South Sudan is a Jewish Cause

April 23, 2012 2:12 pm 5 comments

South Sudan President Salva Kiir. Photo: Stein Ove Korneliussen.

The great Jewish historian, Salo W. Baron, famously criticized the “lachrymose” conception of Jewish history, by which he meant the reduction of the Jewish experience to a series of gory persecutions. This view of the Jewish past often colors our sense of the Jewish present, with the result that we see ourselves as having few friends, or even none at all, in a hostile world which resents the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty after centuries when Jews were at the mercy of others.

Thinking this way can be dangerous. I say this not because I make light of the threat posed to Israel by Iran, say, or because I don’t regard anti-Semitism in Europe and in the Islamic world as a major problem. I say this because we shouldn’t allow the fixations of enemies to divert us from the reality that we do have friends—and that we owe these friends our support when they fall upon dark times.

This week, the Islamist regime that has ruled Sudan since coming to power through a military coup in 1989 declared a new war against the neighboring state of South Sudan. The newest member of the United Nations, South Sudan declared its independence in July 2011, following a referendum in which almost 100 per cent of participants opted to separate from the predominantly Arab and Muslim north. For nearly 30 years, Sudan waged a brutal war against the largely Christian, African south, in which around 2 million people lost their lives.

Jewish communities around the world, and especially here in North America, need to flex their muscles in support of South Sudan. The ethical imperative is clear, as anyone following the brutal campaign waged by the Sudanese regime in the Nuba mountains in recent weeks would be aware.

But there is also a political imperative. Israel was one of the first states to recognize South Sudan. At the end of 2011, Salva Kiir, South Sudan’s combative President, visited Israel and spoke of his wish to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem. Israeli aid and development agencies, often assisted by Jewish organizations like the American Jewish Committee’s Africa Institute, have, over the years, played a major role in building up the South’s economy and infrastructure.

Hence, the bottom line is this: in a region filled to the brim with hateful enemies and fair-weather allies, South Sudan is the only state that can truly be called a friend of Israel. The origins of this friendship stretch back to the early years of the State of Israel, when David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, articulated a strategy known as the “Alliance of the Periphery,” whereby the non-Arab and non-Muslim populations in the Middle East—Kurds, Iranians, Lebanese Christians and so forth—were regarded as natural partners in countering the Arab campaign against the Jewish state.

Yet showing support for South Sudan in its hour of need is not Israel’s task alone. Jewish communities in the diaspora should also be advocating for a renewed “Alliance of the Periphery.” After all, when we hear the blood-curdling declamations of Sudan’s dictator, the indicted war criminal Omar al Bashir, against the “insects” running South Sudan, how can we not be stirred by the parallels with the Iranian regime’s anti-Israel rhetoric, or the fulminations against the “sons of pigs and monkeys” across the Islamic world, or even the dehumanizing verbal assaults by the Nazis upon the Jews?

Throughout much of the conflict over the last decade in the Darfur region of western Sudan, American Jews were a vital base of support and awareness. Synagogues and community centers across the country were draped in “Save Darfur” banners. When 100,000 people turned out for an April 2006 rally on the National Mall in Washington, DC, a huge number of the participants were drawn from Jewish communities. There is no reason why this impressive solidarity should not be reignited for the people of South Sudan.

Only this time, we should be explicit that we support South Sudan because we are Jews. Their foes are also ours; for example, many of the organizations that traipse around American university campuses preaching hatred of Israel have also portrayed the Darfur campaign as a nefarious tool of Zionist influence, much to the glee of Sudan’s rulers, who quickly jumped on the bandwagon by claiming that talk of a genocide was a Zionist myth.

Sadly, Jews have a tendency to become nervous in such situations. Rather than celebrating our political influence, we seek to bury it behind inter-group and inter-faith coalitions. It is not that such coalitions are unwelcome; the problem is that many Jews apparently believe that the more universal a campaign is, the more acceptable it will be in the court of public opinion, and the less selfish we will look.

If we want to boost the pride of our friends, we need to boost the pride in ourselves. For the best coalition of all is still to be formed: one in which Jews, Kurds, Southern Sudanese, Lebanese Christians, Iranian democrats and others seeking to combat the malign influences of Islamism and Arab chauvinism gather under one roof, supporting each other as equals. As Herzl said, “If you will it, it is no dream.”

Ben Cohen is a senior columnist for JointMedia News Service. The New York Post, Fox News, PJ Media and other prominent media outlets have also published his commentaries on international politics. Cohen is president of The Ladder Group, a communications consultancy based in New York City.

The Algemeiner is the fastest growing Jewish newspaper in America.  Your one stop source for all news, commentary and analysis from Israel and Jewish communities around the world. Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

5 Comments

  • Thank you for your support of the South Sudanese people. South Sudan is already labeled by many Arab countries as “second Israel”. The Israelis have stood with us through our sufferings and we will always stand with them.
    The new Sudanese passport says, “For travel to all countries except Israel and South Sudan”. We, the South Sudanese, will always be friend to Israelis. It is our commitment and we will NEVER shy away from it.

  • Ayak Ajak Reec

    I am a South Sudanese living in Atlanta, Georgia and I endorsed this article. I would like my new country to build uncheckable relationship with Israel. South Sudan needs a strong military defense and only Israel can help us. I encourage Israel government to continue to give unconditional support to South Sudan gov. for my gov. is learning.
    Thanks to the author and thanks to our Jewish frineds for their support.

  • Sudan is ruled by a dictator nothing to do with Islam .

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Commentary In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    JNS.org – “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic Parker Brothers board game, requires imperial ambitions. Players imagine empires and are pitted against each other, vying for world domination. Amid this fictional world war, beginners learn fast that no matter the superiority of their army, every advance is a gamble determined by a roll of the dice. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Weighted reinforcement cards provide the only opportunity to reverse a player’s fortunes and resume the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Sports Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    JNS.org – For Daphna Krupp, her daily workout (excluding Shabbat) at the Jewish Community Center (JCC or “J”) of Greater Baltimore has become somewhat of a ritual. She not only attends fitness classes but also engages with the instructors and plugs the J’s social programs on her personal Facebook page. “It’s the gym and the environment,” says Krupp. “It’s a great social network.” Krupp, who lives in Pikesville, Md., is one of an estimated 1 million American Jewish members of more [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated magazine featured an extensive profile on Orthodox-Jewish college basketball player Aaron Liberman on Wednesday.  The article details Liberman’s efforts to balance faith, academics and basketball at Tulane University, a challenge the young athlete calls “a triple major.” Sports Illustrated pointed out that Liberman is the second Orthodox student to play Division I college basketball. The other was Tamir Goodman, the so-called “Jewish Jordan.” As reported in The Algemeiner, Liberman started his NCAA career at Northwestern University. According to [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    As the popularity of cycling continues to increase across the world, Israel is working to develop cycling trails that make the country’s spectacular desert accessible to cyclists. The southern segment of the Israel Bike Trail was inaugurated on Feb. 24 and offers for the first time a unique, uninterrupted 8-day cycling experience after six years of planning and development. The southern section of the Israel Bike Trail stretches over 300 kilometers in length and is divided into eight segments for mountain biking, [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    JNS.org – With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention now shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two of the major action films coming up in 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the Fantastic Four series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    JNS.org – I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home. From then on, that love has never wavered, and isn’t reserved for one, but for oh so many—Ferris Bueller, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Harry and Sally, Marty McFly, Atticus Finch, Danny Zuko, Yentl, that little dog Toto, Mrs. Doubtfire, [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case. Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency’s three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.