Sunday, April 30, 2006

David Kelsey Questions the Jewish Leadership of the "Save Darfur" Coalition

David Kelsey, a Jewschool blogger, courageously asks tough questions about the "Save Darfur" coalition:
Is the Jewish community helping the situation in Darfur by championing the Dafurians’ cause, or are we poisoning the well of potential solidarity through our leadership?

Obviously Jewish activism on Darfur is ecumenical. And it is certainly promoted as such.

“The Save Darfur Coalition is an alliance of over 100 faith-based, humanitarian and human rights organizations. Our mission is to raise public awareness and to mobilize an effective unified response to the atrocities that threaten the lives of two million people in the Darfur region.”

But the ecumenical language of the Coalition it is somewhat of a facade. The Save Darfur Coalition is heavily (overly?) Jewish, and was created by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the American Jewish World Service.

It appears that intensive Jewish leadership and organizational support is viewed with cynicism from other possible allies for the Darfurians, including crucial African-American organizations. Like say, the NAACP, whose signature is notably absent on the Unity Statement.

Could it be that our commitment to Darfur is somehow viewed with suspicion when The Jews are calling for yet another intervention against Islamic aggression? Is it unfair to suspect that the OU might need an ulterior political motive to stand alongside the Reform Movement other than a purely moral objection to the plight of the Darfurians?

Can we at least try to understand why some might be unwilling to give us the benefit of the doubt?

In the U.S., the Holocaust is the primary lens in which to view all genocides in the past and present. In order to maintain credibility (which translates into continued and expanded Holocaust education, the major justification usually offered for Israel’s creation) don’t we have to react with alarm this way, or risk our mandate which allows us to promote our particular Jewish concerns provided we include universal ones?

If there is concern about our true intentions, and discomfort about what the Jews really want in the wake of Neocon support for the Iraq War and the broader Israeli push for U.S. pressure on Iran, including the possibility of a preemptive strike, does our heading the Save Darfur Coalition hinder, not help, its chance of receptivity?

Judging by the heavily Jewish signatures of the mission, it seems it may indeed be a hard sell, at least if The Jews are the ones selling it.

We may indeed only mean well. But we are not the best strategists. This effort needs the prominent leadership of African-American groups to succeed.

Or perhaps, just not a prominent Jewish leadership. Perhaps the moral compass of the Jewish community no longer carries a lot of weight nor enjoys widespread trust -- either internationally or domestically -– when it comes to our calls for intervention, particularly one that may require military action.

Things are different now. ("Jewish Leadership on Darfur," 17 April 2006)
I object to those who conflate neo-cons with Jewish communities. Far from being neo-cons, ordinary Jews stand to the left of almost all racial/ethnic groups in the United States except Blacks on the Iraq War or any other issue (and perhaps even to the left of Blacks when polling results are adjusted by income, given that income positively correlates with support for wars, tax cuts for the rich, social program cuts for the poor, and so on). The same cannot be said for prominent establishment Jews (i.e., those who hold leadership positions in Jewish community), however, too many of whom tend to uncritically support Tel Aviv's views on many foreign policy questions. The Sudan question is probably no exception. Can Kelsey's caution reach Jewish leaders without discouraging ordinary Jewish activists from getting involved in whatever issues they want to get involved in? I hope it will.

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