The Israeli guns that took part in the Rwanda genocide : A Tel Aviv court has rejected a petition to reveal documentation of arms exports to the Hutu government in the ’90s.

The Tel Aviv District Court is located on Chaim Weizmann Street, named after the Zionist leader who was eventually defeated by his partner and rival David Ben-Gurion. Weizmann’s moderation and caution were pushed aside by Ben-Gurion’s pragmatic activism.

In Room 1401 of that court late last month, a story was told about which other countries have said nothing, even though Israeli Jews have done the inconceivable. Judge Orna Levy heard the petition of Prof. Yair Auron et al submitted by attorney Eitay Mack. The goal was to get the state to release papers documenting Israeli arms exports to Rwanda during the genocide 20 years ago.

Mack and Auron told Levy over and over that the burden of history rested on her shoulders; they used expressions like “historic hearing” and “historic moment.” At times, Levy seemed a bit taken aback by the magnitude of the affair. The tiny courtroom and the number of people present — around 10 — created a wide gap between the scene and the subject matter.

Though Petition 3767-10-14 was submitted based on the Freedom of Information Law, the topic was a historical and moral drama of far greater scope than the public’s access to information. Responding to the petition for the state were six officials from the Defense Export Controls Agency’s inspection department, the Defense Ministry and the official tasked with implementing the Freedom of Information Law. They sat on two benches, three men and three women, silent and buttoned-up, alongside their lead attorney, Limor Ron.

The one who seemed the most senior, older than his colleagues, wore a serious expression and a pin in the shape of the state’s emblem, the seven-branched menorah. He and his colleagues didn’t say a word during the second part of the hearing, which was open to the public. Some of them occasionally took notes.

Besides two representatives of the petitioners and one reporter, the general public consisted of three students. One said he had come from an African studies department. This entourage received the dubious honor of gathering outside Room 1401; much to the petitioners’ displeasure, and as is often the convention, the first half of the hearing took place in the presence of one side.

During that half, the respondents’ representatives were supposed to show the judge classified material proving that the publication of the papers could endanger the country’s security and/or its citizens. This reflects Statute 9A of the Freedom of Information Law. After the half hour with the judge behind closed doors, the room opened up to the petitioners. Besides a few technical remarks by attorney Ron, the state didn’t see fit to utter a word during the hearing.

Only 100 days

According to UN officials, 1 million men, women and children were massacred in Rwanda in the space of 100 days. At that pace, an average of tens of thousands of people were killed daily — faster than the annihilation of Hungary’s Jews during the final years of the Holocaust. It is apparently the fastest pace of genocide in human history.

The murderers were members of the Hutu tribe, the majority group in the small and impoverished Central African country of Rwanda. The victims were mostly members of the Tutsi tribe, the minority group. Researchers today believe that the genocide could have been prevented. There were early symptoms; then came reports of the atrocities. But the nations of the world did nothing. Several even furnished the murderers with arms and equipment.

The murderers in Rwanda did not use gas chambers or carpet bombing. They settled for machetes and light weapons. They obtained rifles and bullets, and sometimes grenades, from international arms dealers.

Israel was one source. It provided the Hutus with 5.56-millimeter bullets as well as rifles and grenades captured during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Evidence has accumulated over the years, some of it gathered by Israelis who visited Rwanda during the massacre or shortly afterward. The motive was pure greed, with a sprinkling of macabre justifications.

Attorney Mack ended his statement with a quote from an Israeli arms dealer who appeared in a report on the atrocities by Sara Leibowitz-Dar. The arms dealer expressed pride in his actions after a tour of the valley of death because his arms helped the victims die quickly — a bullet to the head instead of hacks by a machete. “I’m actually a doctor,” he said.

In recent years Mack, a young, bespectacled idealist who wears a kippa, has taken great pains to reveal the Israeli arms dealing. As he addressed the judge, wearing his long black court robe, he swayed. For a moment he looked like a cantor in a synagogue.

“There is no sense in continuing the concealment,” he said. “That will only strengthen the respondents’ feeling of immunity. We need to lay bare the dark chapters of Israel’s defense exports.”

When Mack concluded, Prof. Auron received permission to speak. He apologized for being emotional; sure enough,the stenographer had a hard time keeping up.

“I see this struggle as a kind of mission. We are members of the Jewish people. I have been dealing with the Holocaust and genocide from the day I could think on my own, for 35 years,” he began.

“I also say to the respondents present here: To send arms to a country where genocide is taking place is like sending arms to Nazi Germany during World War II. We provided arms to Serbia during the embargo, and we provided arms to the Rwandan government, which was committing murder.”

Judge Levy stopped Auron for a moment to correct the stenographer. (“Rwanda, not Uganda”). She interrupted him several more times to make sure the statements would be quoted precisely. “Million,” she said — slowly for the stenographer — as Auron repeated the number of victims. Another time, she corrected the stenographer on the spelling of the Hebrew term for genocide, retzah am.

The respondents stolidly listened to Auron’s descriptions. They represented bureaucratic officialdom, which by nature is required to help regimes carry out the morally inconceivable. Auron didn’t make things easy for them. “They are asking the judge to help them cover up the truth,” he said.

Rabin and Peres

After the hearing, I asked whether any of them would explain the state’s position — they wouldn’t have to be quoted by name. After all, it was hard to imagine how revealing the information could harm national security besides the great shame — and of course the incrimination of those involved.

Starting in 1948, the year the State of Israel was established, the perpetration and abetting of genocide were defined in international law as crimes against humanity. As expected, no one answered me. But they were merely technocrats. They weren’t the real story.

In those days, Yitzhak Rabin was both prime minister and defense minister. Shimon Peres was foreign minister. They were deeply involved in the peacemaking efforts under the Oslo Accords. The petitioners say the arms could not have been sent from Ben-Gurion International Airport without their knowledge and approval.

Of course, such an assertion requires proof. But there is no argument about one thing: The Israeli government, in an act of historical irony that Auron made sure to mention in court, was the first country on earth to send a field hospital to Rwanda to treat the massacre’s victims.

At the end of his address, in a moment out of an American courtroom drama, Auron turned to the respondents and shouted: “What sort of security argument can there possibly be here? Is there no end to cynicism? We committed crimes — terrible crimes.”

Even before his outburst, attorney Ron, a young and confident representative of the state, spoke. She noted that “for the sake of proper order” the petitioners had based their position on “Statute 9B of the Freedom of Information Law, but we are at Statute 9A.”

When Auron concluded, Judge Levy said, quietly, “The ruling will be sent to the parties.” To an outside observer it seemed the respondents were a bit concerned. To attorney Mack, it seemed they had left quickly for a meeting on the next challenge they would face — a similar petition about Israel’s involvement in arms sales to Serbia during the massacre in Bosnia.

Levy issued her ruling that day. Basing her decision on the classified material that the respondents had shown her, she turned down the petition. Mack said the wording showed that Levy was actually passing the matter on to the Supreme Court. The parties will meet there when the appeal is submitted.

If the Supreme Court justices have the patience, they too will hear Auron’s explanation about how “selling Israeli arms to governments that committed genocide desecrates the memory of the Holocaust’s victims and the memory of the Holocaust itself. No one has the right to do such a thing — and that goes for us especially.” The state, for its part, will invoke Statute 9A.
To get th

 A Rwandan survivor of the 1994 genocide prays over the bones of victims at a mass grave in Nyamata, Rwanda, April 6, 2004. Photo by AP


A Rwandan survivor of the 1994 genocide prays over the bones of victims at a mass grave in Nyamata, Rwanda, April 6, 2004. Photo by AP

