Darfur: The Hourglass of Blood

The Darfur crisis in Sudan is perhaps the most politically convoluted conflict in the world today. Its underpinnings involve local, regional and international players, all selfishly vying for power and economic interests. Alliances shift like quicksand, reminiscent of Lebanon. Neither the interest of the people of Darfur, nor the sovereignty of Sudan seem to be a major concern to any of those involved: a regime fighting for survival, rebel groups readily playing into the hands of foreign powers, a superpower eager to create distraction from its blunders elsewhere, European players coveting the region’s oil wealth with growing keenness, and so forth. Meanwhile, the refugees continue to perish, dying at so alarming a speed, often in the most inhumane ways imaginable. What is to be done?

A crowd of a few thousand gathered at Downing Street for Global Day for Darfur, on April 29. They were largely Sudanese, mostly from Darfur. They gathered in London’s hotspot for protests with a seemingly decisive and uncompromising demand: intervention. They called on Britain — as tens of thousands rallying simultaneously in 36 cities called on their respective governments and the international community — to intervene to end the effective ‘genocide’ in Sudan’s Eastern province. Though a UN investigative team denied that the killings there were being carried out with genocidal intent, the fact is, an uncountable number of people are unnecessarily dying, mostly due to starvation and disease, but also murdered with impunity. Two million live in refugee camps, still targeted mostly by Janjaweed militias but also rebel fighters. Even those who cross into Chad — 200,000 refugees are now living along the 600 kilometer stretch that separates Sudan from its neighbor to the West — are not safe. The ethnic profile that makes Darfur a testing place for social and national cohesion, also exists in eastern Chad, thus similar feuds are carried out across the border.

The Darfur crisis is not that of black and white, Arabs and Africans. This is nonsense. They are all Africans. They are all Muslims, almost to the last one. Reductions and oversimplification might be useful to the media and short-sighted or self-serving politicians and governments, but deceptive and simply inaccurate. Even the two main rebel groups — The Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem) — are now fighting one another following the mid 2006 Abuja agreement. Chad is arming Sudan’s rebels and Sudan is doing the same.

But considering that the victims and the aggressors are all Muslim, what have Muslim countries and organizations done to bring the crisis to a halt? As the United States is keenly interested in hyping the tragedy and exploiting it for its own purposes, Muslim institutions in the West appear
uninterested in the whole affair, merely paying lip service to fend off accusations. At least this is how I felt when I caught up with Dr. Daud Abdullah, the Deputy Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the largest umbrella Muslim group — representing over 400 Muslim organizations in the country.

Abdullah spoke at the Darfur rally with unequaled passion, a quality known of this man, a Jamaican-British Muslim who has obtained his Ph.D. in modern Sudanese history from the University of Khartoum. He lived in the war torn country for seven years. He seemed neither apologetic nor bashful to lay the blame where it deserves to be laid; but he was clearly fearful of misguided military adventures like those of the United States in the Middle East.

“Muslims learned bitter lessons from the Kuwait episode when foreigners invaded Muslim lands,” he told me, proposing “an internal political settlement within Sudan using African and Muslim resources.” When I suggested to Abdullah that such a proposal is useless considering its
repeated failures, and considering the urgency of the situation in Sudan, he responded: “failure of the part of Muslims on more than one occasion shouldn’t negate the notion that Muslims must not to try to resolve the situation internally and present their own alternatives.”

Dr. Abdullah knows more than anyone else I know how Sudan “is prone to fragmentation.” He said the country “was put together in the 19th century (in a political concoction) that has left it in constant struggle and civil war. The country is hardly in need for further fragmentation.”

“This conflict will be resolved at the negotiation table,” according to Abduallah, who is also one of the most well known Muslim rights advocates in the country, if not in all of Europe. “There can be no military solution. Muslim countries, civil societies and other parties must strive to bring
conflicting parties to talk on the basis of sharing wealth and creating equality and ending the marginalization that has defined Darfur for generations.”

Rights groups however, suggest that the intensity of the violence has increased since the peace agreement signed last year between the government and the rebels. The rebels’ split lead to an internal clash and the killings are no longer defined according to the simplified media line: Janjaweeds vs. Africans.

