Human rights activist Simon Deng recently visited Washington University in St. Louis, where he spoke to a full auditorium of students about his life story, racial genocide, and his views of the important role Israel has as supporting the human rights of Sudanese refugees. The event was organized by CAMERA Fellow Meytal Chernoff.
Deng, a native of the Shiluk Kingdom in southern Sudan, was abducted at the age of nine by his Arab neighbor, who “gifted” him to his family as a domestic slave. For the next several years, Deng was made to work as a servant, and was a victim of brutal beatings and unbearable work and living conditions.
Deng eventually managed to escape and later emigrated to the United States. He now travels around the country addressing audiences about his experience with the slavery, racism and genocide that still is still prevalent today.
Deng spoke about the relationship between Israel and Southern Sudan, and the fact that those who are oppressed in Southern Sudan view Israel as a friend. He explained why calling Israel racist and a violator human rights was absurd. “To my people, the people who know racism – the answer is that Israel is absolutely not racist,” he said. “It is a state of people of the colors of the rainbow. Jews themselves come in all colors, even black. I met with Ethiopian Jews in Israel. Beautiful black Jews. And Israel is a state that has taken my own black people in, rescued them, and helped them.”
Students at the event asked questions about the current protests for additional refugee rights and Israel’s refusal to absorb some refugee populations. Deng responded that even when refugees have entered Israel illegally, they’re still allowed to protest against the government, whereas in Arab nations, the protesters would’ve been killed. He also added that even the illegal immigrants are granted human rights in Israel. Simon informed the audience that the Sudanese government actually prohibits its citizens from traveling or having a relationship with Israel. The refugees who have illegally entered Israel might have bought into this anti-Israel rhetoric, in which case Israel has the right to defend itself by treating the refugees with some degree of suspicion.
It was notable that this event attracted a much broader range of people than a typical Israel event. Members from the African Students Association, The Political Review, College Democrats, J-Street, and students not at all interested in politics showed up. The event dismantled claims that Israel is a violator of human rights, and the audience was truly were engaged by Simon’s story and his defense of Israel.
Contributed by CAMERA intern Nikki Teperman.