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The Arab Silence on Darfur By: Steven Stalinsky
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, October 21, 2005

With the backing of the Arab-dominated government of Sudan, nomadic Arab militias have been committing genocide against the mainly Muslim tribes people of Darfur since 2003. An editorial in the Washington Post on August 12, 2005, titled "Arabian Shame," criticized wealthy governments throughout the world for not properly giving aid to Darfur - while America had given 53% of all donations.

The editorial was especially critical of oil-rich Arab countries: "This Arab indifference is shameful. The victims of Sudan's worst crisis, in Darfur, are Muslim, and aid to non-Muslim southern Sudan is essential. ... Arabs have every reason to care about Sudan, and yet they have done far less than remote non-Muslim countries."


An article titled "The Arab Silence on Darfur Revisited" by Abu Khawla, the former chair of the Tunisian section of Amnesty International, similarly captured the position of many Arab reformists. The article, which appeared on the liberal Arabic Web site, Middle East Transparent, on December 22, 2004, stated, "The catastrophe unfolding these days in Darfur ... is considered to be the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. ... [Secretary-] General Kofi Anan described the matter as a collective massacre of civilians. ... In contrast, a deafening silence was observed throughout the Arab world on the horrendous crime being committed by their fellow Arabs in Sudan..."


The former editor of the London Arabic daily Alsharq Al-Awsat, Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed, published an op-ed on June 24, 2004, about the Arab press's indifference to Darfur: "They are not the victims of Israeli or American aggression; therefore, they are not an issue for concern. This is how an approach of indifference toward others outside the circle of conflict with foreigners, and of permitting their murder, is spread as you read and write about the Darfur crisis ... Is the life of 1,000 people in western Sudan less valuable, or is a single killed Palestinian or Iraqi of greater importance, merely because the enemy is Israeli or American? ...As for Arab intellectuals ... who consider any blood not spilled in conflicts with foreigners to be cheap and its spilling justifiable - they are intellectual accomplices in the crime..."


While some Arab writers have denounced the Arab indifference to Darfur, others have spread conspiracies surrounding it. On the Saudi government TV Channel 1, on February 3, 2005, Saudi journalist Suheila Hammad stated: "By Allah, this is a conspiracy. [The Americans] say so... There is a conspiracy in Sudan - Sudan is being divided so that Darfur will become a secular state, independent from Sudan, the south will become a Christian state..."


It should not be surprising that the Iranian press has also spread conspiracies about Darfur. In the Tehran Times of July 13, 2005, Hassan Hanzadeh, wrote: "The war in southern Sudan and the Darfur crisis have caused serious economic and political problems ... In the region, neighboring countries, with the help of the Zionist regime, which is trying to weaken African Muslim countries by triggering civil wars, tried to dismember the great African Islamic country of Sudan by arming the Sudanese rebels. Their main objective is to create a Christian country on the banks of the Nile in order to end the domination of Egypt and Sudan over the world's longest river."


Shortly before the last presidential election in America, some influential Arabs said Darfur was actually a conspiracy to help President Bush win. The Sudanese ambassador to Cairo, Dr. Ahmad Abd Al-Halim, spoke on Saudi Al-Majd TV on August 11, 2004, and said "extremist" voters in America want to turn Sudan into a Christian state.


The Egyptian government controlled Al-Ahram Al-Arabi published an extensive investigative report by Dr. Amani Al-Tawil titled: "The Key to the American Voting Booths Is in Darfur: The Plot Which Is Called Oil" on June 31, 2004. Similarly, an editorial in Egypt's Al-Ahram Weekly on June 29, 2004, questioned if "the Sudanese government is undertaking operations of ethnic cleansing against the inhabitants of Darfur, and especially against non-Arab tribes." The article added: "The suspicion in the Arab world is that America's eagerness to intervene in Darfur is an American conspiracy to gain control of Sudanese oil."


While this and other editorials question if genocide is occurring in Darfur, just over the past couple of weeks killings have continued. One typical attack occurred on September 28, when 400 Arab fighters on camels and horseback attacked the Aro Sharow refugee camp killing 34 civilians, as Sudanese government helicopters flew overhead. The Arab press mainly ignored the attacks - truly shameful indeed.


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Steven Stalinsky is the executive director of The Middle East Media Research Institute.

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