Darfur Rally Draws On Lessons of the Holocaust


April 30, 2006There were many interesting and memorable images at the Save Darfur Rally in DC on April 30. Local residents of the Fur tribe mingled with the crowd, thousands of young children carried signs of protest and Elie Wiesel, Al Sharpton and George Clooney all spoke at the same podium. For me, what stood out most were the widespread references to the Holocaust.

When survivors Elie Wiesel and Nesse Godin finished their remarks early in the program, a young lady walked to the microphone and addressed the crowd of more than 75,000. She identified herself as a grandchild of Holocaust survivors and mentioned that this nation was silent when the Holocaust was taking place. "Today, we have no excuse," she said, followed by thunderous applause. Echoing her sentiments, a nearby sign stated "Last time we couldn't stand up. This time we will." This sign stood out, as it was immersed in a sea of signs reading "Never Again."

All of the Holocaust imagery was an unfamiliar sight in such a public setting. While the Holocaust was primarily a Jewish experience, the lessons of the Holocaust are universal and should be applied that way. At the rally, the Holocaust's lesson of silence was rightfully held up as an example of how humanity, through its silence and passivity, failed those in need before and since. Tens of thousands at the rally loudly declared that humanity would not be silent again. This brought to mind the words of Albert Einstein, himself a refugee from Nazi tyranny, who said, "the world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."

On April 30th, the memory of the Holocaust could not have been honored more appropriately. When the Holocaust is spoken of, people listen. For many, hearing from Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors about Darfur might have heightened their awareness of the crisis and if anything, added to their urgency in helping to stop it. There seemed to be no better venue than our nation's first anti-genocide rally that we helped to shape one aspect of our unique legacy.

Darfur Action Meeting

February 21, 2006 picture-113GNY would like to thank everyone who made it to the Darfur Action Meeting. We'd also like to thank Makor for hosting this meeting and offer a special thanks to our guest speakers Ira Horowitz from American Jewish World Service and Elise Keppler from Human Rights Watch.

For those unable to attend, Ira and Elise shared with us valuable info and insights about Darfur. Of note: Ira provided us with some background:

  • Darfur is a region in the far west of Sudan -- Africa's largest nation.
  • Darfur is about the same size as Texas and is home ("Dar" in Arabic) to the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa tribes.
  • Since February 2003, a government-backed Arab militia known as janjaweed has been engaging in a brutal campaign to wipe out communities of these African tribal farmers in Darfur.
  • The perpetrators and victims are primarily Muslim, and black in skin tone, but the victims identify as African and the perpetrators identify as Arab.
  • Some say this is really a competition for land and resources between nomadic cattle herders (the janjaweed) and sedentary farmers (the tribes). However, both race and land are contributing factors.
  • Up to 90% of all villages in Darfur have been destroyed.
  • Government air raids frequently precede or follow these militia attacks.
  • The reason some feel it's not genocide is because some are unsure if there's intent to kill or destroy all (or part) of the African tribesmen.

Some numbers (since February 2003)...

  • 1.83 million IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) in Darfur
  • 3.5 million Conflict-Affected Persons in Need of Assistance
  • 400,000+ Deaths -- men, women and children

Elise described the reaction of the international community and the difficult effort in prosecuting those responsible:

  • Since brokering a deal to end the two-decade old civil war in the South of Sudan, the US and other powers were initially reluctant to pressure the Sudanese government on Darfur, for fear of disrupting the peace in the South
  • The most effective vehicle for prosecution is the ICC (International Criminal Court). Many proposed that the UN Security Council pass a resolution referring this crisis to the ICC. However, due to perceived political leanings of the court, there was concern that the US would most likely veto such a resolution.
  • However, the resolution referring Darfur to the ICC was able to pass with the US abstaining in March 2005.
  • There are continuing challenges though. It will be difficult to obtain evidence and ensure witness protection in Darfur, given the role the Sudanese government has played in perpetrating abuses.

The most realistic action we can still take to save Darfur...

  • Put on the ground a UN force, which would be better able than the smaller, existing African Union force, to intervene to stop the killing.
  • However, putting UN forces on the ground would take a year, at least, and that's if the Sudanese government doesn't obstruct the effort -- which it most likely will.

To get the UN moving on this, our government needs to apply pressure. By showing our strength in numbers, we can stir our government to push aside its politics and act. Here are several things we can do to make our voices heard:

  1. To sign the Million Voices postcard click here
  2. Phone Calls (most agree these are more effective than letters)
  • US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton: 212-415-4050
  • President Bush, 202-456-1111
  • AJWS has been a leader -- on the ground and behind the scenes -- in the effort to save Darfur. To learn how to host your own Darfur Awareness event, order "Not On Our Watch" wristbands, donate to relief efforts, and more, please visit the AJWS website.
  • The Human Rights Watch website, provides excellent background about Darfur and also offers information on what we can do.
  • The US Holocaust Memorial Museum's Committee on Conscience, is a great resource for us to learn more about genocide around the globe and how we can help fight it. The Committee on Conscience was the first to point out that what's going on in the Sudan is genocide. The committee has been vigilant in raising awareness about Darfur since it first issued a "genocide warning" for Sudan in October 2000.