Reform leader, former Holocaust Museum official arrested in Darfur protest

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

When it comes to Darfur demonstrations, Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is a recidivist.

On Monday Saperstein was arrested in a protest at the Sudanese embassy just down the street from RAC headquarters, along with several members of Congress and a former official of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.

Their goal: drawing attention – again – to the continuing genocide in Darfur and to that country’s decision to boot aid workers out of the region, an action that human rights activists fear will worsen what is already a humanitarian disaster.

Arrested were Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Mn.), Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) — a civil rights movemetn veteran who knows what civil disobedience is all about.

Also arrested: Jerry Fowler, the former head of the Holocaust Council’s Committee on Conscience and now head of the Save Darfur Coalition.

Saperstein went through it all before; in 2004, he was arrested at the Sudanese embassy along with  Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield — better known as the ice-cream magnates Ben and Jerry.

Here’s some of what Saperstein had to say:

“Dr. King described the most tragic political sin good people can make – that we will be “too late.” As he said, “We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.” Later, there will be time for regret for past failures; now is the time for action. For make no mistake – our legacies will be measured not by our sentiments or even our efforts – but by whether in the end we stop or fail to stop this genocide, by whether we save the children or they perish on our watch.

A few years ago when I visited the camps, courageous mothers and grandmothers and dedicated relief staff were making unbelievable strides in saving the children. But no longer. This past year, the situation has deteriorated with increasing rapidity.

I have a nightmare that years from now, there will be a Museum of the Darfurian Genocide that will be part of the genocide trail. And tourists will go from Cambodia to Rwanda, from Auschwitz and Treblinka to Darfur, to learn of the pillage, rape, murder and starvation. And they will gasp and they will sob, and many among them will doubtless wonder: Where were our parents? Where were our President and Congress? Did they not know? Did they not care? We cannot let that happen.

Here’s a video of the arrest, courtesy of the Huffington Post.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.