Israeli Activists Push Supreme Court to Stop Military Export to Burma

By Saw Yan Naing 20 January 2017

A group of 10 Israeli human rights activists and lawyers submitted an urgent petition to the Israeli Supreme Court on Thursday, calling for it to stop an export of Israeli military weapons to Burma.

The activists submitted their petition to the Supreme Court after Israel’s defense ministry rejected on Jan. 8 a previous call to suspend the military exports.

In December, the activists wrote to Racheli Chen, head of the Israeli defense ministry’s export control department, calling on her to review all defense export licenses purchased by the Burma Army.

They 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 violates human rights in Arakan State.

“I hope that the judges will confirm that Israel does not have the authority to approve military exports that take part in crimes against humanity, war crimes, and gross violations of human rights,” said Eitay Mack, a Jerusalem-based human rights attorney.

The petition submitted on Thursday is based on Israeli law, international law, and in terms of “basic human morality,” Mack told The Irrawaddy.

Mack said that it will be hard for the Israeli Ministry of Defense to deny that it sold weapons and gave training to the Burma Army, as there were already reports published on the Facebook page of Burma Army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing and on the website of an Israeli defense company, which stated that it is “now in service in Myanmar’s Special Operations Task Force.”

“I hope that Israel will learn the lessons from its past defense exports during the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia, and realize that it will be accountable for complicity in the crimes committed in Shan and Kachin states, and particularly against the Rohingya,” said Mack.

During his visit to Israel in September 2015, Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing toured 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 chief’s Facebook page, where he announced that he had spoken with Israeli representatives about purchasing military equipment and training.

The petition to the Israeli Supreme Court, written in Hebrew, was drafted by Israeli human rights activists Aya Gavriel, Sahar Vardi, Ofer Neiman, Noni Tal, Guy Hirshfeld, Yael Agur Orgal, Yael Ravid, Gilad Liberman, Hagit Shemer, and Michal Haramati.