Billionaire right-wing donor Sheldon Adelson and Elie Wiesel celebrate Rwandan strongman at TV rabbi’s genocide panel
A recent event on genocide at Cooper Union failed to address the war crimes committed by its guest of honor, according to a recent video report by Max Blumenthal and Jaisal Noor for The Real News Network.
Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, appeared on stage with writer Elie Wiesel, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, and Israeli rabbi Shmuley Boteach to discuss the relationship between Rwanda and Israel.
“The world watched and did absolutely nothing as nearly 1 million Tutsis in Rwanda were slaughtered by Hutus in the fastest genocide in world history,” said Adelson. “It took a leader of military genius, named Paul Kagame, to finally decide that since the world would not come to the rescue of his people, he must put an end to the slaughter himself.”
Rod Conrad, who protested Kagame’s presence at the event, said, “What is Elie Wiesel doing sitting on a podium with a person whose proxy militias are responsible for the deaths of 6 million people, half of them under the age of five? What is the meaning of speaking out against genocide and the Holocaust and crimes against humanity when people who say that are sitting next to the people committing those crimes? It just—it doesn’t make sense.”
“The issue of M23, the issue of eastern Congo is just a red herring,” said Kagame.
Filip Reyntjens, a Belgian professor who has testified as an expert witness on Rwanda, has said that Kagame is “probably the worst war criminal in office today.”
Alex Kane, associate editor of Mondoweiss, asked Adelson, “What can we do to protect the Palestinians from Mr. Netanyahu?”
“Put duct tape on your mouth,” replied Adelson.
MAX BLUMENTHAL, PRODUCER: Hundreds of New Yorkers gathered at Cooper Union for a forum on the strong defending the weak from genocide. The event was sponsored by Shmuley Boteach, the famed rabbi who has served as consigliere to public figures from Cory Booker to Samantha Power to Michael Jackson.
At the podium where Abraham Lincoln vaulted into the national spotlight stood Sheldon Adelson, a Likudnik billionaire and top Republican donor who favors shutting down the federal government. Adelson introduced the evening’s guest of honor, Rwandan strongman Paul Kagame, describing his legacy in the shadow of the Holocaust.
SHELDON ADELSON, BILLIONAIRE CASINO MOGUL: The world watched and did absolutely nothing as nearly 1 million Tutsis in Rwanda were slaughtered by Hutus in the fastest genocide in world history. It took a leader of military genius, named Paul Kagame, to finally decide that since the world would not come to the rescue of his people, he must put an end to the slaughter himself.
BLUMENTHAL: Boteach introduced Nobel Prize winning author Elie Wiesel to the event, describing him to the crowd as a secular saint.
SHMULEY BOTEACH, RABBI, AUTHOR, AND TV HOST: On anyone’s list, Elie Wiesel would be on a list of the three most respected men alive. Ladies and gentlemen, the very conscience and representative of the martyred 6 million of the Holocaust, Nobel peace laureate Elie Wiesel.
BLUMENTHAL: Then he heaped praise on Kagame.
BOTEACH: When you saw the world turn its back on your people, you decided that they would have only one champion, and that would be you and your army, who would put an end to the genocide.
BLUMENTHAL: Multiple UN reports have documented atrocities committed by the militia proxies of Kagame in Congo, and Filip Reyntjens, one of the world’s leading experts on Rwanda, calls Kagame “probably the worst war criminal in office today.”
With no opportunity for the audience to question the panelists, one protester attempted to break through the curtain of silence.
BOTEACH: Can somebody please tell this heckler that they should not disrupt the world–the faces of the holocaust of the world?
ROD CONRAD, PROTESTER: U.S. government report [crosstalk] 6 million Congolese. Everyone knows it. Everyone knows it. It’s not a secret.
BOTEACH: Can someone please–.
CONRAD: Look at the State Department report. Look at the State Department report.
BOTEACH: [incompr.] We have Elie Wiesel speaking, whose birthday is tomorrow, 85th birthday, thank God. And this man has absolutely no respect.
CONRAD: What is Elie Wiesel doing sitting on a podium with a person whose proxy militias are responsible for the deaths of 6 million people, half of them under the age of five? What is the meaning of speaking out against genocide and the Holocaust and crimes against humanity when people who say that are sitting next to the people committing those crimes? It just–it doesn’t make sense.
