Six million people in South Sudan are on a hunger strike not of their own choosing. It was forced on them by the greed of their leaders, and the apathy of the world. As US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said, with typical moral clarity, “The famine in South Sudan is man made. It is the result of ongoing conflict in that country.” She then called on the Security Council to adopt the arms embargo against South Sudan that the United States and the European Union have already instated, in order to stop fueling the conflict, so that the millions of dollars going to buy weapons to commit murder might be redirected to feeding the hungry. But Russia and China, the recipients of some of those millions, refused to support the embargo. And so the conflict continues. Women are raped. Children are murdered. Villages are burned down. Money is made.
Russia and China aren’t the only countries benefitting from this blood money. Sudanese news reported only last month on the president of South Sudan’s announcement of strengthening ties with Israel, including in “security cooperation.” A UN report from last October pointed to evidence that Israeli and Bulgarian arms are “helping to fuel the fighting in South Sudan.” Last summer, Binyamin Netanyahu’s tour of Africa included an entourage of representatives of major weapons companies, and a warm embrace of South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir. Israel is a long and steadfast friend of South Sudan, having supported its rebellion against the Iran-backed Sudanese government, and seeing it as an important ally against radical Islamic forces in Africa. But for the last four years, Israeli weapons and training are being used less against forces of terror, and far more to slaughter rivals of Kiir’s Dinka tribe. Tens of thousands have been killed in this conflict, with countless eye-witness testimonies and UN reports of sexual violence, brutality, and ethnic targeting of non-Dinka. Israel has not stood by silently while this has occurred. Israel has been an active contributor, via arms and even military training. It is the Israeli public that has been silent.
But there is one Israeli who refuses to be silent, at great personal cost. He refuses to let life go on as normal while his government quietly supports mass murderers. Elie Joseph is a lone warrior who has been on a hunger strike for weeks, calling on the Knesset to pass legislation limiting arms sales to governments committing gross violations of human rights. It’s not so much that he won’t eat. It’s that he can’t. He literally cannot stomach the idea that the Jewish state, founded by a people whose suffering the world ignored, can now make money from the suffering of millions which the world ignores.
As much as comparisons to the Holocaust are overused and abused, it’s hard not to think back to our situation 75 years ago. Would a citizen who protested his country’s collusion with the Nazis be mocked for his oversensitivity to the plight of the Jews? Would he be viewed as an eccentric oddball if he were to go on a hunger strike to raise public awareness of the atrocities occurring, and of his country’s role in supporting them? Who is truly the crazy one in this scenario? He who raises a lone voice of moral conscience? Or the masses who remain silent?
Perhaps not everyone can be Elie Joseph. Perhaps not everyone can put their lives on hold to protest one of the deepest, most troubling moral failures of the modern State of Israel. Perhaps we can even justify that to ourselves. I’m not sure that I can. But we cannot allow him to stand alone. We cannot allow ourselves to be an insane society with lonely moral voices. We owe as much to ourselves. We owe as much to 6 million others.
To support and join Elie, please contact him via Facebook. He will travel to speak with any audience, young or old, to explain the importance of this cause.