January 21, 2011
16 Shevat 5771
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TUNISIAN CRISIS UPDATE AND CONSEQUENCES FOR TUNISIAN JEWS
The following is a report by Natan Sharansky, Chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel, about the situation in Tunisia and its impact for the Jewish community in Tunisia.
We are witnessing the unfolding of dramatic events in Tunisia. While the armed forces of the country work to restore order after the ousting of dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the 1500-member Jewish community is undergoing a period of great uncertainty, including widespread shootings, arson, political insecurity and the ever-present possibility of anti-Jewish sentiment leading to violence against the Jews of Tunis and Djerba…
Tunisia is a Moslem country situated between Algeria and Libya. Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Tunisia. Since1987 the country has been ruled by Zine Ben Ali. It was a corrupt and "kleptocratic" dictatorship in which families close to him control the economy. In the last few weeks there have been riots because of the difficult financial situation.
The Jewish Community
Jewish community is very unified and is centered in four major communities. There are approximately 1500 Jews – 1100 on the island of Djerba, 300 in Tunis, 100 in Zarzis, 30 in Suss, and 20 in Sfax. Each city also has Jewish institutions, including an old age home, synagogues, community buildings, and kindergartens. Djerba has three schools, while Tunis has one. The Chief Rabbi is located in Tunis.
Most of the Jewish community works in jewelry-making, silversmithing, and trading in gold. Before the revolt, Ben Ali had a tolerant attitude towards the Jewish community. The Jews are seen as supporters of Ben Ali's regime, as well as connected with the wealthy in the country.
Until the revolt, there was no blatant anti-Semitism; however, an uncomfortable relationship between the Jewish community and Arab population exists. In 2002 there was a terrorist attack on the Great synagogue, with 21 deaths, mainly tourists from Germany. Al Qaida took responsibility for the attack.
Al Qaida has terrorist cells in Tunisia, and there is a possibility that the community could possibly be a target of violence.
As a result of the recent events, the police have closed the Jewish Quarter. Despite these precautions, a truck with ammunition was found adjacent to the Jewish Quarter. There is no existing contact person in the government, to whom the Jewish community can turn to in case of an emergency. Local Jewish sources confirm that the situation is tense. Many in the Jewish community would like to leave some of them want to make aliya as soon as possible.
The situation is very worrisome. Gangs are rioting and looting businesses. In spite of a heavy police presence, the riots are continuing, due to the support that soldiers in the Tunisian army are thought to be giving to the revolt.
The Jewish Agency is using all of its emergency response assets and is working with its partners in such operations to monitor the situation and to provide the needed assistance to the members of the Jewish community.
WHY TUNISIA ISN'T A TIPPING POINT FOR THE ARAB WORLD
The following is a portion of an Op-Ed Josef Joffe published in The New Republic on January 18, 2011 about the likelihood of Tunisia's revolution resulting in a democracy and in the likelihood of other Arab countries following suit. Mr. Joffe is a senior fellow at the Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies, and an Abramowitz Fellow at the Hoover Institution, both at Stanford University. To read the entire Op-Ed, click on the title above.
How to explain the Tunisian revolution? By consulting Samuel Huntington—not the Huntington of Clash of Civilizations fame, but the author of The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, published in 1991. His model is too complex to be laid out here in all of its subtleties. But the basic message, to borrow from Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign, is: "It's the economy, stupid!" We should also add education, urbanization, and globalization—all those items that go into the tale "The Making of a Middle Class." Tunisia has it all, and that is why it now sticks out like a bloody thumb from the rest of the Arab world, that vast arc from Rabat to Damascus where politics remains frozen, where the birth rate keeps dwarfing economic growth, and where King or Colonel is despotism's name.
The Tunisian revolt fits Huntington's model to a T. Looking at the third wave of democratization between 1974 and 1989, he found that rising wealth spells falling tyrants. How much money did it take? A per-capita income between $1,000 and $3,000, which would now be adjusted for inflation. Of the non-democracies which moved into that range in the 1970s and 1980s, three-quarters got rid of their overlords. To illustrate the point, Huntington recalls how the Spanish finance minister predicted in 1960 that his country would tumble into the democratic column once it had reached $2,000. Huntington's terse comment: "It did"—in 1975.
