Editorial

Israel Is Arming Criminals

Lawmakers from across the spectrum should come together to put an immediate stop to Israel's weapons sales to Myanmar, where crimes against humanity are being committed

A protest near the Myanmar embassy against the treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority, in Jakarta, Indonesia, September 15, 2017.
A protest near the Myanmar embassy against the treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority, in Jakarta, Indonesia, September 15, 2017. BEAWIHARTA/REUTERS

>> UPDATE: High Court to make secret ruling on Israeli arms sales to Myanmar >>

Despite the UN stating that Myanmar’s army is carrying out “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya Muslim minority, Israel refuses to stop selling arms to the country’s military. Israel is doing so despite the fact that the European Union and the United States have both banned arms sales to Myanmar, making it the only Western nation supplying the country formerly known as Burma with weapons.

On Monday, the High Court of Justice heard a petition by human rights activists against the continued sale of weapons to Myanmar. In the hearing, the state reiterated the initial response it gave in March: The court has no authority to discuss arms sales because it is a “purely diplomatic” matter.

In the part of the hearing held behind closed doors, the state’s representatives explained Israel’s relations with Myanmar to the justices. It is unclear why the state is concealing information from its citizens about the factors it uses to conduct trade. Even in the open part of the hearing, the state refused to say that Israel would stop selling weapons to Myanmar.

A Rohingya Muslim man Abdul Kareem walks towards a refugee camp carrying his mother Alima Khatoon after crossing over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, at Teknaf, Bangladesh, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017.
Dar Yasin/AP
Young Rohingya boys with their family reach the Bangladesh border after crossing a creek of the Naf River on the border with Myanmar
Bernat Armangue/AP

Although Nobel Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been the leader of Myanmar since the democratic elections of 2015, her government has no real control over the security forces, because the private militias follow the authority of the military junta that controlled the country up until the elections. After Rohingya rebels assaulted police forces in the north of the country, the army launched an operation to cleanse the area. These attacks have included murders, disappearances, rape and the burning of villages. More than 400,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh.

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.”

A Rohingya Muslim women, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, holds a child as she shouts at volunteers distributing aid to hand her a bag of rice near Balukhali refugee camp, Bangladesh, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017
Dar Yasin/AP
A young Rohingya Muslim boy, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, waits alongwith others for his turn to collect food aid near Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh
Dar Yasin/AP

Lieberman is lying. This is not the first time that Israel has taken such a course of action. It lied when it supported war crimes in Argentina, ignoring the American embargo, and it lied when it armed the Bosnian forces that perpetrated massacres, ignoring a UN embargo. It armed the military dictatorships in Chile and Argentina and the Contras in Nicaragua, and it is arming the forces of evil in South Sudan.

“Since the middle of the 20th century, in large parts of the world, crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed in which Israeli arms, training and know-how have been involved,” attorney Eitay Mack, who is representing the petitioners, told the court on Monday. “We hope the High Court justices will not let Israeli history repeat itself in Myanmar,” he added.

Not only the High Court justices, but members of Knesset and the government from the right, the center and the left should come together to put an immediate stop to this disgrace, in which the State of Israel is arming groups that are committing crimes against humanity.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel