China OlympicsSince I posted a few days ago about the Olympics + China + Darfur connection, I thought I’d give an update of what’s going on in the intersections of those subjects.

Recent developments in intergovernmental bodies:

A few weeks ago, on 7 July, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, asked the Court to indict Sudanese President Omar al Bashir on charges of genocide and other human rights abuses. This will be the first time that a sitting head of state will be charged thus.

People have both cheered and condemned this move. Alex de Wall, recently listed in Foreign Policy magazine’s Top 100 Intellectuals list, sums up the argument on his “Making Sense of Darfur” blog post: “Will this be a historic victory for human rights, a principled blow on behalf of the victims of atrocity against the men who orchestrated massacre and destruction? Or will it be a tragedy, a clash between the needs for justice and for peace, which will send Sudan into a vortex of turmoil and bloodshed?” Those who criticize the latter view say there are no prospects for peace under Bashir anyway.

Keep reading, and why I’m writing about this on the Lish will all become clear.

A few days ago, the Darfur Consortium, a coalition of more than 50 African and international human rights and civil society organizations published a report on the state of the UN peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID). UNAMID was first approved by the UN Security Council a year ago and has been operating for six months. According to the Darfur Consortium’s press release

UNAMID currently has a little over 9,000 of the 26,000 troops promised – the majority simply re-hatted from the previous African Union peacekeepers. The force lacks helicopters and armoured vehicles and is so woefully under-resourced that some former AU soldiers have been reduced to painting their helmets blue to denote that they are now a part of a UN mission. The lack of new troops means that the current peacekeepers are unable to leave their field posts and receive the latest UN training.

The report calls upon many countries by name to support the peacekeeping force through providing supplies such as helicopters. The importance of the force, and the opportunity the world has, are summarized by the words of Emmanuel Jal, the Sudanese musician and former child soldier: “As a citizen of Sudan, I am standing by my brothers and sisters in Darfur. I survived the 20 year war that raged between north and south Sudan, and it pains me to the core to see history repeating itself again in Darfur. UNAMID could make a real difference to people’s lives – but only if the international community gives it the support that it deserves. For five long years, Darfuris have asked for one of the most basic human rights – to be protected from violence. We cannot let them down.”

The mandate for UNAMID is up for renewal. The Security Council is expected to renew the mandate (although without the critical mass of troops and supplies, what’s the point?). What’s interesting here is that the African Union asked the Security Council to use its influence to suspend the ICC’s activities (the potential indictment of Bashir) for a year, due to concerns that indicting Sudan’s president would set back peace in Darfur. According to the BBC:

Libya and South Africa, backed by Russia and China, wanted to include this in the resolution on renewing the mandate.

But the UK, France, the US and central American countries objected, saying there should be no link between the peacekeeping force and whatever the court might do.

Faced with the prospect that the force might not have its mandate renewed, a compromise has been found after much wrangling.

Western powers agreed to wording making clear the Security Council was ready to discuss suspending any future ICC indictment of President Bashir.

Ahhhhhhhh, the China connection.

During the bidding process to host the 2008 Olympic Games and after the process, Chinese and Olympic officials promised that human rights in China would improve as a result of hosting the games. A recent Amnesty International report claims that human rights abuses have actually become worse in the months leading up to the Olympics, “that in preparation for the Olympics, Chinese authorities locked up, put under house arrest and forcibly removed individuals perceived as threatening the image of ‘stability’ and ‘harmony’ that officials want to present,” according to Bloomberg. Amnesty has set up a website called “The China Debate” where you can learn about the issues and debate the issues, and “respond to the question – ‘What human rights legacy for the Beijing Olympics?'”

And what does it have to do with the Jews?

We could go on and on about things like tzedek, tzedek tirdov and how active we are obligated to be, but I’d rather just use this opportunity to invite you to learn more. AJWS and Avodah have already decided that this is something Jews must take a stand on, and therefore the AJWS-AVODAH New York City Team presents:

Oy, Olympics!
An exploration of China’s role in Darfur and Burma…
… and what you might want to do about it.

There have been many questions and much confusion about the upcoming Olympics, being held in Beijing, China.

The AJWS-AVODAH New York City Team is hosting its first event to explore some of these questions and provide a forum for constructive engagement with a controversial topic.

The event will focus on the conflicts and abuses occurring in Darfur and Burma and will explore China’s role in these atrocities. What are the implications of an international event, celebrating world peace, being held in China, the largest supporter of Burma and Sudan?

Whatever your view on the Olympics in China, we urge you to participate in the evening’s events, gain more information, and have your voice heard.

Date: Tuesday, August 5th
Time: 7pm
Place: Downtown Manhattan (details provided upon registration)
RSVP: newyorkcityteam@gmail.com

As this event is only days before the opening ceremonies (to be held on Friday, August 8th), we will be providing discussion guides for Shabbat dinners across the city which you will be invited to attend. Whether you choose to watch the opening ceremonies or not, you will have the chance to engage with texts – in community – that can provide additional food for thought.

If you’re interested in hosting a Shabbat dinner, please let us know at: newyorkcityteam@gmail.com.

Guest Speakers:
Motasim Adam is the president of the Darfur People’s Association of New York (DPANY). Established in 2003 by Darfur refugees living in the New York area, DPANY’s purpose is to gather Darfurians together to strengthen their sense of community. As a non-profit organization, DPANY seeks to build cooperation with its new neighbors and to influence events in Darfur and in the African region. DPANY hopes to help Darfur achieve peace and progress to a bright future.

Christina Moon is the Founder and Executive Director of 8808 for Burma, an agency committed to using China’s role as host of the Olympics to call on the country to use its unique leverage to help save lives and build freedom in Burma, and thereby honor the spirit and principles of the Olympics.

Jeffrey Karl Hellman
is a spokesperson and the documentary producer/director for the International Campaign For Freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma (ICFAB). ICFAB engages in grassroots activism to bring the world’s attention to the desperate human rights situation in Burma, the illegal ongoing incarceration of Aung San Suu Kyi, and the obligation of the rest of the world to take meaningful action to end the tyranny of the Burmese military regime. Mr. Hellman has also worked on documenting Darfur activism.

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