Scholars, scientists, researchers, journalists and historians from all over the world on Tuesday expressed shock after some Belgian universities gave a platform to Canadian journalist Judi Rever, a known denier of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
Their open letter was addressed to the rectors of the Catholic University of Leuven, the University of Antwerp and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, where she is scheduled to speak.
In the letter, they state that they are shocked that major European universities have chosen to give a platform to the author of a book that peddles arguments used in a 25-year campaign of denial without providing the kind of debate that this urgent matter requires.
“The upset your decisions cause the survivors of the genocide of the Tutsi is incalculable. In the circumstances of the Holocaust this would be unthinkable. By promoting the conspiracy theories of Judi Rever you have given the impression of support for negationism and denial. We therefore ask you to carefully reconsider your decision,” reads part of the open letter.
Rever is the author of a book, In Praise of Blood which promotes a double genocide theory, an idea spread for many years in the propaganda produced by the génocidaires and their supporters.
Besides the theory having no basis in fact, the petitioners note, forms part of a campaign to minimise and distort what happened.
Genocide deniers hardly ever give up
Some of the petitioners who spoke to The New Times on Tuesday shed some light on why the likes of Rever never seem to give up, more than two decades after the Genocide in which more than one million innocent lives were lost.
Aimable Twagilimana, a Professor at the State University of New York College at Buffalo, said: “Genocide deniers hardly ever give up. Last year it was U.S. varsities. Now it is Belgian universities.
“Their modus operandi includes partnering with other genocide deniers with academic connections in the name of promoting debate.”
Yann Gwet, a Cameroon-born journalist and author, said: “She [Rever] is part of a long tradition of genocide deniers. What’s important is to understand the threat that they pose. They are waging a war against history”.
Gwet is among the signatories to the petition.
“But as we know since Clausewitz, war is the continuation of politics by other means. So we are faced with political operators whose ultimate goal is, by denying the genocide, destroy Rwanda’s present and her future. That’s why we must oppose and defeat them.”
Gen. Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz (1780-1831) was a Prussian military theorist who stressed the “moral” and political aspects of war. He defined war as being neither a scientific game nor an international sport, but an act of violence, characterized by destruction.
In an opinion article early this year, Twagilimana noted that research-based evidence shows that many Americans, especially in the 18-34 age group, do not know about the Holocaust and other genocides, including the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Unfortunately, the scholar noted, despite support for genocide education in U.S. high schools, colleges, and universities, every year, genocide deniers are given speaking platforms to deny the genocide, spread their falsehoods about double genocide, and promote themselves.
Last year, Genocide survivors and scholars protested the plan by Amsterdam University Press to do a Dutch translation of Rever’s book.
At the time, Christine Safari, President of IBUKA Netherlands, noted that Rever’s book’s ambition is to revisit the history of the civil war and genocide in Rwanda and to cast the Rwandan Patriotic Front, particularly the current Rwandan President, as criminals bearing the primary responsibility for the genocide.
Jean-Pierre Karabaranga, Rwanda’s envoy in the Netherlands, said the Amsterdam University Press went ahead and translated it stating the right to freedom of expression but it was “not a success as all the biggest newspapers and journalists didn’t cover it.”
“Twenty five years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, we are at the last stage: we all know that genocide denial is the last stage of the process of any genocide,” the envoy noted, trying to contextualize Rever’s work.
“Today, it is very important that many high level global personalities and the best scholars, journalists and researchers on the Genocide against the Tutsi stand against this conference! It’s crucial that people who have the best knowledge on the Genocide against the Tutsi stand together to denounce this new plot to write a new narrative that promotes genocide denial.”
The fight against the denial of the Genocide against the Tutsi, he said, must be a global fight, and concern of whoever stands against any form of Genocide.