After Diplomatic Gaffe, Israel Finally Denounces 'Atrocities' Against Rohingya in Myanmar

Embarrassed by Haaretz report on ambassador's support for Burmese government facing genocide trial, Foreign Ministry says tweet was an 'error'

Rohingya migrants drift in Thai waters in the Andaman sea, May 14, 2015
AFP

Israel officially denounced for the first time "atrocities" had been committed against the Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar, after its ambassador publicly showed support for the Burmese leadership currently facing international legal proceedings.

As Haaretz reported on Wednesday, Israel's ambassador to Myanmar, Ronen Gilor, declared his support for Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as she faces charges at the International Court of Justice.

Myanmar has been accused of carrying out mass rape, murder and the torching of homes in its operations to suppress the Muslim Rohingya minority in the west of the country in August 2017, and will face the court in the Hague starting December 10. At least 700,000 Rohingya were forced to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

"Encouragement for a good decision and good luck," the diplomat wished Aung San Suu Kyi in a tweet that was later deleted following Haaretz enquiries.

On Thursday morning, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement playing down the tweet, saying it has been written "in error, and was corrected immediately."

A now-deleted tweet by Israel's ambassador to Myanmar, Ronen Gilor

"Israel strongly condemns the atrocities that took place in the Rakhine region against the Rohingya," an official statement said. "About a week ago, Israel voted in favor of a resolution to denounce the atrocities." 

Later on Thursday, all Israeli missions abroad a version of the statement as Israel's official stance on the matter.

The appeal to the International Court of Justice was filed by Gambia on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. At the time of the filing, Gambia's justice minister and attorney general, Abubacarr Marie Tambadou, said he wanted to “send a clear message to Myanmar and to the rest of the international community that the world must not stand by and do nothing in the face of terrible atrocities that are occurring around us. It is a shame for our generation that we do nothing while genocide is unfolding right before our own eyes."

"I see this with the historical view that Israel supported the regime in Rwanda, the military in Guatemala, the Serbian regime during the war in Bosnia," human rights activist and lawyer Eitay Mack, who has been at the forefront of efforts for Israel to disengage from its relations withe the Burmese government, told Israeli army radio Galatz on Thursday.

"It is in a continuation, along the same lines - only now, with social networks, things are more visible, and state representatives cannot delete what has been said," Mack added.

Mack petitioned the High Court of Justice in 2017 after it was revealed that Israel was selling arms to Myanmar even after allegations against the regime surfaced and after the country had been placed under an arms embargo and sanctions by the European Union and United States.

A representative of Myanmar's military at the Israel Defense and Homeland Security Expo in Tel Aviv, June 4, 2019.
\ Moti Milrod

The decision on the petition remained confidential because the justices in the case, Yoram Danziger, Anat Baron and David Mintz, took the unusual step of imposing a gag order on the ruling at the state's request.

Since then, Israel has been insistent in claiming that it halted arms sales, but representatives from Myanmar were seen later by Haaretz at a weapons fair in Israel. The Israeli Foreign Ministry subsequently announced that it has barred their visits to the country to attend exhibitions of that kind.

Haaretz reported in May of 2018, for example, that Israel had concluded an educational cooperation agreement with the Myanmar that included curriculum materials on the lessons of the Holocaust and the fight against racism.

In response to a petition filed by Eitay Mack, the Israeli government recently said that it would not be carrying out the educational cooperation agreement.