That was then, but what about Tunisia now? The country has a per-capita income of $4,300, which would have been $1,000 in 1975. To make the analogy even more uncanny, let's jiggle the numbers a bit and use purchasing-power parity. In that case Tunisia clocks in at $9,000—that is, at $2,200 in 1975 dollars. Just like Spain when it went democratic a generation ago.
So will Tunisia become the first democracy in the Arab arc of authoritarianism? Don't hold your breath, but consult Huntington again. No economic determinist, he inserted a cautionary note on politics and biology into the story of Spain's redemption. Francisco Franco, Spain's dictator for 40 years, also died in 1975. And there was more serendipity: Had King Juan Carlos not been committed to democracy, "polarization could have led to social violence."
True, Tunisian President Ben Ali has bolted from the country, but there is no Juan Carlos in the game—a figure of authority and legitimacy. Hence, violence erupted, as it did not in Spain. Hence, there is a bloody stand-off, with the old regime holding on to power by inviting a few opposition leaders into the government. Also recall that no regime in the wider neighborhood has been toppled from below—neither Algeria's nor Iran's.
But, if at all, this miracle will unfold in Tunisia. And why are the other Arab and Maghreb African countries—police states all—proving so immune to regime change (unless there is a little help from the U.S. military, as in Iraq)? Because they don't make Huntington's cut.
MEDVEDEV FALLS SHORT OF RECOGNIZING PALESTINIAN STATE
The following a portion of an article by Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff published in Haaretz on January 19, 2011 about a recent visit of the Russian President to the West Bank. To read the entire article, click on the title above.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said yesterday in Jericho that his country did not withdraw its 1988 recognition of a Palestinian state, but fell short of an new and unequivocal recognition of the state within the 1967 borders, similar to declarations made by a number of countries over the past two months.
Medvedev spoke during a visit to the West Bank described as "historic" by the Palestinian media. He was also scheduled to visit Israel, but this was canceled due to the strike by Foreign Ministry personnel.
The statement was translated from Russian and Arabic in a number of ways yesterday, with some interpretations coming close to the renewed recognition anticipated by the Israeli media.
Medvedev crossed into Jericho from Jordan via the Allenby bridge, and told reporters yesterday he was happy to visit the most ancient city in the world. He said that Russia supports a freeze on Israeli construction in West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem. He stressed that the establishment of a Palestinian state would serve not only Palestinians and Israelis, but all peoples of the Middle East, and reiterated his call for a peace summit that would bring all players in the peace process to Moscow.
The Israeli media's expectations of Russia's recognition of the Palestinian state stemmed mostly from a remark by Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha'ath, who told the London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat that Medvedev will emphasize and reiterate Russia's recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. Sha'ath praised the reiteration, which eventually failed to arrive, as a significant political move, due to Russia's involvement in international diplomacy and the opportunity for Russia and Europe to play a greater role in the political process, in view of what he described as America's unwillingness to pressure Israel to follow through with its commitments to the peace process. Sha'ath also said Medvedev arrived with $10 million of aid for the Palestinian Authority, and that the leaders would sign six agreements on cooperation in various fields. He said that following the recognition by 10 out of 43 Central and South American states, Palestinians were optimistic about winning recognition from European states including Sweden, Finland, Slovakia and Norway.
THOUSANDS OF ISRAELIS RALLY IN DEFENSE OF HUMAN AND CIVIL RIGHTS
The following is a portion of an article by Harriet Sherwood published in The Gaurdian on January 16, 2011 about a recent rally held in Tel Aviv to protest recent government moves that rally attendees said were an attack on democracy. To read the full article, click on the title above.
Thousands of Israelis marched in Tel Aviv at the weekend in the biggest demonstration for years to protest against a series of attacks on civil and human rights organisations and a rise in anti-Arab sentiment.
Under the banner of the "Democratic Camp", a coalition of organisations and prominent individuals, the marchers heard speakers lambast the Israeli government, singling out the rightwing foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who is seen as threatening Israel's democracy…
The organisers of the march and rally hoped it would signal the beginning of the revival of Israel's left and a fightback against the dominance of the right. Around 20,000 people attended the rally according to the organisers; the police said there were 10,000 present.
The galvanising issue was the recent approval by the Knesset of a bill to set up a parliamentary investigation into the funding of civil and human rights groups. It has been seen by opponents across the political spectrum as a fundamental attack on democracy and reminiscent of a McCarthyite witch-hunt.
