Israel Rejects Call to Suspend Weapons Exports to Burma

By Saw Yan Naing 10 January 2017

Israel’s defense ministry rejected a call from human rights activists and lawyers in the country to suspend military exports to Burma.

Jerusalem-based human rights lawyer Eitay Mack told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the Israeli defense ministry said in a letter sent on Jan. 8 that it would go ahead with exports of military equipment to Burma as they were approved by the foreign ministry and stood within international law.

He said that after the ministry’s rejection he would file an urgent petition with the Israeli Supreme Court in an attempt to prevent the export.

Eitay Mack and other activists wrote to head of the Israeli Ministry of Defense’s export control department Racheli Chen in December 2016 and called for a review of all defense export licenses purchased by the Burma Army.

It stated that the Burma Army still wages war with ethnic minorities in northern and eastern Burma, while also committing serious human rights violations against the Rohingya Muslim minority in western Burma.

“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.

During his visit to Israel in September 2015, Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing along with military officials from Burma’s Air Force and Navy toured the offices Elbit Systems, an Israel-based defense manufacturing company, Israeli Aerospace Industries and its subsidiary, Elta Systems Ltd.

Eitay Mack said that Elbit Systems and another manufacturer TAR Ideal Concepts had signed deals to provide security equipment to the Burma Army.

They also toured an Israeli naval base, the country’s Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv and a memorial to fallen soldiers in the Gaza Strip. Reports and pictures of the trip were revealed on the Burma Army chief’s Facebook, saying that he had spoken with Israeli representatives about purchasing military equipment and training

The ministry also told Eitay Mack they would not comment on deals with specific states.

“The secrecy is strange given the fact that the head of the Burma Army already published details of his visit to Israel in September 2015 and his Naypyidaw meeting with the head of the Israeli defense exports in August 2016,” Eitay Mack told The Irrawaddy.