Addis Ababa, Washington and the Jews

Photo: Ogaden National Liberation Front soldiers (June 2007)

The Jewish Daily Forward published an op-ed last week regarding human rights violations by our Ethiopian allies.

American Jews stand at the forefront of the international campaign to stop the ongoing genocide in Darfur. The coalition of conscience that the Jewish community helped build is pressuring Sudan’s patron, China, to put an end to the slaughter.

Next door in Ethiopia, meanwhile, another humanitarian crisis is unfolding. Ethiopian troops are burning villages inhabited by ethnic Somalis in the Ogaden region — using the same scorched-earth tactics employed by the Sudanese regime in Darfur. But there are two crucial differences between Darfur and Ogaden: First, Ethiopia’s principal patron isn’t China — it’s the United States. Second, on the Ogaden issue, the American Jewish community has so far been silent.

Ethiopia has been fighting Islamists in Somalia on behalf of US interests. In 2008, Ethiopia will receive from the US over $480 million in non-humanitarian (mostly military) assistance. In Addis, the Ogaden independence movement has been accused of supporting Somali resistance and therefore fair targets. Like during the Cold War, the Horn of Africa is being used as client states to carry out geo-political conflicts.

The current Ethiopian government has shown willingness to bend to US government directives, releasing 37 political prisoners only after the Washington threatened to withhold funding. The author adds:

We Jews also have a special relationship with the people of Ethiopia, dating back to the Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon, as recounted in the Bible’s Book of Kings. The horrors of Ogaden are especially vivid for us because we know all too well what it’s like to be an ethnic minority in Ethiopia: A previous government slaughtered hundreds of Ethiopian Jews in the 1970s.

To protect the Jews of Ethiopia, Israel airlifted thousands of men, women and children out of the country in the 1980s and early 1990s. American Jews played a key role in coordinating and financing the operations. The effort to protect the ethnic Somalis of Ogaden need not be so dramatic. It can be waged on the home front: Americans must insist that their elected officials place clear conditions on future aid to Ethiopia. But so far, the situation in Ogaden has yet to spark the public outcry that it ought to. It’s time for American Jews to take the lead once again.

Here’s an opportunity to plug my course at the Jewish Study Center on Ethiopians and Jews. In four classes we’ll try to range from ancient history to current affairs. It’s a great deal to cover. I’ll give periodic updates.


One Response to “Addis Ababa, Washington and the Jews”

  1. Cialis Says:

    jrtTmm Excellent article, I will take note. Many thanks for the story!

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