Tag: Darfur

For the Women of Congo and Sudan

I adapted this prayer for Jewish World Watch, the is a hands-on leader in the fight against genocide and mass atrocities, engaging individuals and communities to take local actions that produce powerful global results. JWW is about to embark on a fact finding mission to the Congo, and will share this prayer with the survivors of the mass rapes and violence. The prayer will also appear in Jewish World Watch’s High Holy Day publication.

Lest we somehow forget, Sudan and the Congo are home to some of the worst genocidal mass murders and mass rapes of the 21st century.

The prayer is adapted, with permission, by me, from two prayers by author/liturgist Alden Solovy –
For the People of Norway and For 9-11 Survivors. These prayers are © 2011 Alden Solovy and www.tobendlight.com. All rights reserved.

G-d of the survivors, mourners and witnesses, 

Grant strength to those still held by physical, emotional and spiritual distress from the continuing violence in Congo and Sudan. Release them from visions of rape and death, from guilt or shame, from fear or anger. Bind their wounds with Your steadfast love.

Grant them shelter and solace,
Comfort and consolation. 

     Grant them endurance to survive,
     Faith to mourn,
     Courage to heal
     Devotion to each other. 

Bless those who have healed.
Bless those who suffer. 

     Bless those who forgive.
     Bless those who cannot forgive. 

Bless those who speak.
Bless those who stay silent. 

Baruch Atah, Tzur Yisrael, Oseh tikvah v’nechamah
Blessed are You, Rock of Israel, Source of hope and comfort.

Walking to End Genocide: My Daughter in Poland, the Rest of Us in Los Angeles

My daughter is in Poland as I write, joining 10,000 other Jewish teens from around the world on the international March of the Living. As its website states, March of the Living is an “educational program that brings Jewish teens from all over the world to Poland on Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, to march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest concentration camp complex built during World War II, and then to Israel to observe Yom HaZikaron, Israel Memorial Day, and Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel Independence Day. The goal of the March of the Living is for these young people to learn the lessons of the Holocaust and to lead the Jewish people into the future vowing Never Again.”

Sending our daughter on this trip – to be the first November/Kipnes to view the ruins of the Holocaust – was a gift to the Jewish people and to the world. She will be a witness to the murders, and she will, I hope, become an activist against genocide wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head.

As she marches through Poland and then Israel, I am preparing to march with 2,000 people in Jewish World Watch‘s Walk to End Genocide. In memory of the 11 million who lost their lives in the Holocaust, and the countless other millions who were murdered in genocides before and since, I will be walking on this Sunday. I am proud that my synagogue, Congregation Or Ami of Calabasas, CA, – by virtue of the largest delegation of walkers and highest amount of donations – has led this walk for the past two years.

If you are in the area, come walk with us on the Walk to End Genocide. Register here.

If you cannot walk, consider sponsoring me so we can reach my goal of raising another $1,000 to help end genocide. Click here to donate. Together we can do the work to wipe out hatred-filled, xenophobic genocide.

I Wrote President Obama about Darfur

Even with my concerns about anti-semitism in Europe, the nuclear issue in Iran and other hotspots around the world, I took a moment to sign onto a letter to President Obama, co-signed by 100 rabbis, urging a sane, responsible policy toward the Sudan (and the continuing problems in the Darfur region). The letter, organized by Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, D.C., is below:

Dear Mr. President,

We were heartened by your statement last year that “There must be real pressure placed on the Sudanese government. We know from past experience that it will take a great deal to get them to do to the right thing.”

The Jewish community’s memories of the Holocaust provide a powerful reminder of the importance of taking strong action to stop genocide, and to punish the perpetrators of genocide.

We therefore hope that your policy with regard to Darfur will include the imposition of the strongest possible sanctions on the Sudanese government, pressure on Sudan’s allies to stop propping up its genocidal regime, and practical steps to implement the International Criminal Court’s warrant for the arrest of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir.

Learn more about what is happening regarding Darfur and the Sudan at Jewish World Watch.

What Killed the Campaign for Darfur?

Haaretz Chief Correspondent Shmuel Rosner explores: What killed the campaign for Darfur?He raises some important questions about whether the tendency of “save-Darfur” activities to be suspicious of agressive action let the world off the hook. Rosner writes:

Richard Just over at TNR [The New Republic] is doing a masterful job sorting through a long list of Darfur-related literature, and recapping the failure of the international community to deal with the genocide in this region. It is a long piece and worth reading, and it makes a lot of good points. For me, the most obvious and striking point deals with the unsolvable inherent contradiction between the need for urgent decisive action in Darfur and the tendency of “save-Darfur” activists to be suspicious of such aggressive action (particularly of American military intervention).

