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Gaza and Darfur: Some people seem to matter more than others

By SAVO HELETA

The recent conflict between Israel and Hamas has created fury around the globe, especially in the Muslim world. A number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa saw some of the largest demonstrations in their history condemning the killing of civilians and children in the military operation.

The Middle Eastern media, such as Al Jazeera, covered the conflict 24/7.

One has to wonder why the Darfur conflict has never received similar attention.

Since 2003, Sudan's western province of Darfur has been the epicenter of a conflict between the mainly African rebels and the Arab-controlled government of Sudan and its proxy militias.

(RELATED: Despite warrant, Egypt welcomes Sudanese president)

As in Gaza, the civilians in Darfur are paying the highest price. It is estimated that over the past six years, about 200,000 have died from fighting, starvation and disease. The United Nations and aid agencies estimate that more than 2 million Darfurians, out of a population of about 6 million, are living in refugee camps.

Even in the grimmest moments in Darfur, in 2003 and 2004, when entire communities were brutally destroyed by the government forces and their militias, very few in the Arab and Muslim world protested the killings. To this day, not one Arab or Muslim leader has publicly criticized Sudan's actions in Darfur.

THE SUDANESE RULING elite portrays itself as an Arab regime. Some would say this helps explain the lack of concern for the Darfur conflict in the Arab world. However, both sides in Darfur are Muslim and Darfurians - both Arabs and Africans - are Sudan's most devout Muslims.

Rami Khouri, a Lebanese journalist, thinks the silence in the Arab world "is not specific to Darfur or Sudan, but rather reflects a wider malaise that has long plagued the region: Arab governments tend to stay out of each other's way when any one of them is accused of wrongdoing, and most Arab citizens have been numbed into helplessness in the face of public atrocities or criminal activity in their societies."

This changes only when Muslims suffer at the hands of non-Muslims - Americans, Russians, Serbs or Israelis, to name a few. Then the Arab and Muslim governments and organizations are very active in condemning the atrocities, while citizens show solidarity with the victims and demonstrate against "crusaders, infidels, or Zionists." But when Muslims suffer on a large scale at the hands of an Arab regime, there is barely any condemnation in the Arab and Muslim world.

Even though millions of innocent Muslims have become victims in Darfur over the past six years, the fact that they are victims of an Arab regime seems to prevent the Arab public from even acknowledging the humanitarian catastrophe.

AHMED HUSSEIN ADAM, spokesman of the Justice and Equality Movement, currently the most powerful Darfur rebel movement, has condemned the killings in Gaza but "observed with deep regret and sorrow the political, diplomatic and humanitarian mobilizations for the civilians in Gaza, while [the Arab countries] adopted a dismissive attitude for the safety and security of civilians in Darfur." Adam says it is shameful that many seem to "consider the blood of the people of Darfur less important than the blood of the people of Gaza." Abdel Wahid al-Nur, leader of one faction of the Darfur rebel Sudan Liberation Movement, thinks that "if the Arab and Islamic countries mobilized 10 percent of what they did for Gaza," they could have stopped the suffering of millions in Darfur a long time ago.

Throughout the Darfur conflict, the Arab League stood by Sudan and defended its dismal actions. When the International Criminal Court's prosecutor decided to seek the arrest of Sudan's president for alleged war crimes and genocide, the league called it an "unbalanced stance." After the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, the Arab and Muslim world continued to support the Sudanese regime. Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi Arabian foreign minister, said his country "stands by Sudan with our heart and soul" despite the indictment.

In the aftermath of the recent Gaza conflict, however, the Arab League called on the UN to "form an international committee to investigate Israeli crimes in Gaza and set up a criminal court to try Israeli war criminals."

It is appalling that the people of Darfur, who have suffered unspeakable atrocities since 2003, do not matter to many in the Arab and Muslim world because their tormentors are Arab Muslims and not Jews or Christians.

The deaths of children and civilians in Gaza must be condemned in the strongest terms possible, but what about the innocent people of Darfur? They are human beings, too!

