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Jewish Neocons Adopt Rwandan Dictator, Kagame

shmuley boteach genocide

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.

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • dickerson3870 September 21, 2013, 8:42 PM

    RE: “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.”

    MY COMMENT: It seems more than a bit hypocritical for a billionaire like Sheldon Adelson with “anti-union mania” to be making the opening remarks at an event dealing with the “responsibility to protect the weak”! ! !

    “Why GOP Mega-Donor Sheldon Adelson Is Mad, Bad and a Danger to the Republic”, By Rick Perlstein, Rolling Stone, 4/10/12

    [EXCERPTS] . . . Adelson’s anti-union mania (I would argue) is the most important thing to know about him. For it reveals just how crazy, and how unscrupulous, the man is.
    Let’s start at the very beginning. Adelson remembers meeting Gingrich in Washington in 1995, when Gingrich was House
    peaker and Adelson was lobbying to get the U.S. embassy in Israel moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Other reports have them being introduced in 1996 by a far-right anti-union operative in Nevada who worked for Adelson. Details of the subsequent courtship are murky, although the huge favor Gingrich did for Adelson in 1996 by turning off a federal investigation of the gambling industry probably did a lot to cement their friendship.
    Two years later, Nevada conservatives sponsored a “Paycheck Protection” ballot initiative – the right-wing term for measures weakening unions by banning them from automatically deducting dues from members’ pay. Adelson was gung-ho for it – and “would spend any amount of money,” D. Taylor, secretary-treasurer of Las Vegas’s Culinary Workers Union Local 226, told me . . .
    . . . In 1999, Adelson closed one casino, the Sands, and completed work on a new one, the Venetian, stiffing so many contractors that there were at one time 366 liens against the property. Taylor, of the Culinary Workers, said he and his colleagues presumed that “like every other casino that had done that, workers in the [closed] hotel would be given priority when the [new] hotel was built.” Instead, Adelson refused even to talk. All this, in a union town like Vegas, was unprecedented. “Even when you’re having battles, you continue to have talks. Shit, we’re talking to the North Koreans right now!” he told me. “The Israelis talk to the Arabs. Talking doesn’t necessarily solve anything, but at least you understand the other guy’s position.” Adelson, not much interested in understanding the other guy’s position, proceeded to launch a campaign against the Culinary Workers that Taylor calls “beyond aggressive.”
    Right before the grand opening of the Venetian, in 1999, the Culinary Workers staged a demonstration on the public sidewalk out front. Adelson told the cops to start making arrests; the cops refused. Glen Arnodo, an official at
    the union at the time, relates what happened next: “I was standing on the sidewalk and they had two security guards say I was on private property, and if I didn’t move they’d have to put me under ‘citizen’s arrest.’ I ignored them.” The guards once again told the police to arrest Arnodo and again, he says, they refused. The Civil Rights hero Rep. John Lewis, in town to support the rally, said the whole thing reminded him of living in the South during Jim Crow. . .
    . . . Did I mention Adelson is nuts? But don’t take my word for it – it was George W. Bush who called him “some crazy Jewish billionaire.” . . .

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/national-affairs/why-gop-mega-donor-sheldon-adelson-is-mad-bad-and-a-danger-to-the-republic-20120410

  • Elisabeth September 22, 2013, 12:36 AM

    I almost fell from my chair when I saw that poster. Eli Wiesel has been a self righteous irritant for ages but who would have thought to see this: They even chose to picture Kagama copying the trademark ‘wisdom through suffering’ expression of Eli Wiesel.
    What you report on the arms trade with both parties is shocking. Was there a lot of outrage in Israeli public opinion when this became known at the time?

  • Oui September 22, 2013, 12:45 AM

    The “American rabbi” is a regular contributor to the Jerusalem Post. I picked up the info about the Genocide Forum in this op-ed. I understand the combination of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach – Sheldon Adelson – Michael Steinhardt and even Paul Kagame, but Elie Wiesel at the RW Republican event?

    Will Syria be Obama’s Rwanda?

    In two weeks’ time – on September 29 during UN week – our organization, This World: The Jewish Values Network, will host a public discussion between President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Professor Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, on the subject of genocide, sponsored by Sheldon Adelson and Michael Steinhardt. It’s a timely conversation not only because of the impending twentieth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide but especially because of the international community’s failure to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad for slaughtering children in Syria.

