A little good news on Darfur?


There’s perhaps a little bit of good news coming out of Sudan, according to the U.S. envoy to the country. Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration says the "coordinated" genocide is over, reports the Washington Post:

President Obama’s special envoy to Sudan, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, said Wednesday that the Sudanese government is no longer engaging in a "coordinated" campaign of mass murder in Darfur, marking a shift in the U.S. characterization of the violence there as an "ongoing genocide."

"What we see is the remnants of genocide," Gration told reporters at a briefing in Washington. "The level of violence that we’re seeing right now is primarily between rebel groups, the Sudanese government and . . . some violence between Chad and Sudan."

The article also says there’s a dispute in the Obama administration about what should come next:

Last week, the Obama administration held a high-level "deputies" meeting to finalize a comprehensive policy plan to be presented to Cabinet members and later to the president. But those talks have stalled as a result of differences over how to strike a balance between rewards and penalties to bring about Sudanese cooperation.

Gration has advocated easing some American sanctions and upgrading U.S. diplomatic relations with Sudan’s government to induce cooperation. He has also sought to position himself as a principal mediator between the Sudanese government and its adversaries in western Sudan’s Darfur region, southern Sudan and Chad.

Speaking at the State Department, Gration announced plans to host an international conference in Washington on Tuesday to bolster a fragile peace deal between the government of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and leaders of the oil-rich southern region. Gration expressed concern that a landmark 2005 agreement ending Africa’s bloodiest conflict is in peril as the country prepares for national elections early next year.

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, was one of a group of Darfur activists who met with Gration on Wednesday.

rate of klling fallen off signficantly

"The rate of killing has fallen off significantly," Saperstein said Gration told them. But the rabbis added that whether this is a "lull or a permanent shift remains to be seen."

Saperstein said that there does appear to be a division in the adminstration on tactics, but there is a broad agreement on objectives, which include getting humanitarian aid groups back in the country and restarting the Darfur peace process.

The expulsion of humanitarian aid groups in March by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has led to Saperstein and many other Darfur activists, politicians and celebrities to embark on water-only fasts of solidarity to bring attention to the humanitarian situation — in which many refugees from the genocide can get water but not food. (A list of those fasting can be seen here.) The fast began with actress Mia Farrow, who had to stop after 12 days for health reasons, but others have picked up the baton. Ruth Messinger fasted for two days earlier this week, and Saperestein was joined by a group of 80 rabbis in five countries for a three-day fast scheduled to end Thursday evening.

Saperstein said the 80 rabbis from all four major religious streams who joined the fast volunteered on just a day’s notice, and that he’d heard that cantors, lay leaders and others were also participating.

"This is something the Jewish community really cares about," he said, adding that "everyone has just jumped to draw attention to this crisis."

Saperstein said he didn’t think the decrease in killing would lead to a decrease in attention to the Darfur crisis.

"Darfur is so ingrained in the conscience of Congress and the administration," he said, that an improvement in terms of  a sharply declining death rate is not going to cause people to turn their attention elsewhere.

"It is a humanitarian crisis of the first order," he said.

A partial list of all the rabbis participating in the fast with Saperstein is after the jump:[[READMORE]]

Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (Washington, DC)
Rabbi Alan Henkin, Union for Reform Judaism Congregational Support Center – West (Northridge, CA)
Rabbi Alan Lachtman, Temple Beth David (Temple City, CA)
Rabbi Alyssa Ralston, Congregation Rodef Sholom (San Rafael, CA)
Rabbi Avi Schulman, Temple Beth Torah (Freemont, CA)            
Rabbi Arthur Gross-Schaefer, Loyal Marymount University Hillel (Los Angeles, CA)
Rabbi Camille Angel, Congregation Sha’ar Zahav (San Francisco, CA)
Rabbi Douglas Kohn, Congregation Emanu El (San Bernadino, CA)
Rabbi Eve Ben-Ora, Jewish Community Center San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)
Rabbi Haim Asa, Temple Beth Tikvah (Fullerton, CA)
Rabbi Hillel Cohn, Congregation Emanu El (San Bernadino, CA)
Rabbi Jonathan Kupetz, Temple Beth Israel (Pomona, CA)
Rabbi Marty Lawson, Temple Emanu-El (San Diego, CA)
Rabbi Linda Bertenthal, Union for Reform Judaism (Encino, CA)
Rabbi Roberto Graetz, Temple Isaiah (Lafayette, CA)
Rabbi Steven Rueben, Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation (Pacific Palisades, CA)
Rabbi Elisheva Salamo, Keddem Congregation (Palo Alto, CA)   
Rabbi Pam Frydman Baugh, OHALAH: Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal (San Francisco, CA)     
Rabbi Karen Bender, Temple Judea (Tarzana, CA)
Rabbi Leah Lewis, Leo Baeck Temple (Los Angeles, CA)
Rabbi Stanley Kessler, Beth El Temple (West Hartford, CT)
Rabbi Charles Feinberg, Adas Israel Congregation (Washington, DC)
Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, Ohev Sholom (Washington, DC)
Rabbi David Oler, Congregation Beth Or (Deerfield, IL)
Rabbi David Young, Temple Sinai of North Dade (North Miami Beach, FL)
Rabbi Isaac Serotta, Lakeside Congregation (Highland Park, IL)
Rabbi Laurence Edwards, Congregation Or Chadash (Chicago, IL)
Rabbi Michael Zedek, Emanuel Congregation (Chicago, IL)         
Rabbi Eric Siroka (Temple Beth El, South Bend, IN)
Rabbi Susan Silverman (Israel)
Rabbi Alexandria Shuval-Weiner, The Temple-Congregation B’nai Jehudah (Overland Park, KS)
Rabbi Debbie Stiel, Temple Beth Sholom (Topeka KS)
Rabbi Debra Kassoff, Temple Emanu-El (Marblehead, MA)
Rabbi Jonathan Kraus, Beth El Temple Center (Belmont, MA)
Rabbi Raphael Kanter, Tifereth Israel Congregation (New Bedford, MA)
Rabbi Shoshana Perry, Congregation Shalom (N. Chelmsford, MA)
Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, Congregation B’nai Tzedek (Potomac, MD)
Rabbi Susan Shankman, Washington Hebrew Congregation (Potomac, MD)
Rabbi Phil Posner (Ajijic, Mexico)
Rabbi Adam Spilker, Mount Zion Temple (St Paul, MN)
Rabbi Jared Saks, Temple Israel (Minneapolis, MN)
Rabbi Alan Cohen, Congregation Beth Shalom in Kansas City (Kansas City, MO)
Rabbi James Stone Goodman, Congregation Neve Shalom (Creve Coeur, MO) and Central Reform Congregation (St. Louis, MO)
Rabbi Batsheva Appel, Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (Jackson, MS)
Rabbi Batsheva Meiri, Congregation Beth Hatephila (Asheville, NC)
Rabbi Bradley Bleefeld, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth Abraham of Carmel (Vineland, NJ)
Rabbi David Nesson, Morristown Jewish Center (Morristown, NJ)
Rabbi Debra Hachen, Temple Beth El of Northern Valley (Closter, NJ)
Rabbi Geri Chaikin, Temple Shaari Emeth (Manlapan, NJ)
Rabbi Rabbi Kim S. Geringer, Temple Sha’arey Ha-Yam (Barnegat, NJ)
Marcus Burstein, Temple Har Shalom (Warren, NJ)
Rabbi Michael Goldstein, Temple Beth Torah (Ocean, NJ)
Rabbi Michael Pont, Temple Beth Ahm (Aberdeen, NJ)
Rabbi Gerald M. Kane, Temple Beth-El (Las Cruces, NM)
Rabbi Avi Weiss, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale (Bronx, NY)
Rabbi Barbara Goldman-Wartell (Temple Concord, Binghamton, NY)
Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz (Central Conference of American Rabbis (New York City, NY)
Rabbi Jennifer Jaech, Temple Israel of Northern Westchester (Croton-on-Hudson, NY)
Rabbi Josh Davidson, Temple Beth El North Westchester (Chappaqua, NY)
Rabbi Marim Charry (Great Neck, NY)
Rabbi Mark Hurvitz, Davka.org (New York City, NY)
Rabbi Paula Drill, Orangetown Jewish Center (Orangeburg, NY)
Rabbi Paula Winnig, Temple Sinai of Long Island (Lawrence, NY)
Rabbi Theodore Tsuroka, Temple Isaiah of Great Neck (Great Neck, NY)
Rabbi Yocheved Mintz, Valley Outreach Synagogue (Las Vegas, NV)
Rabbi Eddie Sukol (The Shul, Pepper Pike, OH)
Rabbi Frank Muller, Congregation Rodef Shalom (Youngstown, OH)
Rabbi Stephen Wise, Shaarei-Beth El Congregation (Oakville, ON)
Rabbi Jack Paskoff, Congregation Shaarai Shomayim (Lancaster, PA)
Rabbi Merryl Crean, Martins Run Senior Residential Community (Media, PA)
Rabbi Michael Holzman, Congregation Rodeph Shalom (Philadelphia, PA)
Rabbi Robert Rubin, Adath Israel (Merion Station, PA)
Rabbi Shawn Zevit, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation (Jenkintown, PA)
Rabbi Brian Zimmerman, URJ Congregational Support Center – South (Dallas, TX)
Rabbi Nancy Kasten (Dallas, TX)
Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, New North London Synagogue (Finchley, London, UK)
Rabbi Gilah Dror, Rodef Sholom Temple (Hampton, VA)
Rabbi Jeffrey Saxe, Temple Rodef Shalom (Falls Church, VA)
Rabbi Jonathan Brown, Beth El Congregation (Winchester, VA)
Rabbi Rosalind Gold, Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation (Reston, VA)

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