Israel is helping Myanmar army against Rohingya

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Israel has refused to stop supplying arms to the Myanmar army, which human rights groups say is involved in the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya muslims, but the country’s defence ministry clarifying, “the matter is clearly diplomatic”.

Not just that, Israeli arms companies like TAR Ideal Concepts have even trained Myanmar’s special forces in Rakhine state where most of the violence against the Rohingya has taken place.

The weapons Israel has sold Myanmar include more than a 100 tanks, military hardware and boats used to police its border, said human rights groups.

General Min Aung Hlaing meeting with President Reuven Rivlin © Getty Images

Notably, the US and the European Union (EU) have an arms restriction on Myanmar. The US cites the International Religious Freedom Act and uses the embargo on countries that have “engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom”.

The EU’s embargo on Myanmar refers to the ban on sales of “equipment which might be used for internal repression”.

Israeli defence ministry said the court had no jurisdiction over the issue. The ministry said arms sales to Myanmar were “clearly diplomatic”

In the latest bout of violence that began August 25, and that was triggered by an attack on Myanmar police posts, at least 400 Rohingya have been killed, and as many as 146,000 have made their way, starving and terrified, to Bangladesh. Satellite images show dozens of Rohingya villages burned to the ground, agencies reported. Even the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, expressed concern the violence could spiral into a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

Last December, Israeli lawyers and human rights activists wrote to their country’s defence ministry urging it to suspend a military shipment ordered by the Myanmar Army. They said Myanmar still commits human rights abuses against minority groups.

two months before the country’s first election in 25 years, one of the heads of the then Myanmar junta, General Min Aung Hlaing, who’s now chief of the armed forces, visited Israel on a “shopping trip” of Israeli military manufacturers

In January this year, following visits by Israeli officials to Myanmar and vice versa, to discuss arms deals, activists in Israel filed a petition urging their government to stop arms exports to Myanmar.

The petition is expected to be heard later this month, but in March, in a preliminary reply, the Israeli defence ministry said the court had no jurisdiction over the issue. The ministry said arms sales to Myanmar were “clearly diplomatic”.

Myanmar-Israel ties
In fact, diplomatic and military ties between Israel and Myanmar flourished even during the military dictatorship in the latter, said Ofer Neiman, an Israeli human rights activist.

In September 2015, two months before the country’s first election in 25 years, one of the heads of the then Myanmar junta, General Min Aung Hlaing, who’s now chief of the armed forces, visited Israel on a “shopping trip” of Israeli military manufacturers, reported Israel’s Haaretz. His delegation met President Reuven Rivlin and other military officials including the army’s chief of staff. Hlaing also visited military bases and defense contractors Elbit Systems and Elta Systems, added Haaretz

In June 2015, the head of Israel’s defence export department Gen Michel Ben Baruch visited Burma and met with leaders of the Burmese Army.

Some analysts say they aren’t surprised that Israel refuses to stop arms sales to Myanmar.

“It’s not at all surprising that the latest escalation in Myanmar’s genocide of the Rohingya has not moved the Israeli state to cease its supply of weapons to Myanmar’s military,” said Penny Green, director of the International State Crime Initiative at London’s Queen Mary University.

© MEE

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