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U.S. Embassy celebrations: A who's who of the Israeli arms trade

Only around 30 countries took part in the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s gala celebrating the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem last week. Not coincidentally, Israel’s ties with most of them are based on arms sales used to carry out gross human rights violations. 

By Eitay Mack

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks at the Foreign Ministry gala celebrating the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, May 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks at the Foreign Ministry gala celebrating the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, May 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

[Correction added below.]

Immediately following the end of the 1967 War, the State of Israel began a massive diplomatic campaign aimed at convincing countries around the world to oppose resolutions in international forums demanding the Jewish state unilaterally withdraw from the occupied territories. Israel attempted to buy the votes of murderous dictatorships and military juntas in exchange for weapons and training.

The campaign failed, and until 1973 many countries cut off diplomatic relations with Israel. The support of dictatorships and military governments, such as the Pinochet regime in Chile, lacked all practical significance, since those same countries were already isolated, and their votes paled in comparison to the rest of the world, which viewed the Israeli occupation as illegal and demanded its end.

Ahead of last week’s Israeli Foreign Ministry gala celebrating the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, Haaretz journalist Noa Landau published a list of countries that said they would attend. The shameful list attests to Israel’s ongoing failure to persuade the international community to support the annexation of East Jerusalem.

The majority of the countries that attended have no geopolitical significance, and their participation mostly reflects momentary political interests that may change in the future. Take Burma and South Sudan, two countries whose regimes are currently busy carrying out ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, and have no ability to bear influence on other countries or support the annexation of East Jerusalem.

The unstable regime of Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, who supports the annexation as part of his campaign of flattery vis-a-vis the Trump administration, to try and convince it to renege on its support for anti-corruption reforms in the country. It may be that in a few months, Morales will be booted out of office and find himself facing criminal charges.

Commander in Chief of the Myanmar military, Min Aung Hlaing, meets with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot during a trip to Israel, September 9, 2015. (SF Min Aung Hlaing’s Facebook)

Commander in Chief of the Myanmar military, Min Aung Hlaing, meets with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot during a trip to Israel, September 9, 2015. (SF Min Aung Hlaing’s Facebook)

Israeli ties with the majority of countries that attended the ceremony are based on continual Israeli security exports, used for repression, political persecution, murder, rape, and torture. This is why their support for the annexation of East Jerusalem may change with a transformation in their respective regimes:

Angola. Israel supported the apartheid regime in South Africa in carrying out its crimes during the civil war in neighboring Angola. At certain points during the war Israel sold weapons to both sides. When the war was over, Israel helped strengthen the tyrannical and corrupt rule of Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, who recently partially resigned from power.

Cameroon. For decades, Israel has been providing weapons to Cameroon’s dictator, Paul Biya. In the past two years, an elite unit trained by Israelis, whose soldiers often use Israeli-issued weapons, has been carrying out a campaign of terror against the local population in the English-speaking areas of Cameroon.

Democratic Republic of Congo. Israel has assisted the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in establishing entire army units, while providing the DRC’s murderous and corrupt security forces with weapons and training. Israeli weapons, artillery, and training continued even after Seko was succeeded by Laurent-Désiré Kabila, and later his son, Joseph. According to reports, Israeli arms have been used in massacres across the country over the past two years.

Guatemala President Jimmy Morales and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen during a welcome ceremony for the Guatemala embassy at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, May 16, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Guatemala President Jimmy Morales and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen during a welcome ceremony for the Guatemala embassy at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, May 16, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Guatemala. During the Guatemalan Civil War, Israel provided support to the military juntas in carrying out genocide and crimes against humanity against the indigenous people of the country. According to estimates, President Jimmy Morales supports moving the U.S. and Guatemalan embassies to Jerusalem as part of his efforts to convince Trump to rescind the America’s political and financial support for an international team that is looking into corruption allegations in the country, and specifically corruption cases tied to Morales’ family and associates, as well as his election campaign funding.

Ivory Coast. Israel sold weapons and provided training that were used during the various civil wars throughout the country’s history, all while violating a UN Security Council embargo. Officials in the Israeli security establishment are close to Ivory Coast’s top brass.

Philippines. Israel provided continuous support for dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the country from 1965 to 1986, and whose death squads and militias were armed and trained by Israelis. Over the past few years, security forces under Rodrigo Duterte, responsible for the murder of at least 7,000 people as part of the “War on Drugs,” have often been armed with Israeli Tavor rifles.

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Vietnam. The country, which has become a central destination for Israeli security exports in Southeast Asia, is run by a tyrannical communist regime that persecutes and oppresses journalists, opposition members, and human rights activists.

Honduras. A country with one of the most corrupt and dangerous police forces in the world. The police in Honduras has direct ties to organized crime and drug cartels. The army carries out its activities within the country’s borders, and thus its powers go well beyond solely protecting its borders. In 2013, the Honduran government established a military police that includes 3,000 soldiers armed with Tavor rifles.