Just writes:

Eventually the movement coalesced around the idea that U.N. troops were the answer. In the wake of the Iraq debacle, the idea of sending U.N. peacekeepers to Darfur represented for many activists a sort of safe compromise?troops would be put on the ground, but American power would not be wielded. It was military action that they could endorse without opening a dissonance in their worldview. Even Prendergast, one of the most hawkish Darfur activists (and one of the smartest), endorses the U.N. option in his book as the solution that makes the most sense. To be fair, he has also suggested elsewhere that the United States should keep other military options on the table; but this latter position certainly places him outside the mainstream of the Darfur activist community.

Just is not the biggest fan of President Bush, and isn’t shy of putting some of the blame with him. But he is also honest enough to ask: “did liberals demand the right things of him? Did we push for what would really save the people of Darfur? Or did we get trapped by the inclinations of our worldview, and advocate for too little?” (I think the answer for these questions is a pretty clear now). However, as Just writes, the activists clamoring for UN help were conveniently forgetting one important thing (aside from the fact that the UN is not exactly known for its military competence): For the UN to act, one needs other countries to participate, many of them countries to which activists and their outrage mean nothing. Just dedicates only one paragraph in his article to the faults of China. But choosing the UN meant enabling the veto power of China over action in Darfur – which then, unsurprisingly, blocked effective measures against its ally Sudan.

A couple of months ago, I[Rosner] wrote in an article for Slate about the lessons of Darfur (an article for which I received numerous angry emails from activists arguing that my perception was too grim):

The campaign to save Darfur is alive, but it is no longer kicking. You could say that it has achieved all its stated goals: public awareness, international pressure, congressional action, the administration?s involvement. Well, all but one: The crisis in Darfur is not yet solved, and the campaign to save Darfur is running out of options.

While paying the understandable lip-service to the notion that it is not yet time to give up (“it is too soon to succumb to a retrospective spirit”), Just has convinced me that my assessment was correct. His article does not offer a new course of viable action, and goes into detail when it recounts the many complexities making this conflict harder to end. No wonder that the two presidential candidates aren’t making Darfur a centerpiece of their agenda. No wonder that voters do not demand such an agenda from the candidates. The old-style, activist-driven battle for Darfur is over. Choosing China over Bush is one reason that it ended before it even really began.

Bush Does the Right Thing for Darfur!

Wall Street Journal carried an opinion piece entitled, Bush Does the Right Thing for Darfur: A critic praises the president’s stand on war criminals and international law. In it, Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, writes:

Human Rights Watch rarely lauds the Bush administration. But when it comes to supporting international efforts to prosecute Sudanese leaders for their slaughter in Darfur, the administration so far has it right. The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor is seeking an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for the atrocities he allegedly directed in Darfur. Sudan’s government is trying to convince the United Nations Security Council to suspend the prosecution. On the one hand, Khartoum has launched a charm offensive, announcing on Nov. 12 yet another cease-fire and peace initiative. On the other hand, it is subtly threatening violence against civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian workers should prosecution proceed. Backing Sudan are Libya and China, as well as South Africa — whose concept of African solidarity tends to favor African persecutors over their African victims. Surprisingly, the toughest governmental defender of the proposed indictment is the Bush administration…

Read on.

Olympics: A Candle for Those Oppressed

Olympics are coming. The athletes will shine. But…

This from my colleague Rabbi Andy Koren (Director of Religious Education at Temple Emanuel in Greensboro):

