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Jewish World Review April 11, 2004 / 21 Nissan, 5764

Nat Hentoff

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The new genocide: Have you heard? | The U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, Mukesh Kapila, said in a March 19 BBC interview that the killings, abductions and organized rapes in the far western region of Darfur in Sudan is "the world's greatest humanitarian crisis, and I don't know why the world isn't doing more about it."

The world, including the United Nations and United States, was silent in 1994 during the 800,000 murdered in the genocide in Rwanda. Kapila, who was in that nation during the slaughter, says that "the only difference between Rwanda and Darfur now is the numbers involved."

In his March 27 column in The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof estimates that "some 1,000 people are being killed a week; tribeswomen are being systematically raped; 700,000 people have been driven from their homes; and Sudan's army is even bombing the survivors. And the world yawns."

This atrocity is the result of the ruthless army of the National Islamic Front government in Khartoum, which for years has enslaved black Sudanese in the South. But the horror in Darfur is yet another of its crimes against humanity.

On March 22, the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network reported that during a Feb. 27 attack in the Tawilah area of northern Darfur "30 villages were burned to the ground, over 200 people killed and over 200 girls and women raped -- some by up to 14 assailants and in front of their fathers who were later killed. A further 150 women and 200 children were abducted."

In addition to reports from Kristof, the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the most detailed running accounts of this genocide are being provided by Eric Reeves, a professor of English at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. For years, he has also been the most persistent reporter on human rights crimes by the Khartoum government in the south of Sudan.

In a Feb. 25 Washington Post article, Reeves emphasized that the National Islamic Front "has allowed no news reporters into the region and has severely restricted humanitarian access, thus preventing observation by aid workers." It was the first op-ed on the issue I've seen in the American media.

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Victims of the violence, Nicholas Kristof reports, are black non-Arab Muslims. The killers, often aided by government troops, are Arab Muslims known as the Janjaweed militia. Mukesh Kapila distilled the ferocity of this hatred -- rooted in the "ancient tension between herdsmen (the Arabs) and farmers (the black Africans)" competing for water and forage -- by saying that "it is more than just a conflict. It is an organized attempt to do away with a group of people."

The killers and the rapists intend to make the region "Zurga-free."

Zurga is a contemptuous word for blacks, recalling the Nazis' murderous wish to make Europe "judenfrei" -- meaning "Jew-free." Which is why, the International Crisis Group in Brussels reports, there is "widespread destruction of schools, clinics, wells and irrigation pumps."

U.N. secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, has spoken out about these atrocities. But, as of this writing, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has yet to appear on international television and call loudly and often for world condemnation of the Sudan government. It's the least Annan could do after admitting, on March 27, to only part of his blame for his failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda when he was in charge of peacekeeping at the United Nations.

Annan could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives, but rejected seven pleas from his representative in Rwanda.

President George W. Bush, however, did telephone Sudan President Omar al-Bashir on March 22 to express concern about what was happening in Darfur. According to the White House, he asked President Bashir "to rein in militia and open up humanitarian access in the region." But that's far from enough. Bush should insist that Bashir end the genocide. The president should also urge the other African states -- that have been notoriously slow to actively intervene in human rights atrocities in Zimbabwe, for example -- to speak and act to end the killings and rapes in Darfur.

Syndicated radio host Joe Madison was a primary force in organizing American public opinion that got the president to sign the Sudan Peace Act, which condemned Khartoum's involvement in genocidal slavery, killings and rapes in the South.

Madison says that the news organizations have "to wake up. If this genocide were happening in Bosnia or Iraq, there is no question that tremendous attention would be paid by the media."

As Nicholas Kristof asks: "Are the world's pledges of 'never again' really going to ring hollow one more time? ... If we turn away simply because the victims are African tribespeople who have the misfortune to speak no English, have no phones and live in one of the remotest parts of the globe, then shame on us."

That means shame on each of us, not just the media.

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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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