Arrest of three Israelis may spark diplomatic row between Nigeria and Israel
July 14, 2021
Specifically, family members of one of the men stressed to the Times of Israel that the allegations were entirely unfounded, and that separatist social media accounts took advantage of the Israelis’ trip to claim that the three were supporting Biafran separatist groups
The arrest of three Israelis shooting a documentary in south eastern Nigeria, considered a separatist region, in Nigeria may spark a diplomatic row between Nigeria and Israel.
The trio were arrested last week, confirmed the Foreign Ministry.
According to media reports, Nigerian authorities arrested and interrogated the trio on suspicion that they had come into contact with Biafran separatists. But Israeli authorities were reported to be miffed by the arrest which they said was based on wrong information and presumptuous conclusion.
Israeli authorities and family members of the arrested persons said the men were merely shooting a documentary that has no nexus with separatism but was trying to connect the perceived ancestral link between the Igbo of the South east and the Jews.
Specifically, family members of one of the men stressed to the Times of Israel that the allegations were entirely unfounded, and that separatist social media accounts took advantage of the Israelis’ trip to claim that the three were supporting Biafran separatist groups.
The Israeli Embassy in Abuja is following the case closely and is in contact with Nigerian authorities, according to the Foreign Ministry.
One of the Israelis arrested is Rudy Rochman, a Zionist activist with almost 95,000 followers on Instagram. Making the flight with him were filmmaker Noam Leibman and French-Israeli journalist E. David Benaym.
The Israelis were in Nigeria to film “We Were Never Lost,” a documentary exploring Jewish communities in African countries such as Kenya, Madagascar, Uganda, and Nigeria.
They took off from Ben Gurion Airport on July 5 and landed in Nigeria the next day.
According to locals, the crew was detained at a synagogue during Friday night services in the Igbo village of Ogidi in Anambra State by Nigeria’s secret police, the DSS, and taken to Abuja.
The filmmakers were aware of the political sensitivity surrounding the filming of the Igbo community. Last Thursday, the We Were Never Lost Facebook page stressed: “We do not take any position on political movements as we are not here as politicians nor as a part of any governmental delegations.”
The group met last week with Igbo leader Eze Chukwuemeka Eri and presented him with a framed Shiviti made in Jerusalem.
Rochman also presented another Igbo community with a Torah scroll whose cover was designed by British-Israeli street artist Solomon Souza.
The Igbo consider themselves a lost tribe of Israel.
In January, a conflict broke out in southeastern Nigeria between Nigerian forces and the military wing of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement. The fight is ongoing.
Many theories and historical thesis have suggested that the Igbo have strong ancestral link to Israel with some postulating that both in religion and other traditional mores, the Igbo strongly share affinity with the Jews.
A previous unilateral declaration of independence by the Igbo people in 1967 sparked a brutal 30-month civil war that left more than a million dead.
In 2018, fugitive pro-Biafran separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu gave a radio broadcast saying he was in Israel and indicating he owed his survival to the Jewish state.
Kanu, a former London estate agent, heads IPOB and the outlawed pirate radio station Radio Biafra.
- With additional reports from AFP