KAMBALE MUSAVULI, FRIENDS OF THE CONGO: Paul Kagame, you know, is the president of Rwanda. Rwanda and Uganda invaded the Congo in ’96, and they have unleashed the deaths that we see there. They deny, right? But even the most conservative numbers bring the death toll to 5.4 million people.
PAUL KAGAME, PRESIDENT OF RWANDA: One, I want to be very clear: protect our people. And we will protect our people. Number two, the issue of M23, the issue of eastern Congo is just a red herring.
EVENT ATTENDEE: These are two people who have really worked for the betterment of humanity.
EVENT ATTENDEE: Living heroes. Legend. Well, Elie Wiesel, he’s great. I read all his books.
BLUMENTHAL: And what do you know about Paul Kagame and his heroism?
EVENT ATTENDEE: He stopped a genocide. Pretty cool.
BLUMENTHAL: As a vocal supporter of the Israeli settlement enterprise and an outspoken opponent of Palestinian rights, Boteach attempted to highlight the values supposedly shared between Israel and Rwanda.
Next Boteach turned to Wiesel, chairman of El Ad, an organization that supports Israel’s colonization of occupied East Jerusalem.
BOTEACH: In terms of UN Security Council resolutions, Israel seems to get the majority of the criticism when it’s the only democracy in the Middle East, etc. And there are many other similarities. So your solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people is important, given that you have a unique understanding of the kind of security concerns that Israel has.
BLUMENTHAL: Next, Boteach turned to Wiesel, the chairman of Elad, an organization that supports Israel’s colonization of occupied East Jerusalem.
ELIE WIESEL, PROFESSOR AND POLITICAL ACTIVIST: Israel is part of our life. It’s truly part of mine. Me and my wife and my son, I think we go there very often because we cannot not go there.
Now, what does it mean? Does it mean that all of a sudden we become overly nationalistic, super nationalistic? Not at all. It simply is that we claim a right over our history. It is because we study history, because we live history, that we feel we cannot allow now anything to happen to Israel.
BLUMENTHAL: He is the chairman of a pro-settler organization called Elad that’s building a biblical theme park in East Jerusalem in Silwan, which requires the expulsion of 88 Palestinian families and the destruction of their homes. And Elie Wiesel has openly declared that Jerusalem is exclusively the property of the Jewish people and denied any Palestinian right to the city against the international consensus on a two-state solution. So we’ll be following up with Elie Wiesel, who Shmuley Boteach described as the prince of the Jewish people.
BLUMENTHAL: Can I ask you a question about your involvement with Elad as the chairman in Jerusalem? What can the strong do to protect the Palestinians of Jerusalem from Elad’s dispossession project in Silwan?
WIESEL: Not now.
BLUMENTHAL: No wisdom on what can be done to protect the Palestinians from Elad?
WIESEL: You need, really, a real answer.
HANDLER: We’ll get it later.
BLUMENTHAL: Okay. Thank you.
ALEX KANE, ASSISTANT EDITOR, MONDOWEISS: Mr. Wiesel, should the Palestinians in Gaza be protected from the Israeli army?
WIESEL: I believe children should be protected everywhere.
KANE: Including the 300 children slaughtered in Cast Lead? Did you support that operation?
WIESEL: I don’t know anything about it.
KANE: You don’t know anything about Cast Lead?
WIESEL: I’m afraid not really.
BLUMENTHAL: You don’t know anything about children killed in Gaza.
WIESEL: Not really.
BLUMENTHAL: Considering Adelson’s aggressive financial support for the political career of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, me and reporter Alex Kane wanted to ask him what could be done to protect Palestinians from the policies of his beneficiary.
KANE: Mr. Adelson, you’re a close ally of Benjamin Netanyahu. What can we do to protect the Palestinians from Mr. Netanyahu?
SHELDON ADELSON, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, LAS VEGAS SANDS CORP.: Put duct tape on your mouth.
BLUMENTHAL: Rabbi Shmuley, I thought you liked cameras. You don’t want to talk to the press? Rabbi Shmuley, no word on what the strong can do to protect Palestinians from Israeli dispossession?
KANE: What should be done to protect Palestinians from settler attacks?
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.