Friday, July 27, 2007

New Exodus to Israel from Darfur.

The Muslim Exodus From Darfur, Sudan, Egypt To Israel

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency
July 23, 2007

A young Sudanese refugee is examined by an Israeli doctor from Physicians for Human Rights in the town of Sderot, southern Israel. Photo: AP Jerusalem ----July 23 ..... One must step out of their comfort zone for this story. Yes, you need to leave your carpeted air conditioned office, marbled floored living room or Starbucks coffee house for just a few minutes. The TV and Internet will still be there with tales of Britney Spears and Harry Potter.
A modern day exodus is now taking place from the depths of Africa to the streets of Jerusalem.
Black, Muslim civilians have escaped the genocide war in Sudan between Christians and Muslims to find sanctuary - in all places - Israel. And here in Israel we actually have a few people debating whether or not to allow these young, breast feeding mothers and the gray elderly, barely able to walk on their sticks into the Jewish state.
We hear of thousands dying in the Sudan and yet we turn the news channel. It just ain't good news. We would rather escape into a Bruce Willis movie, place another burger on the grill or sip a cool Long Island Ice Tea cocktail by the pool. Sudan is like mud. We don't want it on us. We don't want to know about it.
Perhaps that's how many felt about the Jews during the 30's and 40's in Holocaust Europe?
Sudan is the largest and one of the most diverse countries in Africa. Sudan is home to deserts, mountain ranges, swamps and rain forests. It has emerged from a 21-year civil war between the mainly Muslim north and the Animist and Christian south which is said to have cost the lives of 1.5 million people. Prior to independence Sudan was occupied by both Egypt and Britain in what was known as the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan between 1898 and 1955.
Fast forward - after two years of bargaining the Sudan government and rebels signed a comprehensive peace deal in January 2005. But this peace was short lived.
As the government and southern rebels inched closer to peace, fighting broke out in the north western region of Darfur in early 2003 when rebels seeking greater autonomy began an insurrection.
The UN says more than two million people have fled their homes and more than 200,000 have been killed. Pro-government Arab militias are accused of carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against non-Arab groups in the region.
The barbaric and seemingly endless civil war in Darfur is seen as "one of the worst nightmares in recent history".

You had now better check your steak, burgers and hot dogs, you don't want them to burn.
Sudan's name comes from the Arabic "bilad al-sudan", or land of the blacks. Arabic is the official language and Islam is the religion of the state, but the country has a large non-Arabic speaking and non-Muslim population in the south which has rejected attempts by the government in Khartoum to impose Islamic Sharia law on the country as a whole.
As for politics and blood stained egos, Sudan President Omar al-Bashir has been locked in a power struggle with Hassan al-Turabi, his former mentor and the main ideologue of Sudan's Islamist government. Since 2001 Turabi has spent periods in detention and has been accused, but not tried, over an alleged coup plot.
What does this all have to do with Israel and your steak?
The Sudan is located next to Egypt. This is where many of the innocent African civilians have fled, but the Egyptian government did not exactly put out the welcoming mat.

Recently, Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asked Egypt President Hosni Mubarak to stop African refugees from crossing the border. The two leaders also agreed that most of the African refugees who are currently in Israel would be deported to Egypt. But opinion is changing in Israel. There may be no deportation, only blankets, food and smiles for the weary.

The Israel Prime Minister's Office said the Egypt government repeatedly guaranteed the refugees' safety. Local Egyptian sources, however, have increasingly reported human rights abuses against the refugees. In addition to more than a dozen refugees from Sudan who have been shot and wounded while trying to cross the border, 25 refugees were shot and killed in a Cairo protest last December.
"The escalating violence that the refugees of Sudan are facing in Egypt has led us to recommend that the Israel government not deport these people," said Ilan Lonai, a campaign coordinator for Amnesty International (AI).
More than 100 refugees have been caught trying to cross the Egyptian border this month.

Joining the thousands, some 45 African refugees managed to cross the border and were abandoned in the streets of Beersheba, Israel. This was after the Israel Defense Forces was supposed to bring them to the Ketziot prison.
Last week, the IDF began transferring refugees directly to the prison, which has built a temporary caravan park that can hold up to 300 refugees, until a larger "camp site" is built adjacent to the prison.
That refugee camp site would hold more than 1,000 refugees, according to Israel Prisons Services.

"Israel only has walls against terrorism, with open doors for the poor, the hungry and homeless," said a member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "What do the children of the Sudan know about Israel that those who boycott us from England do not know? For those who think to boycott Israel, let them speak to the starving children of Sudan who we feed, blanket and provide security to."
Beersheba, a desert Negev town, which has taken in hundreds of refugees from Sudan over the past year, recently refused to take charge of any more, claiming that the African refugees were the government's responsibility.

So as those from Darfur survived hot desert treks and perilous nights evading thieves, rapists and wild animals, debate starts in Israel whether or not to allow these desperate souls to enter and stay in Israel.

Some are concerned that Israel's humanitarian gestures might create a "future nightmare" as the Jewish state becomes diluted. But this is either ignorance or racism speaking. Those from Darfur would be granted residency status and nothing more. They would not be able to vote the Jews out of Israel.

