Our question for today, class, is a little complex so listen carefully: With which of the following conflicts are you most acquainted: The war in the Congo? The war in Sudan? The conflict in Somalia? The war in Sri Lanka? You're not really familiar with any of these, you say?
How about the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians? Ah, yes. Now that we've heard a lot about over the years, haven't we? My church denominational office regularly passes resolutions condemning Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians. The media feature it daily and prominently. It's the defining struggle of our times. The most egregious slaughters, one might think, have been spawned by this conflict.
But actually, no. According to an article at Strategy Page the truth is otherwise and the numbers are shocking. Consider these gruesome statistics:
Throughout the last decade over five million people have died in the Congo from the effects of war in the eastern part of that country.
Sudan has produced over 300,000 dead, millions of refugees, and a thriving slave trade.
Somalia has suffered 16,000 dead in the last two years and more than twice that in the last twenty years. The media, however, seem fascinated only with the pirates in the north who kill hardly anyone, except some of the thousands of the refugees they try to smuggle into Yemen when they aren't trying to kidnap passing merchant ships and fishing boats.
Perhaps the distinction of hosting the most ignored war in the world goes to the island nation of Sri Lanka where civil strife has killed over 80,000 in the last 25 years (and about 10,000 in the last year alone). India suffers over 2,000 dead a year from terrorists (mostly tribal and communist). Neighboring Pakistan has suffered 14,000 dead from Islamic terrorism in the past six years, and Afghanistan has lost that number in the last three years.
Let those numbers sink in for a moment. Now reflect upon this: In the last decade there have been about 7000 deaths in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. This is about one one thousandth the toll in the Congo alone. Yet it is this conflict which captures almost the entirety of media attention. In fact, President Obama has named a peace envoy, George Mitchell, to the Middle East, but no such envoy is packing his bags for Africa.
Given the horrific casualty toll in the rest of the world, and the relatively minor toll in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, why is it that the West - its churches, its media, its universities, and its governments are all so fixated on what's happening in Israel? Why does the West so assiduously ferret out every Israeli injustice, real and imagined, that can be trumpeted from the front pages of our newspapers and evening newscasts? Where are the demonstrations in our city streets and university campuses demanding a cessation to the wars and tyrannies besetting the longsuffering African and Sri Lankan people? Why does the West get so exercised about Israel, but can scarcely be bothered with horrific news from the Congo or Zimbabwe? Why do Palestinian Arabs matter more to people in the West than do black Sudanese and Congolese? Why do we hold Israelis to a far higher standard of behavior than we expect of black Africans, Arabs, and Muslims?