An American Jewish delegation made an early departure from an African Union summit last week after AU delegates objected to its presence.
The nine-person delegation, which included Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations, had been invited by summit organizers to attend this week’s events in Equatorial Guinea.
Members of the group were watching the opening ceremonies when the Egyptian delegation, noticing that some of the men wore kippahs, objected to their presence, calling them an Israeli delegation.
The South African delegation also complained.
An AU organizer told Hoenlein of the objections, and Hoenlein told him that it would be “outrageous” to complain about an Israeli delegation, but that in any case, the people in his group were Americans.
Following the complaints, the group, which Heinlein said had planned to leave right after the opening ceremony, left the conference two hours early.
“The behavior was unacceptable and we decided to leave,” Hoeinlein said. “It demonstrates again, whether we’re Israelis or Americans, it’s the Jewish part of us” that some people object to.
Hoenlein said on Friday that he considered the visit to have been a success. He and the members of the delegation, who attended in their individual capacities and did not collectively represent any organization, had between 12 and 15 meetings with African leaders on Wednesday, the day before the official summit launch.
“We were received across the board by presidents who have not met before with us, who are anxious for closer ties to Israel, with the Jewish community,” said Hoenlein. It was the first such Jewish presence at an AU summit.
AU officials later expressed their regret for the incident, Hoenlein said..
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