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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rwanda’

Solar Power Field in Jewish-Sponsored Youth Village in Rwanda

Monday, February 17th, 2014

The first utility-scale solar power field in East Africa will be built on land belonging to a Jewish-sponsored youth village in Rwanda.

The nearly $24 million project was announced Monday by Yosef Abramowitz, the president of Gigawatt Global Cooperatief, which arranged for its financing.

Construction has already started on the solar field on land belonging to the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village  for orphans from the 1994 Rwandan genocide and founded by the late Anne Heyman, who died earlier this month in a horse-riding accident in Florida.

rowanda solar field under construction

The solar field will feed electricity into the national grid under a 25-year power purchase agreement with the Rwanda Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority. It is expected to be operational this summer.

“It takes a global village to raise a solar revolution,” said Abramowitz, who also is CEO of Energiya Global Capital, Gigawatt’s Israeli affiliate, which provided seed money and strategic assistance for the project. Gigawatt Global was founded by Arava Power Company’s American founders. Arava Power Company has developed six solar power plants in Israel.

Abramowitz called the solar field, which will provide an 8 percent increase in the country’s energy supply, “a game-changer for humanity and the environment.”

The youth village is leasing land to the solar facility and will use the proceeds to fund its charitable mission.

“Anne Heyman, our founder of blessed memory, held to a vision in which the village practiced tikkun olam, the Jewish teaching to help heal the world,” said Laurie Toll Franz, the youth village’s newly elected board chair. “In addition to our work with Rwanda’s most vulnerable children, we’re now helping to improve the lives of thousands of people through sustainable electricity generation.”

Jewish Philanthropist Killed in Horseback-Riding Accident

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Anne Heyman, a Jewish philanthropist who founded a Rwandan youth village for children orphaned in that country’s 1994 genocide, died in a horse-riding accident.

Heyman, 52, died Friday afternoon after falling off a horse during a jumping competition at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Florida, The Palm Beach Post reported.

Heyman’s interest in aiding Rwanda was spurred by a 2005 talk on the genocide that she and her husband, Seth Merrin, attended. Together they raised $12 million to create Rwanda’s Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, according to the Post.

The village opened in December 2008, and 500 Rwandans age 14-21 currently live and study there. The village was inspired by the youth villages in Israel that resettled young Jews orphaned by the Holocaust.

Rwandan government officials expressed sorrow over Heyman’s death.

“RIP ‪#AnneHeyman‬ – your legacy will live on forever, our thoughts are with your family and hundreds of youth in ‪#ASYV‬ who just lost a mother,” Jean Nsengimana, Rwanda’s youth minister, tweeted.

Originally from South Africa, Heyman has been involved in numerous American Jewish philanthropies. She is a former board president of Dorot, a Jewish nonprofit that organizes volunteers to help the elderly and reduce their social isolation.

Elie Wiesel and Kagame of Rwanda Discuss Genocide & Syria

Monday, September 30th, 2013

There were several important news making items that emerged from our historic discussion on genocide that our organization, This World: The Jewish Values Network, together with NYU Hillel, staged on Sunday night, 29 September, at Cooper Union’s Great Hall in New York City – the venue that brought Abraham Lincoln to national prominence in 1860 – before 1000 people. The event – introduced by philanthropists Sheldon Adelson and Michael Steinhardt and which I moderated – was historic because it brought together the two biggest names in global genocide remembrance: Prof. Elie Wiesel, the living embodiment of the martyred six million of the holocaust, and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, the only man alive who can claim to have stopped a genocide when his RPF forces conquered Rwanda in 1994 and ended the slaughter that had taken the lives of nearly one million Tutsis.

As to the discussion of whether President Franklin Roosevelt did enough to stop the murder of Europe’s Jews, Elie Wiesel came down firmly on the side of those who say he failed at this great moral responsibility. He deserves credit for defeating Hitler, Wiesel said, but as a someone who confronted a genocide and did not limit it, he deserves to be severely criticized.

