ISRAEL’S High Court ruled Wednesday on a petition against the country’s weapons sales to Burma (Myanmar), but the verdict must remain secret as the judges hearing the case issued a gag order at the request of the state. Israeli state representatives, however, have said they will refuse to stop selling arms to Burma despite the military’s deadly campaign against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State.
The state also told the High Court that it shouldn’t interfere in Israel’s foreign relations, insisting it has no say in what countries it can sell arms to. This echoes the preliminary response issued in March by the Defense Ministry, according to which the court had no standing in the “purely diplomatic” matter.
According to Haaretz, the case was brought after a petition was submitted by human rights campaigners demanding an end to the weapons trade.
Burma has been accused of crimes against humanity and abuses against the Rohingya community in a campaign the United Nations has described as “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
Over 480,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since the latest clashes began on Aug 25. Eye witness accounts have detailed human rights abuses including gang rape, torture and murder, and evidence of the military burning Rohingya villages has been widely reported by humanitarian groups.
Attorney Itay Mack, who filed the petition in the name of the activists, said at the hearing that the EU and the United States had banned arms trade with Burma. He added that Israel is the only Western country supplying it arms.
According to PressTV, Israeli arms companies have sold more than 100 battle tanks, as well as patrol boats and light weapons to the Burmese military in recent years.
Every Israeli company that wants to sell weapons to foreign countries must receive approval from the state. However, the state has not confirmed or denied whether there is a permit to sell arms to Burma.
Israel is keeping its dealings with Burma under wraps, but the Burmese military junta that continues to hold much of the power has enjoyed close ties with the country, even boasting about visits on individual’s Facebook pages, according to Haaretz.
In 2015, Min Aung Hlaing, a senior general in the Burmese military, visited Israel making stops at some of its biggest arms firms, including Elbit Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries.
The visit has been reciprocated with several key Israelis making the trip to the fledgling democracy.
In June 2016, head of the defence exports branch of the Israeli Defence Ministry, Mishel Ben Baruch met with heads of military regime. Later that year, Tel Aviv-based defence company, TAR Ideal Concepts, posted pictures on its website showing its staff training Burmese forces on combat tactics and how to handle weapons.
When questioned on Israel’s weapons trade, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday, “Generally speaking we subordinate ourselves to the entire enlightened world.”
This is not the first time, however, that Israel has been accused of supplying arms to those perpetrating war crimes.
As Haaretz points out, Israel has a history of arming – and lying about its arming – of forces that perpetrated massacres in Bosnia, military dictatorships in Chile and Argentina and the US-backed Contras in Nicaragua.
It added that Israel continues to arm “the forces of evil” in South Sudan.
Israeli weapons were used in the 1994 Rwanda genocide, the details of which Israeli judges have also moved to hide from the public. It also supplied hundreds of millions of dollars of weapons to apartheid South Africa while the white supremacist regime was under an international embargo.
“Once again we discover that the state of Israel is not a democracy as it likes to present itself,” Mack said, following the high court decision to classify its ruling. “From day to day the state of Israel is becoming more similar to the states to which it sells arms.”