Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jerusalem Garin: Political Action

In Jerusalem there is no significant Sudanese community to speak of, so it has been hard for us to formulate major projects or initiatives. However, GT-Jerusalem has held a meeting to determine our programmatic focus for the section and is having a follow-up meeting in the coming days. Our first meeting highlighted the need to exploit Jerusalem's advantages as a cultural and academic center in the country to learn educate ourselves and others about not only the situation of the refugees in Israel, but also to take some political action in the Knesset's back yard. The following is a rough draft of a letter that we will be getting signatures for in Jerusalem to send to United States Representative (and YJ parent) Shelley Berkley of Nevada calling for action to aide Israel in helping the Sudanese refugees here.

Dear Congresswomen Berkley,

As you well know Sudan and Darfur have been conflict areas of increasing global interest in recent years. However the current violence in the region outdates the media coverage and spans back more than twenty years. The political, religious, ethnic, and tribal tensions that have caused the ongoing humanitarian crisis between the Arab North and Black South and West of Sudan stem back to the late ‘80s. Millions have died as a result of the fighting, raiding, slave trading, burning, raping, harassment, and starvation. Since 2005 there has been a truce and some progress towards an ultimate peace, but millions of displaced persons from Sudan are still dispersed throughout the globe, including in Israel.

Israel has an outstanding record on human rights, despite being on the frontlines of the war on terror and repeated slander by some media outlets. Israel has many faults, this we know, but there is also much to be proud of. Israel does not allow torture. Israel gives its citizens and press full liberty to criticize the government. One third of all Israeli young adults volunteer for one of the hundreds of Human Rights related organizations in Israel. Many Israeli youth take a year before their mandatory army service known as a שנת שרות, Shnat Shirut, or “year of service” in the literal translation to volunteer in underprivileged areas. The Israeli Supreme Court has made ruling after ruling in favor of human dignity, individual liberty, and respect of the interests of Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Seculars. In regards to the Sudanese refugees Israel has taken yet another stance on the side of justice by allowing them temporary and sometimes permanent refuge in the country. By contrast Egypt shoots at the same refugees when they attempt to cross their borders and Northern Sudan has killed hundreds of thousands of Dinka, Nuer, Nuba, Bari, Fur (Darfur), and numerous other tribes of Black-African Sudanese men, women, and children. By taking in this newest group of refugees Israel is following the same precedent set by Menachem Begin with the Boat People of Vietnam; the precedent set by David Ben Gurion when signing of the Law of Return and absorbing the millions of Holocaust survivors and refugees from Arab countries; and the precedent set by Yitzchak Shamir and Yitzchak Rabin in the case of Soviet and Ethiopian Jewry.

However, Israel’s actions have brought strain on its government and people that are hard to alleviate. Many of the refugees have settled in small, underprivileged communities on Israel’s periphery and have taken the jobs that native Israelis would normally have to sustain themselves. The Sudanese also do not always have proper medical or legal care and documentation and are difficult to set policy for as they are from an enemy country and could continue to arrive in larger and larger numbers if there is an incentive to do so. For this reason Israel’s government has had a cold reaction to the influx of refugees from Darfur and Southern Sudan characterized by begrudgingly given aid. While many Israeli volunteers have helped to provide education, health, and social services their help is not always enough.

I am signing this letter to you because I believe that the United States has a responsibility, as Israel’s closest ally to help with this humanitarian issue. You more than most others understand your moral obligation as a Jew, an American, a Social Servant, and a World Citizen to help these people however you can. I urge you to introduce legislation that provides Israel with either financial aid to deal with the refugees or proposes to transfer a large number of them to the United States, the Golden Medinah, where there are greater sources of funding to deal with their community issues. We said the we believed in good, we said that we will be a light unto the nations, we said, “Never again!” Please fulfill these prophecies.

B’Shalom U’vracha,

Todah Rabah

No comments:

Post a Comment