Following the vote, the opposition leader, Tzipi Livni, said an evil wind was blowing across Israel. Some in the crowd on Saturday evening held placards saying "Investigate me too".
Speakers at the rally cited other recent moves including a call by rabbis to ban Jews from selling or renting property to Arabs, a parliamentary vote in favour of a "loyalty oath" to be taken by new Israeli citizens, and the jailing of the activist Jonathan Pollack after taking part in a bicycle protest.
Addressing the rally, Meir Sheetrit of the centre-right Kadima party said legislation to investigate rights groups would be "taking a brick out of the wall of democracy".
THE SLOW DISAPPEARANCE OF TURKEY'S JEWISH COMMUNITY
The following is a portion of a report by Rifat N. Bali published by The Institute for Global Jewish Affairs on December 15, 2010 about the long-term prospects for Turkey's Jewish community. To read the full report, click on the title above.
Turkey's Jewish community is one of the few remaining Diaspora communities in a country with a Muslim majority. For any researcher or journalist seeking information about this community and its current state, two of the most important accessible sources are the community's sole remaining paper, the weekly Şalom, and the community's lay and religious leadership. If such a person were to peruse Şalom for the cultural activities held by the community's various organizations and speak with the lay leaders and the Chief Rabbinate, the impression he would receive is that, despite its relatively small numbers, Turkey's Jewish community is extremely dynamic and has even been undergoing a certain cultural renaissance in recent years.
Yet, for all of the community's apparent dynamism, a number of factors would dampen optimism for its long-term viability. Among these is that the community does not have any influence or play any role worth mentioning in Turkey's cultural, political, or intellectual life. Although a small number of Turkish Jews served in Turkey's Grand National Assembly from 1946 to 1961, since then they have largely disappeared from the political scene. Furthermore, in recent years the entire Jewish community has become the target of much resentment and hostile rhetoric from the country's Islamist and ultranationalist sectors.
The relations between Turkey's Jewish community and the state of Israel have, by their very nature, remained ambiguous and highly sensitive. In the current Turkish situation, where anti-Americanism and anti-Israeli sentiment often cross the line into outright anti-Semitism and a popular demonization of both Zionism and Israel, it is inconceivable for a Turkish Jew to express pro-Israeli sentiment openly. As a result, community leaders and others who publicly declare their "Turkishness" are careful to keep all personal and institutional relations with Israel very low-key and far from the scrutiny of the Turkish media.
SOCIAL ACTION/PUBLIC POLICY
THE UPWARD MOBILITY GAP
The following is a portion of an Op-Ed by Doyle McManus that was published by The Dallas Morning News on January 10, 2011 about the growing inequality between the rich and poor in the United States and what he thinks needs to be done about it. Mr. McManus is a columnist for The Los Angeles Times. To read the entire Op-Ed, click on the title above.
Here's a familiar fact: Economic inequality is rising in the United States. The rich have gotten richer, the poor have stayed poor, and families in the middle have seen their incomes stagnate.
Here's a less-familiar fact: Opportunity in America isn't what it used to be either. Among children born into low-income households, more than two-thirds grow up to earn a below-average income, and only 6 percent make it all the way up the ladder into the affluent top one-fifth of income earners, according to a study by economists at Washington's Brookings Institution.
Thanks to globalization, the economy is producing high-income jobs for the educated and low-income jobs for the uneducated - but few middle-income jobs for workers with high school diplomas. Thanks to the decline of public schools, it's harder for poor kids to get a good education. And Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam argues that thanks partly to the rise of two-income households, intermarriage between rich and poor has declined, choking off another historical upward path for the underprivileged.
Increasingly, college-educated Americans live in a different country from those who never made it out of high school. As a group, adults with college degrees have an unemployment rate of 5 percent, steady or rising incomes, relatively stable families (their divorce rate declined over the last 10 years) and few children out of wedlock. Adults without a high school education face an unemployment rate over 15 percent, declining incomes, a higher divorce rate and have lots of kids out of wedlock. (Among black women who didn't finish high school, 96 percent of childbirths are outside marriage; among white women who didn't finish high school, 43 percent.)
"Success in life increasingly depends on how smart you were in choosing your parents," Putnam said. "And that flies in the face of the fundamental American bargain - that every kid ought to have access to the same opportunities."
But if we focus on increasing opportunity for the poor, there's plenty that can be done - beginning with education.
