Posts

The Daily Foxman: From Armenia to Darfur

Gershom Gorenberg has an excellent piece in the American Prospect distilling the main points of the ADL-Armenian Genocide fiasco. One of my arguments all along has been that a failure to acknowledge a historical atrocity is also an implicit acquiescence … Read More

By / September 9, 2007

Gershom Gorenberg has an excellent piece in the American Prospect distilling the main points of the ADL-Armenian Genocide fiasco. One of my arguments all along has been that a failure to acknowledge a historical atrocity is also an implicit acquiescence before future atrocities. Indeed, the current Darfur refugee crisis — and Israel's recent expulsion of 50 Darfuris last month — becomes a grievous complement to the events of not only 1915, but of 1939:

Olmert, who has an uncanny ability to miss opportunities for leadership, blew this chance as well. In July, he announced that he'd agreed with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that any refugee caught crossing the border would be sent back. That prompted 63 Knesset members, more than half the parliament, to sign a petition against deporting Sudanese refugees, citing "the Jewish people's history as well as the values of democracy and humanity." Nonetheless, authorities sent back a bus of over 50 Africans in late August, most reportedly from Darfur. One official argument is that Al-Qaeda activists could be among the refugees. Lurking behind that is fear — expressed quietly even by some who oppose deportations — that large numbers of refugees could change Israel's ethnic character.

Under pressure, the government has announced it will let 500 Darfur refugees stay. Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit — a rival of Olmert from within his own Kadimah party — says he'll grant the 500 citizenship. The other Sudanese are to be sent back to Egypt.

As a country of 7 million, it's true, Israel can't solve the Darfur refugee crisis. Then again, the Israeli population is now about one-twentieth that of America just before the Holocaust. If it is enough for Israel to let in 500 people fleeing genocide, then the U.S. could have met its responsibility by taking 10,000 Jews. In fact, 50,000 Jews came to America between 1933 and 1941, according a Yad Vashem scholar. That was insufficient refuge.

I suppose it's not impossible that a member of Al Qaeda could slip past the asylum processors and enter Israel. However, one of the things that makes the Khartoum regime, which has been blessed by Al Qaeda, guilty of genocide is that it is targeting specifically black African Muslims for annihilation and expulsion. A black Darfuri is therefore much less likely to be a Bin Ladenist than, say, a white man from Warsaw claiming Jewish heritage in 1939 was likely to be a Nazi in disguise. This "official" argument centered on Israeli security is not so terribly compelling.

That said, given our own hysterical debate over the perils and promises of immigration to the U.S., it is an absolute crime that we have turned our backs on refugees from Sudan and Iraq.

The Iraqi Diaspora was among the most sophisticated and prosperous in the world up until 2003. It would be a small humanitarian triumph of this war if, given the continued bloodshed and chaos in Iraq, we could add to that population within our own borders, the better to prepare Iraq for a later influx of U.S. visa-holders and naturalized citizens.

Of course, such a reversal of policy might actually help the Bush administration save face, so no, it wouldn't want to do anything so bold as that.

Tagged with: