On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Dan Shacham, Israel’s non-resident ambassador to Africa, met one of the most notorious dictators in the world, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe, who is considered one of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s closest associates, has been slapped with harsh sanctions by Egypt and the European Union for grave human rights violations and “blood diamond” trade.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor noted that the ambassador was aware of the sensitive timing of their meeting and therefore invited the Zimbabwe Jewish community’s rabbi, Moshe Silberhaft, to the credentials ceremony. “Throughout the ceremony, the two told President Mugabe of the special meaning of Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the latter even discussed the matter in great lengths,” said Palmor.
Zimbabwe’s Jewish community is made up of only 250 people, after most members of the community left the country in the 1980s after its independent, when white residents were harassed by Mugabe’s regime. On the eve of Yom Kippur in 2003, the central synagogue of Bulawayo was torched in an anti-Semitic attack.
In an interview with the local magazine of Zimbabwe’s Jewish community, Silberhaft said the subject of Holocaust Memorial Day indeed came up at the meeting, and that he himself informed Mugabe that the government does not interfere with the lives of the country’s Jewish community, which is given free exercise of religion.
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