U.S. Jewish Group Urge Fresh Myanmar Sanctions Over Rohingya Violence

In a rare signal of unity, organizations of all three major Jewish denominations in the U.S. have petitioned the Senate to take action against Myanmar's military

Mohammadul Hassan, 18, outside his family's tent in Jamtoli refugee camp in Bangladesh, shows the scars on his chest and back from being shot by soldiers who attempted to execute him, Nov. 24, 2017.
Wong Maye-E/AP

WASHINGTON - More than 20 Jewish American organizations, including those representing the three largest Jewish denominations, signed a petition calling on the U.S. Senate to advance new sanctions against the Myanmar government, in light of the military's violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority. 

The petition calls on members of the Senate to advance a piece of legislation called "The Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act." The legislation includes new sanctions against the military that is committing the violent atrocities in the country, and new methods of assistance for refugees who are escaping that violence in the west of the country. The legislation will soon come before a vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

In a rare signal of unity within the Jewish community, the petition was signed by representative organizations of all three major Jewish denominations in the U.S.: the Union for Reform Judaism, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Orthodox Union. Other organizations that joined the petition include the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the American Jewish World Service, a group which is actively working to assist the Rohingya refugees on the ground in Bangladesh. 

The signatories explained that passing new sanctions "would send a powerful message to the Burmese military and the global community that the United States will not be silent or inactive in the face of mass atrocities.” They added that "we cannot remain silent, as Jews, for whom the words 'never again' require us to act," emphasizing that "the United States must act now to ensure the survival, safety and dignity of the Rohingya people." 

Earlier this year, more than 300 American rabbis sent a letter to the Israeli government urging it to end its sales of military equipment to the Myanmar government, in light of its actions against the Rohingya, an essentially stateless ethnic minority, the vast majority of whom are Muslim.