Dr. Abdullah defended the MCB against my suggestion that some Muslim groups seem little interested in direct involvement, and that Darfur has been dropped out of their political sphere for it simply involves no other party other than Muslims. “The MCB has been involved in efforts to support political settlement in Sudan. We are in direct contact with Khartoum and
are exploring ways to ensure that the central government honors its responsibilities toward the people of that region.” He spoke of “some progress” on that front, and insisted that the powerful Muslim organization fully supports the Abuja Agreement. According to Abdullah, MCB continues to exert all efforts to help bring an end to the conflict.

In such conflicts, when regional control, political interests and economic booty are all at stake, human lives, especially those of these least importance – peasants, nomads and defenseless innocents with little clout — become a pawn in the hands of those who wish for conflict to perpetuate, so long as there is a good reason for its continuation. As I left the Darfur rally, the echo of an angry speaker, demanding intervention and justice and all the rest followed me a long distance from the crowd. My mind was totally consumed with the most expressive hourglass of blood. It was still streaming as people continue to die.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons (Clarity Press). Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs, Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). Read other articles by Ramzy, or visit Ramzy's website.

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  1. True Blue Liberal » Darfur: The Hourglass of Blood said on May 14th, 2007 at 5:53pm #

    […] Read more Darfur […]

  2. atheo said on May 15th, 2007 at 8:44pm #

    Who Is Charles Jacobs?
    What Is The David Project?
    By Karin Friedemann

    A Polish immigrant armed with only a BA from Rutgers and a Masters in Education from Harvard has proven exceptionally effective in manipulating the US government and major American institutions into following policy blueprints created by his Israel advocacy organization, the David Project. Charles Jacobs, like Charles Krauthammer and Richard Perle, obtains speaking engagements through a PR firm called Benador Associates, which specializes in pro-Israel campus events focusing on Islam and terrorism. Like Alan Dershowitz, Charles Jacobs considers himself a progressive liberal. Fareeha Iqbal, a student at MIT, disagrees.

    “Dr. Jacobs’ talk expressed blatantly racist and anti-Islamic views. In fact, I have never seen Islamophobia exuded so blatantly at a public forum at MIT, nor such racist views aired at a panel discussion on human rights.”


    CAMERA, co-founded by Jacobs in 1982, is a media-monitoring organization dedicated to enforcing pro-Israel, anti-Arab and anti-Islamic bias in the news. It was a pioneer in the technological aspects of mass-marketing hate. One of the first media pressure groups to invest in the software necessary to create database capabilities for email blasting tailored messages to specific target groups, CAMERA sends out action alerts instructing its members to overwhelm newspaper and politicians’ offices with hundreds of emails and threatening phone calls to complain and argue about any media coverage critical to Israel or friendly to Islam.

    Columbia Unbecoming

    In 2002, a network of national Jewish organizations met to evaluate what they saw as an alarming rise in anti-Israel activity on campus. From those meetings emerged the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), which is founded in a partnership of Hillel and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. (The three organizations share a building in Washington.) The David Project is an affiliate member of the ICC. In October 2003, the David Project agreed to provide funding for a film, produced by Ralph Avi Goldwasser, to slander professors Rashid Khalidi, Joseph Massad, Hamid Dabashi, and Georges Saliba of Columbia University’s Department of Middle East studies. Joseph Massad became known as “one of the most dangerous intellectuals” on campus. Calls for the professor’s dismissal were issued by Congressman Weiner and by the editors of the Daily News and the New York Sun, and the propaganda film was shown in Israel before a government minister at an anti-Semitism conference.

    Sheikh Zayed/Harvard

    The David Project regularly placed racist anti-Arab and anti-Muslim speakers on Harvard campus, but its first major accomplishment was blocking a $2 million donation from the late president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, for a chair in Islamic Studies at the Harvard Divinity School. The Project’s 2003 smear campaign was coordinated with the ADL, By preventing Zayed from contributing to Harvard, Jacobs sought to minimize future input from Arabs and Muslims into discussions of developments at Harvard University.

