BY MELANIE NELKIN, GERRI MILLER AND MARTINA KNEE / AJT //

April is Genocide Prevention and Awareness month in Georgia and an opportunity for activists, from our state to California, to raise their collective voices about the 10 years of genocidal conflict in Darfur, Sudan. Today, the bridge to peace is still barely under construction.

We as Jews appreciate President Obama’s speech in Israel two weeks ago which connected Passover, freedom, peace and security. But we also strongly and respectfully urge the President to provide the same level of support and action for the people of Sudan, who are struggling to survive and claim their own freedom from a brutal regime.

We note that the President said:

“[Passover] is a story about finding freedom in your own land…[The story of the Exodus] spoke to a yearning within every human being for a home…”

With respect to security, he stated:

“I think about children…the same age as my daughters, who went to bed…fearful that a rocket would land in their bedroom simply because of who they are and where they live…”

And regarding tyranny, he said:

“[T]he world cannot tolerate an organization that murders innocent civilians…and supports the massacre of men, women and children in Syria…America will…insist that the Syrian people have the right to be freed from…a dictator who would rather kill his own people than relinquish power.”

As we approach Yom HaShoah, we recall the President spoke similar words about Darfur and other current genocides in each “Days of Remembrance” speech during his first term, but he did so without taking actions to back them up. We hope when the President reminds the nation in 2013 that remembrance alone is not enough, he also instructs his administration to create and implement a comprehensive new foreign policy toward Sudan.

The Obama administration’s current Sudan policy – which amounts to appeasement – has contributed to a resumption of regular aerial bombing of Darfur and the geographic expansion of mass atrocities to additional areas.

What the President should do is appoint a Special Envoy reporting directly and only to him to carry the new, more effective policy not only to Sudan, but globally, so that Sudan cannot continue killing its civilians without consequences. We ask specifically that:

  • The U.S. accept that the Government of Sudan has never honored an agreement and, for this reason, stop supporting that government; the U.S. should instead help guide the Sudanese to a democratic transformation, as there cannot be peace with an oppressive, authoritarian government trying to stay in power at all costs;
  • The new policy consider Sudan as a whole, rather than a series of separate conflicts, with the root cause of each conflict being the abusive government;
  • All peace negotiations include all of the rebel movements and unarmed opposition as well as civil society in multiple regions, particularly women;
  • The U.S. strengthen (and enforce) sanctions against Sudan and encourage the international community to do the same, including financial sanctions and travel bans on the perpetrators (as the ruling party historically has responded to pressure, not collaboration);
  • The U.S. build an international coalition to isolate the current ruling party and oppose economic conferences such as that planned in Doha, as under the current regime, any proceeds would support only the government’s killing of civilians;
  • The U.S. actively lead the international community in facilitating arrest of those for whom the ICC has issued arrest warrants; and
  • U.S. aid resources support strengthening the capacity of the marginalized leaders and civil society in Sudan which could lead the country to democracy.

Credible reports indicate that Sudan is hosting Mali jihadists in Darfur. Meanwhile, the alliance between Iran and Sudan continues to strengthen; Iranian weapons, including some for Hamas and Hezbollah, are made in Sudan.

We urge a revised U.S. policy as the current regime in Sudan, as a supporter of terrorists, is also a threat to security in the region, in Israel, and to the national security of the United States.

Many challenges faced by the Jewish people are common to all who struggle against brutality and tyranny and for justice, dignity and freedom. We are all Jews, Palestinians and Syrians, and we are all Sudanese as well – during Passover, on Yom HaShoah, and every day.

We prayed at our seders that peace, freedom and security in Sudan become an immediate priority of the President’s second term. As we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, we honor all those who perished and those who saved others.

We also recall President Obama’s statement six years ago, already a part of his legacy, that the Darfur genocide “is a stain on our souls.” We urge the President that by Yom HaShoah next year, his legacy also will include having taken effective action to help end genocide in Sudan and advance the reality of peace, freedom and security for the Sudanese.

Melanie Nelkin is the Chair of The Georgia Coalition to Prevent Genocide (GC2PG).  Gerri Miller is Founder and Coordinator of Dear Sudan, Love Marin and a director of the SF Bay Area Darfur Coalition (SFBADC). Martina Knee is also a director of the SFBADC. You can become a friend of these organizations on Facebook to participate in activism and advocacy at facebook.com/DarfurSF and facebook.com/pages/Georgia-Coalition-to-Prevent-Genocide.