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Darfur refugees in Be'er Sheva
Photo: Herzl Yosef
Taking lead on Darfur
Israel should accept 1,000 refugees, call on other countries to open gates

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni made a wise decision when she took the initiative to include Israel in the effort to aid the Darfur genocide refugees. It was impossible not to be shocked by the hardened hearts of government authorities in Israel (police, IDF, and the Ministry of Interior) that dealt with the Darfur refugee problem through the narrow prism of them formally being "nationals of a hostile country."

 

These authorities should be awarded the prize of moral obtuseness. This was exactly how respectable officials acted on the eve of World War II in face of the suffering of Jewish refugees who arrived in countries such as Switzerland.

 

However, it is important that Israel take more far-reaching measures than simply designating resources for treating the refugees who found shelter in neighboring Chad. In such matters there is significance to symbolic measures – Menachem Begin demonstrated this with his first act as prime minister, when he permitted entry to Vietnamese refugees who were rescued by an Israeli ship after their boat had drowned at sea.

 

Israel cannot make a significant contribution to solving the refugee problem: The UN and the entire international establishment are once again exposing their chronic helplessness in face of the genocide of the Darfur population carried out by the Sudanese government. Naturally, even the Arab League has kept mum. Human rights issues were never its top priority: Human rights issues are not adhered to even minimally in Arab countries, even if it is not "politically correct" to say so.

 

Spearhead call for aid

Israel should announce that it will take in 1,000 Darfur refugees and that it is willing to give them asylum.

This number should include the refugees currently in Israel and those in jail should be released. With regards to the rest, criteria should be determined and a committee of experts established to do so. Those permitted to come to Israel should be provided with full social rights – immediately. The State of Israel is strong and wealthy enough to provide them with all the rights granted to new immigrants.

 

At the same time, Israel should refer to all UN member states to demand that each grant asylum to a good number of refugees: Such a plea by Israel would carry significant weight as the majority of those active on the Darfur refugee matter in both the US and Europe are in fact Jews. With the decision to take in 1,000 refugees, Israeli ambassadors in the countries we maintain political ties with should be instructed to call on the various governments to also open their gates.

 

This time Israel could spearhead the call for humanitarian aid: We are not alone in the world, and those who talk about the lessons drawn from the Holocaust must understand that brutal genocide is currently being carried out in Darfur and that Israel – more than any other country – must lead a humanitarian campaign in this regard.

 

We always complain about the world's apathy - this time we can prove that after remaining silent for so long and after treating the Sudanese refugees so appallingly we can in fact behave differently.

 

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