A Candle for Those Oppressed

This Friday, the attention of the world will turn to Olympics. Extensive media coverage will be given to exceptional athletes: the talented swimmers, gifted gymnasts, Dream Teams, and so many others. Let’s hope that in our amazement at the pageantry, we do not forget to remember those who will not be on our TV screens. They are the people who have suffered from Chinese human rights abuses. They are those forced into exile by China or who suffer due to Chinese support of tyrannical regimes. They will not be running in races, but rather running for their lives. They will not have Olympic villages, since, for many of them, their families and villages are no more. Their stories will certainly not be mentioned as China is celebrated on opening night and likely will not be chronicled in the interest stories which are regularly featured during Olympic broadcasts. China is an enormous country which boasts a rich history and culture as well as a large and diverse population. It is also notorious for being a totalitarian regime and abusing its citizens’ human rights. It was only nineteen summers ago that we witnessed the protests in Tiananmen Square and the brutal crackdown on those calling for democracy and freedom. At that time, this was one of the more widely viewed examples of the Chinese government’s abuse of the human rights of its citizens. In 2001 as China was being seriously considered to host the summer games, the world expressed its concern about this abuse. Chinese officials did everything they could to assure the International Olympic Committee and the world that this would be their country’s opportunity to show the world a new respect for their own people’s human rights. As abuses, censorship, and other oppressive measures have continued, it is clear that the Chinese government has broken its moral agreement with the world. Like so many other oppressive regimes in modern times, it is banking on worldwide distraction or amnesia, or worse, on silence and apathy. China’s record at home is bad enough. On the world stage, China is entangled in some of the most serious problems now facing humanity. Many believe that were China, as the largest consumer of Sudanese oil and the largest supplier of weapons to the Khartoum government, to use its leverage, the horrors of the genocide in Darfur would come to an end. Instead, China has blocked world efforts to stop the genocide and has fully enabled the Sudanese government and their allies in the janjaweed militia to kill hundreds of thousands and exile millions. China also has supported the oppressive military regime in Burma and, not long ago, stood solidly behind it during the violent crackdown there against peaceful protests led by Buddhist monks. China remains the main support for maniacal Kim Jong-Il in North Korea. China’s record in Tibet has included the denial of all Tibetan appeals for autonomy and the refusal to speak or negotiate with the Tibetan spiritual leader in exile, the Dalai Lama. During the Olympics, it is difficult to imagine that any of these issues will be given more than a mere mention, if that. Instead, the media will talk about sports and goodwill, both of incredible importance. It will be sad that those whose voices need to be heard now more than ever will be squelched. It was not so long ago that whenever the Soviet Union wanted to talk with the US, human rights would be the first issue on the table. What is happening now? Why are we so silent? Why are we turning a blind eye? Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Jewish people begin their Sabbath on Friday night by lighting two candles. This Friday, all who cherish human freedom should light a candle in honor of those who will not be represented by the fireworks and songs in Beijing. Let us light a candle for the Tibetan people and the Dalai Lama, for the people of Burma and Darfur. As we light this candle, let us resolve to work for the time when they too will experience the light of freedom. Oppressed people need more than our good intentions. They also need us to be involved. In the immortal words of Hillel the Elder: If not now, when? If not now, when? May it be our prayer that blessing should come to those who should not be forgotten. As athletes gather for competition, may we also work on behalf of those denied the rights we sometimes take for granted. May the abuses of the powerful soon and speedily give way to freedom, justice, and understanding for all.

Two Great Quotes: On Silence and on Activism

This first quote from Rabbi Rafael Goldstein’s Thoughts for Today (a daily SHORT email with thought-provoking quotes and questions). Get his daily quotes and spiritual questions by emailing Rabbi Rafael Goldstein directly.

So often my words precede my thoughts, and I feel humiliated. I am a fool more frequently than I am a sage! O G!d, show me how to keep quiet more often, at least until I have something real to say and someone who wants to hear it. (Rabbi Chaim Stern)

This second quote from an article by Rabbi David Saperstein in this month’s CCAR Journal. It informs our work against genocide in Darfur as well as so many other social justice activities:

Whoever is able to protest against the transgressions of the world and does not is liable for the transgressions of the entire world. (Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 54b)

Olympics 2008: Hiding the Scourage of Genocide

Sure, we are all looking forward to the Summer Olympics to revel in the amazing abilities of athletes from around the world. However, it is just so disappointing and so tragic that once again the Olympics serve as a propaganda tool that hides the hosts connection to genocide.

The 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany provided Hitler with worldwide attention. “For two weeks in August 1936, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi dictatorship camouflaged its racist, militaristic character while hosting the 1936 Summer Olympics. Minimizing its antisemitic agenda and plans for territorial expansion, the regime exploited the Games to impress many foreign spectators and journalists with an image of a peaceful, tolerant Germany.”

China may not be Nazi Germany, but it is certainly supporting, protecting and economically bankrolling the genocidal Sudanese government that is perpetrating genocide upon its Darfuran citizens. And these Olympics provide China with the international prestige which allows it to paper over this travesty.

Lo Ta’amod – Let us not stand idly by (again)…