UPDATE: A survivor of Rwandan genocide writes a scathing critique of this event and Jews lending support to Paul Kagame.
Reading the NY Times, I was shocked to find a full-page ad entitled Genocide: Do the Strong Have an Obligation to Protect the Weak? It was an ad for a event in New York devoted to the Rwandan genocide.
What struck me especially about the ad was that the pictures of the speakers were even larger than the headline and meant to promote them as much or more than the topic. The speakers featured were Paul Kagame, president of Rwandan and accused murderer of numerous political foes; Elie Wiesel, once a Nobel laureate and now a neocon mouthpiece and beneficiary of the largesse for John Hagee, Sheldon Adelson (whose title in the ad is “Global Holocaust Memory Philanthropist, whatever that means); Michael Steinhardt, hedge fund manager, GOP neocon, and co-founder of Birthright; and Shmuley Boteach (“America’s Rabbi”), most recently failed GOP candidate for a NJ Congressional seat.
The event is Boteach’s “baby.” His website hosts the publicity about the event and his organization, This World, is the sponsor. The event is pitched as a program hosted during UN Week (during which the General Assembly meets) and the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.
The entire enterprise appears to be an unseemly alliance between a dictator looking to cleanse his reputation and a bunch of grasping neo-con Jews who are desperate to change the subject from Israel’s horrible PR in the world press. Besides killing political opponents, Kagame is playing an instrumental role in another regional genocide: Congo. Over 4-million have been killed by the various rebel armies operating on its territory. Uganda and Rwanda are among the most prominent supporters and suppliers of these rebels. Such an event offers Kagame a wonderful PR opportunity.
Israel’s Role in Rwandan Genocide
Israel, as a seminal article in Maariv pointed out, played both sides against the middle in the Rwanda civil war. Even before the slaughter commenced in 1994, Israel was supplying weapons officially to the Hutu-led government, which used them to fight against rebel forces under Kagame’s command. Israeli arms suppliers continued covertly selling to the genocidal militias who murdered 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis. This from the book The Arms Fixers:
“Seven large cargoes of small arms worth $6.5 million were flown from Tirana [Albania] and Tel Aviv between mid-April and mid-July 1994 to the [Interahamwe] forces as they carried out the genocide, even during the time when the mass killings were being reported daily by the international news media.”
Leibowitch-Dar’s article exposes the key role that one of these Israeli black-market weapons dealers played in the genocide. Separately, in the midst of the killing, Israel’s environment minister (!), the redoubtable progressive, Yossi Sarid stood on the Zairean border with Rwanda telling Maariv in an interview:
We [Israel] have no control over where these weapons end up.
The Maariv reporter also says that Israeli personnel also were inside the country training the militias. Though of course there were other countries as well more than happy to supply the genocidaires.
Israel doesn’t let ideology or friendships get in the way of doing business though. Israel supplied Kagame’s forces as well. This from Maariv:
[Despite official Israeli denials,] Israelis were however involved with arms shipments to the Rwandan government and the rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front based in [then] Zaire, at whose head stood Paul Kagame. Despite the fact that Kagame was a member of the victimized Tutsi tribe, his movement too was involved in many acts of murder. During the genocide Kagame’s troops also killed thousands as they extended their control throughout the country.
After the slaughter, Israel officially expressed outrage at what had happened and likened it to Jewish suffering during the Holocaust. Israel sent humanitarian aid and medical units to establish a hospital to treat the victims. It never once acknowledged either its official or unofficial role in the genocide. Once Kagame came out on top, all was forgiven and relations have been close ever since.
Apparently, Kagame takes a view of Israel akin to that of David Ben Gurion during the Holocaust. He didn’t care who he did business with if it strengthened Israel. So Israel and Kagame have become good pals, as Boteach’s event attests. Most recently, Kagame visited Israel last June for meetings with Pres. Peres and PM Netanyahu.
Smuley Boteach, Humanitarian
Note the mission listed for This World is:
This World: the Jewish Values Network is Committed to Advancing Universal Jewish Values in the Media and Culture and to Affirming the Jewish People as a Light Unto the Nations.