FOXES IN THE HENHOUSE
The following is a portion of an article written by Melissa Del Bosque that was published in The Texas Observer on January 20, 2011 about the Texas Finance Commission and her view that the Commission has failed to side with consumers over financial institutions in the face of lending abuses. To read the entire article click on the title above.
The Texas Finance Commission is supposed to protect consumers from being plundered. The commission writes regulations for loans and lines of credit. When the commission was created in 1943, state leaders stated in the agency's mission that it "enhance the financial well-being of the citizens of Texas."
Instead, commissioners are enhancing the financial well-being of banks, mortgage and payday lenders and pawnshops. In just one year the payday lending industry makes more than two million loans in Texas, draining borrowers of more than $280 million in fees and interest payments. Representatives from the financial industries dominate the commission's nine-member board. The chair, William "Bill" White, is vice president of public affairs for Cash America International Inc., one of the largest payday-lender and pawnshop chains in the country. Not one commission member represents consumers…
Texas has been good to Cash America, which has 251 pawnshop and payday-lending businesses in the state. Recently the company announced that profits had increased to $81 million in the year ended last October from $63 million a year earlier. Cash America and other payday lending companies advertise heavily on street corners in low-income neighborhoods and offer easy cash on the Internet to borrowers in financial crisis. These "easy" loans carry jacked-up fees and exorbitant interest rates. In Texas, an eight-day payday loan carries a 1,153 percent annual rate—one of the highest in the nation. The average annual rate for loans in other states is 400 percent, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsible Lending. Borrowers find themselves trapped in an endless cycle of poverty, taking out new loans to pay for the ones they already have.
More than a dozen states call these exorbitant loans a form of "predatory lending" and have outlawed them. In Texas, payday lenders can charge as much interest as they want. The Finance Commission, which has the power to protect consumers from unfair loans, has made no attempt to rein them in.
ARIZONA IN THE CLASSROOM
The New York Times published the following editorial on January 16, 2011 about the implementation of a recent Arizona law that blocks the teaching of ethnicity-based history and social studies in the public schools. To read the entire editorial, click on the title above.
Last week's memorial service in Tucson, which began with a blessing by a professor of Yaqui Indian and Mexican heritage, showcased Arizona's rich diversity as well as the love and tolerance of many of its citizens.
Unfortunately there is another Arizona, one where its state government all too often promotes discord and intolerance. This was painfully clear in the state's immigration law, which empowers the police to demand the papers of suspected illegal immigrants. And it is painfully clear in a new education law that injects nativist fears directly into the public school classroom.
The law, which took effect Dec. 31, bans any courses or classes that "promote resentment toward a race or class of people" or "advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals." Arizona's new attorney general, Tom Horne, immediately used it to declare illegal a Mexican-American ethnic-studies program in the Tucson Unified School District.
Mr. Horne, who wrote the law when he was superintendent of public instruction, accused the program of "brainwashing" Latino students, of teaching "ethnic chauvinism" because it uses works by authors critical of the United States' historical relationship with Latin America and its past treatment of Latinos. He has not gone after similar programs for black, Asian or American Indian students.
It's hard to object to the portions of the law that discourage the overthrow of the government. But Mr. Horne goes way overboard in trying keep high school students from studying works like Paulo Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed," a classic educational text, or any effort to deepen students' understanding of history, and their place in the world. Tucson school officials say that far from stoking teenage resentment, the program has helped students keep their grades up and stay in school.
USE ALL OF THE STATE'S RAINY DAY FUND
The following is a portion of an Op-Ed by Frances McIntyre published in The Statesman on January 12, 2011 about her call to use the state's rainy day funds so as to stave off additional cuts in education and social services. Ms. McIntyre is President of the Austin League of Women Voters. To read the Op-Ed in its entirety, click on the title above.
Let's face the facts. Texas has a major budget problem not enough money to cover the state's expenses and it's going to get worse. What to do? Raise taxes to get more money?
Do you really think legislators will bite the bullet and do that? Not hardly. Slash agency budgets and cut services? Sounds simple but don't you believe it. When the public gets mad, watch out, everybody — trouble ahead.
So what's the answer? The rainy day fund. That's its function: to maintain vital state services during an economic downturn. The rainy day fund is estimated to have $9.2 billion available for spending in the 2012-13 budget.
