Israel backs UN resolution on name change for Rwanda genocide

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Rwandan President Paul Kagame on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 24, 2018. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Rwandan President Paul Kagame on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 24, 2018. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

(JTA) – Israel supported a UN resolution changing the name of the international remembrance day for the 1994 Rwanda genocide opposed by the United States and the European Union.

The April 7 remembrance day will focus solely on the murder of some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis by members of the Hutu-majority government following the amendment’s approval on Friday in the General Assembly by consensus. It will be known now as the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

Another 50,000 or more Hutu who tried to help the Tutsi also were killed during the massacres that year in a 100-day period from April to July.

Israel was the only Western country to co-sponsor the resolution, which was rejected by the United States and the European Union, Israeli reporter Barak Ravid reported for Axios.

Ravid also reported for Axios and Israel’s Eser channel, citing unnamed senior officials in the Israeli Foreign Ministry, that the decision to support the resolution initiated by Rwandan President Paul Kagame was taken due to understandings with his government about the deportation of African asylum seekers from Israel to Rwanda. Kagame, a Tutsi, fought in the rebellion against the Hutu government.

Rwanda submitted the amendment proposal two months ago. According to Ravid, U.S. diplomats in New York asked their Israeli counterparts to work to convince the Rwandans to back off from the resolution, and were surprised when Israel refused to do so.

The United States and the European Union finally decided to drop their objections in order to avoid the vote and a public crisis with Rwanda.

Kagame and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Thursday on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and discussed a range of issues, including expanding cooperation between Israel and Rwanda, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Regarding the migrant issue, Netanyahu “agreed with President Kagame, who made clear that he would only accept a process that fully complies with international law,” the statement said.

Israel’s support of the resolution, which downplays the number of Hutu deaths in the Rwandan massacre, comes as Israel rejects legislation in Poland making it illegal to refer to “Polish death camps,” which government officials have called “whitewashing” the history of the Holocaust and the genocide against Jews.

The remembrance day previously was called the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda, as per a December 2003 resolution.

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