Furthermore, the extreme religious right in Israel is now being reminded by the gentle and sometimes Disneyland Left of the most basic principles of Judaism. Every effort must be made to save life, according to Jewish law, unless it involves violating the cardinal negative precepts of murder, idolatry, incest, or adultery. The talmudic rabbis interpret the verse "You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor" (Leviticus 19:16) to mean that if a person is in danger of drowning, it is the duty of all who can swim to dive in to save him.

The preservation of human life takes precedence over all the other commandments in Judaism. The Talmud emphasizes this principle by citing the verse from Leviticus [18:5]: "You shall therefore keep my statutes…which if a man do, he shall live by them." The rabbis add: "That he shall live by them, and not that he shall die by them."
(Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 85b).

"The Jews were victims of the Holocaust, I am a victim of the Darfur genocide. Please let me stay," said Ismail at his latest makeshift home opposite the Israel parliament.
His new home is the tranquil Rose Garden in Jerusalem, between the Knesset building and the prime minister's office, an area that is today dotted with tents, mattresses, piles of clothes, cans of food and picnic boxes.

Forty-two-year-old Ismail was bused there along with his family and dozens of other Sudanese by the authorities in Beersheva in Israel's south, a city exasperated over a lack of government resources to deal with the refugees.
The refugees are caught in the middle as the country debates what to do with the estimated 300 people who fled Sudan's civil war-ridden Darfur region and then crossed illegally crossed into Israel from Egypt.

The debate highlights a moral dilemma touching on the nation's sensitive memory of the Nazi Holocaust and the core of its identity as a home for Jewish refugees.
Should a country sworn to provide a safe haven for Jews open its gates to Africans fleeing the murderous conflict in Sudan?

"Israel, which came into being after the Holocaust, cannot stand idly by in the face of the suffering of Darfur's refugees," the daily Haaretz newspaper wrote in a recent editorial, adding that the absence of diplomatic ties with Sudan "should not be an obstacle."

"I chose Israel because I thought Israel was a country which was once in a situation like Darfur and they would understand me. I am asking the Israeli government to accept us, the people of Darfur," said Ismail who declined to give his full name.
The government says some 2,800 people have crossed illegally into Israel from Egypt over the past 18 months. Most are African and 1,000 of them are Sudanese - including 300 from Darfur.

The refugee influx caught by surprise a government used to dealing with willing immigrants from the worldwide Jewish Diaspora.
"Israel is a country that was built on millions of refugees who were Jews and who immediately got citizenship. We never faced a situation of illegal migrants from Africa," government spokeswoman Miri Eisin said.
"Israel only has walls against terrorism, with open doors for the poor, the hungry and homeless," said a member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "What do the children of the Sudan know about Israel that those who boycott us from England do not know? For those who think to boycott Israel, let them speak to the starving children of Sudan who we feed, blanket and provide security to."

Tom Hickey, chair of the English University and Colleges Union (UCU), and a Philosophy lecturer at Brighton University, proposed the boycott resolution against Israel in May, which called on British academics to "consider the moral implications of links with Israel academic institutions".

Perhaps it's time for Tom to have a reality check in Jerusalem's Rose Garden. To enjoy a friendly chat with a man, woman or child from Sudan who is being sheltered and cared for by both the Israel government and the common man in Israel.
Yes, it's an excellent public relations opportunity for Israel. To illustrate how Jews in Israel care more for Muslims from Sudan than those who ignore Sudan from Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria.

But Israel is inept in the art of PR. This country has only a handful of professional public relations and public affairs professionals working in government. And they are overworked and underpaid.
Perhaps if those Jews who donate millions of dollars for such excellent Israel Aliya immigration programs as Birthright Taglit and Nefesh B'Nefesh put aside the expenses of four or five airplane seats to illustrate the humanity and genoristy for which is Israel, it would enhance Israel's image and perhaps encourage even more Jewish immigration to Israel.
But for the present the reality one sees coming from Israel is that of pure humanitarian gesture. No spin. No advertising. No PR soundbytes. Just one human being caring for another. In this case - it is one from Israel, a Jew who opens his doors. Even though one of three Israel children suffer in poverty. We here in Israel place and cherish life first and foremost. Jews do not teach their children hate, we do not have a Hamas or Islamic Jihad Mickey Mouse on TV inciting young children that one religion is better than another, that all Jews should be murdered, that it is better to be a martyr (shahid) in a global Islamic war than to embrace life and peace. We do not believe in 72 virgins and a paradise awaiting us after setting off a terror suicide bomb in a restaurant, shopping center or bus.
Israel has consistently reached out for peace and compromise with both those who call themselves Palestinians and our neighbors since modern day Israel was created in 1948. The answer to Israel's appeals for peace - such as a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza - has been with Kassam and Katusha rockets, mortars, grenades, sniper fire and words of war from Iran and Syria.
In the film, Cast A Giant Shadow, there is a 1947 scene where Jewish Holocaust refugees land on a beach in Israel. The British troops line up on the sand to fire on them. One English officer says to another: "well now is the time to find out if we are bloody Nazis."
The same can be said of the Israel Defense Forces and the Israel police as they find water, food and shelter for those from Darfur, Sudan. No one is calling the Israeli a Nazi today.
At least, not those from Muslim Africa.
Related Web sites:
How to lose hearts and minds - The Jerusalem Post

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