“Israel is coming back to Africa, and Africa is coming back to Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Tuesday in Nairobi during the second leg of his four-country tour of East Africa, which is intended to strengthen Israel’s commercial, diplomatic, and security relations with African countries. The visit to Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia is the first time in almost 30 years that an Israeli head of state has visited sub-Saharan Africa. Netanyahu spoke the day before at a ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Entebbe operation, during which his brother Yoni was killed leading the rescue of several hundred hostages after Palestinian and German terrorists hijacked an Air France plane flying from Tel Aviv to Paris and took shelter in Uganda, which was under Idi Amin’s leadership at the time. Both Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Netanyahu noted that Kenya assisted the rescue mission, allowing Israeli planes to refuel there following the operation. Idi Amin ordered the killing of hundreds of Kenyans in Uganda in retaliation for the country’s support of Israel. Kenya and Israel have enjoyed a close and long-standing relationship, with Israel providing forensic and humanitarian assistance following the bombing of a Nairobi mall in 2013 and other terrorist attacks.
During his trip to Uganda, Netanyahu participated in a regional counter-terrorism summit with the presidents of seven African nations—the four countries he is scheduled to visit, plus Tanzania, South Sudan, and Zambia. The heads of state issued a joint declaration, stating that the summit “heralds the opening of a new era in relations between Israel and the countries of Africa,” and vowed to increase cooperation in a variety of areas, particularly counter-terrorism and technology. Faced with rising security threats from Islamic extremists, African nations like Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia have been seeking Israeli knowledge and assistance in combating radical Islamic terrorism. They share with Israel a common interest in preventing Iran and Hezbollah from expanding their influence in the continent. Netanyahu stated that Israel is the “best partner that the countries of Africa could have” due to its experience in fighting terrorism, conserving water, and irrigating dry lands. Israel is well-known for providing medical and disaster assistance and has a long history of sharing its expertise in the fields of agriculture, technology, and water conservation with countries in Africa.
Jerusalem hopes that increased ties with African nations will lead to a shift in their voting trends at the UN and other global forums, thus improving Israel’s diplomatic standing and reversing what Netanyahu called “the automatic majority against Israel.” Moreover, Kenyatta vowed to support Israel’s effort to regain observer status in the African Union, which he said would be good for both Kenya and for Africa. Israel was booted out of the African Union in 2002 due to pressure from former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The Palestinian Authority currently enjoys observer status in the African Union, while Israel does not. In more signs of growing ties with African nations, The Times of Israel revealed that Netanyahu secretly met in recent weeks with the president of Somalia (a Muslim country that lacks formal diplomatic relations with Israel), and Tanzanian officials reiterated their intention to open an embassy in Israel for the first time.
Elie Wiesel, an Auschwitz survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who became an outspoken champion for human rights and Israel, died Saturday in Manhattan at the age of 87. Born to Sarah and Shlomo Wiesel on September 30, 1928, Eliezer “Elie” Wiesel grew up in the town of Sighet, Transylvania, part of modern-day Romania. After Germany occupied Hungary in March 1944, the Wiesel family and some 14,000 Jews from Sighet and surrounding villages were forced to move into a ghetto. In May 1944, with Hungary’s agreement, Sighet’s Jews were deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Most of the deportees were killed in the gas chambers on arrival.
Now fifteen, Wiesel and his father were made to work in a sub-camp of Auschwitz III-Monowitz for eight months before being moved to a series of other concentration camps. Shlomo Wiesel died at the Buchenwald camp on January 29, 1945 after being beaten by a German solder. Wiesel’s mother Sarah and his young sister Tzipora also died over the course of the Holocaust, losses he recounted in his 1955 memoir Night.
“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed,” he wrote in the book, one of the first published accounts of the Holocaust written by a survivor, which has since been translated into over 30 languages and credited with introducing generations to the horrors of the Nazi genocide. “Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. … Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.”
After the liberation of Buchenwald, Wiesel was sent by a French Jewish humanitarian organization to live for several years at a French orphanage, where he was reunited with his older sisters Beatrice and Hilda, his only surviving immediate family members.
In 1948, after working as a Hebrew teacher and in a number of other odd jobs, Wiesel became a journalist, with his articles appearing in both French and Israeli publications. He translated Hebrew articles into Yiddish on behalf of the Irgun, Israel’s pre-state militia, and visited the newly-established State of Israel the following year. He was subsequently hired as the Paris correspondent of the Israeli paper Yedioth Ahronoth, and later went on to work with the New York-based Yiddish newspaper The Forward. He applied for permanent residency and became a U.S. citizen in 1963.
Wiesel received over 100 honorary doctorates and multiple awards throughout his lifetime, including the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom and Israel’s President’s Medal of Distinction.
“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation,” he said while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his efforts to fight racism and violence. “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Wiesel was also appointed by President Jimmy Carter to help establish the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., saying at its 1993 dedication: “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”
During his life, Wiesel was a devoted champion of human rights, defending the cause of Kurds, Cambodian refugees, Nicaragua’s Miskito Indians, Argentine Desaparecidos, and Soviet Jews, as well as victims of African famine and genocide, the Syrian civil war, the war in the former Yugoslavia, the Armenian genocide, and apartheid in South Africa. He was also a staunch supporter of Israel, seeing its security as being inextricably tied to the welfare of global Jewry. (via TheTower.org)