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Despite war crimes, Israel insists on selling arms to Myanmar

The heads of Myanmar’s army had a shopping spree with the Israeli security industries, even meeting with the president and the Chief of Staff. Despite ongoing war crimes, Israel continues to maintain extensive security ties with the South East Asian country.

By John Brown* (translated by Tal Haran)

Commander in Chief of the Myanmar military, Min Aung Hlaing, meets with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot during a trip to Israel.

Commander in Chief of the Myanmar military, Min Aung Hlaing, meets with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot during a trip to Israel.

Israeli human rights activists are petitioning the Israeli Supreme Court, demanding it force the Ministry of Defense to explain why it does not put an end to Israel’s trade agreements with Myanmar’s military, following reports of crimes against citizens and ethnic minorities, including possible crimes against humanity.

The petition, filed by Attorney Eitay Mack and a list of human rights activists, specifies a series of crimes committed and still being committed by the regime, including proof thereof, such as evidence of the extensive ties between the heads of the Myanmar military and senior officials in the Israeli government and military, as well as with Israeli security industrial firms.

Ever since Myanmar (also known as Burma) gained its independence from Britain in 1948, a ceaseless civil war has taken place in various regions of the country. In November 2015 Burma held democratic elections, won by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. However, the government is not in actual control of either the state’s security forces or the private militias, which still do the bidding of the junta that controlled the country until those elections. These persist in their crimes against humanity, war crimes, and serious violations of human rights throughout the country — especially against ethnic minorities, some of which do not even have citizen status.

These forces are still perpetrating war crimes and violating international law in conflict areas, especially those of Shan and Kachin where sweeping acts of killing, arrests, torture and rape are committed against civilians and anyone suspect as supporter of the rebels.

The grounds for petition at this time is the junta forces’ current acts against the Rohingya people. The security forces’ latest operation last October in the Rakhine state led to the torture, disappearing, and murder of civilians. Women and girls are bring raped, and entire villages are going up in flames.

In spite of declarations by the UN, as well as a report published by researchers at Harvard, according to which the junta has been committing crimes against humanity in the Shan and Kachin regions, the Israeli government has continued to provide the regime with arms. According to the report, General Maung Aye, among others, is responsible for these crimes.

Maung visited Israel in September 2015. The heads of the junta then came to Israel on a “shopping trip” to Israel’s security industries. They met with President Reuven Rivlin, the Chief of Staff and heads of the security systems, and were even hosted at Israeli Air Force and naval bases. Michel Ben Baruch, head of the Israeli Department of Security Exports, visited Myanmar last year. According to Mack’s petition, Israel provided Myanmar with rifles and training this past summer.

Michel Ben Baruch, head of the Israeli Department of Security Exports, meets with leaders of Myanmar's military.

Michel Ben Baruch, head of the Israeli Department of Security Exports, meets with leaders of Myanmar’s military.

During this visit – concealed by the media, photos of which are first published here – the heads of the junta admitted that they acquired Super Dvora patrol boats, as well as additional equipment and training.

In August 2016 TAR Ideal Concept Ltd., an Israeli firm that provides military equipment and training, posted photos of training with Israeli-made CornerShot rifles on its website, proudly mentioning that these were being used by the Myanmar military. According to the firm’s website, its board of directors includes former Israeli Police Chief Shlomo Aharonishki.

In spite of these verified reports of burning villages, rape and crimes against humanity, the Israeli Ministry of Defense has so far refused to halt its security exports to Burma and cancel relevant permits.

Obviously this comes as no surprise, in view of similar goings-on during the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s, as well as Israel’s cooperation with the murder of leftist activists in Argentina and Chile in the 1970s. Mack has also filed petitions demanding the exposure of these crimes and Israeli collaboration with them.

In the case of Burma, however, like that of South Sudan, the Ministry of Defense insists on continuing exports. These are crimes taking place as we speak — and they can be stopped.

*John Brown is the pseudonym of an Israeli academic and a blogger. This story first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is a blogger. Read it here.

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    1. Ben

      Human rights activists and lawyers in Israel have urged the Ministry of Defense to nullify or suspend a military shipment ordered by the Burma Army, stating that the country still commits human rights abuses against minority groups.

      They wrote to Racheli Chen, head of the Israeli Ministry of Defense’s export control department, and called for a review of all defense export licenses purchased by the Burma Army under the authority granted to her in Clause 9 of the 2007 law on defense export control.

      “It is surprising that the State of Israel, while struggling for continued sanctions against Iran, has no qualms about ignoring the US and EU sanctions against Burma for the most severe crimes being committed there,” read the letter dated Dec. 11.


      (According to the Israeli Right, Israel, not Burma, is unfavorably “singled out” by the West. Israel, sanctions against whom the EU and the US in fact fight *against* all the time, is, so the right wing would have it, “singled out.” But not only is Israel not “singled out,” it is in fact given a pass to export arms to the very country the EU and the US are levying sanctions against. How’s that for hypocrisy?)

      Reply to Comment
    2. R5

      Is anyone even pretending anymore that this isn’t just the #1 funded “Israel sucks” blog? How are “pro-peace” NGOs pouring money into this website rationalizing their checks at this point? This article nothing to do with the Arab/Israeli conflict.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        The above article is entirely relevant to (1) the issue of the special passes Israel is given all the while it whines about being “singled out” unfairly; (2) the issue of Israeli impunity; (3) the issue of Israeli hypocrisy; (4) the issue of what funds the occupation; (5) the issue of “the most moral army”; (6) the issue of Israeli defiance of its chief benefactor and that benefactor turning a blind eye…. I could go on. And since when does the Heinrich Böll Foundation or the Rockefeller Brothers Fund have to restrict what it cares about to Israel-Palestine? They can’t care about the situation in Myanmar? They can’t care about the illegal arms trade? They can’t care about terrorism elsewhere in the world?

        You have an interesting concept of “pouring.” Why demonize a few good NGOs? They do God’s work. They rationalize their funding I think quite easily. On the side of David not Goliath. Little +972 Magazine’s total funding is less than half of one percent of American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s funding of Israel Hayom, the Bibiton. For example. I’ve never heard you complain about that. 40% of +972’s support comes from readers. 0% of the Bibiton’s support comes from readers.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Bernie X

      What are nations are allowing weapons sales to Myanmar? It would be illustrative. Failing to do so makes John Brown seem likes he’s singling out Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Litman

      Israel’s cooperation with the murder of leftist activists in Argentina and Chile – Probably Israel sold weapons to the Military Regimes (as many other countries: USA, France). But from here to say that Israel has cooperated with the murder there is a long way! I know people that were saved by Israel. And their freedom, probably, was paid with weapons. A very complex situation. I love reading you, but you must be extremely careful in the way you express your ideas.

      Reply to Comment