Sunday, April 22, 2007

Haaretz Editorial: Israeli Help For Darfur

I totally agree with today's Haaretz editorial (click here for the Hebrew version):

More than 250,000 people have been killed in Darfur since 2004 and nearly 2.5 million Sudanese have fled their homes; the situation in the region could now spiral completely out of control.

The widening of the conflict to include Chad and the Central African Republic has already caused more suffering and killing in the region. International efforts are focusing on pressuring Sudan to agree to the deployment of a large multi-national force in Darfur. One can see almost everything in the approximately 12 camps that are strung along the border with Sudan, under deteriorating humanitarian conditions: children who have lost their parents, refugees who have lost all their possessions, murder and other forms of violence. The acts of violence that have spread to Chad in recent months have caused hundreds of thousands of local people to flee their homes, undermining living conditions and what little security there still was in the region. It is not rare for babies to die from hunger and disease, for women to be raped and for people to be murdered. International assistance to about a quarter of a million displaced persons is declining.

Under such conditions, Israel should not be missing from the list of countries providing life-saving help to the region's inhabitants. Nearly 20 non-governmental agencies are operating in eastern Chad - Italians, French, British, Dutch, Spanish, American and international groups that have made assistance to the victims of violence in Darfur the focus of their work.

The Jewish-American Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), which provides psychological and welfare assistance to the victims, is alone in representing Jewish values, which consider assistance to refugees paramount. Some of its funding comes from contributions by IsraAID, an umbrella organization for humanitarian assistance, which also sent a few Israeli volunteers. This is not enough of a presence.

Israel should extend immediate assistance, whether funded by non-governmental agencies or directly, to refugees and displaced persons who have found shelter in Chad. The absence of diplomatic ties between the two countries should not be an obstacle. Israeli assistance to the victims of the tsunami in Indonesia, with which Israel also does not yet have full diplomatic ties, is an important example in this regard - despite the differences in the nature of relations between the countries.

In the past Israel has shown that it can provide much-needed aid to disaster areas throughout the world, demonstrating the Jewish values on which its establishment was based. Assistance to Muslim victims can illustrate much better than any international public relations campaign that the principles by which Israel was established are universal and do not discriminate between humans based on religion or race.

Israel, which came into being after the Holocaust cannot stand idly by in the face of the suffering of Darfur's refugees.

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