I then turned the question to Kagame, adjusted to the Rwandan genocide. Did he harbor anger toward the United States, a moral and righteous superpower who blew it completely in Rwanda, doing next to nothing to stop the genocide and, arguably, even obstructing the efforts of other nations to assist. No, the President said. We’re way past that. It’s not about anger but our conclusion that we alone can protect ourselves and can never rely on a fickle world for our defense. Rwandans can rely on Rwandans for their defense.

I pointed out to the president that Israel came to the same conclusion about its defense in general, and is now pondering whether it will apply that principle by striking Iran alone, now that President Obama has decided to engage the Iranian president even as he continues to enrich Uranium and fund Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists.

I asked Elie Wiesel about Syria. Given the Bible’s commandment ‘not to stand idly by the blood of your neighbor,’ did the United States have a moral obligation to punish Assad for gassing children, even if he surrenders his chemical arsenal? Wiesel was unequivocal. Both the American political, and Jewish communal leadership had failed on Syria. Chemical gas was a trigger point for genocide and mass murder. The fact that Assad had paid no price for gassing children was a tremendous moral failure that had to be corrected, and the Jewish community should have been at the forefront of saying so.

President Kagame echoed that sentiment. Those who use either chemical, or even conventional weapons to slaughter innocent people must be held accountable or nothing will check further aggression and murder. Here were the world’s two leading voices on genocide were being jointly critical of the American government’s decision to commute the military attack on Assad to simply destroying his arsenal. Even if he did so he still had to pay a personal price for mass murder.

My close friend Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo had already announced, at a press conference we convened in October of last year, that Rwanda would be opening an embassy in Israel. I turned to the President and said to him that countries like Rwanda can understand Israel’s security situation in ways that few others could. The similarities between the two countries is striking. They are of similar size. They have terrorist enemies on their borders. Israel has Iran-funded Hezbollah and Hamas and Rwanda the FDLR in Eastern Congo. Both are regularly criticized unfairly by the UN. Both have had frictions with France which has at times assumed a curiously negative posture toward both countries. And, of course, both have experienced genocides of staggering proportions.

In light of the unique relationship between the two countries, I asked the President would it not be proper for Rwanda to open its embassy not in Tel Aviv but in Jerusalem, becoming one of the first nations to affirm the holy city as Israel’s eternal and undivided capitol? The President was surprised by the question but answered graciously. Rwanda and Israel indeed share similar histories and security challenges. He was very happy that they were increasing their bilateral relations with Rwanda opening an embassy in Israel. It was an important step in an evolving relationship and opening an Embassy in Jerusalem would be too great a leap for now. He and I both smiled at his response, with the President knowing I had put him on the spot and with me knowing that he had artfully dodged my question.

I turned to Professor Wiesel and told him that the full page ads he took out in America’s major publications in March, 2010, mildly rebuking President Obama, with whom he is close, for his pressure on Israel to cease building in parts of Jerusalem were widely credited with reversing the Administration’s policy. Would he be consider taking out similar ads questioning the President’s decision to open diplomatic relations at the highest level of the Iranian leadership without first demanding that Iran cease funding Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists, or enriching Uranium? Wiesel said that Iran’s holocaust denial was dangerous and delusional, and that opening diplomatic relations with the Iranians before they had formally renounced their genocidal aspirations against the Jewish state was unacceptable. He would consider the ads.

At last, I asked Professor Wiesel about a subject he and I had discussed many times. Why was it inappropriate to hate those who have committed genocide? Should we not despise the SS who murdered his family, or Hutu genocidaires who hacked children to death with machetes? Wiesel was adamant. Once you start hating, the emotion is internalized and you cannot control its spread and growth. It’s not long before it is directed even at those whom it is inappropriate to hate.

I have been close to Wiesel for 25 years. He is my hero and teacher. But on this one point, I remain unsure, and continue to despise those monsters who would murder a child because of his nationality, religion, or race. Never again must mean just that, Never again.

