Jews of the Bilad al-Sudan describes the  West African Jewish communities who were descendants of  Jews from the Middle East, North Africa, Spain and Portugal. Some historical records show their presence at one time in Ghana, Mali, and Songhai empires, then called the Bilad as-Sudan. It means  Land of the Blacks in Arabic. Jews from Spain, Portugal, and Morocco in the later years also formed communities off the coast of Senegal and on the Islands of Cape Verde. With the emergence of Islam in West Africa, these  communities have since disappeared, mostly due to relocation  and assimilation.

 March 6, 2009
Officials  from Iran, Hamas, Islamic Jihad,  Hezbollah and various other groups have  joined the Syria's parliament speaker on their visit to Khartoum, Sudan. The purpose of the visit was  to show their solidarity with   president Omar al-Bashir in light of the arrest warrant issued against him by ICC for war crimes committed against the civilian population of Darfur.   




Remembering Khartoum

In the aftermath of the crushing defeat in the Six Day War, eight Arab countries called an emergency conference that took place in Khartoum, Sudan on September 1st, 1967. They had a lot of issues to resolve as Israel has just taken Sinai, Golan Heights and the West Bank with East Jerusalem. The problem was no longer just the issue of Palestine and Israel's right, now Egypt, Syria and Jordan had a lot of their own lands to recoup. 

Israeli leaders were hoping that the decisive defeat they administered to Arabs would end in negotiations for a lasting peace. Israel was prepared to offer the land conquered during the Six Day War for a full recognition and a peace treaty with their Arab neighbors.

But it was not to be. Instead of the negotiations the Khartoum conference produced a defiant answer: "No Peace with Israel, No recognition of Israel, No negotiations with Israel ".  That kind of response, even though shocking to Israelis at that time, was not entirely unexpected.

The new Arab leaders like Nasser and Hafez Assad rose to power from the military ranks of their respective countries of Egypt and Syria. Both toppled the monarchies in a violent manner. The main reasons why those monarchies did not survive were the extreme poverty of the Arab masses and the blame the deposed monarchs carried for the absolute incompetence they showed in the 1948 War of Liberation. Any attempt of negotiated peace with Israel would have been highly unpopular.

Even the suspicion that King Abdullah of Trans Jordan was negotiating with Israel cost him his life when a Palestinian militant assassinated him in front of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1948. The popular view on the Arab Street was that Arab masses will never let any Arab leader remain alive who would dare to negotiate with Israel. Nasser, Assad and others knew that very well. They were students of Middle Eastern history.

After all they were the ones who produced the military coups in their respective countries. It was safer to allow Israel to occupy the Arab lands and hope that in the near future they’ll be able to rearm themselves for another military campaign and regain the lost territories. Thankfully there were Soviets who would, after initial hesitation, eventually extend the helping hand and assist Egypt and Syria in rebuilding their militaries for their next shot at eradicating Israel from the map of the Middle East. It came only six years later in the form of the Yom Kippur War.  

The positive result of the Khartoum conference was the negotiated end to the civil war in Yemen where the Saudi Arabia backed pro-Islamic East was fighting against the socialist leaning West backed militarily by Nasser. Fighting the Zionist enemy was bigger then any disagreement the two sides had with each other, at least temporarily. Egypt and Jordan asked for financial help and got $200 million in aid from other Arab countries in order to restore their ruined economies.  

There were recommendations by the Algerian and Iraqi officials to extend the oil embargo against the West, as out of frustration they blamed U.S. and it’s allies for the outcome of the war. But the cooler heads prevailed since $200 million had to come from somewhere. Syrians were pushing for the continued military action, but when they realized that none of the other Arab countries had any interest in it they left Khartoum and did not participate in the final resolution.  

It was fascinating to see that here were Egypt under Nasser and Syria under Assad who lost more land to Israel then any of the Arab monarchs they deposed. Arab populations in their countries were as poor as ever since so much money was spent on the military build-up and all they had to show for it were the burning tanks and artillery in Sinai and Golan Heights. Yet, Nasser and Assad were not in danger of the loosing their grip on power as long as they did not appear to be negotiating with Zionis.  

A few years later King Hussein of Jordan commented that the results of Khartoum Resolution were meant to be conciliatory. Well, the resolution sounded anything but conciliatory and neither did the rhetoric and actions of the Arab leaders following Khartoum. As Michael Oren writes in his book "Six Days of War", Nasser was telling the participants of the conference that neither Soviet nor American plans for ending the war were acceptable, as they would lead to surrender and humiliation.

He was telling his ministers "our primary intention is to continue to pursue the political road in order to gain time for a military preparation". In other words they would dance around the political resolution of the conflict for a couple of years. Any so-called conciliatory language coming out of Khartoum was purely to temporarily please the Soviets and the West in order to regain the strength needed for another war.  

