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Thursday, May 26, 2005

A Tale of Two Conflicts

Christian Aid News No. 25 (Summer 2004)

Credit where credit is due. Two pages – an appeal advert and a news feature – devoted to Sudan, one and a bit pages to Israel and Palestine. And acknowledgement that Sudan is, in the UN’s view, home to “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world”.

But when I compare the coverage of the two issues, it strikes me how very cautious Christian Aid is when it comes to politicizing the Sudan crisis. Describing the origins of the conflict in Darfur, the news feature tells us that it began with rebels taking up arms against the government. The rebels are described as “claiming that black Africans were being oppressed and Arabs favoured”, but this claim is not evaluated. The government is then said to have “responded” to rebel attacks by mobilizing the Janjaweed militia.

Where Israel and Palestine are concerned, the oppression of the Palestinians is never a “claim”, but an objective reality. Israeli security measures are repeatedly condemned without any acknowledgement that they are a response to terrorist violence.

Missing from both the appeal advert and the news feature is any mention of the death toll in Darfur – estimated by some at around 300,000. Also absent is any call for the international community to put pressure on the Sudanese government.

The Holy Land feature is a guest column by Baroness Shirley Williams. This is scarcely a counterweight to the standard Christian Aid line: lots of criticism of the occupation and Israel’s security policies, no mention of the terrorist violence which the latter are responding to. But at least she does concede that “Israel is a vibrant democracy, with a Supreme Court of remarkable independence”. These are facts which do not normally find a place in Christian Aid News. One might add in passing that the vibrant democracy is vibrant and democratic enough to enfranchise the nearly 20 per cent minority of the population who are Arabs.

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