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Israel's Top Court Just Ruled About Arms Sales to Myanmar. But We're Not Allowed to Tell You the Verdict

Israeli court decision must remain secret after judges issued a gag order on the case at the request of the state

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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 A Myanmar soldier stands near Maungdaw, north of Rakhine state, Myanmar September 27, 2017. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
A Myanmar soldier stands near Maungdaw, north of Rakhine state, Myanmar September 27, 2017. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun Credit: SOE ZEYA TUN/REUTERS
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Israel’s High Court ruled Wednesday on a petition against Israel's weapons sales to Myanmar. However, the court decision must remain secret because the judges hearing the case – Yoram Danziger, Anat Baron and David Mintz – issued a gag order on it at the request of the state.

The UN has declared that the government of Myanmar is engaging in “textbook ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority.

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At a Monday hearing, state representatives reiterated their position that the court shouldn’t interfere with Israel's foreign relations and not tell it which countries it is permitted to sell arms to.

Hindu villagers react as they identify the bodies of their relatives found by government forces, that authorities suspected were killed by insurgents last month, in a mass grave near Maungdaw in the Credit: SOE ZEYA TUN/REUTERS

Every Israeli company that wants to sell weapons to foreign countries must receive approval from the state. However, the state has not confirmed or denied whether there is a permit to sell arms to Myanmar.

The state attorney explained Israel’s relations with Myanmar to the justices in a closed-door session after Monday's hearing. In the part of the session open to the public, the state representative, attorney Shosh Shmueli, refused to comment on the issue or state whether Israel would stop arming Myanmar’s military.

In response to a question from the floor by lawmaker Tamar Zandberg of Meretz about arms exports to Myanmar, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said: “Generally speaking we subordinate ourselves to the entire enlightened world.”

Attorney Itay Mack, who filed the petition in the name of human rights activists, said at the hearing that the EU and the United States had banned arms trade with Myanmar. He added that Israel is the only Western country supplying it arms.

The violence directed at the Rohingya has intensified recently. Some 421,000 members of the Muslim minority have fled to neighboring Bangladesh in the past month, as the UN and others raise allegations of ethnic cleansing.

Mack originally petitioned the court in January. Israel is keeping its weapons trade with Myanmar under wraps, but the heads of the junta boast of its ties with Israel on their Facebook pages.

Mack’s petition notes that in September 2015, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the commander of Myanmar’s military, visited Israel and met with Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot. Hlaing noted on his Facebook page that he had visited various defense industries and placed an order for patrol boats.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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