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Last week I had the chance to stop into B’nai Jeshurun on Manhattan’s Upper West Side for early Friday evening services (a little bit of cross denominational socializing and praying is always healthy), and was moved by the massive sign hanging above the congregation appealing their conscience to stop the genocide in Darfur. All the rabbis on this blog have written on a number of occasions about Darfur. Since we last wrote on the issue some positive strides have been made including the U.N. approval of resolution 1706, which ordered a large-scale peace keeping unit to be stationed in the Darfur region. Unfortunately, that peace-keeping force has been in absolute disarray and the Sudanese government has done everything in its power to undermine its success. However, it’s encouraging to see the recent news that China has finally decided to pressure the Sudanese government to stop the genocide.

Don’t fool yourself. There is nothing altruistic in China’s new found ethical impulses. China had been noticeably silent until a number of major world figures including Steven Speilberg (who himself needed to be pressured) and Mia Farrow threatened to boycott the 2009 Olympic games being hosted by the Chinese.

For the most part, however, the U.N. continues to spend more time condemning Israel than on pressuring the Sudanese government. The U.N. still has yet to even label the killing of 400,000 people genocide! The reason is simple: Why care about a million lives when there is nothing to gain by protecting them? Most governments would rather stay on good terms with the Sudanese than save a few hundred thousand people. Sudanese natural resources, its oil fields, and the position it holds in the chaotic world of Arab politics makes many governments shy away from involving themselves. Governments unfortunately seem to only do acts of righteousness and kindness when there is something in it for them.

It’s truly unfortunate, but, at this point, helping to stop the genocide is the truest sign of one’s charitable instincts. There is no tangible net benefit of saving Darfur except of course being able to say that we live in an ethical and moral world. The truest form of charity, states Maimonides, is when one does something kind and good for someone else even when the giver has nothing to gain from the act. Such is the sad state of affairs surrounding Darfur. The question for governments around the world today is do they really care about living in an ethical and moral world?

Read the Full Debate: What Should Jews Do About Darfur?

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