In December 2016, Israel signed an arms export deal to Honduras, one of the largest in Latin America in recent memory. President Juan Orlando Hernandez claimed that it was a historic deal that would strengthen the country’s security forces unlike anything that came before it. Beyond the regime’s need for Israeli support to suppress internal dissent, Hernandez reportedly supports moving Honduras’ embassy to Jerusalem as part of his lobbying to convince the Trump administration to continue providing his regime with political and economic support. This is especially necessary following allegations by the international community of voter fraud in the previous elections.

Serbia. Israel was one of the most important sources of political and military support for Bosnian and Bosno-Serbian forces in the crimes they carried out during the Bosnian War. Over the past several years, Israel has provided military and economic support for Bosno-Serbian separatists, leading to regional instability.

A mass grave in Bosnia. (ICTY)

A mass grave in Bosnia. (ICTY)

El Salvador. Israel was one of the central supporters of El Salvador’s various military juntas, who carried out crimes against humanity during the lengthy civil war in the country. Today, Israel continues to provide security assistance to the country, despite the fact that its security forces are corrupt, violence, and tied to organized crime and drug cartels.

Rwanda. Israel sold weapons to the murderous Hutu regime during the civil war, leading up to the genocide in Rwanda, continuing to sell weapons to the Hutus during the genocide itself. Israel supported the country even after Paul Kagame took control, despite the crimes against humanity committed under his watch in eastern Congo and in Rwanda itself. Over the past few years, Israel has sold the Kagame regime Tavor rifles and provided its forces with military training.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with President of Rwanda Paul Kagame, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on July 10, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with President of Rwanda Paul Kagame, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on July 10, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Peru. Israel has supported a number of oppressive military dictatorships in the country, which have carried out crimes against humanity, war crimes, and serious human rights violations.

Burma. As far as we know, Israel sold weapons and provided training to Burma’s junta until at least until September 2017. Despite the fact that the UN and the United States have determined that Burma is carrying out ethnic cleansing, and even genocide, against its Muslim minority, Israel has refrained from criticizing the regime while providing it with important political support.

Georgia. In 2008, while the Georgian Minister of Defense was a 28 year old from the Israeli city of Holon, Israel sold weapons and provided training to the Georgia’s security forces, and was involved in the war between the government and separatist forces.

Kenya. Israel provides a significant amount of security support to the country, despite the fact that President Uhuru Kenyatta is suspected of crimes against humanity. Kenyatta was recently re-elected in fraudulent elections. Meanwhile, Nairobi serves as the main hub for Israeli security companies in East Africa.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inspects an honor guard in Nairobi, Kenya, on July 5, 2016 (Kobi Gideon / GPO).

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inspects an honor guard in Nairobi, Kenya, on July 5, 2016 (Kobi Gideon / GPO).

South Sudan. Israel provided the murderous South Sudanese government with thousands of weapons just before the eruption of the civil war in the country, which continues until today. The weapons have been used to carry out crimes against humanity against the Nuer peoples. Israeli weapons have also been brought into the country through Uganda. Israeli surveillance technology is being used to carry out crimes against humanity in the country. According to various experts, the regime is responsible for war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and even genocide.

Hungary. The Netanyahu government is an open supporter of Viktor Orban, who is dismantling Hungary’s democratic institutions and is undermining the foundations of the European Union. Furthermore, the Israeli government is helping to whitewash Orban and his ruling party’s anti-Semitism and racism. For example, Israel has deliberately ignored Orban’s support for Miklos Horthy, who ruled Hungary during World War II and entered into an alliance with Hitler, as well as Netanyahu’s support for the Hungarian government’s recent anti-Semitic campaign against George Soros.

Ukraine. Israel sells various defense exports to the Ukrainian government, including licensing to a Ukrainian company to build Tavor rifles. The Netanyahu government has turned a blind eye to the recent appearance of neo-Nazis and anti-Semites in the government and security forces.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban hold a Rubik's Cube at the Hungary-Israel Business Forum in Budapest, Hungary, July 19, 2017. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban hold a Rubik’s Cube at the Hungary-Israel Business Forum in Budapest, Hungary, July 19, 2017. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Tanzania. Although Tanzania is considered one of the most stable countries in Africa, there has been a recent deterioration in the status of human rights there, along with tightening restrictions of freedom of speech. The weakening of democracy in Tanzania has been accompanied by warming relations with the State of Israel, with Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked even paying a recent visit there.

This list of participants is an embarrassing low point for both the Trump administration and the Netanyahu governments’ international influence. Despite the threats of Ambassador Nikki Haley and Trump himself to cut aid to countries that do not support America’s policy in the Middle East, the vast majority of countries were absent from the embassy opening. The government of Israel is once again in need of support from murderous and corrupt regimes, if only to create a veneer of success, and to justify Netanyahu’s trips abroad, in the eyes of the Israeli taxpayer. Beyond that, the guest list is a reflection of 51 years of a failed Israeli struggle for international recognition for the annexation of East Jerusalem.

Eitay Mack is an Israeli human rights lawyer working to stop Israeli military aid to regimes that commit war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Correction:
Due to a translation error, a previous version of this article stated that the countries listed in this article were those attending the U.S. embassy dedication ceremony. The event in question was an Israeli Foreign Ministry gala held the night before. The headline and photo have also been amended to reflect the correct event.

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