Peretz Does Darfur

More nonsense regarding a complex tragedy.

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For a chuckle, check out Marty Peretz’s post from Monday titled: “Not ‘Never Again!’ But ‘Yes, Again and Again and Again’.” That, gentle reader, is the sound of The New Republic editor-in-chief’s self love.

The post is full of cringe-making lines, including:

I’ve put a lot of my conscience and energy into making [TNR] a publication that dares to tell the truths others avoid.


…It is with some pride that I claim [TNR] to have been one of the true actors (or factors) in the Western intervention against Milosevic’s crimes…

But for those interested in the catastrophe that is Darfur —ostensibly the subject of the piece—the biggest cringe comes when Peretz attempts to define the conflict. “Let’s face facts,” he writes, “the war in Sudan is a war of its Arabs against its blacks.”

For the last four years I’ve spent a great deal of time reporting on—and most importantly from— Sudan . I’m hardly alone in this. Since the conflict erupted in 2003, there’s been a lot of good journalism from Darfur but also a lot of nonsense. And the surest way to determine if a writer knows anything about Darfur is if he characterizes the conflict as Arab against “black.”

Let’s face facts indeed: Anyone who’s spent any time in Darfur knows that “black” is a groundless description. Broadly Darfur can be defined as a struggle between “African” and “Arab” tribes, but after centuries of inter-marriage any distinguishing physical characteristics between the two are largely blurred. Plenty of Arabs are “blacker” in appearance than Africans. Indeed, the terms “African” and “Arab” have less to do with ethnicity than with lifestyle: Darfur ’s Africans are largely settled tribes, while its Arabs are both settled and nomadic. (But even this African-vs-Arab characterization fails: Most Arab tribes play no part in the conflict and even sympathize with the African tribes.)

So beware of Darfur ’s “black” champions, no matter how sincerely they emote. You just know they’re trying to re-create Selma, and have little understanding of what is in fact an enormously complicated and nuanced conflict in which both African and Arab thugs have claimed both African and Arab victims.


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