On Tutsis, Jews and Palestinians

I’m currently reading “A Thousand Hills” by historian Stephen Kinzer – a recently published bio of Rwandan president Paul Kagame. It’s an incredibly absorbing read, offering a history of the country and region as well as a portrait of a remarkable African leader who is spearheading Rwanda’s post-genocide rebirth against all odds.

Early on, Kinzer offers this fascinating insight about the Tutsis who were exiled from Rwanda by Belgian-backed Hutus in the late 1950s:

These Tutsi exiles, scattered across Africa, Europe, North America, and even Australia, may be the only group that has been regularly compared to both Jews and Palestinians. Like Jews, they prized education and seemed to succeed wherever they landed, despite the odds against them. Like Palestinians, they were condemned to eternal exile by a regime that hated and feared them. (p. 35)

I’d love to find more on this point, which I have never encountered before.

In the meantime, I highly recommend “Hills,” as well as Kinzer’s two previous books, “Overthrow” and “All the Shah’s Men” (which has recently been reprinted with a very timely new introduction).

10 thoughts on “On Tutsis, Jews and Palestinians

  1. Thanks for the suggestion and reminder of the horrors in Rwanda. With all the people of Rwanda have gone through, they don’t need to compare their suffering to anyone else.

    But the quote raises some interesting issues regarding the similaries and differences between the different outlooks toward dispersion. Among the Arabs, the Palestinians also (like Jews, and apparently Tutsis) have a reputation for education. And both sides (yes, the Jews too) to have been “condemned to exile (and conflict, I might add) by a regime that hated and feared them.”

    Also interesting, and it sould have been brought up when you talked about “the nakba.” The Jews have a tradition that the exile is significantly a result of our own actions. Unfortunately, for the most part, the Arab parties are still acting as if they were simply innocent bystanders in their history.

    Here’s an interesting article from yesterday’s Haartz regarding an Israeli Arab woman who has come to recognize that reconciliation is needed on both sides. If I may paraphrase you, Ibtisam Mahmid is someone we should know. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/993381.html

  2. Pierre Pean author of the book Noires Fureurs, Blancs Menteurs/“Black Furies White Liars” is on trail for “defamation and inciting racial hatred” within the same book. Apparently because he reported that Tutsi rebels had a hand in what happened in Rwanda in the 1990s, starting in 1990, through 1994, and in 1996-1998, then he is inciting hate and racism. And therefore, he is on trial to defend himself or to see himself persecuted for his writing.

    The BBC reports that the lawsuit filed against him is by a French Rights group SOS Racisme and this case is also backed by the public persecutor. According to the same BBC article, the SOS Racisme president Dominique Sopo believes that “when you are aware what cliches can trigger in terms of killings, racism and confrontation, especially in that country, it seems to me that this particular issue greatly disturbs those who went through such drama and who prefer not to go through it again”.

    Ok this is tricky. I am all for persecuting hate speech and crimes. And considering the frame of reference SOS Racisme is coming from, believing that Tutsis were victims of a genocide committed by Hutus without any proper context, or background, then any speech to the contrary can be construed as hate speech, and in line with perpetuating hate and encouraging more hate crimes. However, we know that the story line we’ve heard so much is completely distorted. Therefore, SOS Racisme is misguided in trying to sue Pean.

    Aside from the fact that the frame of reference they are approaching this from had been distorted, the idea of suing/silencing Pean can also be considered a form of thought policing or censoring. However there is a thin line between calling out hate speech and silencing. Although I haven’t read the book, there is a certain presumptuousness from Pean as he describes Rwandan culture as one of “deception” and as a white man, this can definitely be construed as prejudiced. However, again, I have not read the book, therefore, I do not know what the context of the comments are.

    What is most baffling for me, is how writing a book can be taken to court for “hate” while attacking a relatively peaceful country is not, and the assassination of two presidents is swept under the rug. What is this? What crime is less hateful than attacking a country and killing its citizens? Even to establish “democracy.” If we want to prevent these things from happening again in the future, shouldn’t we get to the root of all things? How did it happen? Why was Rwanda invaded and by whom in 1990? Why were peace and power sharing agreements disregarded and broken? Why did the U.N. escort RPF soldiers and arms into Kigali clandestinely if they were non-partisan, helping the RPF secure the country with violence in 1994? Why hasn’t the assassination of the two African Presidents been properly investigated by the ICTR? Why is the world so ready to condemn the investigations and indictments by French Judge Bruguiere and Spanish Judge Andreu?

    I think there are bigger fish to fry here, and unfortunately, one of the few people to challenge the media’s commercialization of the Rwandan tragedies and its simplification into a “good/evil”, “hero/villain” dichotomy is being taken to trial for “hate.” Shouldn’t SOS Racisme be challenging the portrayal of Africans as “uncivilized savages” who are “blood thirsty” and will “spontaneously embark on killing sprees” as has been applied to many ethnic groups in Africa and even in Rwanda itself? Seriously, Tutsis were part of the “bad guys” during the genocide, before, and after. There is nothing “hateful” about that, nor anything “prejudiced.” It’s a fact.

