In his latest column on the Morethodoxy Blog, Rabbi Asher Lopatin makes an excellent point that is worth repeating: the Israeli-Arab conflict is not the only source of trouble in the world and it is nowhere close to being the most important. The anguish he is feeling comes through loud and clear:
How can anyone excuse talking about the plight of anyone in the world – whether it is the Palestinians or anyone else – when there are 400,000 women being raped in one area in one year. Shameful! We are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on helping a unknown group of rebels in Libya while we are ignoring millions of women being raped, and thousands of men, women and children being killed,per year?
If you are Jewish, whether on the Left or the Right, you have every right to obsess on Israel – that is your religious, cultural and national obligation. And if you are Palestinian, by all means you can complain about Israeli checkpoints which are forcing people to spend hours in traffic getting to work, or a security fence which is separating you from your friends and relatives. But if you are not either Israeli, Jewish, Arab or Palestinian, then you have no right to focus on Israel and Palestinians or even Libyans or Syrians or Bahrainis while hundreds of thousands are experiencing death and rape and genocide in sub-Saharan Africa. It is morally repugnant for our first African American president to be ignoring the worst humanitarian crises in our world, simply because the Arab world and the Palestinians, and many Jews, are “dreying his kup” – are distracting him – for their own interests. President Obama needs to set the moral agenda of America and prioritize the areas that truly need our humanitarian attention: Sub-Saharan Africa, Sudan – not Israel or the Middle East.
I don't know if Rabbi Lopatin knows the obvious answer to his question as to why President Obama hasn't done anything about Darfur but I'll state it quite easily: No Jews Involved (NJI).
See, when it comes to how high a news story should rank or how seriously the US State Department should take a disturbance somewhere in the world, problems get divided into to categories: Either Jews are involved or it's NJI. If it's the former, that seems to automatically vault the story or issue to the top of the priority list. If it's a NJI story then it drops further down.
Did some Arabs get delayed for an hour or two in the hot sun at an Israeli checkpoint? Top of the list. So-called Palestinian suffering! Outrage! A vote to condemn from the United Nations and reports on all major Western TV networks with the newscasters taking care to frown extra hard while reciting the story of Israel's latest "crime against humanity".
Did a thousand black women get raped in the middle of the southern Sudanese desert by Arab tribesmen? Yawn.
Chazal tell us that Eisav hates Yaakov. On the other hand, he doesn't seem to care a bit about Cham. This pattern is clearly seen over and over again. How else to explain that while the Syrian government is mowing down its own citizens while the Bahrain and Yemenite governments teeter on the verge of collapse, the press seems more interested in Mahmood Abbas' repetitive statements about how Israel is all at fault for the collapse of the "peace process"? Because Yemen, Bahrain and Syria are NJI issues. Once again: Yawn.
Rabbi Lopatin's final jab, however, is his best:
And to the Jewish community I have a message: If we want the Administration to continue to obsess on Israel-Palestinian peace, we just need to remember that we are being selfish; we need to remember that for every hour Obama has to meet Netanyahu to pressure him, that is an hour that hundreds of more women are being raped in the Congo and another hour closer to finishing the genocide in Darfur. We may feel that getting Israel out of the West Bank is worth it, or ending the occupation for West Bank Palestinians is worth it, but when the tally of deaths and rapes in Africa is taken, I hope it is not on our heads that the leader of the free world ignored his own homeland and left them to continue living in a hell of rapes, killings and destruction.
It's about time someone told Peace Now, J Street, the New Israel Fund and all the other Jew Hating Jews out there what their priorities should be and that if they truly value their credentials as secular Western Liberals then it's time the took up the causes they profess to care about.
Unfortunately it's far more likely that they'll act like the hypocrites they really are.