When Barack Obama released a video message to Sudan and South Sudan last Sunday, he urged the people of both countries to reject armed conflict and return to negotiations. Obama gravely warned that “heated rhetoric on both sides has raised the risk of war.” With the two countries once again on the brink of a full-scale armed conflict, the President’s message was well-intentioned.
Yida Camp, South Sudan—The Yida refugee camp, just south of the disputed border between the Republic of Sudan and newly-independent South Sudan, rarely feels like the edge of a warzone. Children chase donkeys and bicycle wheels through the streets, and the men spend the day languidly sipping spicy coffee in the camp’s surprisingly busy marketplace. The warzone is in the Nuba Mountains in the region of Southern Kordofan, a fifteen kilometer trek away, through the desert and across the border with the Republic of Sudan. Still, it is difficult to be optimistic here.
Cairo—On February 10, 2011, Field Marshal and then-Deputy Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi intercepted a decree that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak sent to state television, in which he announced the replacement of the head of the Republican Guard, a Cairo-based army unit partially tasked with preventing against the possibility of a military coup. Tantawi had opposed the use of military force against the nearly 15 million protestors who had taken to the streets since January 25, and he had helped prevent the situation from escalating into a Tiananmen Square-style bloodbath.
Cairo—Friday, July 8 was an oppressively hot day in Tahrir Square, hot enough for protestors to wonder whether the country’s unpopular and widely distrusted transitional government was controlling the weather. Yet the government was notably missing from the scene: With activists guarding every entrance to the square, the country’s security services didn’t dare to enter the dusty, shade-free roundabout area where supporters of every major Egyptian political group had gathered in what was described as the largest protest in Cairo since President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation on February 11.
The October launch of Columbia University’s Center for Palestine Studies (CPS), the first institution at an American university specifically dedicated to the study of Palestinian Arabs, received surprisingly little notice. Middle East–related brawls on Columbia’s campus have often captured national attention, featuring accusations of anti-Semitism lobbed at professors (recall the alleged bullying of Jewish and pro-Israel students in 2004 by Professor Joseph Massad) and controversial speaking engagements (for example, Iranian president Mahmud Ahmadinejadin September of 2007).
If you've been following developments in Darfur, then you know the situation is dire. Last month, the U.N. reported that fighting between the Sudanese army and an obscure rebel faction rendered the Jebel Marra region in southern Darfur inaccessible to humanitarian aid, cutting off some 100,000 Darfuris who had relied on aid agencies for food, water, and medical care.
Norman Finkelstein has a new book out, but few people outside of radically anti-Zionist circles seem really to care about this. The Holocaust Industry, a book whose thesis is based on a deliberate and even offensive (and, allegedly, Holocaust-revisionist) underestimation of the number of Holocaust survivors, has been translated into 16 languages and is still fantastically influential. In contrast, the “recent media” section on his publisher’s website for This Time We Went Too Far, Finkelstein’s recently-published book on Israel’s December 2008 invasion of Gaza, is pretty thin.