Genocides All Over the Place

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Last night I received the following press release from my new Secretary of State, John Kerry, which caused me an initial double take:

Commemoration of 19th Anniversary of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda

The United States stands in solidarity with the Rwandan people as together we remember and honor the victims of those tragic 100 days 19 years ago. We mourn with you not only for the lives lost, but for the families torn apart, and for the survivors of the genocide who continue to live with their grief to this day. At the same time, we admire the resilience and spirit of the Rwandan people who have made such progress in overcoming this tragedy.

We look with you to the future and pay tribute to the gracious and determined character of the Rwandan people.

Is it possible? I asked myself. Two memorials for national genocides on the same day? Are we so packed with genocidal events on this miserable blue ball that we now have to observe them two at a time?

I checked the Rwanda.net website, and came back with the following information:

April 7th is the beginning of the Genocide Memorial Week. It is a time to remember the atrocities committed against our fellow man while the world sat back and watched. If you are not familiar with the genocide in Rwanda, I would recommend reading about it. There are many books that shed light on this terrible event in our history. Below is a summary from the government about why they have time each year to remember such a horrific event. Remember, it happened before, it happened in 1994, and it can happen again. The only way to prevent events in the future is to learn from the past. I know there is a lot below, so if you don’t read all of it, PLEASE at least read what I think are the important parts highlighted.

April 7th is Rwanda’s National Mourning Day for the Genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda. It is observed:

- To remember what happened during the Genocide

- To sympathize with, and provide support to, Genocide survivors as they go through tough moments of remembering atrocities

- To restore the dignity of our beloved ones who were killed, by burying them properly, remembering the good things about them and giving tribute to those who struggled to save lives during that period.

- To reflect on the crime of Genocide, and other related crimes against humanity, and to resolve to “Never Again” allow Genocide to occur.

- To observe a minute of silence at 12 noon on April 7th.

Now, to be fair, the reason we observed the Jewish Holocaust memorial day on April 7th at night is because this year this is when the 27th of Nissan fell, and next year it’ll be observed on Sunday, April 27. So the day actually belongs permanently to the Rwandan people, and we’re only using it this year.

Next year, we’ll be competing for memorial turf with the commemoration of the institution of Apartheid in South Africa — the passing of the “Group Areas Act,” which formally segregated the races, on April 7, 1950.

Also, in 1813, American troops captured Toronto. But, I suppose, whether this was a sad or a joyous event would depend on your current location vis-à-vis the border.

R. Shmuley and Rwandan FM Discuss Holocaust Denial and Israel

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

On Friday, “America’s Rabbi” Shmuley Boteach hosted a press conference with Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo for a discussion of holocaust and genocide denial and its peril to human rights worldwide. The discussion came on the morning following a vote to include Rwanda on the UN Security Council for 2013-2014.

The meeting touched on how much Rwanda has progressed economically, agriculturally, and technologically, as well as on women’s rights in the 18 years since the 1994 ethnic cleansing of the Tutsis by the Hutus in Rwanda.

The two ethnic groups are actually very similar – they speak the same language, inhabit the same areas and follow the same traditions. But the Tutsis are often taller and thinner than the Hutus. When the Belgian colonists arrived in 1916, they considered the Tutsis to be superior to the Hutus. The Tutsis enjoyed better jobs and educational opportunities than the Hutus.

Resentment among the Hutus built up, and when Belgium granted Rwanda independence in 1962, the Hutus took their place. Over subsequent decades, the Tutsis were portrayed as the scapegoats for every crisis. The decades of officially promoted hatred ended up in the mass genocide that started in 1993.

The meeting between Boteach and the foreign minister revealed how holocaust and genocide denial have become a political tool over the years and how the newly-voted seat on the Security Council will help the Rwanda enter into a positive new phase in its history.

The two also stressed the deep-rooted connection between the Rwandans and the Jewish people, given their tragic histories and their commitment to “a hopeful future absent of hate or recrimination.”