    Despite the eight genocides perpetrated in the 20th century and the universal cries of “Never Again,” it seems that the world can still not summon the resolve to bring massive retaliation to bear against those who gas innocent civilians.

    Steinhardt Involved in Murdoch-Cheney Genie Energy

  • Oui September 22, 2013, 2:38 AM

    I was surprised, no mention of the role of former US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice?

  • J.J. September 22, 2013, 9:26 AM

    I believe imported Chinese machetes were the weapons of choice among the genocidal Hutu militias.


    This doesn’t exonerate a rogue Israeli arms dealer, but your article doesn’t serve as an indictment of the State of Israel either.

    • Richard Silverstein September 22, 2013, 3:36 PM

      You’re deaf, dumb & blind if you believe that supplying arms to mass murderers is not an indictment of Israel. And I think you imported your brains along with those machetes.

  • Bob Mann September 22, 2013, 5:32 PM

    Regarding the Congo genocide you reference (something I was sadly pretty ignorant about) – do you feel like there is any role for the US, the UN, or any other international body in preventing it from continuing?

    • Richard Silverstein September 22, 2013, 9:45 PM

      @ Bob Mann: I believe there are UN troops already in Congo. But they are sadly outnumbered. The country is huge and policing it would be a massive undertaking.

  • J.J. September 23, 2013, 12:19 AM

    With my poor reading of the ‘seminal Ma’ariv article’, I was nonetheless able to glean that the last permit issued by the Ministry of Defense for the sale of weapons to Rwanda was in October 1993 , six months before the massacre.
    Also, that airlifts of arms that arrived in Goma, Zaire were probably being sent to the Tutsi rebels, the ‘good guys’, if you will.

    Regarding machetes, I can quote the Ma’ariv article, “A few hours after downing the plane broke deadly wave of violence in Rwanda. Militiamen and armed civilians machetes attacked Hutu neighbors of Tutsi and massacred them mercilessly.

    I’ve also read that most of the deaths were the result of machetes (37%) and clubs (16%) and that guns only accounted for 14% of the deaths. See, Conspiracy to Murder.


    It seems to me that Israeli arms dealers had little to do with the genocide in Rwanda, and the Government of the State of Israel had even less to do with it. Even the Ma’ariiv article writes that the Government of Israel made a huge relief effort, sending field hospital, doctors, etc.

    • Richard Silverstein September 23, 2013, 2:53 AM

      @ J.J.: So you neglected to notice that an Israeli weapons dealer sold weapons to Rwanda well after the genocide began? And you think that because these arms weren’t officially sanctioned that Israel gets off the hook?

      How many of the 14% who were murdered by guns were killed by Israeli weapons or bullets? And again, you think this somehow let’s Israel off the hook?

      Your claim that Israeli arms dealers had “little to do with the genocide” is belied by the article itself which makes precisely the opposite argument, and very persuasively.

      As for Israel’s relieft effort: it came after Kagame’s forces had won and was done out of a guilty conscience for all the evil that Israel inflicted on Rwanda.

      Your sort of hasbara leaves me disgusted. Absolutely disgusted. Instead of arguing reasonably (as I noted in my post) that Israel played a role in the mayhem along with other nations, you pretend Israel did nothing wrong.

      • J.J. September 23, 2013, 11:34 AM


        As you well know, many European countries, especially France and Belgium, provided arms and training. Israel’s contribution to the genocide appears to be de minimis.

        You gloss over what I said about Israel’s apparent weapons transfer to the Tutsi ‘good guys’.

        The 6 million airlift was to Goma, Zaire, and not to Kigali, where you’d expect the Hutu led government would want it delivered.
        Goma is right across the border from Northern Rwanda, where the Tutsis held a great deal of territory.

        Now, anyone can prove that the Israeli government sanctioned arms sales to the Hutu right before and during the genocide, than receive my unequivocal apology.

  • albcontact October 30, 2013, 11:47 AM

    What makes you label the elected president of Rwanda a “dictator”, or is it a repeated slogan? What criteria do you use or was it just “style”?

    • Richard Silverstein October 30, 2013, 5:08 PM

      Please don’t make me repeat myself. My reasons are clearly portrayed in the post. Read it carefully & engage with what I wrote.

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