Categories: Africa, Israel

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2 replies

  1. This article was first published by the Haaretz of January 3, 2015 and appeared in the AFKInsider of January 4, 2015 before making its debut on TMT.
    Astonishingly, TMT is either unaware or has refused to publish an article by Keith Harmon Snow which appeared in the RT of April 11, 2014, under the title ‘REAL RWANDA GENOCIDE AND BRAINWASHING OF THE WESTERN MIND’.
    In it, Mr Snow opines, “MILITARY AND INTELLIGENCE OPERATIVES LIKE DAVID KIMCHE(ISRAEL) AND ROGER WINTER(USA) JOCKEYED FOR POSITION–ORGANIZING LOGISTICS, MAINTAINING SUPPLY CHAINS, ARRANGING WEAPONS SHIPMENT–TO SUPPORT ‘OUR MAN’ KAGAME AND OUR PROXY GUERRILLA ARMY, RPF”.
    This article was first published by the Haaretz of January 3, 2015 and culled by the AFKInsider of January 4, 2015 before making its debut in TMT.
    Astonishingly, TMT is either unaware or has refused to publish an article by Keith Harmon Snow which appeared in the RT of April 11, 2014, under the title ‘REAL RWANDA GENOCIDE AND BRAINWASHING OF THE WESTERN MIND’.
    In it, Mr Snow opines, “MILITARY AND INTELLIGENCE OPERATIVES LIKE DAVID KIMCHE(ISRAEL) AND ROGER WINTER(USA) JOCKEYED FOR POSITION–ORGANIZING LOGISTICS, MAINTAINING SUPPLY CHAINS, ARRANGING WEAPONS SHIPMENT–TO SUPPORT ‘OUR MAN’ KAGAME AND OUR PROXY GUERRILLA ARMY, RPF”.
    This shows that contrary to the held view by Yair Auron and his admirers, Israel actually supported the RPF and Kagame.
    It is a well known fact that the United States government has a lot of sympathy for Kagame and his RPF.
    Is it then possible that Israel would have supplied arms to the Rwandan government and Kagame at the same time, particularly when the US was in support of the latter whose military training, at an elite US academy, was sponsored by that government?
    Where is the evidence that Israel officially sanctioned whatever arms dealers may have sent to the Rwandan government? Arms suppliers often work at cross purposes with their governments for the sake of profit. ISIS is receiving assistance from individuals and organizations whose governments may be in total opposition to the jihadists .
    The author of the TMT adopted article queries the veracity of the assertion as there is no proof. He then goes on to say “THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT , IN AN ACT OF HISTORICAL IRONY, THAT AURON MADE SURE TO MENTION IN COURT, WAS THE FIRST COUNTRY TO SEND A FIELD HOSPITAL TO RWANDA TO TREAT THE MASSACRE’S VICTIMS”.
    Such hypocrisy could not have escaped Kagame who has not accused Israel of aiding and abetting the genocide. Rather, at the Security Council, Rwanda thwarted the Jordanian draft resolution on Palestinian statehood by abstaining, thus making it impossible for the draft to garner the required nine votes. Was Kagame rewarding Israel for the genocide?
    The writer says Israel was only one of the sources of arms but without proof. But who were the identified culprits?
    An entry in Wikipedia on Rwanda under the sub heading : ‘Preparation for Genocide’, says :”RWANDA ALSO PURCHASED LARGE NUMBER OF GRENADES AND AMMUNITIONS FROM LATE 1990: IN ONE DEAL, THE FUTURE UN SECRETARY –GENERAL BOUTRUS BOUTRUS-GHALI, IN HIS ROLE AS EGYPTIAN FOREIGN MINISTER, FACILITATED A LARGE SALE OF ARMS FROM EGYPT. THE RWANDAN ARMED FORCES (FAR) EXPANDED RAPIDLY AT THIS TIME, GROWING FROM LESS THAN 10,000 TROOPS TO ALMOST 30,000 IN ONE YEAR”.
    Wikipedia also identifies France as having maintained very close ties to the Habyarimana regime as part of the ‘Francafrique’ policy . “WHEN THE RPF LAUNCHED THE RWANDAN CIVIL WAR IN 1990, HABYARIMANA WAS IMMEDIATELY GRANTED MILITARY ASSISTANCE FROM THE PRESIDENT OF FRANCE, FRANCOIS MITTERAND, WHO CONSIDERED THE RPF PART OF AN ‘ANGLOPHONE PLOT’—TO CREATE AN ENGLISH SPEAKING ‘TUTSI-LAND’ AND INCREASE ANGLOPHONE INFLUENCE AT THE EXPENSE OF FRENCH INFLUENCE”.
    600 elite French soldiers fought alongside the Rwandan army and helped it recapture territories lost earlier to the RPF. The French troops remained there till 1993.
    With so much preponderance of evidence, why are the Egyptians and the French not mentioned at all? Why is Israel being projected when there isn’t even a shred of circumstantial evidence? Could it be hatred or bias based on the entrenched anti-Semitism in some quarters?
    YOU BET.

