Israel Offers Humanitarian Relief for Refugees in Darfur

By Nathaniel Popper

Published December 17, 2004, issue of December 17, 2004.

The Israeli government is making its first contribution to alleviate the plight of refugees from the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan.

The Israeli Consul General in New York, Aryeh Mekel, announced on Wednesday that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is joining with five American Jewish organizations to help establish a school at a refugee camp in Chad. The groups are giving $100,000 to the International Rescue Committee, which will establish the school for orphans.

American Jewish organizations have been heavily involved for months in advocating and fundraising on behalf of refugees in Darfur.

The $100,000 is being channeled through the Jewish Coalition for Sudan Relief, which was created in April. Some individual American cities have already given more than the state of Israel, but the Israeli consul general said that the current contribution will only be the beginning of his country’s involvement.

The political and humanitarian crisis in Darfur continues to boil without any apparent solution. Government-backed gangs have terrorized villages of black Muslims in the western province of Darfur. So far over 70,000 Darfurians have died and close to 2 million left homeless, with many fleeing to Chad.

The predominantly Arab Sudanese government has blamed Israel and America for supporting the rebels and using the conflict as a front to gain control of Sudanese oil. Mekel said that his country has been unable to get involved in the political discussion about a solution to the Darfur crisis, citing Israel’s precarious position at the United Nations.

“It would not be a good idea,” Mekel said. “What we have to focus on is not the political side but the humanitarian side.”



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