Texas will fulfill its obligations and continue to invest in the future of our state only if legislators and their constituents take seriously their respective civic duties. All Texans have much at stake in budget decisions and deserve to hear the unvarnished truth about the short-term and long-term budget deficits. Reduced revenue caused by the global economic recession has resulted in a short-term deficit that can be addressed with one-time measures. To address the long-term structural deficit, changes in the Texas revenue system are needed.
Education, health care and juvenile justice are tempting targets for legislators who see them only as burdens to taxpayers instead of as the necessary public investments they are. Legislative sleights-of-hand that shift the cost of public services off the state budget may make for good stump-speech sound bites, but they often undermine our state's future. In addition to publicizing budget measures that are good for our state, we will call out any proposal that jeopardizes the long-term health of Texas.
'A JOY TO BE FREE'
The New York Times published the following editorial on January 16, 2011 about the case of another inmate freed from Texas jails due to DNA evidence and the efforts of the Dallas County District Attorney's Office. To read the entire editorial, click on the title above.
During his 30 years in prison, Cornelius Dupree Jr. twice rejected his chance for freedom because an admission of guilt for rape and robbery was the price of parole. "Whatever your truth is, you have to stick with it," Mr. Dupree explained this month after a Texas judge exonerated him of the 1979 crime on the basis of DNA evidence kept in long-term county storage.
Mr. Dupree's freedom highlighted the fact that Dallas County, unlike so many other jurisdictions, bothered to retain DNA samples across decades. No less a factor is an exemplary change in the attitude of the district attorney's office. For the last four years, under the leadership of District Attorney Craig Watkins, it has cooperated in the DNA exoneration of 21 wrongly convicted citizens who lost decades of their freedom.
All but one were convicted on the basis of incorrect eyewitness testimony. Faulty IDs account for three of four of the 265 convictions overturned nationally by DNA evidence, according to Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project, the advocacy group helping Mr. Dupree.
THE IRAN REPORT
September 2007, the JCRC began a special section entitled “The Iran Report”. Due to the looming serious nature of Iran and its politics within the global world, JCRCs across the country are providing community leaders with updated materials and articles concerning Iran, which will include political matters, divestment information, etc. Both the United Jewish Communities (UJC) and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) have issued joint statements indicating that the subject of Iran should be on the top of the agenda for local Jewish communities.
The JCRC will continue to bring the community updates on the situation with Iran and its implications throughout the Middle East and the world.
JCPA RESOLUTION ON IRAN’S NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM
Adopted by the Board of Directors of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) on March 27, 2007.
ISRAELI TEST ON WORM CALLED CRUCIAL IN IRAN NUCLEAR DELAY
Below is a portion of an article by William J. Broad, John Markoff and David E. Sanger published in The New York Times on January 15, 2011 about the possibility that the Stuxnet Worm that has affected Iranian nuclear machines are the result of a joint Israeli-American project. To read the entire article, click on the title above.
The Dimona complex in the Negev desert is famous as the heavily guarded heart of Israel's never-acknowledged nuclear arms program, where neat rows of factories make atomic fuel for the arsenal. Over the past two years, according to intelligence and military experts familiar with its operations, Dimona has taken on a new, equally secret role — as a critical testing ground in a joint American and Israeli effort to undermine Iran's efforts to make a bomb of its own.
Behind Dimona's barbed wire, the experts say, Israel has spun nuclear centrifuges virtually identical to Iran's at Natanz, where Iranian scientists are struggling to enrich uranium. They say Dimona tested the effectiveness of the Stuxnet computer worm, a destructive program that appears to have wiped out roughly a fifth of Iran's nuclear centrifuges and helped delay, though not destroy, Tehran's ability to make its first nuclear arms.
"To check out the worm, you have to know the machines," said an American expert on nuclear intelligence. "The reason the worm has been effective is that the Israelis tried it out."
Though American and Israeli officials refuse to talk publicly about what goes on at Dimona, the operations there, as well as related efforts in the United States, are among the newest and strongest clues suggesting that the virus was designed as an American-Israeli project to sabotage the Iranian program.
IRAN'S NUCLEAR SETBACKS: A KEY FOR U.S. DIPLOMACY
The following is an analysis written by David Albright and Andrea Stricker and published by the The United States Institute of Peace on January 18, 2011, about the role of recent delays in Iranian nuclear development in understanding U.S. policy towards Iran. Mr. Albright is a physicist and former U.N. weapons inspector, and is the president and founder of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in Washington, D.C. Ms. Stricker is a research analyst at the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS). To read the entire analysis, click on the title above.
