Amid Deportation Deal, Israel Backs Rwanda's UN Move to Rename 1994 Genocide

Foreign Ministry officials say decision was made in light of deal between the two countries over Rwanda accepting African asylum seekers from Israel

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Rwandan President Paul Kagame, left, shaking hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, October 2017.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, left, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, October 2017.Credit: קובי גדעון / לע"מ
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Israel on Friday supported a UN resolution sponsored by Rwanda to change the name of the memorial day for the 1994 genocide to focus only on the Tutsi people, even though the United States and the European Union said it ignored the slaughter of other ethnic groups there.

Israeli Foreign Ministry officials told Channel 10 News the decision was made because of understandings between Israel and Rwanda over the deportation of asylum seekers to the African country.

The UN General Assembly debate focused on a request by Rwanda to amend the name of the memorial day for the massacres. The amendment changes the designation of April 7 from the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda – as decided in a December 2003 resolution – to the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

The Rwandan genocide was committed by members of the Hutu-majority government. An estimated 500,000 to 1 million Rwandans were brutally murdered during 100 days from April 7 to mid-July 1994, the overwhelming majority of them Tutsis.

The amendment was initiated by Rwandan President Paul Kagame. He was one of the Tutsi people who fought in the rebellion against the Hutu government, when several thousand Hutus were also killed. Many Hutus later became refugees when they fled the country for fear of revenge attacks.

A Rwandan representative said the amendment served to make it clear the massacre was perpetrated by the Hutu majority on the Tutsis. She said those advancing the theory of a “double massacre” sought to “divert” their own personal responsibility for events.

According to Channel 10, senior members of the U.S. delegation to the UN contacted the Israeli delegation around a month ago, asking it to join the U.S. efforts to persuade Rwanda to remove the amendment from the agenda. Israel refused. The amendment passed in the end, but both the United States and EU expressed reservations.

The U.S. representative stressed that the name change “does not fully capture the magnitude of the genocide and of the violence committed against other groups,” expressing concern that the change of terminology would bring about a change in the historical narrative.

A Hutu refugee with open machete wounds standing amid a group of fellow refugees who remain surrounded by the Tutsi Army, in a 1995 file photo in southern Rwanda.Credit: AP

The EU representative, meanwhile, expressed regret that there was no consensus reached on memorializing those killed among the Hutu and other ethnic groups.

Israel’s UN representative, Noa Furman, supported the resolution, saying, “As a people who suffered the atrocities of the Holocaust, Israelis understand the global responsibility to reflect the darkest chapters in human history.”

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “The resolution was adopted by consensus, which of course included the United States, and represents an aspiration for historical justice and a proper representation of the facts.”

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