Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized the bonds that unite the Rwandan and Jewish people when he toured the Kigali Genocide Memorial in the Rwandan capital on Wednesday.
In a joint press conference with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, the prime minister referred to the memorial as “exceptionally moving, jolting even.”
“My people know the pain of genocide as well,” Netanyahu said. “This is a unique bond that neither one of our peoples would prefer to have. … Today Israel and Rwanda are successful states and models for progress. We have learned, both our peoples, I think a valuable lesson from our tragic pasts: Genocide is preceded by incitement to mass murder. Words matter. They have the power to kill.”
“In Rwanda, radio broadcasts dehumanized people long before they were slaughtered,” Netanyahu observed. “You asked for those broadcasts to be stopped as part of your battle against genocide, and you were unsuccessful. The Nazis too began dehumanizing Jews long before they started murdering millions of our people. So today, when we see leaders in Gaza calling for the murder of every Jew around the world, we all have a duty to speak out. When we hear the Supreme Leader of Iran calling for the annihilation of Israel, we have a duty to speak out,” he added. The Israeli premier also laid a wreath at mass graves where hundreds of thousands of Tutsi victims of the Rwandan genocide are buried.
Rwanda is the third country that Netanyahu has visited in East Africa this week, after Uganda and Kenya. He met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and spoke before the country’s parliament on Thursday.
Jerusalem hopes that increased ties with African nations will lead to a shift in their voting trends at the UN and other global forums, thus improving Israel’s diplomatic standing and reversing what Netanyahu called “the automatic majority against Israel.” Rwanda abstained in December 2014 from a Palestinian resolution at the United Nations Security Council calling on Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines and create a Palestinian state by 2017. In explaining the move, Rwandan Ambassador to Israel Joseph Rutabana said that “Israel is our friend.” Rwanda similarly abstained in a 2011 vote on a UNESCO resolution to admit “Palestine” as a state and a 2012 General Assembly vote that would give the Palestinians non-member observer status, and voted against an Egyptian proposal at the International Atomic Energy Agency last September calling for the international monitoring of Israel’s nuclear installations.
Rutabana told The Jerusalem Post last month that “Israel’s achievements are really spectacular. It is a country that in less than 70 years had become a first-world state. We want to learn how they achieved it.”
[Photo: Kobi Gideon / GPO ]