Editorial |

Israel Must Stop Arming Myanmar While It Commits Ethnic Cleansing

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Rohingya Muslim children, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, at Thaingkhali refugee camp, Bangladesh, October 21, 2017.
Rohingya Muslim children, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, at Thaingkhali refugee camp, Bangladesh, October 21, 2017.Credit: Dar Yasin/AP

Although Israel does not confirm officially that it gives permits to Israeli arms companies to sell arms to Myanmar, the images speak for themselves. Myanmar’s navy published on its Facebook page pictures of a new Israeli patrol boat known as the Super-Dvora MK II, which were produced by Israel Aerospace Industries’ Ramta division. There’s a remote weapon station, made by Elbit Systems, on it. Patrol boats are only part of this broader deal signed between Israel and Myanmar and worth tens of millions of dollars. According to reports from Myanmar, the Ramta factory is supposed to transfer at least two more patrol boats for its navy, which will be built in Myanmar itself with Israeli technological assistance.

Despite the UN declaration that Myanmar is perpetrating ethnic cleansing, and despite various arms restrictions imposed against it by the EU and the United States, Israel continued selling arms to Myanmar and armed war criminals against the Rohingya Muslim minority. Over 500,000 Rohingya refugees have streamed into Bangladesh since August. The refugees attest to horrific acts being committed in Myanmar, including methodical murder and rape. However, despite Israel being well aware of the unfolding tragedy, the state refused last month, in a response to the High Court of Justice petition against selling arms to Myanmar filed by human rights activists, to announce that it would cease selling arms to Myanmar. The High Court ruling in the petition was kept classified in line with the state’s request.

There are no words to describe the huge disgrace it is that the Israeli government armed directly or indirectly Myanmar’s military while it was committing ethnic cleansing. Myanmar is no exception, just the latest in a long list of murderous regimes committing crimes against humanity which Israel supplied arms over the years, and with whom Israel shared its military experience either through knowledge or training. However, private Israeli arms dealers share the dock of history’s accused with the government and its security industry. The private arms dealers profit from providing military assistance to regimes murdering women, children and other innocents. The fact that the companies operated with an Israeli government permit does not absolve them of their responsibility for the disgrace.

The Israel government must remove the moral stain it bears. The political polarization in Israel isn’t relevant in this fight. Coalition and opposition parties need to join together in taking action to immediately stop the provision of permits to Israeli arms dealers to sell arms to Myanmar, and to cancel any outstanding deals.

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