African Union under fire after delegations shun Jewish group at summit

( This year's African Union Summit in Equatorial Guinea is receiving criticism over an incident last Thursday involving a Jewish delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which left the gathering after several delegations refused to enter the summit's venue in its presence.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the 50th anniversary African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on May 25, 2013. An American-Jewish delegation left this year's summit Thursday in response to several delegations refusing to enter the hall in its presence. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

“We were invited as official guests,” Conference of Presidents Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein told

Initially “we were treated very well” and met with many heads of state, Hoenlein said. But the Egyptian delegation would not enter the session hall on Thursday while the Jewish group, which the Egyptians called “Israelis,” remained inside—despite the fact that the group was American, not Israeli. Unconfirmed reports indicate the involvement of some South African delegates in the incident, and a delegation from Iran had also complained of the presence of anyone deemed Israeli.

“Clearly the Egyptians were in the lead,” Hoenlein said. He noted, however, that most of the country delegations present were not involved, that “many people were embarrassed” about the incident, and that representatives of the host country were also very supportive of the Conference of President delegation. 

An African Union (AU) organizer had told Hoenlein about the objections to the delegation's presence, to which Hoenlein responded that it would be “outrageous” to object to the presence of an Israeli delegation, but that the group was actually American. In the wake of this exchange, the delegation made the decision to leave. 

“If this despicable lack of hospitality was indeed the result of efforts by the Egyptian and Iranian delegations, the former should be disciplined according to the steps available to the African Union under such circumstances, while the latter should be permanently barred from all future summits,” said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, according to the Jerusalem Post.

“The positive thing is that this is the first time a Jewish delegation was invited to the AU [summit],” Hoenlein said.

Posted on June 30, 2014 .