Mushikiwabo stated that when Rabbi Shmuley had met with President Kagame and her in New York a few weeks ago, Shmuley had spoken passionately of the importance of solidifying a closer relationship between Rwanda and Israel by having Rwanda open a permanent embassy in Israel. Mushikiwabo noted that Kagame had turned to her on the spot and said how much he agreed with Rabbi Shmuley about the establishment of an embassy. He asked the Foreign Minister to work on its creation as soon as possible. Mushikiwabo thanked Rabbi Shmuley for the role he played, saying Rwanda now plans to open an embassy in Israel within the next six months.

Rabbi Shmuley said, “As someone who is deeply committed to the connection between the Rwandan and Jewish people, I was so grateful to hear from my friend, Foreign Minister Mushikiwabo, that she and President Kagame have now taken the decision to open an embassy in Israel. Having witnessed firsthand this summer the pain and the rebirth of the Rwandan people, I was incredibly inspired by their warmth and their ability to come together as a unit in times of hardship, much in the way that the Jewish people have done for centuries.”

Debating America’s Response To The Holocaust With The U.S. Holocaust Museum

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

During a recent trip to Rwanda, former president Bill Clinton lamented his failure in 1994 to intervene in that country’s genocidal massacres. “I don’t think we could have ended the violence, but I think we could have cut it down. And I regret it.”

Clinton, perhaps in atonement, has helped raise money to build the Kilgali Genocide Memorial Center.

Clinton’s hindsight regret is relevant to a debate I recently had with another genocide memorial institution, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The debate concerned my book about the epic battle in 1943 between the Treasury and State departments over a plan by the World Jewish Congress to rescue tens of thousands of Romanian Jews trapped in the hellish land of Transnistria in the Nazi-occupied Ukraine.

The patrician diplomats in the State Department blocked the rescue while the middle class lawyers in the Treasury Department (all Christians) fought for it. The battle led directly to the formation of the War Refugee Board in early 1944, which is credited with rescuing 200,000 Jews, including surviving Transnistrian Jews.

In a critique, the museum’s historians disputed my book’s criticism of the State Department. Ordinarily, authors don’t direct readers to a negative review but because this one was so heavily dependent on a hindsight analysis to justify a failure to rescue (the opposite of President Clinton’s hindsight regrets), that is just what I am doing.

Now, the museum’s website displays remarks by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at the 2012 National Day of Remembrance ceremony in Washington. He described how “State Department officials were systematically undermining efforts to save Jews in Europe” including in Transnistria, and “blocking the spread of information about the Holocaust.”

Without contesting these facts, the museum’s critique argued that the rescue would never have succeeded because, at least based on more recent information about “machinations” in Europe, the “Germans were stringing the Allies along . . .without any intention of freeing the Jews.”

Further, “the overwhelming majority of Jews who died in Transnistria were already dead” by the time rescue was proposed; there were limited “available resources,” such as ships, with which to transport the Jews from Transnistria; and an “evacuation by sea” would have exposed “Jews who would survive the war to lethal danger from German or Soviet submarines in the Black Sea.”

My response was that when the War Refugee Board finally was established, its agents overcame German resistance and rescued more than 50,000 surviving Transnistrian Jews. Enough shipping was available because the Board, as Secretary Geithner pointed out, “helped purchase boats to ferry thousands of refugees out of Romania.”

Jews, warned of the risks in advance, were ready to board any ship to get out of Transnistria (or anywhere else in the hell that was occupied Europe). Not all of the “Jews who would die” were already dead. At least 7,500 more died in 1943 during the Cabinet battle over rescue and the survivors endured much suffering. When Jewish orphans finally were rescued, they raised their hands to protect their faces as if expecting beatings.

The museum’s historians are well-credentialed scholars dedicated to Holocaust studies. But, as I argued, their hindsight analysis was flawed because the necessity of rescuing Jews from the Holocaust was not a sliding scale that rose or fell on a Jew’s odds of survival, even if such odds could have been calculated then. Nor should the difficulty of rescue have relieved the State Department of its humanitarian obligations, an inherent implication of the historians’ analysis.

That’s why the museum’s critique sounded eerily like the State Department’s do-nothing arguments in 1943 at one meeting with a Treasury lawyer that “It would be probably be impossible to work out satisfactory arrangements with the Romanian authorities. German consent would not be forthcoming. The Turkish government has refused entry to Jewish refugees.”