The biggest losers of the conference were the Palestinians, who in Khartoum were represented by then chairman of the PLO Ahmed Al-Shoqayri. The Arab leaders, who promised to drive Jews into Mediterranean before the Six-Day War, now had their own territories in Israeli hands and their own problems. They would still champion the Palestinian cause but more so as the tool to advance their own agendas. The no peace, no negotiations policy condemned Palestinians to life without their country and completely dependant on the West and the rest of the Arab world for their survival..  

But the Arab regimes were also the losers. The price for their shortsighted and emotional decision would be pretty high. A couple of years after Khartoum Conference, Yasser Arafat replaced Shoqayri as the leader of the PLO and embarked on the mass scale terror campaign. The PLO has become a major player in Middle Eastern politics and in some way the decision making process regarding war or peace now was shared with Arafat, who’s inability to make any decision has become legendary.  

Not only that the Arabs have they lost a lot of land, but Palestinians with Arafat in charge have become a huge distractive force that would be shaking up the entire Middle East for many years to come. He almost dethroned King Hussein of Jordan in September of 1970 during the conflict that is known in history books as Black September. When he was kicked out of Jordan, Arafat and his fighters went to Lebanon where he started another civil war. It lasted for years until Israel exiled Arafat and his fighters into Tunisia.  

Palestinians were kicked out of Kuwait for supporting Saddam Hussein during his August 1990 invasion and that’s despite the fact that Kuwait was financially supporting the Palestinian cause for years. In fact, Arafat for decades was routinely shaking down the oil rich Gulf States for millions of dollars to finance his fight against Israel. Yet none of the Arab leaders dared to do anything about it. The Palestinian issue to this day paralyzes Arab countries, who seem to blame everything, even the mistreatment of their own women, on this conflict. There is very little economic growth and poverty is still widespread.  

The decisions made in Khartoum seem to have come the full circle for Saudi Arabia. The man who taught Usama bin Laden the way of jihad, was a Palestinian exile by the name of Abdullah Azzam. He was bin Laden’s professor in Saudi University and his partner in Afghan jihad. Today his student is threatening the very existence of the Saudi regime he considers to be a corrupt and illegitimate entity.  

Even though Israelis won the Six-Day War decisively they could not win the peace. They inherited the West Bank with millions of Palestinians and are forced to play the role of the occupiers for the last four decades. Israel had a lot more flexibility in 1967 then it has now. In 1967 the Zionists, who were not a very religious group, dominated Israeli politics.

Today, the religious parties in Israel have a lot more power and are not willing to part easily with the land that represents a tremendous religious and historical value to them. What was a relatively easy decision in 1967 is a very difficult one today. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is still lingering with a lot of initiatives and a lot of negotiations but very little progress. Not too many people remember the Khartoum Conference these days, but it’s outcome still haunting the Arabs and Israelis alike.

  Khartoum Resolution

September 1, 1967

1.   The conference has affirmed the unity of Arab ranks, the unity of joint action and the need for coordination and for the elimination of all differences. The Kings, Presidents and representatives of the Arab Heads of State at the conference have affirmed their countries' stand by and implementation of the Arab Solidarity Charter, which was signed at the third Arab summit conference in Casablanca.

 2.   The conference has agreed to consolidate all efforts to eliminate the effects of the aggression on the bases that the occupied lands are Arab lands and that the burden of regaining the lands falls on all Arab States.

3.  The Arabs Heads of State have agreed on the need to unite their political efforts at the international and diplomatic level to eliminate the effects of the aggression and to ensure the withdrawal of the aggressive Israeli forces from the Arab lands which have been occupied since the aggression of June 5. This will be done within the framework of the main principles by which Arab states abide, namely, no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it, and insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people in their own country.

4.  The conference of the Arab Ministers of Finance, Economy and Oil recommended that suspension of oil pumping be used as a weapon in the battle. However, after thoroughly studying the matter, the summit conference has come to the conclusion that the oil pumping can itself be used as a positive weapon, since oil is an Arab resource which can be used to strengthen the economy of the Arab states directly affected by the aggression, so that these States will be able to stand firm in the battle. The conference has, therefore, decided to resume the pumping of oil, since oil is  a positive Arab Arab resource that can be used to service Arab goals. It can contribute to the efforts to enable those Arab states which were exposed to aggression and thereby lost economic resources to stand firm and eliminate the effects of the aggression. The oil-producing States have, in fact, participated in the efforts to enable the States affected by the aggression to stand firm in the face of any economic pressure.

5.  The participants in the conference have approved the plan proposed by Kuwait to set up an Arab Economic and Social Development Fund on the bases of the recommendation of the Baghdad conference of Arab Ministers if Finance Economy and Oil.

6.  The participants have agreed on the need to adapt the necessary measures to strengthen military preparation to face all eventualities.

7.   The conference has decided to expedite the elimination of the foreign bases in the Arab States tates.