DAMASCUS, SYRIA (12:30) – A group of prominent Orthodox Jewish leaders has asked the Knesset to investigate reports that Myanmar is actively using Israeli weapons in its violent persecution of the Rohingya minority.
A dozen Orthodox rabbis have issued a letter to Avi Dichter, the parliament member chairing the Knesset committee for weapons sales to foreign nations, according to a report by Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on Monday.
“Has Israel sold arms to Myanmar in recent years, as alleged in several foreign reports, and continued to do so even after the publication of several reports on severe human rights violations in the country? (…) If so, why was there no veto issued on the exports?” read the letter.
The letter further details reports about alleged Israeli weapons sales to the Myanmar regime, and asks whether or not these reports are truthful, and if so, whether Tel Aviv has stopped the deliveries after the recent UN condemnations of the crackdown on the Rohingya community.
The United Nations has accused the Myanmar government of conducting systematic “ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingya Muslims. This has triggered a mass exodus of the mostly Islamic Rohingya from the Rakhine border state of Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh, where reports indicate around 600,000 refuges are now living.
A report by Ha’aretz last month detailed the deliveries of Israeli weapons systems to Myanmar, including an advanced remote weapons system that would allow far-away control of machine guns of a caliber of up to 30mm.
Israel has a sordid history of arms sales to conflict zones in the past. It was one of the only nations actively trading weapons with Apartheid South Africa, and also sold weapons to Hutu supremacists in Rwanda right up until a UN weapons embargo was put in place. There are even allegations that Israel collaborated with South Africa in the 1970s in order to help the Apartheid regime in achieving nuclear weapons.
Last month, 55 Israeli rabbis representing various denominations signed a petition calling on Israeli authorities to end arm sales to Myanmar, followed by more than 350 rabbis from the United States who subsequently signed a similar letter, which also called on the US government to end training of Myanmar troops.
The Orthodox community in Israel has a history of tense relations with the regime of Tel Aviv, with many holding anti-Zionist sympathies. Attempts by the government to forcibly include Orthodox Jews into the Israeli regime and to expand military conscription to Orthodox believers have been met by Orthodox mass protests against the Netanyahu government, which were violently dispersed by police forces.