    American Anti-Slavery Group

    The American Anti-Slavery Group grew directly out of Jacobs’ pro-Israel advocacy. The group supports the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), which has been employed by the US in order to destabilize the Islamic Republic of Sudan and is believed to have trained along with Israeli forces at Otis Air Force base in Massachusetts.

    The American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG) is based in Boston and works closely with Christian Solidarity International. The organization has been closely involved in filming fraudulent “slave redemptions.” Jacobs was presenting the issue as one of northern Arab “slavers” and African Christian southerners. In addition to claims of slavery, Jacobs has also described Sudan as a “terrorist, genocidal” state engaged in a “holy war.”

    Charles Jacobs and his American Anti-Slavery Group’s carefully designed “PR puff pieces” have managed to secure national media coverage. This campaign to vilify Arabs and Muslims is a multimedia effort that supplies huge quantities of lurid, both popular and pseudo-academic hate material.

    Save Darfur

    JCRC sponsored organizations that are staffed by Israel advocates trained by the David Project have further poisoned human rights discourse with the dishonest Save Darfur campaign aimed at divesting from Sudan as well as from any country which does business with Sudan. The David Project has proven uncommonly effective at changing US policy in a matter of months to listing Sudan as a terrorist nation and barring all trade with the country. While pro-Palestine activists have struggled for years to slow the stream of US public funds to Israel, Jacob’s anti-Sudan campaign is probably the quickest divestment success in US history. Thanks to the ongoing efforts of JCRCs and affiliated groups, Sudan divestment resolutions have become law in Iowa and are in the process of approval in 12 states. Although US involvement in Sudanese politics can only be a disaster for the Sudanese and for America, this sort of propaganda serves the purpose of turning Arab and African Americans against each other in order to prevent them from mounting any jointly organized political efforts. The David Project and the JCRC, who have had more than one director in common, work hand in hand to minimize the potential political influence of groups who might oppose continuing US funding of Israel.

    Muslims Sue the David Project

    In 2006, after the David Project was found instigating a lawsuit against the City over the construction of a new mosque, Dr. Yousef Abou-Allaban, chairman of the board of the Islamic Society of Boston, addressed Charles Jacobs in an open letter that was quoted in the Boston Globe.

    “We would like to know why you and others at the David Project appear to be so intent on inflaming relations between our communities,” Abou-Allaban wrote. “Do you really hate us that much?”

    In a landmark defamation suit, the ISB detailed “a concerted, well-coordinated effort to deprive … members of the Boston Muslim community of their basic right of free association and the free exercise of their religion.” Discovery materials from the ISB lawsuit have exposed a network of Neocons in the establishment, pro-Israel organizations, the mass media, and Islamophobic academics, working together to make the public fear the Muslim community.

    The list of defendants in the lawsuit include Steven Emerson, a self-proclaimed ‘expert’ on radical Islam whose documentary, “Jihad in America,” has been widely discredited, William Sapers, a director of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the Boston Herald, Boston’s FOX TV station, the David Project, and Citizens for Peace and Tolerance (CPT), whose president is Dennis Hale, a speaker for the David Project.

    Some Jewish groups have distanced themselves from the conspiracy to deprive Muslim Americans of their constitutional rights, which is a federal crime, but Nancy Kaufman, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston stated, “None of those organizations (who signed statements supporting the mosque) are members of the organizations of the JCRC. We don’t consider them to be a part of the mainstream Jewish community.”


    Much of the mainstream media’s negative coverage of Muslims arises from the continuous stream of poisonous accusations and racist insinuations distributed as press releases by the David Project and its affiliates. Until recently, Israel advocacy organizations, which have been heavily engaged in subverting US foreign and domestic policy, have remained mostly invisible to American political scientists, who focused on traditional political lobbies like AIPAC.


  3. anonymous said on June 6th, 2007 at 3:17pm #

    I work for the American Anti-Slavery Group and we have a database of over 7000 freed slaves’ histories, personal stories, pictures, and videos. It’s too bad that you are so cynical and see only what’s wrong with AASG’s founder. We do great work around the world and help many people.