Monday, May 01, 2006

Lunacy about Darfur (in Monthly Review)

I feel almost embarrassed to be paying attention to this idiotic, pernicious, and disgusting pair of articles by editor of the on-line version of Monthly Review (MRZine), one Yoshie Furuhashi--except that the paranoid fantasies being presented here are not an isolated aberration, but instead one more sad sign of the times. Monthly Review is a long-established US Marxist intellectual journal started over a half-century ago by Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy. Whatever one can say about its errors and flaws over the years (there have been many), it was always an intellectually serious publication. Now one of its editors has published two pieces that combine the defense of a regime engaged in racist genocide with crackpot conspiracy theories in which--you guessed it--Jews play a major role. (The first of these pieces--"'Save Darfur': Evangelicals and Establishment Jews"-- was also posted on the Engage website, with an appropriate illustration.)

I am neither making this up nor exaggerating. Both of these pieces approach self-parody. The more recent of the two, "Who Wants Peace in Darfur," begins by charging that Sunday's Save Darfur rally in Washington DC was "designed" and scheduled to "scuttle" peace negotiations between the Khartoum governmment and rebel groups.
The "Save Darfur" rally today was aired on C-Span. [....] The timing of the rally was perfect, designed to coincide -- and scuttle -- the Abuja peace negotiations between the rebels and Khartoum brokered by the African Union, whose deadline is midnight today.
Why would nefarious US imperialist forces want the negotiations to break down? Of course, we know a priori that it must be All About Oil. Yes, there is the small complication that there are practically no known oil reserves in the Darfur region of Sudan, whereas the US government has put enormous time and effort into trying to broker a peace accord between the Khartoum government and southern Sudan, where there is a lot of oil. Furuhashi's attempt to finesse such difficulties blends a bit of ingenuity, a bit of dishonesty, and a bit of outright absurdity. But I will leave the oil-based pseudo-analysis offered here to interested readers.

What is even more puzzling is how these imperialist plots are supposed to be connected to the role of Furuhashi's more immediate villains, "Evangelicals and Establishment Jews"--the twin forces, she explains, behind the "Save Darfur" conspiracy.
Who is behind this astonishing pro-war rally in war-weary America (war-weary as far as the Iraq War is concerned, that is)? A rag-tag coalition of evangelicals and establishment Jews (those whom the corporate media designate as official leaders of Jewish communities) [....]
The eagerness of "Establishment Jews" to drag us into another unnecessary war is also peculiar since, as Furuhashi notes in her second piece,
The conflict in Sudan, which pits Islamists (the Justice and Equality Movement [JEM]) against Islamists (the government of Sudan), is the last conflict in which Jews would want to get involved in any way, the least of all side by side with evangelical Christians, especially given that the leader of JEM [Hassan al-Turabi] is said to be a fan of Osama bin Laden:
What are those Jewish conspirators up to?

It does not seem to have occurred to Furuhashi that the people who organized and participated in the Save Darfur rally are not especially interested in taking sides between the Khartoum government and the various rebel groups. Instead, by its tactics, the Sudanese regime has turned the conflict into an all-out, indiscriminate assault on the African civilian population in Darfur (see, for example, here and here and here), and the point of the rally was to take their side. The fundamental question here is whether the genocidal mass murder, mass rape, torture, ethnic cleansing, and deliberate starvation of civilian populations should be regarded as legitimate tactics of military and political conflict.

I happen to believe that the answer should be no. Furuhashi's remarks about Darfur and Bosnia suggest that she thinks otherwise. But be that as it may....

It happens to be quite true that American Jewish groups have played a very active role in mobilizing public protest against the slow-motion genocidal mass murder of African Muslims in Darfur. Unlike Furuhashi, I see this as a cause for pride and hope. We should all be doing more to stop this atrocity--not inventing reasons to change the subject, protect the criminals, and attack those who sympathize with the victims.

Yours for sanity,
Jeff Weintraub

[P.S. See the follow-up commentary by Marc Cooper, "It's Those Jews Again":
I share Jeff's dismay and disgust with this garbage from Monthly Review. There was a time in my life when I made sure not to miss an issue of MR. I never shared its always orthodox Marxist perspective, but the mag -- in its heyday-- could be counted on always to be of the highest intellectual caliber. To this day I still vividly remember pieces I read in MR 25 and 30 years ago (Economist Samir Amin's circa 1975 essay on Australia and California stands out most boldly).
What a long, long, long, long way down. From a sparkling theoretical journal of the intellectual left, to an agit-prop rag unintentionally (I hope) flirting with anti-semitism and soaked in conspiracy mongering. [....]
This ugly episode is nothing but one more crude manifestation of the knee-jerkish "my enemy's enemy is my friend" axiom. In this case, whatever the Bush administration is for (no matter how half-heartedly or ineffectually) some "anti-imperialists" are totally against -- even it means siding with a genocidal dictatorship in Sudan. Man, does this stink.
Right. --Jeff Weintraub]