Israel Rejects Petition for Military Export Ban on Burma

By Saw Yan Naing 20 March 2017

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The Israeli government has rejected a petition by a group of 10 Israeli human rights activists and lawyers who called for an end of arms sales to Burma.

The activists submitted the petition to the Israeli Supreme Court on Jan. 19 this year. It argued that the Burma Army should not be allowed to purchase Israeli weapons at the same time that it fights a war against ethnic minorities in Shan and Kachin states and while it allegedly violates human rights in Arakan State.

The Israeli government responded on March 15 to the petition in a letter written in Hebrew to the Supreme Court. It informed the Supreme Court that weapons exports to Burma are a political matter beyond the court’s authority, according to Jerusalem-based human rights lawyer Eitay Mack.

“That is, the [Israeli] Ministry of Defense is allowed to do as it pleases without judicial review,” Mack told The Irrawaddy, adding that the Israeli government’s response omitted any reference to claims of human rights violations in Burma.

“This response runs contrary to the fact that Israeli legislation has regulated a bureaucratic procedure for granting permits to Israeli security companies.”

Burma Army’s Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing visited Israel in September 2015, touring the offices of defense manufacturers Elbit Systems, Israeli Aerospace Industries, and Elta Systems Ltd.

The Burmese delegation also visited the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, an Israeli naval base, and a memorial to Israeli soldiers who died fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Reports and pictures of the trip were revealed on the Burma Army’s chief’s Facebook page, where he announced that he had spoken with Israeli representatives about purchasing military equipment and training.

The petition included Min Aung Hlaing’s Facebook posts about purchasing weapons and military training from Israel, as well as documents by an Israeli security company containing photos of the transfer of arms to and training of the Burma Army.

Despite this evidence, says Mack, the Israeli government did not acknowledge any of the claims made in the petition.