The writer is the author of Not My Turn to Die: Memoirs of a Broken Childhood in Bosnia (AMACOM Books). He holds an M.Phil degree in conflict transformation and management from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

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Comment by Ibrahim Fathi on January 1, 2011 at 12:42pm
God into Gaza is a poor country as possible in order to Alencad Salam Ibrahim, I am from Gaza
Comment by Yigal D. Kahana on April 6, 2009 at 8:34pm
Cleric issues fatwas from British jail

By JONNY PAUL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT

The Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism body set up in 2008 by former members of UK-based extremist Islamist organizations, has accused Abu Qatada, who they describe as "one of the world's most influential jihadi theologians", of inciting terrorism after they discovered that he has been issuing fatwas and statements from Long Lartin high security prison in Worcestershire, in the west midlands area of central England.

Jordanian national Abu Qatada has been in custody in the UK since August 2005, shortly after the July 2005 London bombing. Born in Bethlehem, the radical cleric entered the UK in 1993 using a forged United Arab Emirates passport and claimed asylum on ground of religious persecution. The following year he was granted asylum but in 2007 a British court ruled that he could be deported to Jordan where in 2000 he was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment for his role in a plot to bomb tourists in Jordan for the millennium celebrations.

Richard Reid, the mid-Atlantic shoe bomber, and Zacarias Moussaoui, both jailed for involvement in terrorism, are said to have sought religious advice from him. Nineteen audio cassettes of Abu Qatada's sermons were found in the apartment of Mohamed Atta when it was searched after the 9-11 attacks. According to the indictment of the Madrid al-Qaeda cell, he was also the spiritual leader of al-Qaeda in Europe.

Research done by the think tank has shown that three major statements have circulated globally on English and Arabic-language jihadist websites, the most recent being only last month.

One statement praises "the mujahideen" of al-Qaeda and the "martyrs of Hamas" while cursing "the Jews" and "Crusaders".

According to Quilliam, Abu Qatada said in January, during Operation Cast Lead: "I congratulate the mujahideen and the people of Gaza, and may Allah have mercy on the martyrs and make us follow them, and may Allah curse the Jews and the rulers of apostasy and the crusaders - amen, amen."

In another statement, made in June 2008, he justified jihadist attacks on Muslims who join armies and police forces in non-Muslim countries and Muslim countries that oppose al-Qaeda.

"Whoever fights for taghoot [the forces of disbelief] is kafir [non-believer] and fighting and aiding with your hand and weapons is the highest form of allegiance, as Allah says "who gives allegiance to them, he is from them"…What then would be the state of those who fights to aid and strengthen them? There is no doubt that he is a kafir and apostate, and his apostasy would be doubled if he fights under their banner against the people of Islam like those who fight the Muslims in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya or Somalia. This is a ruling that has the consensus of the scholars that no Muslim can disagree with once he knows the ruling," he said.

Last month he attacked the UK government accusing it of opposing Islam.

"We have defeated the British government, by the virtue of Allah, the most high, and in our imprisonment, there was an uncovering of their filthiness and their criminality and their false claims of humanism. And we were able to demonstrate to the Muslims in Britain specifically, that the government is one which opposes Islam and the Muslims. And a fracture, which can never be set after that, took place by the virtue of Allah.

"May Allah give the Mujahideen and their leaders the best reward, and may Allâh give the callers to the truth the best reward, because had it not been for them, the disbelievers would have entered our women's quarters and we would have become nothing but dogs that lick up their crumbs," he added.

"Abu Qatada is one of the worlds most influential and dangerous jihadist clerics," said James Brandon, a senior researcher at Quilliam and author of a forthcoming report'Al-Qaeda in our Prisons'. "His fatwas justifying terrorist violence have directly led to jihadist attacks in Algeria and Iraq, as well as helping to inspire the 9-11 attacks and the 2003 Madrid bombings.

"It is terrifying that the Prison Service has allowed Abu Qatada to repeatedly distribute pro-jihadist texts from within British prisons. The very reason that he has been detained is because he is a threat to public safety by inciting terrorism and violence."

"We have seen the bloody outcome of terrorist incitement against Jews and others," said Mark Gardner, director of communication at the Community Security Trust, a charity that represents British Jewry to police, government and media on anti-Semitism and security issues. "These claims concerning Abu Qatada must therefore be dealt with as a matter of the utmost importance."

