September 19, 2006

Black and white in Darfur?

Here's a comment piece from Jonathan Steele in today's Guardian about Darfur and the clamour for yet another western intervention:
It is true that the government, as often happens in asymmetrical war, overreacted in its use of force when rebels attacked. The so-called janjaweed militias that Khartoum organised and armed did not distinguish between civilians and guerrilla fighters. They burned huts, raped women and put tens of thousands of civilians to flight, forcing them across the border into Chad or into camps inside Darfur. But the rebels also committed atrocities, a fact that was rarely reported since it upset the black-and-white moral image that many editors preferred.

In most wars, governments spin and the media (at least sometimes) seek the truth. Darfur reversed the trend: the media spun while governments were more sophisticated. In spite of efforts to describe the killing in Darfur as genocide, neither the UN nor the EU went along with this description. It was not because of moral myopia, but because they understood the difference between a brutal civil war and a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing. Darfur is not Rwanda. Only the US accepted the genocide description, though this seemed a concession to domestic lobbies rather than a matter of conviction. Washington never followed through with the forcible intervention in Darfur that international law requires once a finding of genocide is made.
You might wonder why the clamour is solely against the government of Sudan and not simply for a ceasefire. Look at this post on the Engage site. Apparently, Sudan is an issue for the watchdogs against antisemitism.

Sudan gets a passing mention in an article about Israel by Gabriel Piterberg in the latest London Review of Books:
only when Israel raises money from American Jews do we Israelis claim that the entire Arab world is a united juggernaut determined to drive poor little Israel into the sea. In fact, the Middle East is a jigsaw puzzle of peoples and cultures. Minority regimes run Syria and Iraq. King Hussein and his Bedouin are a minority in Jordan, outnumbered by Palestinians. Sudan has a large animist and Christian minority. Algeria and Morocco have large Berber minorities. If Israel could succeed in contacting all these groups which oppose Arabism and Islam, then it could break the Islamic world into pieces.
That passage brings us closer than most commentary on the subject to explaining why so many zionists are keen to campaign on the issue of Darfur.

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