Darfur’s Back In Focus


Remember Darfur? The region of western Sudan where an ongoing genocide has generated plenty of hand wringing and periodic protests but not much serious action by the world?

A couple of years ago it was a top issue for several Jewish organizations and it still is — but it’s hard to tell, what with overwhelming concerns about an imploding economy and an ever more dangerous Mid- East.
Well, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) may draw some attention back to the issue.
At its 2009 plenum this week in Washington, D.C., the group approved a resolution calling for a stronger international response — and possible military action by the United States “in coalition with other countries to protect the innocent civilians in Darfur and to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid.”

Delegates narrowly struck down even stronger language that would have, at least by implication, given the nod to unilateral U.S. military action if all else fails.

“There is a very strong feeling at the plenum that more attention has to be paid to the issue despite everything else that is happening around the world,” said Martin Raffel, the JCPA assistant executive director and a longtime advocate for more robust efforts to end the genocide.

Despite the maddening lack of international action, Jerry Fowler, a former official at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and now head of the Save Darfur Coalition, told delegates their activism and the activism of other groups involved in the issue is “saving lives.”

The new JCPA resolution goes beyond an earlier policy statement that approved the use of military force only by the “international community” — something that hasn’t done the suffering Darfurians much good as the killing goes on and the “international community” dithers.

The resolution also called for a full-time U.S. envoy to Sudan.

Delegates also passed resolutions calling for expanded Jewish- Muslim dialogue on a range of issues and for a “comprehensive energy policy both to fight global warming and to strengthen national security.” Delegates defeated language in that proposal that would put JCPA on record for a “temporary” relaxation of off-shore drilling prohibitions.

Earlier, they heard from Attorney General Eric Holder in his first appearance before a Jewish group in his new role.

Holder focused on how the new administration is recalibrating the balance between civil liberties and security in an age of terrorism.

“There is no reason why we cannot wage an effective fight against those who have sworn to harm us or our allies while we respect our most honored constitutional traditions,” he said. “We can never and we will never put the welfare of the American people at risk, but we can also never choose actions that we know will weaken the legal and moral fiber of our nation.”