Rwandan President Calls Israel an 'Inspiration' for Overcoming Genocide at AIPAC Conference
BY: Nisreen Eadeh/Staff Writer
In an address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, DC on Sunday, Rwandan President Paul Kagame described Israel as an inspiration.
President Kagame referenced similarities between the Nazi Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide to call Israel an “inspiration” for overcoming genocide.
Kagame became president in 2000 after leading the rebel force that ended Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, in which over 800,000 people were killed in just 100 days.
“The security of peoples who have once been targeted for extermination can never be exclusively physical,” he said. “Until all ideologies which justify killing as a patriotic duty are defeated, our world is not truly safe. Not for us, not for anyone.”
President Kagame is the first African head of state to speak at an AIPAC conference, held annually, for thousands of Israel supporters. Speaking to 18,000 people, Kagame boasted, “Rwanda is without a question a friend of Israel.”
Rwandan President @PaulKagame at #AIPAC2017: “#Rwanda is without question a friend of #Israel.” 🇷🇼🇺🇸🇮🇱 pic.twitter.com/P50yMDHBA5
— AIPAC (@AIPAC) March 26, 2017
“No tragedy is so great, so vast that human ingenuity and resilience cannot give rise to a better future,” Kagame said. “The survival and renewal of our two nations testifies to this truth.”
Since Kagame took office, Rwanda has been the leading country in Central Africa for its economic growth, boosted tourism industry, united national identity, and environmental development programs. Constituents revere him, but in recent years, Kagame has been criticized for his authoritarian shift, as well as several mysterious disappearances of opposition groups.
In a tour of Africa last year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his plans to build partnerships with African nations.
“We are happy that Israel is engaging with Africa, has come back to Africa and Africa is responding in a good way,” Kagame told AIPAC.
The Rwandan president’s speech was not too shocking, though. When Rwanda sat on the United Nation Security Council in 2014, the nation abstained from a resolution that called for an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.
Kagame explained the abstention in terms similar to what’s often heard from Israel advocates, saying, “We thought this was going to be prejudicial to other things that had to be addressed – allowing people to determine without allowing the parties concerned to sit and agree on what the way forward should be.”
He went on to add that Israel has the right to exist, and assert that his abstention is not “an infringement on the rights of any other people.”
President Kagame’s speech comes one week after a UN report designated Israel an “apartheid regime.”
Undoubtedly, Israeli Jews and Rwandans both share national tragedy, but Palestinians do, too. In 1948, more than 700,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their homes, and today more than 6.5 million Palestinians live as refugees.
In technical terms, Palestinians have also suffered genocide at the hands of Israel – a history that President Kagame seems to be neglecting intentionally.
According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, “Genocide can be applied to the destruction of a people or a national group as a viable group, and that can be both with their being driven from a land or the rendering of their language no longer legal, or just the destruction of their national identity.”
The State of Israel has denied Palestinians their identity, language, livelihoods, homes, freedom of movement, and more with the creation of their state. Israel touts more than 50 racist laws that keep Palestinians as second-class citizens with limited rights, while those in the West Bank and Gaza are completely restricted from travel and economic prosperity. Those in refugee camps live in prison-like conditions that are made impossible to escape. And during times of violence, incredible numbers of Palestinian civilians lose their lives at the hands of advanced Israeli weaponry.
President Kagame’s adoration for Israel is also concerning because, during the Rwandan genocide, Israeli-made weapons were given to the extremist Hutu paramilitary, the organization the majority of genocide killings.
If the history of Palestinian nationhood and the Rwanda genocide go unnoticed by a man who lived these struggles, who can Palestinians reach to for empathy and understanding?