This time last year and in years past these individuals were busy during UN Week attending anti-Iran events hosted by the Israeli Mission or various far-right pro-Israel organizations. Of course, they may still do that this week. But their newfound enthusiasm for African dictators seems a deliberate attempt to change the subject. American Jews have grown increasingly tired of Bibi’s Iranian “the sky is falling” routine. The news from the Occupation is equally bleak. BDS is taking on a momentum of its own despite Israel’s best efforts to promote the new counter-concept of delegitimization.
Curiously, the ad doesn’t contain a single reference to the country which is an idee fixe for all of these men: Israel. Adopting Rwandan genocide seems like a slightly bizarre attempt to change the channel when the news looks bad. Aside from Wiesel, you’d be hard-pressed to find any world hotspot any of these gentlemen has expressed any concern over unless it involved Jewish victims.
A reader pointed out in the comment threads another country whose name goes unmentioned in the ad: Syria. Boteach, who writes regularly for the Likudist Jerusalem Post wrote, Will Syria be Obama’s Rwanda. In his column, he decried the chemical weapons attack in Syria as an act of genocide. His goal was to excoriate the Obama administration for not having the courage of its convictions to bomb Assad, as the president had promised. So these speakers, representing the heart of the GOP Jewish caucus see Syria as a “Jewish issue” and a wedge to move American Jews away from the Democrats. All I can say is that hope springs eternal. These fatcats (Adelson, Steinhardt, etc.) have been trying to do this for the past three or four election cycles and it just plain hasn’t worked. They’ve even invested millions on behalf of the Republican Jewish Coalition and other such efforts. Adelson plowed $150-million into Romney’s failed presidential campaign. It’s gone nowhere. The reason is that American Jews aren’t much different than most Americans on these issues. Just as Americans don’t want a war in Syria, Jews don’t either.
Why else might they have chosen Rwanda? My guess is that there’s money involved. I’m virtually certain that Wiesel, whom I’ve earlier called here a “moral mercenary”) is being paid for his appearance. Either he’s being paid directly or his foundation is receiving a donation (à la John Hagee, who couldn’t persuade Wiesel to address Christians United for Israel until he made a $50,000 donation to Wiesel’s foundation). Steinhardt and Adelson can easily afford to pay Wiesel’s way. But I’m betting that Rwanda itself is playing some remunerary role here. Either Boteach is on its payroll as a paid lobbyist or consultant; or Rwanda is paying others of these players.
Another possibility is that Rwanda has become involved as an Israeli ally on some issue or project or other. I wouldn’t be surprised if Israel has been selling advanced weaponry to Rwanda; or Israeli companies are playing a role in running the country’s elections as they have in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. There is some crucial nexus here that remains to be exposed.
Marc H. Ellis on September 24, 2013 18 Comments
This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
Well it seems that the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, is on tour. In the United States, Kagame will soon be hobnobbing with the chronicler of the Holocaust – and silencer of Jewish dissent on Israeli policies toward Palestinians – Elie Wiesel. He’ll also be traveling to Canada.
Misgivings about Kagame are many and growing. You don’t have to be an expert on Rwanda’s domestic politics or its interventionism in the Congo to know a huge problem exists. On Rwanda in the Congo, even the US government has had its say. Nonetheless, Kagame and the Rwandan genocide are being used on the Syrian front. Samantha Power is trumpeting this on her imperial Syrian interventionist prowl.
We have to speak our word on the issues of the day and how we see things evolving. Linking the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and chemical weapons in Syria is a no-no. Academic language just won’t do.
Christopher Black, a barrister on the Counsel List of the International Criminal Court and Counsel of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, is on the Canadian case. In a letter addressed to the Prime Minister of Canada, Black demands that Kagame be banned from entering Canada. He also includes a letter of protest now circulating in Canada:
The people of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, hereby represented in all their ethnic and cultural diversity by the Amahoro People’s Congress, the Rwanda National Congress (RNC-Ihuriro) the Forces Democratiques Unifees (FDU-Ikingi) and the Social Party PS Imberakuri, protest the visit to Toronto of Paul Kagame, a war criminal of the first order.