The Ministry of Justice has denied the allegations saying that Abu Qatada is strictly monitored at all times but added that they are unable to prevent third parties from publishing information which is, or claims to be, on other people's behalf or in their name.
Comment by Yigal D. Kahana on April 1, 2009 at 4:10am
The Arab League. Clearly complicit in genocide.

Are they really protecting Bashir here, or protecting themselves by trying to keep dishonest fingers pointed at Israel
- no matter what the cost??
Comment by Yigal D. Kahana on April 1, 2009 at 3:35am
These clowns....
Can't agree on anything except to protect a genocidal regime indefinitely,
but tell Israel that time is running out on peace!.

Arab leaders firm behind Sudan's Beshir

by Ali Khalil Ali Khalil – Tue Mar 31, 9:00 am ET

DOHA (AFP) – Arab leaders united firmly behind Sudan's leader against his international arrest warrant over Darfur, but failed to achieve full Arab reconciliation in a summit shunned by Egypt's president.

The heads of states who wound up their annual summit late Monday also warned that an Arab peace offer was not open-ended, while Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad called for "suspending" the offer until Israel engages fully.

Libyan Leader Moamer Kadhafi and Saudi King Abdullah held reconciliatory talks following a tirade by the maverick Kadhadi which overshadowed the summit's opening, as he evoked a fiery exchange between the two leaders in a 2003 summit.

A Libyan official said the meeting cleared the air between the two countries whose relations have been strained over the past six years, but the Saudis remained mum.

Although Arab leaders fell short of adopting a Sudanese proposal to hold an emergency summit in Khartoum in solidarity with President Omar al-Beshir, they were clear in rejecting his indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over alleged war crimes in Darfur.

Beshir urged Arab leaders to strongly reject the ICC decision to prosecute him, while he lashed out at the UN Security Council in the presence of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, accusing the 15-member body of having "double standards" and needing to be reformed.

"We stress our solidarity with Sudan and our rejection of the ICC decision against President Omar al-Beshir," the leaders said in their final statement, as read out by Arab League chief Amr Mussa.

Arab support for Beshir was evident ahead of the summit when Arab countries, most of which are not bound by the ICC rules, denounced the charges against the Sudanese leader.

"We are called upon today, not (just) to criticise the warrant (which) ... we are all agreed is politicised, but to reject it categorically," said the Syrian leader in the opening of the summit.

Beshir was on his fourth trip abroad in defiance of the ICC indictment issued on March 24.

The UN chief, who attended the summit despite Beshir's presence, called on Khartoum to reverse its decision to expel 13 aid groups from war-battered Darfur, a measure taken in response to the ICC warrant.

Although the gathering was dubbed as the "summit of solidarity", the decision of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak to stay away deflated hopes of putting on a show of unity, following Cairo's and Riyadh's recent approaches to Damascus -- the region's staunch ally of Iran.

Mubarak's absence is believed to be due to strained ties with Qatar which, like Syria, enjoys strong link with Tehran and backs the Islamist Palestinian movement Hamas, which routed the loyalists of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas' Fatah from the Gaza Strip following deadly clashes in 2007.

King Abdullah and Mubarak, both firm supporters of Abbas and key Western allies, had held a mini-summit with Assad earlier this month in Riyadh, following an ice-breaking meeting during a January Arab economic summit in Kuwait.

The schism between the two Arab camps had deepened over differences on how to respond to Israel's deadly 22-day onslaught on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, with Egypt being accused of accentuating Israel's siege by not opening its borders with Gaza.

The summit however agreed in a special statement on Arab reconciliation to emphasise the importance of "frankness, transparency, and dialogue in sorting Arab disputes."

Arab leaders meanwhile sounded gloomy over peace prospects in the Middle East, despairing of efforts to bring Israel to the table over their peace offer, as a right-wing Israeli government, led by hardliner Benjamin Netanyahu, pepared to assume office.

"We Arabs, since we offered the Arab initiative, do not have a real partner in the peace process," Assad said. "This (incoming) government ... shows that this (Israeli) society is not ready for peace."

