Sudan and Israel - not so fast

Sudan, Israel, and terrorism. Let’s look at the record. Opinion.

Stephen M. Flatow ,

Sudanese in Tel Aviv
Sudanese in Tel Aviv
Flash 90

Sudan has been widely mentioned as the next Arab country most likely to establish relations with Israel. That prospect is obviously appealing. But it's no reason to whitewash Sudan's continuing connections to international terrorism.

For some time now, Sudan's leaders have been hoping to improve their relations with the United States. According to the Associated Press, Sudan is "desperate" to be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, because that is the only way it can qualify for "the international loans and aid that are essential for reviving its battered economy."

The AP reports that during recent U.S.-Sudanese talks, "U.S. officials introduced the linkage [of removing Sudan from the terror sponsors list] to normalization with Israel." The deputy head of Sudan's ruling council, Gen. Mohammed Dagalo, has confirmed the linkage, saying in a television interview that "whether we like it or not, removal [from the list] is tied to [establishing relations] with Israel."

We all appreciate the U.S. administration's efforts to press Arab countries to recognize Israel. But the decision on removing Sudan from the terror list should not be based on a political consideration; it should be based on the simple question as to whether Sudan is still sponsoring terrorism.

In the most recent State Department report on the subject, "Country Reports on Terrorism: Sudan," we learn that Sudan was first put on the list in 1993 because it was "supporting international terrorist groups, including the Abu Nidal Organization, Palestine Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Hezbollah." Let’s look at the record:

Abu Nidal--the perpetrator of terrorist attacks in at least 20 countries, murdering over 300 people and injuring more than 650. Among its most infamous attacks were the 1985 massacre of twenty travelers at the El Al ticket counters in the Vienna and Rome airports, and the 1986 hijacking of Pan Am flight 73, in which they murdered twenty passengers and wounded 120.

Hamas--the mass murderers of hundreds of Israelis in the world's most notorious suicide bombings. Perpetrators of thousands of knifings, shootings, car-rammings and fire bombings, as well as launching tens of thousands of rockets into Israel. Instigators of wars with Israel in 2008 and 2014.

Hezbollah--responsible for thousands of rocket attacks against northern Israel--eventually provoking the 2006 war--as well as countless international terrorist assaults, including the massacre of 85 people in the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994 and the murder of 19 Americans in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.

Palestine Islamic Jihad--which carried out the Netanya junction bombing (18 dead), the Tel Aviv mall bombing (20 dead), and the Haifa restaurant bombing (22 dead), among many other attacks--including the 1995 bus bombing at Kfar Darom in which my daughter Alisa was murdered.

Most notoriously, some of the Al Qaeda terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks were reported to have received financial support and other material assistance from the Sudanese authorities.

Last year, the Sudanese government--the infamous perpetrator of the Darfur genocide--was overthrown. The new regime "has asserted that it no longer supports the aforementioned or any other terrorist organization," the State Department report says. The report claims that Sudan "has taken steps to work with the United States on counterterrorism."

But then it adds: "ISIS facilitation networks appear to be active within Sudan."

Yes, ISIS--the world's most powerful and dangerous terrorists, the mass murderers with whom the United States is actively at war. How can Sudan be removed from the terror sponsors list if it allows "ISIS
How can Sudan be removed from the terror sponsors list if it allows "ISIS facilitation networks" to operate on its soil?
facilitation networks" to operate on its soil?

There is also the unresolved question of restitution. Numerous families of 9/11 victims have filed suit against the Sudanese government. Sudan wants immunity from those suits, and the Trump administration is promoting legislation that would shield the Sudanese from having to pay damages to any victims of 9/11 or other terror victims, aside from two 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa.

That's outrageous. The suffering of terror victims should not be swept under the rug for the sake of diplomatic convenience. Before the U.S normalizes relations with Sudan, the Sudanese should be required to pay appropriate restitution to all of the victims of terrorist groups that it has sponsored, harbored, or in any way facilitated.

Last month, more than 500 relatives of 9/11 victims wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: "While we certainly care about the plight of the Sudanese people and we hope their fledgling nation fares well, our loved ones were brutally murdered on September 11th, and we would like to hold Sudan accountable for its role in their cold-blooded murder by terrorism."

Germany's obligation to pay restitution to Holocaust victims did not end just because the Hitler regime was ousted. Likewise, Sudan's obligation to terror victims does not end just because the Sudanese have changed governments.

The failure of Sudan to eliminate its ISIS facilitation networks and pay restitution to terror victims indicates that the Sudanese have not yet made the necessary full transition from their rogue regime to the civilized world. Only when they have genuinely made that transition should they be welcomed back into the family of nations.

Stephen M. Flatow is a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. His book, “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror,” is now available on Kindle.