    It is a well known fact that the United States government has a lot of sympathy for Kagame and his RPF.
    Is it then possible that Israel would have supplied arms to the Rwandan government and Kagame at the same time, particularly when the US was in support of the latter whose military training, at an elite US academy, was sponsored by the government?
    Where is the evidence that Israel officially sanctioned whatever arms dealers may have sent to the Rwandan government? Arms suppliers often work at cross purposes with their governments for the sake of profit. ISIS is receiving assistance from individuals and organizations whose governments may be in total opposition to what the jihadists are doing.
    The author of the TMT adopted article queries the veracity of the assertion as there is no proof. He then goes on to say “THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT , IN AN ACT OF HISTORICAL IRONY, THAT AURON MADE SURE TO MENTION IN COURT, WAS THE FIRST COUNTRY TO SEND A FIELD HOSPITAL TO RWANDA TO TREAT THE MASSACRE’S VICTIMS”.
    Such hypocrisy could not have escaped Kagame who has not accused Israel of aiding and abetting the genocide. Rather, at the Security Council, Rwanda thwarted the Jordanian draft resolution on Palestinian statehood by abstaining, thus making it impossible for the draft to garner the required nine votes. Was Kagame rewarding Israel for the genocide?
    Who then were the culprits?
    An entry in Wikipedia on Rwanda under the sub heading : ‘Preparation for Genocide’, says :”RWANDA ALSO PURCHASED LARGE NUMBER OF GRENADES AND AMMUNITIONS FROM LATE 1990: IN ONE DEAL, THE FUTURE UN SECRETARY –GENERAL BOUTRUS BOUTRUS-GHALI, IN HIS ROLE AS EGYPTIAN FOREIGN MINISTER, FACILITATED A LARGE SALE OF ARMS FROM EGYPT. THE RWANDAN ARMED FORCES (FAR) EXPANDED RAPIDLY AT THIS TIME, GROWING FROM LESS THAN 10,000 TROOPS TO ALMOST 30,000 IN ONE YEAR”.
    Wikipedia also identifies France as having maintained very close ties to the Habyarimana regime as part of the ‘Francafrique’ policy . “WHEN THE RPF LAUNCHED THE RWANDAN CIVIL WAR IN 1990, HABYARIMANA WAS IMMEDIATELY GRANTED MILITARY ASSISTANCE FROM THE PRESIDENT OF FRANCE, FRANCOIS MITTERAND, WHO CONSIDERED THE RPF PART OF AN ‘ANGLOPHONE PLOT’—TO CREATE AN ENGLISH SPEAKING ‘TUTSI-LAND’ AND INCREASE ANGLOPHONE INFLUENCE AT THE EXPENSE OF FRENCH INFLUENCE”.
    600 elite French soldiers fought alongside the Rwandan army and helped it recapture territories lost earlier to the RPF.
    With so much preponderance of evidence, why are the Egyptians and the French not mentioned at all? Why is Israel being projected when there isn’t even a shred of circumstantial evidence? Could it be hatred? Bias? Or the entrenched anti-Semitism in some quarters?
    YOU BET.

    • The Israelis – and not only the Israelis – are known to sell arms to all sides of civil wars. They did so for instance in Sri Lanka as well. One ex-Mossad agent wrote in a book that at one time teams of ‘purchasers’ from the Sri Lanka Government and from the Tamil Tigers nearly met in Israel and one of the teams had to be diverted in the last seconds to ensure that they did not meet (while inspecting the arms they were buying)…

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