    I mean this whole thing is like when people say Sarah Palin is inexperienced, and the GOP cries sexism. Seriously? Get out of here! It’s a joke!

    • How can you defend the anti-semitic and anti-tutsi Pierre Pean? From reading your comment,I can tell that you have deep hate against Tutsi, you know very well that writings and broadcast do contribute to inciting hate and violence, in the case of Rwanda, the catholic church backed by the Belgian colonisation (1916-1962) did everything to build an ideology of extermination against Tutsi, a People they labelled as Abyssinian (current Ethiopia),this kind of hate speech against Tutsi is still found in various Hutu ideologists websites/books and their allies the Congolese.From 1959, Congolese and Hutus of Burundi/Rwanda committed genocide against Tutsi at various Dates (1959,1963,1965,1972,1988,1993,1994,1997,2004),this alliance of Congolese and Hutus is still active.Remember that during 1994 Rwanda Genocide against Tutsi, French troops backed by Congolese (former Zaire) escorted Rwanda Hutu genocidal forces (with all their weaponry,tanks) crossing into Zaire (now known as DRCongo), these are the same forces that killed Tutsi communities in Zaire, tutsi communities who had fled Rwanda in 1959, and other Tutsi communities who lived in Eastern Congo, but the genocide planners still want to confuse the international community, it’s part of their hate speech strategy and tactic that constantly seek to demonise Tutsi.

  3. Peter lambard,

    There is worse. Once Rwanda’s power secured, the Tutsi Regime invaded the peaceful DR Congo twice.
    Accoring to IRC (and US NGO) around 5 millions congleses has died, without any media attention.
    Reason: ” Silence…. Tutsis are killing and if you say a word, you will sued fro “hate crime against…. Tutsis””.

    One day, UK and USA supporting this policy have to give some explantion to the world why this was allowed.

    This is no longer a joke !

  4. Hey,I think It’s a time for the true to be known taht we tutsi we are hated by all hutu Both Rwanda and Burundi plus Congolese.the descrimination and odds words that are thrown to me and others here even in south africa shows the reality in the region and hate speech used by some concolese.it’s our responsability to secure our selves and our familly as well n congo,rwanda and burundi we will do whatever possible to be secured.no longer wait for international support with a big lie of french gourverment to make the world asleep or cover thier shame condamning Kagame and other wrongly.tha death of those two president must be asked France coz they were in total control of the place where the president’s plane was shot. so we are tutsi,I know we are hated but we will resist and with God of Abraham and Salomon our grand father will not forsake us.we are tutsi and we respect hutu and other concolese but we want just the love from them and them to love us as God created as otherwise we will not end the war and we will not be defeated any more coz God is on our side.even europe is all against us specially france we know that God put the ordre and love and support to each other among tutsi people.I think it’s a time for the world to learn.

  5. We shall thrive against all odds. The world has to know that the Tutsi people are resilient people and are likely to thrive in all corners of the world. Given that few people are on our side, hard work and our God given wits are our likely last resort. Here I am, doing business among foreign tribes, few people even know where I am originally from, yet my business is successful. I am only counting God of Abraham for my protection.

    • I do read French, Portuguese and several African Languages. God has blessed me with the Gift of languages. I have enjoyed the link on the Jewish origins of the Tutsis. For the first time I came to know where the name of my tribe originated (Tutsi = Kushi). I also came to know what our commonly used prefix “Banya” stand for “Ben” which is “Son of ” or “descendants of”. I also learned where our monotheism originated from! By the way, my last two sons are called Israel (named after the land of Israel) and Ariel (named after Ariel Sharon). That should let you know the kind of love I have for “Israel”.

      Shalom Israel.

  6. Dear John Paul, Eudes, and all interested:
    Tutsis are people of Israel. Now we know once for all ! The Tutsi language is rooted in the Hebrew language, and several words in the Tutsi language have been kept unchanged since the golden age of the Jewish Commonwealth of East-Africa/Kush, when Kig Solomon and Queen of Sheba unified their realms under the Jewish Constitution given to Moshe Rabenou at Sinai.

    As a matter of fact, we know now, especially from the Havila Institute top-scholarship that the word TUTSI derives from the Hebrew verb תֵצֵא (TETSE = those who “WILL GO FORTH”). You should enjoy watching the first video produced by upcoming IRMAST (Ishango Royal Museum of Arts, Science and Technology) which provides interesting tutsi Jewish tokens as steming from the Torah and the Talmud, while features some high profile Tutsi Jewish leaders and scholars: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKpZi2I-27U.

    • The history of the Tutsis is a complex one. Their Jewish connection is definitely beyond any doubt. What perplexes me is how the contemporary history of the Tutsis tend to also mimic the histrory of the Jews. The holocaust and the pogroms, the genocide of the Tutsis in rwanda and Burundi. Why all this similarity? Is that a fate that God has reserved us? There is also a positive twist out this malediction: How come the Jews and the Tutsis happen to be successful wherever they happen to be? Does God also has a hand in our successes? Or is it our survival instinct that makes us to outperform others? Probably yes!

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