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Jewish World Review
July 9, 2007
/ 23 Tamuz, 5767
Darfur still in genocidal crisis
The June 17 "breakthrough" deal between Sudan's leaders and the U.N. Security Council means a 20,000-troop U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force will be sent to Darfur but not until spring. With no cease-fire agreement in place, expect nearly another year of mass murder and rapes by Khartoum's Janjaweed militia, as well as and infighting among antigovernment rebel groups.
Moreover, Sudan's leader, Gen. Omar al-Bashir, may hold the world's record among heads of state for breaking agreements he has signed. He has pledged, for example, that he would disarm the Janjaweed. He has not. Since 2003, some 450,000 black African Muslims have lost their lives.
Also, with Sudan viewing the new infusion of troops as an African Union peace-keeping mission, The Economist (June 16) cautions: "Since Sudan is a powerful member of the African Union, it would be able to exercise a degree of control over any AU force on the ground." And "Mr. Bashir knows there is still no enthusiasm for enforcing a no-fly zone over Darfur," so no one will be responsible for stopping the government's attack planes accompanying the hard-riding Janjaweed.
Accordingly, Ruth Messinger, president of Jewish World Service, emphasizes that, "Divestment is an absolutely critical strategy for stopping the flow of money that funds the genocide."
Jewish World Service is the first national Jewish organization to endorse the growing movement by American governors and legislatures (among other investors in Sudan) to divest funds going to that criminal government.
Messinger points out that as of this year, "As a result of divestment campaigns across the United States, four major companies have withdrawn from Sudan." And as I reported four years ago, Talisman, an important Canadian Oil firm, ended its arrangement with Sudan after repeated pressure from critics and divestment opponents of genocide.
Further evidence of the effect these forceful humanitarians are having is that last year, a Swiss firm, the Cliveden Group, ended its operations there. The Economist adds (June 23) that "Marathon, an American oil company, may dispose of its 32.5 percent share in Block B in southern Sudan."
Sudanese officials, including their emissaries to other countries, read the newspapers. I expect that Al-Bashir was informed of a June 12 New York Post story that New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli "announced he will use the state's $155 billion pension fund to pressure the Sudanese government to end the genocide in Darfur."
Only a very small percentage of the billions in New York state's pension funds flow to Sudan; but it is significant that the sole trustee of America's second-largest public pension fund is keeping track of companies and corporations that believe "business is business" can justify profits from a government that commits mass murder.
Adding to the momentum against Sudan's crimes against its own people: In June, Texas and Hawaii became the 16th and 17th states to enact laws requiring that state pension funds be withdrawn from investing in companies doing business with Sudan.
Internationally, there is now a powerful infusion of energy by the vivid presence of the new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, as a warrior against this genocide. Addressing officials from more than a dozen countries whom he invited to a June 25 meeting on Darfur in Paris, he told them:
"As human beings, and as politicians, we must resolve the crisis in Darfur. Silence kills! We want to mobilize the international community to say 'enough is enough!" Going beyond rhetoric, Sarkozy is willing to have France contribute $13.46 million to the U.N.-African Union force. But he realizes that without sustained, insistent international involvement in negotiating a political solution with real, hard consequences to a faithless Al-Bashir, there will only be more resolutions, conferences, rallies and killings.
However, a New York Times headline the day after the Paris conference reflects how much support Sarkozy needs from international leaders: "Little Visible Progress on Darfur at International conference." Said French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner: "There is a little light at the end of the darkness."
Meanwhile, China Sudan's quintessential partner in preparing for the summer Olympics, has removed large-scale industrial operations from Beijing. It did this to assure visitors to the games that air pollution will be controlled.
But the stench of murdered bodies in Darfur will nonetheless permeate the celebratory athletic achievements intended to glorify the People's Republic of China if by then the darkness still engulfs Darfur.
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Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights and author of several books, including his current work, "The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance". Comment by clicking here.
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