Thursday, August 18, 2005

Darfur - "Arabian Shame" (Sudan Tribune)

The incapacity and unwillingness to do anything serious to stop the ongoing atrocity in Darfur has been a massive failure for the entire "international community" (including the US). But the utter failure of the Arab world, many of whose governments are actually supporting the Khartoum regime, has been especially dumfounding--though, unfortunately, not entirely surprising. As far back as June 2004 the Beirut Daily Star, offering "A Word of Advice on Darfur for the Arab Body Politic", called for a serious and constructive Arab response:
International neglect led to near-genocide a decade ago in Rwanda, while NATO went to war in Kosovo in 1999 for the sake of a few hundred thousand refugees. While the United States is considering formally labeling the Darfur crisis as a genocide in progress, the world - the world beyond the Arab world that is - is justified in asking the following question: "What are the Arabs doing about this atrocity in their own back yard?"

The answer, of course - as usual - is nothing.
The answer is still nothing--or worse. That leaves the responsibility to the rest of us.

--Jeff Weintraub

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Sudan Tribune
Thursday 18 August 2005

Arabian Shame

Washington Post Editorial - Page A18

Aug 12, 2005 (Washington) — Some remain skeptical of President Bush’s concern for Africa, and there’s no doubt that the United States could and should do more. But the latest report on Sudan from the United Nations offers a snapshot of an issue on which Mr. Bush has been a leader. So far this year the United States has given $468 million in foreign assistance to Sudan, mostly for humanitarian relief in the western region of Darfur. The U.S. contribution comes to 53 percent of all outside donations — a proportion about twice the size of the nation’s weight in the global economy.

A few other countries have been even more generous relative to the size of their economies, notably Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Britain. But the contribution from many others has been embarrassing. How can France, which prides itself on its leadership in Africa, give only $2 million to this year’s U.N. appeal for Sudan — an amount that, when rounded, comes to zero percent of total contributions to the country? Even if one generously ascribed, say, a fifth of the European Union’s donation of $90 million to French taxpayers, France’s share of the total contribution to Sudan comes to a paltry 2 percent.

There are plenty of other culprits. Japan accounts for just 2 percent of total contributions despite the size of its economy; China has made no contribution to the U.N. effort, even though it has extensive investments in Sudan’s oil sector. But perhaps the most striking absentees are the oil-rich Arab countries, which have more money than ideas on how to spend it, thanks to oil prices above $60 a barrel. Saudi Arabia has contributed a grand total of $3 million, according to the U.N. data; the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have given less than $1 million between them. No other Arab country even makes the list.

This Arab indifference is shameful. The victims of Sudan’s worst crisis, in Darfur, are Muslim, and aid to non-Muslim southern Sudan is essential to shoring up the fragile north-south peace deal that would help Muslims as well. Sudan borders Libya and Egypt; only the narrow Red Sea separates it from Saudi Arabia. Arabs have every reason to care about Sudan, and yet they have done far less than remote non-Muslim countries such as Norway, which has an economy roughly the same size as Saudi Arabia’s.

Writing on the opposite page last month, Joseph Britt ("Arab Genocide, Arab Silence") noted, "We’ve heard a lot since Sept. 11, 2001, about how Arabs feel humiliated, ashamed, resentful at being regarded by the West as inferior in some way." Mr. Britt continued: "Perhaps it is time to say plainly that the way to earn respect is through deeds worthy of respect."

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Washington Post
Wednesday, July 13, 2005; Page A21

Arab Genocide, Arab Silence
By Joseph Britt

What responsibility do Arabs have to stop genocide being committed by Arabs?

Genocide in the Darfur region of western Sudan, inflicted on mostly Muslim African tribespeople by the nomadic Arab militias called janjaweed with the enthusiastic assistance of the Arab-dominated Sudanese government, has been going on for over two years now. In response, nations from western and central Africa have sent peacekeeping troops; various Western countries, including the United States, have pledged many millions of dollars in aid. Western diplomats led by Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick have worked feverishly to stop the massacres, rapes and forced relocations that the Sudanese government has employed as its weapons of choice.

Absent from the picture have been the other Arab states. This is exceedingly strange, and not just because most of Darfur's victims are Muslims. Darfur is thousands of miles away from any of the Western countries trying to stop the genocide there; even the African nations sending peacekeepers are remote. Meanwhile, Egypt, with a huge army, a modern air force and more contacts within Sudan than every Western country combined, has looked on while as many as 400,000 people have been slaughtered just beyond its southern border and has, in effect, done nothing.

It's true that Egypt has put on a show of hosting peace conferences. Perhaps because Egypt is determined to take no action to which Sudan might object, these have produced no results (a separate conference sponsored by Nigeria has made some limited progress). Other Arab countries have not done even this much. Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states could pay for more aid out of petty cash than Darfur could use, but Canada, by itself, has pledged more aid than all the Arab countries combined. The number of Saudi, Kuwaiti or Syrian relief workers in Darfur is, as best one can tell, precisely zero. Arab press references to Darfur consist mostly of reprints from Western news services about official government statements, many of them from the Sudanese government itself.

One might think this would be a subject worthy of comment or at least curiosity by the U.S. government and the Western media. One would be wrong. Virtually without exception, the Western reaction to Arab silence about genocide being committed by Arabs has been -- silence. The American government has said nothing about it; Western newspapers can write months of news stories and editorials about Darfur without mentioning Egypt or other Arab countries except in passing.

It is as if Egypt and Sudan occupied different planets instead of sharing a common border. The Egyptian government acting alone could have, at any time during the past two years, forced Sudan to ground its air force and cease all other support to the janjaweed. While it was not doing this, and was not thinking of doing this, Western governments have made diplomatic efforts, plowing through one forum after another; have conducted aid campaigns; and have even talked earnestly about whether the United States and Canada should send troops. And no one appears to think there is anything odd about this discrepancy. It is a great mystery.

Do we really expect indifference, or worse, from Arabs in the face of mass murder? Surely the contradictions between that indifference and President Bush's promotion of democracy and human rights in the Arab world speak for themselves. More important than what we think, though, is what Arabs think.

We've heard a lot since Sept. 11, 2001, about how Arabs feel humiliated, ashamed, resentful at being regarded by the West as inferior in some way. Sometimes we ignore these feelings; sometimes we try to appease them. Perhaps it is time to say plainly that the way to earn respect is through deeds worthy of respect.

The shameful course of indifference to the slaughter of the African Muslims of Darfur out of solidarity with their murderers is not the only one open to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the other Arab states. In spite of their support for Sudan's government, diplomacy led by Nigeria and an aid effort led by the United States have reduced the level of violence and starvation in Darfur. Building on this real but exceedingly fragile achievement, and preventing genocide by Arabs in Darfur from resuming, is a task for the civilized world, one in which the Arab countries need to join.

Joseph Britt is a writer in Kennesaw, Ga.

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