WE PROTEST the visit of a man who has murdered hundreds of thousands of Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda since 1990.
WE PROTEST the presence, in Canada, of a man who has murdered three African heads of state; President Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda, and President Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi in 1994 and President Laurent Desire Kabila, of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire) in 2001.
WE PROTEST the mass murder of over 6 million Rwandans and Congolese peoples since 1996 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a mass murder committed by Paul Kagame, in a continuous war waged on behalf of western interests, and with their assistance.
WE PROTEST the Canadian government’s permission for the visit and its shameful support of a man who has crushed any attempt at democracy in Rwanda; of a man who has nothing but contempt for the human, civil and political rights of the Rwandan people, of a man who uses cruel tortures and assassination against those who speak out.
WE PROTEST the protection from prosecution granted him by the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda, which, though in possession of overwhelming evidence of 20 years of mass atrocities committed by Kagame in the Great Lakes region of Africa, have granted him complete immunity from prosecution, and thereby encouraged his crimes.
WE PROTEST AND WE DEMAND that Paul Kagame be charged with war crimes by the ICC, the ICTR and the Canadian government under its claimed universal jurisdiction under the Criminal Code and that the Prime Minister direct his Minister of Public Safety and the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Border Services Agency to immediately arrest Paul Kagame on his entry into the country and direct the Minister of Justice to commence criminal prosecutions against him forthwith.
WE PROTEST AND WE DEMAND that the Sheraton Hotel or any other hotels in Canada, refuse permission for Paul Kagame to stay on their premises and stain their reputation.
THE RWANDAN AND CONGOLESE PEOPLE PROTEST AND DEMAND ACTION AND JUSTICE
NO IMMUNITY FOR MASS MURDERERS!
JUSTICE FOR THE PEOPLE OF THE GREAT LAKES!
JUSTICE FOR AFRICA!
NO MORE DICTATORSHIP OF PAUL KAGAME,
NO MORE WARS
ARREST KAGAME-GIVE US PEACE
No doubt this is a partisan assessment of Kagame. But if only a quarter of this indictment is true Holocaust warning bells should be ringing off the hook. The opposite seems to be the case. Mainstream Jewish leadership is fully on board.
Part of it is ignorance. Africa is of little importance to Jewish leadership. There are more obvious reasons: crank up the US war machine to deal with Syria and Iran to protect Israel. Keep the Palestinian case for freedom on the perpetual back burner.
For years now, the Rwandan genocide has been used to breathe fresh air into Holocaust Remembrance events. About the aftermath in Rwanda, we hear nothing. But, then, when the Holocaust is remembered nothing is said about Israel’s abuse of power either. The memory of suffering is utilized – by being stripped of suffering in the present.
Is Rwanda the Israel of Africa? Rwanda has taken more or less the same post-genocide road as Israel – aggressive militarism under the guise of innocence for past suffering. If we speak the truth about post-Holocaust Israel and post-genocide Rwanda, Holocaust remembrance takes another turn.
Why don’t we face the truth? When even the victims become perpetrators, the darkness we encounter deepens.
Memory should accord the victims of atrocity the only dignity they retain – not to become fodder for more victims. Thus Holocaust Remembrance events should be augmented with analysis of how nations like Israel and Rwanda use the memory of suffering to cause suffering to others. Using this yardstick, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum should add a category to their Holocaust inventory. They should hold empowered Holocaust and genocide victims accountable.
Not in Our Name – “no” to Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.
Not in Our Name – “no” to instrumentalizing the Holocaust and genocide to enable more injustice.
Not in Our Name – “no” to honoring the Paul Kagame’s of our world.
The attempt to rebrand what is irretrievable, Israel and the Holocaust first and foremost, has failed. But when political leaders like Kagame are brought in to rescue the relevance of the Holocaust and its link to Israel we are somewhere else. We’re beyond irretrievable. We’re driving down Blasphemy Lane.
“No Immunity for Mass Murderers!”
If only that had been the case. Before it was too late.
If only that is the case. Before it is too late.