Israel has refused to stop selling arms to Myanmar even though the state has been accused by the United Nations of “textbook ethnic cleansing” of the minority Muslim Rohingya population.
A group of activists in Israel filed a petition in the country’s High Court of Justice demanding an end to the sales but a senior Israeli official Shosh Shmueli said that the court should not interfere in Israel’s foreign relations.
While the Israeli High Court is set to rule on the petition Wednesday, the judges hearing the case had issued a gag order a day earlier at the request of Israeli government officials, preventing the case from being discussed in public.
In recent years, Israeli arms companies have sold more than 100 battle tanks, as well as patrol boats and light weapons to Myanmar’s military.
The Israeli company, TAR Ideal Concepts has also trained Burmese forces in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine, where the military has used excessive force and violence against the Rohingyas.
The United States and the European Union have since imposed an arms embargo against Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
Eitay Mack, the lawyer presenting the petition, told Middle East Eye that Israel has “no control” over its arms exports once they are sent overseas.
“Israel has no control of what’s happening with its weapons once it sends its weapons to Burma,” Mack said. “But from TAR Ideal’s website, we know that they are arming and training Burmese special forces who are operating in the Rakhine state right now.”
The community, in the Rakhine state in Myanmar, has been under a military siege since October 2016, but has long been subjected to violence by extremists. The attacks escalated on August 25, resulting in hundreds of Rohingya fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh. Hundreds have died in their attempts to flee.
The Myanmar government sees the Rohingya, considered by the United Nations as the “most persecuted minority group in the world,” as “illegal immigrants” from Bangladesh. The Rohingya, however, claim roots in the region dating back centuries.
The government of Aung San Suu Kyi has also prevented U.N. officials from investigating the situation, also preventing aid agencies from delivering supplies to refugees.
“Successive Israeli governments have been selling arms to the military dictatorship in Burma for years,” Ofer Neiman, an Israeli human rights activist, told Middle East Eye.
“This policy is strongly related to Israel’s oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian people,” he continued. “Weapons used against the Palestinians are being sold as ‘field-tested’ to some of the worst regimes on the planet.”
Top photo | Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Myanmar’s Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in Jerusalem. (Photo: Facebook/General Min Aung Hlaing)
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