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Despite allegation of genocide, Israel refuses to stop arms sales to Myanmar

A Rohingya Muslim woman, fled from ongoing military operations in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, holds a child at a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh on September 20, 2017 [Safvan Allahverdi / Anadolu Agency]
A Rohingya Muslim woman fled from ongoing military operations in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and is seen holding a child at a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh on 20 September 2017 [Safvan Allahverdi / Anadolu Agency]

Israel has refused to stop selling arms to Myanmar, despite allegations of genocide, ethnic cleansing, rape, torture and massacre against the Rohingya Muslims.

Israel has a lucrative arms deal with Myanmar which includes over 100 tanks, weapons and boats that have been used to police the country’s border and perpetrate numerous acts of violence against the Rohingya.

A petition addressed to the Israeli High Court calling for the suspension of arms trade with Myanmar is currently moving through the political system. The latest chapter was an open hearing yesterday followed by a lengthy closed-door session at which the state’s lawyers explained Israel’s relations with Myanmar.

Eitay Mack, the petitioners’ lawyer noted that the EU and the USA had imposed an embargo on Myanmar and said that Israel was the only Western state supplying weapons to the military junta. According to Haaretz, Mack also mentioned that Israel was keeping its weapons trade with Myanmar under wraps, but the heads of the junta boast of its ties with Israel on their Facebook pages.

Read: Israel arms Myanmar military amid crackdown on Rohingya

The petition noted that that in September 2015, General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander of Myanmar’s military, visited Israel and met with Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot. Hlaing noted on his Facebook page that he had visited various defence industries and placed an order for patrol boats, which is believed to be used in atrocities carried out against the Rohingya.

Israeli state lawyers however are unmoved by the growing international pressure. In their response yesterday to the call for an arms embargo, Shosh Shmueli, representing the state, said that the court should not interfere in Israel’s foreign relations.

While a ruling on the petition is expected soon, Israeli politicians remain reluctant to budge on the issue. The state lawyers’ remarks are believed to be a repetition of the preliminary response issued in March by the defence ministry which said that the court had no standing in the “purely diplomatic” matter. Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman even brushed aside concerns raised in the petition saying that Israel’s arms sales policy complied with the “accepted guidelines of the enlightened world”.

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