By Toby Collins
November 26, 2012 (LONDON) – As the Israel-Gaza conflict continues to dominate the news, with a recent ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt, the Sudanese Ambassador to the UK spoke about Israel-Sudan relations in the wake of an an alleged Israeli air raid on the weapons factory in Khartoum.
At a press conference at the Embassy on 14 October ambassador Abdullahi Al Azreg claimed that the attack on Yarmouk munitions factory on 23/24 October “was not isolated aggression. It was the pinnacle of a consistent pattern of spin, disinformation and arrogance by a state [Israel] that enjoys impunity and operates outside international laws.”
The recent spate of intensified violence highlighted the ongoing problem of Israeli state aggression, he said.
Israel did not deny carrying out the attack on the weapons, as was the case with an attack in East Sudan in 2009. US officials confirmed the attack on a convoy of trucks believed to be carrying arms to Gaza, in which 39 people were killed.
It is alleged that Sudan is complicit in gun-running which takes place in its territory, northwards through Egypt to Gaza.
Azreg said that the weapons factory was Bulgarian built and in no way connected to Israel’s arch-foe, Iran, as has been suggested. He also claimed that a group of ambassadors, including the US representative in Sudan, were brought to inspect the factory upon its opening.
Sudanese authorities shut down the opposition-affiliated Ray Al-Sha’b newspaper in May 2010 after it published a report on the construction of an Iranian weapon factory in Sudan as part of military cooperation between the two countries to produce nuclear weapons.
Azreg claimed that Sudan is the victim of far-right Israeli lobby group operating the US “by intimidation,” which also supports the “neo-con African Americans and Evangelical Christian Taliban” which believe Israel’s strength is a condition to the second coming of Christ.
According to Azreg, Sudan is a high priority for the lobby for the following reasons:
* Between 1947-1948 “the Sudanese (led by a man from Darfur called Zahir Suroor Assadati) fought as volunteers on the side of the Palestinians.”
* Former Egyptian prime minister, Gamal Nasser “was greeted as a victor” after the 1967 Arab League Summit in the wake of the Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and Syria. The summit concluded with the Khartoum Resolution which called for “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.”
* Former Israeli prime minister, Ben-Gurion “devised the strategy to inciting the minorities in the Arab countries ’The alliance of the periphery,’”
* The “mild Islamist credentials” of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party make it an “Islamaphobic bogey for the Israel lobby”.
Azreg noted that Israel’s anti-Khartoum campaign has long been active. He alleged that Israel supported the South Sudanese rebels during the 1955-1972 Sudanese civil war and again in a return to hostilities in 1983 in which they “received US (and invariably, Israeli) military support through neighbouring countries.”
Although Sudan has cooperated with the US by providing counter-terrorism intelligence it remains classified as a state sponsor of terrorism. Crippling trade sanctions and borrowing restrictions are a result of Sudan’s pariah status on the international stage.
Around three quarters of Sudan’s external debt are owed to the Paris Club of creditor nations and other non-member states. The remaining balance is equally divided between commercial banks and international and regional financial bodies.
The continued violence in the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan are the latest in a long history of state aggression by Khartoum against its peripheries.
The Darfur conflict has long been a source of international condemnation for Khartoum. The UN estimates that 2 million people have died in the conflict. Khartoum alleges that the figures are inflated. Azreg claimed that this inflation, the use of the word genocide by some international organisations and Sudanese president, Omar al Bashir’s International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecution, serve the purposes of Israeli lobby groups which intend to use the conflict as ammunition in its anti-Khartoum campaign.
Bashir is the first sitting head of state to receive an ICC warrant. He is accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur.
According to Azreg, Israeli financial lobbies donate money to the Centre for Social Cohesion, Baroness and Caroline Cox’s Christian Solidarity International and Policy Exchange, the US Holocaust Museum and the American Jewish World Service created the Save Darfur Coalition (SDC) which “didn’t send a single cent to Darfur’s people but bought expensive full-page anti-Sudanese ads in leading world publications.”
He also claimed SDC’s “cousin” in the UK, Waging Peace distributed misinformation about Sudan in the UK Houses of Parliament. Another SDC “cousin” in the UK, Aegis Trust, invited ICC chief prosecutor responsible for making Bashir the first sitting head of state to receive an ICC arrest warrant, to London and “wears the mask” of genocide prevention..
Waging Peace told Sudan Tribune that Azreg’s claims are “very bizarre and contradictory”.
“He claims that Muslims in the UK, unlike their Jewish counterparts, lack networks, spokespeople and media contacts. However, it is exactly this work that Waging Peace undertakes. We have worked tirelessly to protect Sudanese and Muslim asylum seekers and refugees from being returned to face certain detention, torture and even death. We have also given a platform to many Sudanese Muslims who rightly want to criticise the regime of indicted war-criminals - from opinion pieces in the mainstream UK media to the petition of thousands of Sudanese people which the ambassador even refers to. It is Khartoum’s racist Islamist ideology which means it believes only certain Muslims should have a voice - or even a right to life. It has suppressed, tortured and killed those who have dared raise a voice to criticise it and has systematically suppressed civil society institutions in Sudan. The ambassador’s absurd accusations about Waging Peace call into question the veracity of everything else he has to say. At the very least the Sudanese Embassy should look in the mirror and admit that it is they, not Waging Peace, who deny the human rights of Muslims in Sudan."
Azreg said that the Aegis website “ominously” states that it carries out “administration and research for All-Party Parliamentary Groups” and that it ruled against by the British Advertising Authority Trust in 2007 for “inflated Darfur death numbers” were quoted as fact, rather than opinion.
Chief executive of the Aegis Trust, James Smith told Sudan Tribune that Azreg’s comments about the Israel lobby are "nonsense designed to deflect from the real issues in Sudan."
"I wrote to the Sudanese Ambassador in July to offer the opportunity to discuss similar claims being made in Sudanese media, but did not receive a response from him. As regards Sudanese Government spin on the ASA ruling, I have little to add to my comment piece published by the Sudan Tribune in August 2007," he added.
Claiming that Israel relies on Hollywood stars to oversimplify and spin the situation in Sudan, Azreg said that the US Senate’s decision to listen to the views of Hollywood actor and veteran Sudan human rights campaigner, George Clooney, belittled US democracy.
Sudan “has accepted the Arab League’s offer to Israel: Recognition, conditional on withdrawal from the occupied Palestine territories and Jerusalem, and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state and justice for Palestinian refugees,” said Azreg.