel is growing closer to) give plenty of reason to maintain a balanced relationship.

A free media in Egypt may be the most important development. Even under Mubarak, as mentioned above, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda have been common. It was not so much out of undercutting the Israelis that such things were printed in Egyptian papers, but to feebly distract Egyptians from the slew of domestic issues they faced and displace any resentment they had toward the Mubarak regime.

Such simplistic thinking did not do justice to Egyptian wits, nor does this meager paragraph do justice to this topic. But Israel and Egypt are far from getting a definitive divorce. There is plenty of reason to think the relationship can actually be improved as so long as the Israeli government makes a persistent effort.

Tahrir Square on Friday, February 4, 2011 – “Day of Departure”

Any vocal support from Jerusalem now can go a long way in tripping up any Iranian designs to take advantage of the situation, poor more fuel on the fire and push the protest movement across the Iranian border.

October 26, 2010

Where is the Jewish community on South Sudan?

by Gedalyah Reback

We have witnessed an unsettling rebirth for Holocaust denial the last several years. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s pronouncements have had a shuttering effect in the global Jewish community, conjuring up the fears of our most devastating moment in history and being denied the right to mourn it. His, among others’, mindgames with the global Jewish community and Israelis especially has woken us up to the undying need to educate the world about the most systematic genocide in human history, as to better ensure that such a thing never happens again.

But if that is the goal, why are we so silent about what is boiling in southern Sudan?

After seven years of advocacy for Darfur, the Jewish community seems to have either forgotten or grown complacent with the ebb and flow of genocide in modern human history. And for this, we risk our moral standing as a people with a determined principle, not to mention our credibility. As the world we live in reflects its current displeasure with Israeli policies on Jewish communities globally, the community risks prioritizing the education about genocide over its actual prevention. Compound this idea with the fact the bulk of the Jewish community’s Darfur advocacy took place AFTER the main crimes had been committed in Darfur and we encounter a disturbing question. Is the Jewish community serious about “Never Again?”

Our warnings about an Iranian bomb and association of Iranian regional designs with psychotic policies of Nazi Germany have been promoted ad nauseum and have consequently lost their impact. This has fed a growing cynicism about comparisons with Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, leaving us with a diluted weapon that had at one point invoked the personification of evil – an analogy with the Third Reich. Henceforth, we have let the Holocaust become a political tool, whether we intended it to be or not. Warning Iran has genocidal designs is not something taken seriously, reduced to a petty piece of Israeli, right-wing rhetoric.

And so, perhaps our own exhaustion from these campaigns have set in. Or perhaps the community was never in touch with world affairs as it commonly perceives itself to be. The Sudanese government is the world’s repeat offender regarding massive slaughter, with 2 million casualties from a 20-year civil war in the south, plus 300,000 massacred in its Darfur region in and just after 2003. And as we head toward one of the biggest moments in recent geopolitical history – the splitting of the largest country in Africa and transfer of major oil resources from the control of one government to that of another – we are oblivious to the visceral opposition to South Sudan’s independence in the country’s north and from the current regime. That regime has perpetuated monumental crimes against of humanities in two wars already and has a sitting president wanted for those crimes by the International Criminal Court.

And where the hell are the Jews? The global Jewish community has the duty to advocate for a stronger initiative to intervene in the event of a northern Sudanese attack on the nascent state of South Sudan. No other people has made it the cornerstone of its activist culture since World War II. The history feeds a sense of tackling injustice in the Jewish collective psyche. The risks of another genocide are immense and troops on both sides of the wouldbe border are mobilizing. Stories of mass slaughter, kidnapping and rape could very well repeat themselves in the months to come.

That is, save intervention.

Push your leaders to prevent a genocide in Sudan, no matter what country you live in. The threat to use force to keep out a northern onslaught maybe the only effective measure that can prevent such a calamity. As a people we can push our leaders wherever we are to set the precedent for an effective anti-genocide policy that sanctions the use of force in the event diplomacy fails to be effective. The entire Western world and even Israel itself have the ability to either covertly or overtly thwart a campaign by the regime in Khartoum. This cannot become another failure to add to Rwanda and Darfur.

Scars of Rwanda

September 30, 2010

Sudan: From a Jewish Perspective, a Case for War

by Gedalyah Reback

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.

June 30, 2008

Africa’s not Going to Clean up its own Mess

by Gedalyah Reback

Robert Mugabe is one of the greatest douchebags of all time. The man held no reservations about taunting humanity with an old-school, autocratic suppression of his people, killing dozens of opposition organizers and chasing his main rival out of the country. The UN has barely batted a wink at one of the cleanest acts of evil in modern human history. The Nazis could not have gotten away with such a blatant assault on the democratic process.

In the meantime, the African Union (AU) is watching Mugabe walk into their summit in Egypt. There have only been condemnations. They have not even enforced their policy of not recognizing unelected, especially malicious, leadership. But according to the BBC, the AU will not be so quick to act. Robert Mugabe is standing tall, and the countries of the world are letting it happen watching vicariously on youtube.

What are the supposed greats of international politics like Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu or Nelson Mandela to do? Their legacies are weak, and calls for dialogue by politicians all over Africa are reminiscent of Neville Chamberlain’s position that negotiations would tame the Nazis (

Mandela once sent himself into Sudan to investigate whether or not the war crimes by the Sudanese government constituted genocide. Such weak, shallow campaigns to differentiate minor acts of mass murder from major ones are awkward and belittle the cause of the Sudanese, and set terrible precedent for Zimbabweans.

There will be no African troops invading Zimbabwe or deposing Mugabe. The continent is too dominated by weak willed leaders, even defenders like South African president Thabo Mbeki, who has gone out of his way to stonewall criticism of Mugabe. But there is so much symbolic value in the position, and gives an important perspective to anyone who prefers to look at the world through idealists’ eyes. One reporter writes:

“What about the place of South Africa as a global leader in democratic renaissance? If Mr Mbeki cannot clean up the mess in his own backyard, how can South Africa give hope to Africa and the world?” (

Mbeki is a lost cause according to his biographer, Mark Gevisser, who wrote about the gravity of his failure in the Wall Street Journal last week ( Mbeki is too personally close with Mugabe, and too occupied with the increasing isolation coming out of South Africa. There will be no military or financial sieges coming from that country against Mugabe, and thus won’t be one at all.

But if Mugabe were younger, and wanted to make a charismatic argument to non-Zimbabweans that his innovative and historic regime were under siege, as he argues in his own propaganda, than Africa would be dealing with a crisis comparable to 1930s Europe. That continent had been torn asunder by years of regime changes, revolutions and savage war. It took a second one to knock any sense into the continent.

The question is whether or not Africans will be able to overcome their tribal rivalries in the Northeast, their resource rivalries in the Northwest, and their political carnage in the south to actually support each other instead of kill each other. They have chosen to form an African Union, and they’re going to have to justify there’s something worth uniting about.

%d bloggers like this: