Home | Comment & Analysis    Friday 11 May 2007

Darfur: The "Genocide Olympics?" campaign roars into high gear

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The US Congress, Sports Illustrated, the Cleveland Cavaliers Basketball
Team, Nat Hentoff...all speak out forcefully---and Steven Spielberg
finds himself the center of attention

By Eric Reeves

May 10, 2007 — An extraordinary column by Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated gives us
perhaps our clearest and strongest view of the deplorable implications
of Steven Spielberg’s decision to serve as artistic director in the
2008 “Genocide Olympics” in Beijing (see below).

A May 9, 2007 letter from 108 Members of the US House of
Representatives, including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), warns
Chinese President Hu Jintao of China in stark terms:

“Already there are calls to boycott what is increasingly being
described as the 2008 ’Genocide Olympics.’ As Sudan’s single largest
trading partner, and the main beneficiary of their significant crude oil
exports and construction contracts, we urge you to protect your
country’s image from being irredeemably tarnished, through association
with a genocidal regime, for the purposes of economic gains.”

The full letter, along with cover letter from Congressman Tom Lantos
(D-CA), appears below. Lantos, Chair of the House Committee on Foreign
Affairs and the only Holocaust survivor in the US Congress, declares in
the letter:

"This appalling genocide has already destroyed untold numbers of
families, due to displacement or death of a loved one. The international
community must immediately stand up---and stand together---to bring an
end to this horrific tragedy. This is a moral challenge for us all; if
China fails to do its part, it risks being forever known as the host of
the ’Genocide Olympics.’"

Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), a longtime and passionate champion of
Sudan, declared on the floor of the House (May 1, 2007):

“I saw the other day, and if I’m wrong, I’ll correct it for the
record, that Steven Spielberg is now representing the Chinese government
for the Olympics. One of Spielberg’s greatest movies was the movie that
he did with regard to what took place by Nazi Germany, Schindler’s List.
Well, now there’s a Schindler’s list operation going on in China. There
are 42 Catholic bishops that are in jail with China, with priests. And [
] China is the one that’s trying to do nothing with regard to the
genocide in Darfur---400,000 people have died.” (Congressional Record
[Washington, DC], May 2, 2007)

In The Village Voice (May 9, 2007), Nat Hentoff notes “the
involvement of Steven Spielberg in the Genocide Olympics”:

“It was Steven Spielberg who instituted and funded the invaluable
Shoah Foundation to record the testimonies of the survivors of the
Holocaust. Does he see no connection between the mass slaughters of Jews
and the Janjaweed’s bonfires of razed villages into which some have
thrown black African children?”

“Elie Wiesel, who has spoken at ‘Save Darfur’ rallies, might want
to give Mr. Spielberg a copy of his book ‘Night,’ the most deeply
penetrating memoir I have ever read. The original manuscript, written in
Yiddish, was titled: ‘And the World Remained Silent.’ However silent
much of the world remains about Darfur, few can say they never knew what
is happening there.”

And the National Basketball Association now has a “Dream Team of
Conscience.” Let by forward Ira Newble of the Cleveland Cavaliers, a
number of NBA players have signed an open letter to the Government of
China and the International Olympic Committee, addressing the
implications of Beijing’s hosting of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games:

"‘The situation [in Darfur] touched me,’ Newble said. ‘I’m here
in the US and I have means to live well and I’m not suffering and then I
hear about women and children getting raped and killed and the Sudanese
government and the Janjaweed are perpetuating the violence. I had to do
something.’” [ ]

“Newble has started collecting signatures from teammates and from
other players in the NBA and will present an open letter in a few weeks
to the Chinese Government and to the president of the International
Olympic Committee to protest China’s role in the Sudan. The letter will
also be posted on www.DreamforDarfur.org.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer,
May 10, 2007)

Complete story below and at:
http://www.cleveland.com/sports/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/sports/117878622745100.xml&coll=2

*******************************************

Sports Illustrated, May 14, 2007

“Mia’s Olympic Mettle”

BYLINE: Rick Reilly

SECTION: LIFE OF REILLY; Pg. 76 Vol. 106 No. 20

THE FIRST HERO of the 2008 Beijing Olympics stands 5’4" and weighs 108
pounds, including purse. She’s 62, runs the 100 meter dash in about a
day and has 14 kids. She speaks in a weak voice, yet her words are
shaking the world.

She’s Mia Farrow. Remember? Rosemary’s Baby? UNICEF goodwill
ambassador?

On TV and in newspapers, Farrow has been pressuring China to face up to
its role in the genocide being carried out by Arab militia groups in the
Darfur region of Sudan, where an estimated 400,000 non-Arab Africans
have been slaughtered and another two million have been made refugees.
"These are the Genocide Olympics," says Farrow, who has made two trips
to Darfur and three to camps in neighboring countries. "China is funding
the first genocide of the third millennium."

