Israel refuses to embargo arms sales to Burma despite reports of ethnic cleansing against Rohignya Muslims

State representative says court should not interfere in foreign relations

Samuel Osborne
Wednesday 27 September 2017 10:51 BST
Rohingya children, who crossed over from Burma into Bangladesh, wait to receive aid during a distribution near Balukhali refugee camp, Bangladesh
Rohingya children, who crossed over from Burma into Bangladesh, wait to receive aid during a distribution near Balukhali refugee camp, Bangladesh (AP/Dar Yasin)

Israel has refused to stop selling weapons to the military junta in Burma, despite allegations the country is committing ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Investigations by several human rights watchdogs found more than 100 tanks, as well as boats and light weapons, have been sold to the Burmese government by Israeli arms companies in recent years.

One company, TAR Ideal Concepts, also trained Burmese special forces in northern Rakhine state, where much of the violence is taking place. The company posted pictures on their website in August last year of its staff teaching combat tactics and how to handle weapons.

In response to a petition to the High Court of Justice from activists demanding an end to Israeli arms sales, Shosh Shmueli, representing the state, said the court should not interfere in Israel's foreign relations, Haaretz reported.

His comments echoed a preliminary response issued by the Defence Ministry in March, which said the court had no standing in the "clearly diplomatic" matter.

Andrew Mitchell responds to claim British army are training troops involved in Rohingya abuses

Eitay Mack filed the petition to block all arms sales to the Burmese junta along with 10 other activists.

He argued that the evidence of Israeli arms sales to Burma is indisputable, as is much of the documentation of war crimes by the country's military, the Times of Israel reported.

Taking those two factors together, he said while Israel is not violating its own laws, the sales go against international agreements Israel has agreed to uphold.

He also noted both the European Union and United States have placed arms embargoes on Burma.

The Independent has approached the Israeli embassy for comment.

It isn't clear when Israel last sold arms to Burma, as the country does not make records of its defence exports public.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, there have been no major recorded arms sales between Israel and Burma since 2011.

Burma has been accused of committing crimes against humanity by Human Rights Watch, which called for the UN Security Council to impose sanctions and an arms embargo.

The UN refugee agency has called for a redoubling of international aid for the 480,000 refugees, 60 per cent of which are children, who have fled Burma to Bangladesh to escape the violence.

A Burmese government spokesman has rejected the accusation of crimes against humanity, saying it lacked evidence.

Burma has also rejected UN accusations its forces are engaged in ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in response to coordinated attacks by Rohingya insurgents on the security forces in August.

Refugees arriving in Bangladesh have accused the army and Buddhist vigilantes of trying to drive Rohingya out of Buddhist-majority Burma.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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