In the final analysis, no humanitarian intervention would ever be undertaken if it required proof in advance that, absent rescue, the victims will die (or, at least, more than 7,500 will perish), deems suffering short of death irrelevant, and requires an absence of risk and certainty of success. Of course, those conditions never existed in Nazi-occupied Europe. The Treasury lawyers battled the State Department over rescue because they understood that, since both lives and core American values (if not American honor) were at stake, no matter the obstacles, this country had to at least try to rescue Jewish victims of genocide.

Why I’m Traveling to Rwanda in the Middle of My Congressional Campaign

Monday, August 6th, 2012

I always promised myself that if I ever ran for public office I would highlight anti-genocide legislation as one of the principal planks of my platform. As such, I’m traveling to Rwanda this week where I will visit the main locations of the mass slaughter of the Tutsis by the Hutus in 1994. My trip is being organized by James Smith, my old friend from the UK who runs a genocide remembrance center in Rwanda. In addition, Samantha Power, President Obama’s principal advisor on Human Rights and Multilateral Affairs and the foremost anti-genocide advocate in the world has been very helpful in introducing me to the staff of the American Embassy in Kigali with whom I will also meet. Unexpectedly, my daughter Chana, who serves in the Israel army, was also helpful when her unit hosted the Rwandan Chief of Staff and she shared with him how much her father has read and written about the genocide, leading the Chief of Staff to kindly invite me to Rwanda.

The Rwandan genocide of Tutsis by Hutus happened at a rate even quicker than the liquidation of Jews at the hands of the Germans. The best estimate is that 800,000 were killed in a hundred days, which translates to 334 murders per hour, or about six murders per minute. Most of these were low-tech executions by machete. Tens of thousands of others were horribly maimed but did not die.

And why would a would-be Congressman from New Jersey travel across the globe in the Middle of his campaign to highlight the slaughter? Because Rwanda represents one of the lowest points in American foreign policy where the mightiest, richest nation on earth did not lift a pinky to rescue almost a million of the poorest people on earth.

As Phillip Gourevitch explains in his definitive account of the Rwandan genocide, We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We will Be Killed with Our Families, President Clinton, still haunted by the murder of American soldiers in Somalia, chose to take no action in Rwanda. Worse, his administration obstructed the efforts of other nations to stop the slaughter.

On April 21, 1994, the Canadian UN commandeer in Rwanda, General Romeo Dallaire, declared that he required only 5000 troops to bring the genocide to a rapid halt. In addition, a single bombing run against the RTLM Hutu Power radio transmitting antenna would have made it impossible for the Hutus to coordinate their genocide. But on the very same day, the Security Council, with the Clinton administration’s blessing, ordered the UN force under Dallaire reduced by ninety percent to a skeleton staff of 270 troops who would powerlessly witness the slaughter to come. This in turn was influenced by Presidential Decision Directive 25, which “amounted to a checklist of reasons to avoid American involvement in UN peacekeeping missions,” even though Dallaire did not seek American troops and the mission was not peacekeeping but genocide prevention. Indeed, Madeleine Albright, the American Ambassador to the UN, opposed leaving even this tiny UN force. She also pressured other countries “to duck, as the death toll leapt from thousands to tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands… the absolute low point in her career as a stateswoman.”

In the end, eight African nations, fed up with American inaction, agreed to send in an intervention force to stop the slaughter provided that the U.S. would lend them fifty armored personal carriers. The Clinton administration decided it would lease rather than lend the armor for a price of $15 million. The carriers sat on a runway in Germany while the UN pleaded for a $5 million reduction as the genocidal inferno raged. The story only gets worse from there, with the Clinton State Department refusing to label the Rwanda horrors a genocide because of the 1948 Genocide Convention that would have obligated the United States to intervene.

All this could be dismissed as something that happened 18 years ago and does not much matter now. But as we’ve learned, history is always destined to repeat itself.

