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Is Israel facilitating ‘genocide’ in Myanmar?

  • 12 Dec 2019

Israel has gone after people across the world for genocide denial, but now it seems to be supporting Myanmar, a state accused of genocide.

People demonstrate against Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi on the second day of hearings in a case filed by Gambia against Myanmar alleging genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingya population, outside the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands December 11, 2019. ( Yves Herman / Reuters )

Myanmar has strong ties with Israel going back to the 1940s and has purchased sophisticated weaponry from Tel Aviv to facilitate its operations against the country’s long-oppressed minority. 

Despite numerous condemnations from the international community and an arms embargo and sanctions over Myanmar by the US and the EU, Israel has kept its relations with the troubled country intact, allegedly continuing to supply weapons to the state. 

In June 2019, Myanmar’s military officials were seen at a Tel Aviv weapons expo despite Israel publicly saying they would stop selling weapons to the country. 

The latest evidence of Israel’s relationship with Myanmar surfaced as the country’s ambassador to Myanmar, Gilor Ronen, wished “good luck!” to Aung San Suu Kyi, the state counsellor, who was at The Hague to face charges of genocide and war crimes for her state’s conduct against the Rohingya people in the International Criminal Court (ICJ). 

The Rohingya people are a predominantly Muslim minority, living mostly in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Their population was estimated to be around one million before the Myanmar regime’s crackdown against them began in 2016. 

Suu Kyi, the daughter of Myanmar’s founding father, was long persecuted by the country’s military rulers and her democratic resistance earned her a Nobel prize in 1991. But after she came to power in 2016, Suu Kyi justified what the UN has termed as ‘genocidal intent’ regarding the military’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims. Suu Kyi’s reputation has taken a massive hit and people have called for the Nobel prize to be rescinded. 

Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks in front of the judges on charges of genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingya population, at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands December 11, 2019.(Reuters)

The Israeli envoy later deleted the controversial tweet. The country’s foreign ministry claimed that his tweet was written “in error”.

“Israel, founded in the embers of the Jewish people’s genocide, failed to live up to that ideal,” wrote Charles Dunst, a researcher and journalist, in an article published by Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper. 

“Never again should the Jewish State enable any country, particularly one of its allies, to carry out a genocide,” Dunst concluded in his article. 

The plight of Rohingya Muslims

While the Rohingya are a protected people under the UN Genocide Convention, since 2016 Myanmar’s Buddhist-dominated government has waged a brutal campaign against them, which amounted to a genocidal conduct according to the UN. 

According to a recent report of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, they were the victims of: “Numerous underlying acts of genocide, including killing, serious bodily and mental harm, and conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction, and may also have been victims of measure intended to prevent births.” 

“Those acts were attributable to the State and committed intentionally,” the report continued, concluding: “The State engaged in a pattern of conduct with, through inference, the genocidal intent to destroy the Rohingya in whole or in part as a people.” 

At the UN court, Suu Kyi defended Myanmar’s conduct, rejecting the charges. 

Since 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingya, who were living in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, were forced to leave their homelands for neighbouring Bangladesh, where they live in refugee camps. Hundreds of them have been killed by Myanmar security forces. 

"It is an ongoing genocide that is taking place at the moment," Marzuki Darusman, the head of the international fact-finding mission for Myanmar, said during a UN Security Council meeting in late October. 

Myanmar, formerly Burma, has been on good terms with Israel for decades. Burma’s prime minister, U Nu, became the first premier to visit Israel back in 1955, when he also urged the communist Soviets to allow its Jews to emigrate to Israel. 

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