Israel retains warm ties with Myanmar despite human rights abuses

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OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, PALESTINOW.COM — Despite compelling evidence of genocide against its Muslim minority, Israel continues to allow weapons sales to Myanmar’s military, Haaretz daily has warned.

Myanmar’s treatment of its Rohingya Muslim minority has earned the country widespread condemnation in recent years. A United Nations investigator and the U.S. House of Representatives have warned that the Myanmar military’s recent ramping up of violence against the group constitutes genocide.

Last August, the U.S. State Department tallied atrocities in the Buddhist-majority country’s northern Rakhine State, concluding that violence there was “extreme, large-scale, widespread, and seems geared toward both terrorizing the population and driving out the Rohingya residents.” Some 1.1 million Rohingya have fled Myanmar.

Despite the widespread condemnation, however, Israel remains on friendly terms with Myanmar and has remained relatively silent on what even the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has called “compelling evidence” of genocide in the country that straddles South and Southeast Asia.

According to Haaretz, Israel also allowed its arms companies to sell weapons to Myanmar’s military through the fall of 2017, long after most Western countries had banned such sales by its firms. It remains unclear if the Israeli firms are still supplying Myanmar’s military with assistance besides weapons, including surveillance technology, training and intelligence.

Most of the firms refused to clarify on their current sales. One firm, TAR Ideal Concepts, refuted reports that it had sold arms to Myanmar.

Observers say Israel’s cooperation and selective silence reflects both Israel’s closeness with Myanmar and its demonstrated foreign policy preference for prosaic diplomacy over human rights.

“A general trend of Israel’s foreign policy is to give priority to interests over values,” David Tal, an Israeli historian who chairs the University of Sussex’s Modern Israel Studies program, said. “Having good relations with Myanmar … I would assume is worth any moral price Israel accrues.”

In 2011, Yaron Mayer, then the Israeli ambassador to Myanmar, told Moment magazine that Myanmar was “one of Israel’s few, true friends.”

In December 2017, Myanmar’s ambassador to Israel, U Maung Maung Lynn, said that Israel was still selling weapons to his country. Israel promptly reprimanded and “rebuked” the ambassador, who soon apologized and retracted his statement.

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