Every day innocent men, women, and children die in Syria with the world scarcely giving a damn. Russia has blocked every UN effort to merely censure Bashar Assad for the slaughter, yet the United States has not even removed its Ambassador from Moscow to protest this protection of a head of state butchering his people.

President Obama and the ‘Responsibility to Protect’

Monday, March 19th, 2012

“What is being done in Homs [Syria] . . . is simply appalling and shouldn’t be allowed to stand in our world,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron in Washington. The British, he said, are cataloguing “these crimes,” and Assad should “always remember that international law has got a long reach and a long memory.” Standing next to Mr. Cameron, President Obama demanded that Bashar al-Asad step down while reassuring him that the U.S. is unlikely actually to do anything about the problem. “The best thing we can do right now is to make sure that the international community continues to unify around the fact that what the Syrian regime is doing is unacceptable.”

Really? That’s the best we can do? Who out there doesn’t think what the Syrians are doing is unacceptable? The Russians? They know perfectly well it is morally unacceptable; they just don’t care because a larger Russian interest is involved. As in Chechnya. As when the French and Germans said they were opposed to the Iraq war for moral reasons while they were taking Oil-for-Food kickbacks from Saddam.

But despite the fact that PM Cameron is “appalled” by things Mr. Obama has called “unacceptable,” the President and various American officials have recently offered a host of reasons no one should expect us to do anything about them:

  • The US needs “permission” from the UN and the Arab League, along with NATO agreement (though perhaps not the agreement of Congress)
  • It would take 75,000 soldiers to contain Syria’s chemical arsenal
  • There could be a civil war. [In support of Mr. Obama, the French government added yesterday that, "If we give arms to a certain faction of the Syrian opposition, we would make a civil war among Christians, Alawites, Sunnis and Shiites."]
  • Al-Qaeda is part of the Syrian opposition
  • Russian-supplied Syrian air defenses are formidable.

Most of those points are debatable (there’s already a civil war, while there’s no proof of al-Qaeda involvement). All are largely irrelevant if, indeed, there is a responsibility to stop the perpetrators of what, by most accounts, amounts to war crimes. The United States and our British ally have to determine whether R2P (Responsibility to Protect) is actually only R2PATF (Responsibility to Punish after the Fact).

There is something to be said for the trials of Slobodan Milosevic and Ratko Mladich after the Bosnia war, and the 92 indictments that followed the Rwanda massacres. There is less to commend about the indictment of Omar Bashir of Sudan, who remains in charge of Sudan after the depredations in Darfur, Nuba, South Sudan, and the Beja people in the east. And there is nothing that helps the victims of any of the above.

The administration should want al-Asad and other despotic leaders – not to mention our friends – to believe that the United States and its allies in the West mean what they say. At the moment, the bad guys, at least, have no reason to.

In the wake of charges against American pro-democracy workers in Egypt and revocation of their exit visas, Congress determined to withhold U.S. aid until the State Department certified that the country was “making progress in basic freedoms and human rights.” Although one would be hard-pressed to see progress, The Washington Post reported that Secretary of State Clinton is close to announcing that she will bypass Congress and hand over $1.5 billion in mostly military aid.

She will, according to sources in the article, claim “national security” grounds, fearing that continuing to withhold the money will make the military junta and the Muslim Brotherhood even angrier with the U.S. than they already are. That, and most of the money is tied up in existing defense contracts with U.S. firms.

So, U.S. aid no longer serves the goals of U.S. foreign policy may have, it is a) a blackmail payoff against further Egyptian anti-Americanism and b) a “shovel ready” jobs program. Neither shows American backbone.

If Syria and Egypt have nothing to fear from the President of the United States, what will the Iranians fear? Still standing with Mr. Cameron, President Obama followed up on his determination not to inconvenience al-Asad with what The Washington Post called a “stern warning” that Tehran “must meet its international obligations or face the consequences.”

Yeah, right.

 

Originally published by Stonegate Institute www.stonegateinstitute.org

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/president-obama-and-the-responsibility-to-protect/2012/03/19/

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