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, China buys about two
thirds of Sudan’s oil. The Sudanese government then uses the majority of
its oil profits to buy weapons and aircraft, most of them made by China.
The arms are turned over to a proxy militia, the Janjaweed, which burns,
dismembers, rapes and kills Darfur’s villagers and destroys their land.
China maintains that it doesn’t interfere with the internal politics of
other nations, and using that policy it has blocked U.N. efforts to send
a peacekeeping force into Darfur by insisting that Sudan first invite
the troops in.

Farrow has also tried to get at China by taking on Steven Spielberg.
The King Kong of directors is one of the Beijing Games’ "artistic
advisers," helping to orchestrate the opening and closing ceremonies.
But how can a man who decried one holocaust in his finest film
Schindler’s List be in bed with a country that is helping to bankroll
another?

Spielberg could "go down in history as the Leni Riefenstahl of the
Beijing Games," Farrow wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece in
late March, referring to the German woman whose film about the 1936
Berlin Olympics is viewed as Nazi propaganda.

Spielberg’s face must’ve fallen like E.T.’s when he read that. He
immediately wrote a letter to China’s president, Hu Jintao, asking him
to intercede in Darfur. China sent a high-ranking official to Khartoum
to try to persuade the Sudanese government to allow in the 20,000
peacekeeping troops who stand ready to enter Darfur under U.N. Security
Council Resolution 1706. That envoy returned to pronounce the situation
"improving."

"That visit meant nothing," says Eric Reeves, a Smith College professor
who is a leading Darfur activist. "He toured the camps with the most
food and the most control. This was airbrushed genocide."

Spielberg declined to comment to SI, but his spokesman, Marvin Levy,
said, "This is a step-by-step process. We think there was some movement.
We’ll see."

"At what cost?" asks Farrow. "Ten thousand a month are dying, minimum."
Forget Private Ryan, Mr. Spielberg. Save Darfur!

Before the world arrives, Beijing has instituted a campaign to get
residents to stop spitting and rushing into buses and trains without
waiting for people to get off. But if the Chinese have to clean up for
company, why shouldn’t their government?

The last thing anybody wants, including Farrow, is an Olympic boycott.
It would make China a sympathetic victim, and innocent athletes would
suffer. But China’s feet must be held to the fire, even if that fire is
an Olympic torch. And activists are lighting the flame any way they can
by:

Organizing an alternative torch relay, which will go from Darfur to
Hong Kong, linking the bloodshed to its biggest banker
(www.dreamfordarfur.org).

Insisting Olympic sponsors (go to www.miafarrow.org for a list) lean on
China to pressure Sudan to let the peacekeepers in.

Writing protest letters to the Chinese government, such as the one just
signed by 12 Cleveland Cavaliers.

Convincing athletes, if nothing changes by 2008, to compete in Beijing
wearing Dream for Darfur’s Chinese-character tattoo (translation: China,
please) on the inside of their wrists, a reminder of the way Germany’s
holocaust victims were tattooed.

"I wish I could take China’s president to Darfur, take Mr. Spielberg
there, every Olympic official," Farrow says. "Because once you’ve seen
it, you can’t turn away."

Do you remember Tiananmen Square, 1989? The guy who stood all alone, in
front of a column of tanks? Today, that lone figure is tiny Mia Farrow.

Who will line up behind her?

******************************************

[see my “Artists abetting genocide," The Boston Globe, April 16,
2007
On Steven Spielberg and his role as an artistic director for the 2008
Olympic Games in Beijing, at http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article161.html
]

Steven Spielberg may be contacted at:

Richard_Miller@dreamworksstudios.com

(818) 733-7000

DreamWorks SKG
1000 Flower Street, Glendale
CA 91201

*********************************************

May 9, 2007

Lantos, House Colleagues Send Strong Message to Chinese President,
Demand Action on Darfur

Washington, D.C. - Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), chairman of the House
Committee on Foreign Affairs, gathered the support of 107 of his House
colleagues---including the Majority Leader---to send a strongly-worded
letter to President Hu Jintao of China urging the Chinese government to
take immediate action to save innocent lives and help bring an end the
conflict in Darfur.

"The international community is stepping up to its responsibilities,
but unless China does its part to ensure that the government of Sudan
accepts the best and most reasonable path to peace, history will judge
your government as having bank-rolled a genocide," the letter reads.

The conflict in Darfur has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of
innocent civilians, and has displaced over two million people. Lantos
and his colleagues expressed grave concern about the continuing
atrocities in Darfur, and said that as the largest foreign investor in
Sudan, China has significant influence and bears a special
responsibility for making progress toward ending the Darfur conflict.