Iran's nuclear program is suffering mounting setbacks, which in turn will provide more time for diplomacy and reduce the imminence of military strikes. The problems fall into three broad categories :
- increased difficulty of obtaining essential parts on the international market,
- trouble operating large numbers of centrifuges,
- and apparent covert actions by foreign intelligence agencies.
Foreign intelligence agencies now appear to be targeting Iran's nuclear activities with a variety of methods. They include:
There are no first-hand accounts, but the biggest problems appear to have been caused by the Stuxnet malware, which started to impact the gas centrifuges at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant in 2009.
- cyber attacks,
- sabotaging key equipment Iran seeks abroad,
- infiltration and disruption of Iran's smuggling networks,
- and the assassination of nuclear experts.
CRISIS IN DARFUR
February 2010 marked the seventh anniversary of the beginning of the violence in Darfur, Sudan. For seven years a government-backed militia known as Janjaweed (which in Arabic means, “evil men on horseback”) has continued to engage in a systematic program of expulsion, rape and murderous violence in Darfur, Sudan. Millions of people now live in displacement camps lacking adequate food, water, shelter, healthcare, and sanitation. Attacks on civilians continue. As Jews, we have a particular moral responsibility to speak out and take action against genocide.
The JCRC remains committed in its fight to end this battle and will continue to bring you facts and articles about this ongoing genocide. (For further information on Darfur, visit the JCRC web site “International” section at www.jcrcdallas.org.)
SUDAN IN CRISIS
Explore the history, people and politics behind one of the world's bloodiest conflicts in this interactive web site by The Washington Post. Click the title above to be connected to this site.
REPORT ON SUDAN BY SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.
The following is a portion of a presentation by U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice to a United Nations Security Council Briefing on recent developments in Sudan. The presentation was published on allafrica.com on January 18, 2011. To read the presentation in its entirety, click on the title above.
This is a historic moment. And I join President Obama in congratulating the people and leaders of Sudan for the successful completion of voting on the referendum on independence. The people of Southern Sudan, after decades of war and more than two million killed, have cast their votes peacefully and expressed their will.
The promise of self determination was made to the Southern Sudanese people in 2005. Thanks to the commitment of the people of Sudan and the support of the international community, that promise was finally fulfilled. Let us not underestimate what this referendum means to the people of Southern Sudan. We have all heard reports of long lines forming overnight on January 8th, and of people standing in line for hours to vote. We have even heard of a case in which a river ferry broke down, and voters jumped into the presumably crocodile- infested river and swam across to reach the polling station.
As President Obama said after the polling closed, "The past week has given the world renewed faith in the prospect of a peaceful, prosperous future for all of the Sudanese people - a future that the American people long to see in Sudan."
ROOTS OF BITTERNESS IN A REGION THREATEN SUDAN'S FUTURE
The following is a portion of an article written by Alan Boswell and published in Time Magazine on January 13, 2011, exploring the potential impact of a successful independence vote by South Sudan on the North. To read the entire article, click on the title above.
There is a place in Sudan where Africa and the Arab world meet, where one thatched roof hut carries a roughly-hewn cross at the top and next door an identical hut flaunts a crescent moon, where heavily armed nomads sweep in for raids and heavily armed villagers fight back.
This is Abyei.
It is the most contested, the most emotionally charged and, recently, the most violent piece of land in this country of nearly one million square miles. As southern Sudan's historic independence referendum came to a close on Saturday, this nation is rapidly preparing to split in half and the focus is shifting here.
Abyei has oil. It has fertile land. It straddles the disputed border between north and south Sudan, and it is crawling with militias, which have clashed in recent days, killing dozens. Two rival ethnic groups claim the right to belong here — the Misseriya, who are Arab nomads, and the Ngok Dinka, sub-Saharan cattle herders — and the bitterness between them is long and deep.
"Hyena and Misseriya," said Kuol Alor Kuol, a 72-year-old Dinka man with foggy glasses, about why he was sauntering down Abyei's main road with a fully loaded Kalashnikov. "They're trying to take what I have."
Most people here seem armed to the teeth. Out on the front line, in half-deserted villages of crushed mud huts and endless yellow grass, a young Dinka man in a tank top lounged at a police post, an assault rifle in his hands. Around him were teenagers in shorts and flip-flops, clutching cheap automatic weapons.
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