August 21, 2008
Awakening schmawakening, Darfur’s hope is grass-roots action
The Great Awakening
Am I the only reader who finds your celebration of the Rev. Rick Warren's interviews with our presumptive presidential candidates very chilling ("The Great Awakening," Aug. 15)?
The first nationally televised meeting of these candidates in a religious setting is frightening. It indicates again the growing erosion of our valued separation of church and state.
Is no one outraged by Rev. Leah Daughtry's Faith Based Convocation before the Democrat's Convention in Denver? Since when are Democrats the party of the religious? I thought Republicans had that franchise.
This is such pandering to religious voters right, left and center, it makes me wonder, where are our civil libertarians?
Please, wake up. Warren is not bringing the "Great Awakening." He is dismantling our Constitution while too many of us sleep.
I almost always enjoy your column, and I did this one too. But to the best of my knowledge, including Internet research, Billy Graham is not "the late." He is reported to be alive at age 89 and retired.
As your readers well know, Jewish World Watch has been at the forefront of Darfur activism in Los Angeles for the past four years. During those four years, our coalition of almost 60 synagogues has demanded from President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Chinese President Hu Jintao and many others, immediate and significant action to stop the ongoing slaughter of innocents in Darfur, Sudan. We have done it through letters, phone calls, rallies, marches, and vigils. Those actions have led to incremental successes.
We are pleased to now have David Suissa participating in our calls for action, through his "Live in the Hood" column. ("Dear Condoleezza Rice," Aug. 15)
We all know the frustration of continuing to watch this genocide enter its sixth year. In fact, last year we witnessed first-hand the suffering of the survivors by visiting the Darfuri refugee camps in Chad. The Darfur activist community knows that Sudan will not be stopped without significant international pressure, not only from the United States, but from China, Russia and, significantly, other African and Arab nations.
The only way to get this kind of international pressure is through persistent grass-roots movements, like ours, that make action in the face of genocide a domestic issue, with political consequences. It is the grassroots work that will, more likely than not, serve as the impetus for and foundation of whatever action our government takes in response to genocides like the one in Darfur.
We welcome Suissa's letter and hope that it contributes to re-energizing our community in what may well continue to be a long road ahead.
Janice Kamenir Reznik
Co-Founder and President
Tzivia Schwartz Getzug
Jewish World Watch
In his column, David Suissa wrote movingly about his recent experience learning about the horrors of the Darfur genocide from a Darfuri refugee speaking at Beth Jacob Congregation. Suissa was so moved he felt compelled to write an open letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging her to intervene.
I couldn't agree more with his passionate plea, but I was taken aback by his cavalier dismissal of the community-wide efforts that are so crucial to persuading policymakers here and at the United Nations. Suissa writes that when people asked what can be done, "The answers, of course, were weak. How could they not be? ... typical activist ideas like 'write a letter to your congressman' (sic) 'get on the Web and make a donation' and 'tell everyone you know' are simply no match for this level of crisis." I beg to differ.
While it's possible that all it will take to move Rice to act is to hear from Suissa, those of us who have been working to end the genocide for years are in our turn skeptical of this strategy. I have the privilege of representing Temple Israel of Hollywood on the Jewish World Watch Synagogue Council, and we are among those thousands of activists who have been writing letters to our members of Congress, making donations and organizing community events and activities to tell everyone we know.
As someone who has been an advocate for civil rights for more than 25 years I know that success is not only difficult but a long-term proposition. Ending the genocide in Darfur is only possible if we are working on all fronts because this is what keeps the pressure on policymakers and leaders like Rice. It is our thousands of voices, letters and postcards that create an atmosphere in which it is impossible for Rice to turn away. Without them, it's just Suissa's voice crying in the wilderness, and while he's both persuasive and important it's hard to believe his column alone can do what all these other voices have yet to be able to accomplish!
Abby J. Leibman
David Suissa's open letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice strikes a personal chord. As a member of the board for Jewish World Watch, I have struggled with similar frustrations throughout these long years of combating genocide in Darfur. The work to end the genocide is daunting to say the least -- it is difficult to continue work when successes are small, infrequent and feel only slightly incremental.
Within the already daunting task of ending genocide, it is easy to discount a donation to refugee relief as a Band-Aid solution. But Band-Aids serve their purpose -- they staunch bleeding while we wait for a doctor. Refugee relief work in Darfur is having a very real -- and very essential -- impact. Solar cookers are protecting women and girls from rape by reducing their reliance on firewood.
Water reclamation projects are teaching long-term skills of conservation and helping to irrigate much-needed vegetable patches. Backpacks filled with school supplies and hygiene items are giving children an opportunity to see a future as doctors, teachers and translators, not soldiers in rebel armies.
Relief work won't end the genocide. We must certainly continue our education and advocacy work worldwide in an effort to bring long-term solutions to Sudan. We must continue pressure on our government and international players to implement these long-term solutions. And in the meantime, we must work to ensure that the people of Darfur stay alive, safe, and are able to live with dignity while the work to end genocide continues.
Jewish World Watch
David Suissa adds his voice to the chorus demanding that something be done to stop the genocide in Darfur. He advises Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to "go to Darfur" and "make a stink. Knock a few heads. Expose the criminals.... Create an urgent global coalition to save the Darfurians."
The criminals have already been exposed. A global coalition to do what? I am still waiting for a prominent Darfur activist to call for what would actually stop the killings: A U.S./NATO-enforced no-fly zone, and U.S./NATO peacekeepers who would shoot back if the janjawid attacked them or attacked the refugees.
Without these, the genocide will go on until the killers decide to stop. Let's not pretend; let's not fool ourselves.