Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"Where are the cries of outrage over Darfur?" (Lebanon Daily Star)

Yesterday I reproduced a piece by two Arab human-rights activists, Moataz El Fegiery & Ridwan Ziyada, that criticized the failure of Arab public opinion to respond in a morally and politically responsible way to the ongoing atrocity in Darfur (see Arab public opinion & mass murder in Darfur). Their piece is not the only recent attempt to appeal to the conscience of the Arab world on this issue. The Beirut Daily Star, which argued in a June 2004 editorial that mass murder in Darfur posed a defining moral and political test for "the Arab Body Politic," has once again called for a serious and constructive Arab response: "It's time to put a halt to the Arab world's homegrown disaster".

The conflict in Darfur, where at least 200,000 civilians have been killed and more than 2 million made refugees [JW: The real figures are almost certainly twice as great], is one that exposes multiple layers of hypocrisy. Much has been said about the lack of international will to address the crisis, even though many of the same superpowers have supported military and heavy-handed diplomatic intervention in other countries under less clear-cut circumstances. But Arab leaders themselves are among the ranks of the world's hypocrites on this issue. A savage form of terror has been unfolding in our own backyard for four years, yet until now, neither the Arab League nor any individual Arab government has sought to do much about it. [JW: This actually puts it a bit euphemistically, since Arab governments have been giving the genocidal Khartoum regime active diplomatic, political, and diplomatic support.] [....]

The Arab League, several of whose members are drowning in petrodollars, has only paid $15 million of its $150 million pledge to the near-bankrupt African Union peacekeeping force. Each day that our leaders ignore Darfur marks a political and moral failure and a contribution to a calamity of our own making.
--Jeff Weintraub

P.S. There are certain pieties that the Daily Star still finds it hard to shake loose from (or offend). Mick Hartley noticed one strange formulation in this passage:
Many of our political and religious leaders have strongly denounced what are arguably lesser crimes - such as the awkward and insensitive remarks made by the pope during an academic lecture - but have turned a blind eye as their fellow Muslims are slaughtered in Sudan. Where are the cries of outrage over Darfur?
To which Hartley properly responded:
The pope's remarks are arguably a lesser crime? Good to see some acknowledgement of Arab lack of concern over Darfur, but it looks there's a way to go yet.
(On some of the relevant issues, see also Maurice Glasman on the Darfur atrocity, warped priorities, and the "respect" scam.) Yes, even in this outspoken editorial, it's clear that Daily Star still felt compelled to pull its punches in various respects. But this remains a brave and commendable editorial--which, unfortunately, is unlikely to have much effect.

====================
The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Saturday, February 24, 2007
It's time to put a halt to the Arab world's homegrown disaster
Editorial

Any long-time observer of events in the Arab world is familiar with the tendency of our politicians, religious leaders and intellectuals to blame all of the region's woes on "the West" or other external factors. There is a worthwhile point to be made in saying that centuries of colonialism, military intervention and Western-backed occupation have created distortions that have contributed to instability and turmoil in the region. But while foreign powers have had a clear hand in creating the crises in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq, not all of the Arab world's disasters can be attributed to outside aggression. Indeed, one of the most grave calamities in the region - Darfur, a tragedy that has been called the first genocide of the 21st century, but which has been permitted to drag on for almost four years now - is a disaster largely of our region's own making.

The conflict in Darfur, where at least 200,000 civilians have been killed and more than 2 million made refugees [JW: The real figures are almost certainly twice as great], is one that exposes multiple layers of hypocrisy. Much has been said about the lack of international will to address the crisis, even though many of the same superpowers have supported military and heavy-handed diplomatic intervention in other countries under less clear-cut circumstances. But Arab leaders themselves are among the ranks of the world's hypocrites on this issue. A savage form of terror has been unfolding in our own backyard for four years, yet until now, neither the Arab League nor any individual Arab government has sought to do much about it. Many of our political and religious leaders have strongly denounced what are arguably lesser crimes - such as the awkward and insensitive remarks made by the pope during an academic lecture - but have turned a blind eye as their fellow Muslims are slaughtered in Sudan. Where are the cries of outrage over Darfur?

As we approach the four-year anniversary of the start of the conflict, the catastrophe is continuing to escalate. The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross has said that violence is now at its worst levels since the fighting began four years ago - and it is also spilling over into neighboring countries. Each day that the conflict drags on makes it harder to reach a resolution. Rebel groups have splintered into dozens of warring gangs, making it increasingly difficult to identify parties with whom mediators can even begin to negotiate a viable peace treaty.

Regional leaders are currently making a belated and half-hearted attempt to address this four-year-old crisis, with the Arab League meeting on the issue next week. But there is every reason for observers to doubt whether the talk of doing something will materialize as decisive action. The Arab League, several of whose members are drowning in petrodollars, has only paid $15 million of its $150 million pledge to the near-bankrupt African Union peacekeeping force. Each day that our leaders ignore Darfur marks a political and moral failure and a contribution to a calamity of our own making.

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