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Herzog highlights horror of genocide in Rwanda

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Israeli President Isaac Herzog flew to Kigali in Rwanda this week to commemorate 30 years of the Rwandan genocide with President Paul Kagame.

“Three decades after these atrocities, the world must look squarely at the terrible crimes, and recognise the true horror of genocide – the deliberate attempt to annihilate a people,” Herzog said at the commemoration. Herzog was the first Israeli leader to visit Africa since the 7 October massacre.

“The world mustn’t allow the politicisation of genocide, it mustn’t allow the belittling of the horror of such crimes and the degrading of the memory of the victims of genocide.

“Jewish people know all too well what it means to be threatened with annihilation,” he said. “We know all too well what it means to be the victims of genocide, terror, and hatred against our people. Even today, as we are erroneously and falsely accused of modern blood libels, we remain the target of a vicious and evil regime in Tehran, with its proxies across the region, whose stated aim is the destruction of the Jewish nation.”

Herzog said this in a statement after his visit to Rwanda, where he met global leaders including former United States President Bill Clinton, and European Council President Charles Michel.

He went to Rwanda at the invitation of Kagame to commemorate three decades since members of the ethnic majority Hutu nationalists murdered members of the ethnic minority, the Tutsis.

On 6 April 1994, a plane carrying former Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundi President Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down over the capital city Kigali, leaving no survivors. Within an hour of the crash, the presidential guard, together with members of the Rwandan armed forces (FAR) and Hutu militia groups known as the Interahamwe (those who attack together) and Impuzamugambi (those who have the same goal), set up roadblocks and barricades and began slaughtering Tutsis and moderate Hutus with impunity.

Among the first victims of the genocide were the moderate Hutu Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian peacekeepers, killed on 7 April.

This catapulted a campaign by Hutu nationalists across the country lasting 100 days and resulting in 800 000 people, mainly of Tutsi descent, being murdered.

In commemorating the years since this genocide, Herzog was able to show the world the strong partnership between the two nations, particularly in light of the accusations that Israel has been committing genocide. While there, he was also able to advocate with global leaders for the release of the hostages held by Hamas.

The president participated in a special wreath-laying ceremony at the central monument and in the main ceremony with global leaders.

There, Michel condemned the barbaric attack by Hamas on 7 October, and called for the immediate release of the hostages held by terrorists in Gaza, saying, “The European Union believes that the values of human dignity, of belonging to the human race, and of fighting discrimination, which underpin the United Nations Charter, must be our compass so that there are no double standards. That’s why we condemn in the strongest terms Hamas’s terrorist attack in Israel, and call for the unconditional release of the hostages.”

The spokesperson for the Israeli presidency said, “Commemorating the genocide is obviously of tremendous importance to Rwanda. So, it was important for us to be there for them. Since it was a commemoration of 30 years since the genocide, as the Jewish people and the Jewish state, we know all too well what it means to be the victims of genocide.

“We need to stand in solidarity with the victims of those crimes, and to promote awareness of the dangers of hatred and ideology that leads to these sorts of crimes, especially against the background of Israel being erroneously and blatantly falsely accused of genocidal crimes.

“It’s important for us to be there and highlight what genocide is and what it means to be the victims of a nation which is deliberately seeking to destroy another people or its own people.”

The spokesperson emphasised that while Herzog was there to commemorate the Rwandan genocide, he also took the opportunity to continue to press for the release of the hostages taken by Hamas with immediate effect.

Herzog gave Kagame a gift of a necklace with a military identity tag, which had engraved on it “My heart is in Gaza”, saying, “This is for the release of the hostages, for which we all pray and want them back as soon as possible.”

Said the spokesperson, “It was an opportunity to stand alongside friends and highlight the true moral message of what it means to stand against genocide and what genocide truly is. It’s an opportunity to prevail on the world stage once again the very urgent need to bring the hostages home.”

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