The Saudi-inspired Arab peace initiative, on the table since 2002, offers the Jewish state full normalisation of ties in return for its withdrawal from occupied Arab lands.

In their final statement, the leaders stressed the need to lay down "a precise time-limit" for Israel to honour its commitments, without fixing any date.
Comment by Yigal D. Kahana on March 29, 2009 at 12:53pm
Basil,
I've already said that the reason I connect these things is they both have the hand of the Muslim Brotherhood in them.
So this issue is not just a political football, or a red herring. It has nothing to do with a technicality of whether the government is officially Arabic. It has to do with the reason why it's one of the worst regimes on the planet. If it were Arabic but Mutazila, run by humanitarian standards, you would be 100% correct.
It is not. It is run by Wahhabi standards no different from those of the Taliban or al Qaeda,
under the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, a Wahhabi organization.
That is a specific association, not a generalization.

It is in the best interests of the Muslim Umma to oppose the fundamentalism in its midst,
as it is our responsibilty to help you in that endeavor,
both by opposing any discrimination in ours,
but also by really standing up to the extremists on all sides
as part and parcel of supporting a better way.

Surely you agree with that?
Comment by Corey Gil-Shuster on March 28, 2009 at 6:37pm
I think what many in the world do - not necessarily consciously- is to find other tragedies because they can't or won't deal with the more related tragedy if they are on the perpetrators side. So Jews use Darfur to avoid dealing with Palestinians because they feel that Israel represents something to them and how can they speak against something that means so much to them, Arabs will focus on the Palestinians to avoid dealing with Darfur or the Kurds for the same reasons., Palestinians will not deal with the atrocities they have committed. And the chain goes on and on. I think we all need to take a step back and start taking responsibility for what we each do. otherwise these dynamics and the unconscious games we play will continue.

I point out the African examples because both Palesitians and Jews have a habit of framing their own victimhood in the most dramatic terms as the worst anyone has ever suffered. Obviously to the person who suffers it is true but if we are comparing to other regions it is all relative.
Comment by Corey Gil-Shuster on March 28, 2009 at 4:32pm
Not to take away from the suffering of anyone (including Palestinians and israelis) and while Gaza is in crises conditions, there are other areas of the world in far worse conditions such as the Congo where millions have been killed http://www.theirc.org/special-report/congo-forgotten-crisis.html or the Ugandan night commuters where an estimated 40,000 children walk by night to avoid being forcefully enlisted in the resistance army http://www.hrw.org/legacy/photos/2005/uganda/

Again, that shouldn't detract from the suffering of anyone but it does show that the media doesn't really care what goes on in Africa.
Comment by Yigal D. Kahana on March 28, 2009 at 1:02am
Sudan's Beshir thanks Kadhafi for Libyan support
Thu Mar 26, 12:08 pm ET

AFP/File – Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir, seen here on March 25, 2009, said on Thursday...etc...
Comment by Yigal D. Kahana on March 27, 2009 at 10:04am
Where is Desmond Tutu when my people in Sudan call out for freedom? "

by Simon Deng
Monday December 3, 2007

Late last month, I went to hear Bishop Desmond Tutu speak at Boston's Old South Church at a conference on "Israel Apartheid." Tutu is a well respected man of God. He brought reconciliation between blacks and whites in South Africa. That he would lead a conference that damns the Jewish state is very disturbing to me.

The State of Israel is not an apartheid state. I know because I write this from Jerusalem where I have seen Arab mothers peacefully strolling with their families -- even though I also drove on Israeli roads protected by walls and fences from Arab bullets and stones. I know Arabs go to Israeli schools, and get the best medical care in the world. I know they vote and have elected representatives to the Israeli Parliament. I see street signs in Arabic, an official language here. None of this was true for blacks under Apartheid in Tutu's South Africa.

I also know countries that do deserve the apartheid label: My country, Sudan, is on the top of the list, but so are Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. What has happened to my people in Sudan is a thousand times worse than Apartheid in South Africa. And no matter how the Palestinians suffer, they suffer nothing compared to my people. Nothing. And most of the suffering is the fault of their leaders. Bishop Tutu, I see black Jews walking down the street here in Jerusalem. Black like us, free and proud.