The letter warned that China can and must do more to bring peace to the
region. It raised the specter of a ’disaster for China’ if the 2008
Olympic Games in Beijing were marred by ongoing accusations of Chinese
complicity in the Darfur genocide as Khartoum’s largest trading partner
and the main beneficiary of significant crude oil exports and
construction contracts with Sudan.

"This appalling genocide has already destroyed untold numbers of
families, due to displacement or death of a loved one," Lantos said.
"The international community must immediately stand up---and stand
together---to bring an end to this horrific tragedy. This is a moral
challenge for us all; if China fails to do its part, it risks being
forever known as the host of the ’Genocide Olympics.’"

Among the 108 members of the House of Representatives to sign the
letter expressing their concern to the Chinese President is Majority
Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who led a bipartisan congressional delegation
to Darfur last month.

"While the Chinese government has expressed concern about the dire
humanitarian situation in Darfur, and while we support China’s recent
decision to send engineers to the region, I remain deeply troubled by
China’s significant investment in Sudan, overall financial assistance to
the Bashir government, and its trade in arms," Hoyer said. "As I have
said on many occasions, the international community has a collective
obligation to address the continuing plight of innocent men, women and
children in Darfur. The Chinese government must play a more constructive
role in pressuring the Bashir government to take immediate action to end
the violence and address the humanitarian crisis within its borders."

The letter was delivered to the Chinese embassy this morning. The full
text follows.

President Hu Jintao
C/o Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong
Embassy of China
2300 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington DC 20008

Dear President Hu:

We are writing to express our grave concern regarding the continued
atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan and request that you use your
significant influence with the government of Sudan to ensure that it
allows free conduct of humanitarian operations in Darfur and brings an
end to the atrocities against innocent civilians. As the party that
negotiated the inclusion of a clause to UN Security Council (UNSC)
Resolution 1706 requiring the consent of the Sudanese government for the
deployment of a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force, the government
of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) bears a special responsibility
to ensure, through decisive diplomacy and action, that President
al-Bashir does provide that consent to the full implementation of phases
II and III of the Addis Ababa Agreement of November 16, 2006.

The conflict waged by Sudanese government forces and government-backed
Janjawid militias has driven more than 230,000 Darfuri refugees into
Chad, and displaced more than 120,000 Chadians. In addition, hundreds
of thousands of civilians have been killed and an estimated 2 million
displaced in Darfur itself. The conflict has had particularly
devastating consequences for women and children, who make up the vast
majority of victims. The attacks against, and murder of over a dozen
relief workers in recent months has disrupted humanitarian operations
- leaving hundreds of thousands without access to the most basic
assistance.

We welcome the news that Sudan has been removed from the list of
countries that your government provides incentives for Chinese
businesses to invest in, and the public and private efforts you have
made to encourage the government in Khartoum to accept the deployment of
peacekeepers into the Darfur region. However, the PRC can and must do
more. Unfortunately, the PRC remains the largest foreign investor in
Sudan, and recently provided the government of Sudan an interest-free
loan, worth $17m to build a presidential palace. Unfortunately, the PRC
has reportedly been engaged in arms sales with the government of Sudan,
arms which are used by government forces and the Janjweed militia to
maim and kill innocent Sudanese civilians. These actions send the wrong
message to Khartoum, as does the recent cancellation of a $70m dollar
debt that the Sudanese government owes to the PRC, and the China’s
projects to rehabilitate Sudan’s railways and water ports.

We urge you to impress upon Khartoum the need to halt Sudan’s military
operations throughout Darfur, to withdraw Sudanese troops from the area,
and to honor its commitment to accept the ’heavy support package’ which
includes a robust AU/UN peacekeeping force in Darfur, under a
UN-appointed commander, police officers, civilian staff and
humanitarian workers. These steps, at a minimum, are essential to
enforce the ceasefire, protect civilians, ensure access to humanitarian
assistance, and begin the path to reconstruction and reconciliation in
Darfur.

We further urge that should a resolution be put forward at the UNSC
proposing sanctions on the government of Sudan for non-compliance with
its agreements or non-cooperation with the UN peace-keeping force, you
instruct your Ambassador, at the United Nations, to support the
resolution by, at the very least, abstaining from voting.

President Hu, the upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympic Games are going to be
an important event for the image of the PRC. Millions of people will
visit China, and over a billion people will tune into their radios and
televisions to witness the expression of international peace and
solidarity, through friendly competition in sports. It would be a
disaster for China if the games were to be marred by protests, from
concerned individuals and groups, whom will undoubtedly link your
government to the continued atrocities in Darfur, if there is no
significant improvement in the conditions. Already there are calls to
boycott what is increasingly being described as the 2008 ’Genocide
Olympics.’ As Sudan’s single largest trading partner, and the main
beneficiary of their significant crude oil exports and construction
contracts, we urge you to protect your country’s image from being
irredeemably tarnished, through association with a genocidal regime, for
the purposes of economic gains.

