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05 October 2007

American Hypocrisy on Burma, Darfur

American Hypocrisy on Burma, Darfur
John Sigler,* 28 September 2007

The news has recently been dominated by the brutal human rights abuses underway presently in Burma (officially Myanmar, but this name change is not recognized by the U.S.) and before this it was dominated by the catastrophe in Darfur. By any stretch of the imagination the actions of these governments against their own people are obscene and criminal and certainly deserve the outcry, the protests, and the demands for cessation that they have received from around the world.

Despite the radically different situations in Myanmar and Sudan, they do have at least one thing in common, namely that the governments committing these outrages are not doing so with the active aid and support of the United States. The United States began seriously sanctioning Burma in 1990 and though some minor relations remain, the government of Burma is not dependent on the U.S., supported by the U.S., or diplomatically protected by the U.S. Similarly, since 1997 the U.S. has imposed strict sanctions on Sudan over the Darfur issue and no one can legitimately claim that the Sudanese government is dependent on the U.S., supported by the U.S., or diplomatically protected by the U.S.

However, as egregious as the situations in Burma and Darfur are, there is another situation that is just as egregious that differs significantly, primarily because it is dependent on the U.S., supported by the U.S., or diplomatically protected by the U.S. Specifically; this regards the situation in Israel/Palestine. Israeli actions against the Palestinian people are easily comparable with Darfur or Burma at least in some respects, but many of the same Americans screaming about Darfur and Burma ignore it as our government continues to provide Israel with billions in direct aid, billions more in privately contributed aid as well as nearly absolute diplomatic protection from the United Nations and the world community.

As of August 2007 it was reported that much of violence in Darfur has ended although roughly 2.5 million people remain displaced refugees. In Israel/Palestine, although the level of absolute violence has declined when compared to earlier periods, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) still has more than 4.4 million Palestinian refugees registered as of the end of 2006. According to Human Rights Watch, “Palestinians are the world's oldest and largest refugee population, and make up more than one fourth of all refugees.”

In Burma, at the time of this article being written, the official death toll from the recent protests is ten though some dissident groups largely outside the country have claimed that “at least 200” Burmese have been killed. In Israel/Palestine Gideon Levy just reported on the Palestinian death toll for the year 5767 on the Hebraic calendar that just ended, in which 457 Palestinians were killed by Israel, 92 of whom were children, including at least a couple of incidents where more than ten Palestinians were killed at once. In comparison to previous years the number of Palestinians killed is lower, but just in case anyone thinks this is the result of an equal contest, the ratio of Palestinians to Israelis for this period is 45.7 Palestinians per Israeli (ten Israelis were killed, including those killed by the much publicized home made “Qassam rockets” coming from Gaza).

While it is commendable that Americans concerned with human rights have spoken out so loudly on the issues of Darfur and Burma; shouldn’t Americans first concern themselves with human rights abuses that depend on, are supported by, and are diplomatically protected by our own country? Of course in the wake of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, the worsening disaster in Iraq (whose refugee population is approximating that of Darfur), and other abuses, one might be forgiven for shrugging off the crocodile tears of the Bush administration for the people of Burma and Darfur. However, this does not hold true for real human rights advocates in the United States. Frankly, as long as Israel is denying virtually all human rights to the Palestinians with U.S. arms, bought with U.S. money, and with U.S. diplomatic protection; it is nothing less than sheer hypocrisy for American human rights advocates to decry the evils of the Sudanese and Burmese governments while ignoring Israel. Let’s work on the human rights disasters and atrocities that our country is actively supporting before we move on to those where we have less direct influence and culpability.

*John Sigler is a writer and activist based in Denver, Colorado. Various groups he is involved with include the Jewish Friends of Palestine – http://www.jewishfriendspalestine.org – and the Colorado Palestine Solidarity Campaign – http://colorado-palestine.blogspot.com

Notes:

“The United States began seriously sanctioning Burma in 1990” see: Leon T. Hadar, “U.S. SANCTIONS AGAINST BURMA: A Failure on All Fronts,” Cato Institute Center for Trade Policy Studies, Trade Policy Analysis No. 1 March 26, 1998, http://www.cato.org/pubs/trade/tpa-001.html

“since 1997 the U.S. has imposed strict sanctions on the Sudan” see: “What You Need To Know About U.S. Sanctions,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Asset Control, 27 April 2006, http://www.ustreas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/programs/sudan/sudan.pdf

“primarily because it is dependent on the U.S., supported by the U.S., or diplomatically protected by the U.S.” see: John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, The Israel Lobby, pages 23-48

“As of August 2007 it was reported that much of violence in Darfur has ended” see: Edmund Sanders, “Death rate declines in Darfur,” Los Angeles Times, 26 August 2007, http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-darfur26aug26,1,4364749.story?coll=la-headlines-world

“more than 4.4 million Palestinian refugees registered: see: UNRWA Website, “Statistics” http://www.un.org/unrwa/publications/index.html

“According to Human Rights Watch” see: Human Rights Watch Website: http://hrw.org/doc/?t=refugees&document_limit=0,2

“official death toll from the recent protests is ten” see: “'At least 200' killed in Burmese crackdown,” Irish Independent, 29 September 2007, http://www.independent.ie/world-news/at-least-200-killed-in-burmese-crackdown-1092247.html

“Gideon Levy reported on the Palestinian death toll for the year 5767” see: Gideon Levy, “Twilight Zone / The children of 5767,” Ha’aretz, 28 September 2007, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/907708.html


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