Tutu said Israeli checkpoints are a nightmare. But checkpoints are there because Palestinians are sent into Israel to blow up and kill innocent women and children. Tutu wants checkpoints removed. Do you not have doors in your home, Bishop? Does that make your house an apartheid house? If someone, Heaven forbid, tried to enter with a bomb, we would want you to have security people "humiliating" your guests with searches, and we would not call you racist for doing so. We all go through checkpoints at every airport. Are the airlines being racist? No.

Yes, the Palestinians are inconvenienced at checkpoints. But why, Bishop Tutu, do you care more about that inconvenience than about Jewish lives?

Bishop, when you used to dance for Mandela's freedom, we Africans -- all over Africa -- joined in. Our support was key in your freedom. But when children in Burundi and Kinshasa, all the way to Liberia and Sierra Leone, and in particular in Sudan, cried and called for rescue, you heard but chose to be silent.

Today, black children are enslaved in Sudan, the last place in the continent of Africa where humans are owned by other humans -- I was part of the movement to stop slavery in Mauritania, which just now abolished the practice. But you were not with us, Bishop Tutu.

So where is Desmond Tutu when my people call out for freedom? Slaughter and genocide and slavery are lashing Africans right now. Where are you for Sudan, Bishop Tutu? You are busy attacking the Jewish state. Why?

Simon Deng, a native of the Shiluk Kingdom in southern Sudan, is an escaped war-slave and a leading human rights activist.
Comment by Yigal D. Kahana on March 27, 2009 at 8:21am
Doesn't Israel receive disproportionate attention?
Hell yes!!! That's the point.

"I mean it gets 3 billion dollars when there are poor countries in
Asia or Africa that could the money more, and their people are starving?"
Yes, but it is not in money. It is in military equipment, which would feed nobody.
The real aid is in the technology, where Isreal also contributes quite a bit to the US in return.
The money has become a scam to feed US defense department contractors.


"You could argue that victims of suicide bombers in Israel got more attention than people who were in danger in Rwanda."
Right again. The whole thing, on both sides, gets way more attention than the population involved can justify.

People kill each other in the Congo and nothing is said about it, but people bring up Darfur because Sudanese are doing it. Aren't as many people dying in the Congo?
Actually, Congo could become the next huge catastrophe. But it has not been going on for nearly as long as Darfur.
But unless the Muslim Brotherhood also takes over Congo, Congo will not have nearly the connection to the Israel Palestine issue as Sudan does.


I think the crimes of the Sudan are being used by some pro-Israelis to say the war crimes in Gaza are small in comparison to what the Sudan is doing.
That would make sense, because it is 100% true. Any war crimes in Palestine are on a small scale in comparison to what the Sudan is doing.

Palestinians are not in the Sudan doing that stuff.
True, as far as I know. But the Muslim Brotherhood is, and it has considerable influence on Palestinian society through you know which terrorist group...

I have long been against the Sudanese Government. One of my friends
is dating a Sudanese guy and he brings up Israel. I said he should look at his country first since they have a big mess over there.
See, I knew there is hope for you...

Most Arabs do not feel connected to the Sudan. It's a far away place, and the governments do not say anything about it, and the media doesn't focus on it.
That is an interesting statement. Sudan is no further from Arabia than Palestine, and parts of it are much closer!
Perhaps the silence of consternation?


Listen, Basil, I try not to get into people's motivations too much here, when there is an issue to address.
I would not even say that Sudan is an Arab country. I can't speak to anyone else's motivation here, only my own.
The reason I keep reminding people of this is to show 1) what a country looks like when the Ikhwan is in control;
2) that the Ikhwan is violent and antidemocratic and genocidal even where there is no Zionism to blame;
3) that Hamas is part of the Ikhwan and people who think they were created by Israel or an organic part of the Palestinian people (!) really don't understand the dynamic of an established, foreign, organization opening a new local branch as a new opportunity arose. (And look where Khaled Meshaal is...)

I have spoken with Muslim refugees from Darfur who have been given refuge in Israel.
They knew who the Ikhwan are; that's who they say chased them from their homes and killed their family members.

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