Our primary objectives are to protect civilians in Darfur, end the
violence, find a just resolution to the political conflict, and begin
the long path to reconstruction and reconciliation, and we hope China
shares these objectives. The international community is stepping up to
its responsibilities, but unless China does its part to ensure that the
government of Sudan accepts the best and most reasonable path to peace,
history will judge your government as having bank-rolled a genocide.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this important matter and we
look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

***********************************

from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Thursday, May 10, 2007

“Newble protesting genocide in Sudan”

Branson Wright, Plain Dealer Reporter

A motion picture and recent newspaper article moved Cavaliers forward
Ira Newble to take a firm position on the events that have transpired in
the Sudan’s Darfur region since 2003.

Newble was shocked by the images on the screen during the movie "Hotel
Rwanda," based on a true story about genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Newble
was stunned even further when he read an article about professor Eric
Reeves’ involvement in the Sudan. Reeves, a professor at Smith College
in Massachusetts, is the most recognized researcher and analyst on the
Sudan and Darfur.

Newble is concerned because hundreds of thousands of civilians have
died from violence, disease and starvation because of the war between
the Sudanese government, their partner the militia group known as the
Janjaweed, and rebel groups from the western region of Darfur.

"The situation touched me," Newble said. "I’m here in the U.S. and I
have means to live well and I’m not suffering and then I hear about
women and children getting raped and killed and the Sudanese government
and the Janjaweed are perpetuating the violence. I had to do
something."

Newble has joined Reeves, humanitarian Jill Savitt and other
human-rights activists who are protesting the genocide in Darfur. Savitt
and Reeves are behind a campaign to urge China to use its influence with
the government of Sudan to allow more U.N. peacekeepers into the country
to protect Darfurians.

Newble has started collecting signatures from teammates and from other
players in the NBA and will present an open letter in a few weeks to the
Chinese Government and to the president of the International Olympic
Committee to protest China’s role in the Sudan. The letter will also be
posted on DreamforDarfur.org.

"It’s a protest to wake people up," Newble said. "China has the 2008
Olympics and that’s an event that will have the attention of the world.
It’ll be known that many NBA players are expressing their concern about
this issue. China has a large NBA fan base. This will definitely get
their attention."

Newble would not reveal names, but he said many of his teammates have
either signed the letter or they are undergoing further study before
making a commitment to the protest. Newble also said this is not a
boycott of the Olympics and the protest is not sanctioned by the NBA.

"I don’t have a specific number of signatures," Newble said. "Any
signature from an NBA player will make a difference. Obviously, the more
All-Stars that sign will have a greater impact. But I’m just trying to
get as many signatures as I can and bring attention to the travesty
going on in Darfur and hopefully change China’s current policy."

The protest is directed at China because the Chinese government is the
chief buyer of Sudanese oil and the Sudanese government uses proceeds
from those sales to fund weapons (some manufactured by China) for the
Janjaweed militia. China has used its veto power on the U.N. Security
Council to stop efforts by the U.S. to introduce peacekeepers to protect
the civilians.

Ted Dagne is Africa’s specialist at the Congressional Research Service,
Library of Congress. He said 46 percent of Sudan’s export goes to China
and 60 to 70 percent of its oil goes to China.

"China’s one of the largest investors in the Sudanese economy," Dagne
said. "They invested about $10 billion over the past decade. The
Sudanese signed a contract with China to rehabilitate Sudan’s railroad
system and the Chinese premier recently visited the Sudan and forgave
the country for $1.2 billion in debt. The Chinese also pledged to build
a palace for the Sudanese president for $35 million. China has also
provided weapons."

The struggle for Reeves and other humanitarians has been a tough
process since China has so much invested in the Sudan. But progress has
been made.

"We’ve had their attention, but we haven’t moved them," Reeves said.
"An Olympic Dream Team of ‘Conscience’ is what Ira has created.
People follow basketball from around the world and everyone will take
note of this [protest]."

Reeves and Savitt are encouraged by Newble’s interest and effort for
the cause.

"Ira is a man of conscience," Savitt said. "He became aware of the
horrors going on in Darfur and he decided to get involved and do
something to call the attention to this cause. He understands the
premier sporting event [Olympics] could be compromised and Ira’s saying,
’Not on my watch.’”

* Eric Reeves is a professor at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and has published extensively on Sudan. He can be reached at ereeves@smith.edu; website : www.sudanreeves.org



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