Israel ‘sold arms to Myanmar after coup’, despite high court ban

Rayhan Uddin & Lubna Masarwa

Middle East Eye  /  September 5, 2023

Shipments of weapons were sent to Myanmarese military as recently as 2022, new report finds, casting doubt on Israeli claims it had stopped such sales.

Israel sold arms to Myanmar after the violent military coup in the country in February 2021, despite previous Israeli claims it had stopped such sales, according to a news report

Haaretz revealed on Tuesday that since 2018, at least four shipments from government-owned Israel Aerospace Industries were sent to Myanmar’s defence procurement directorate, listed as “aircraft parts” and “metal plates”. 

The most recent shipment dates to March 2022 – a year after Myanmar’s military leaders seized power and detained civilian leaders, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. 

Israeli arms company Elbit Systems also sold military gear to Myanmar’s air force, including parts for unmanned aerial vehicles and a remotely operated naval turret complete with a 25mm gun, the report added. 

As of January, around 3,000 people had been killed, 1.5 million displaced and over 13,000

“It turns out that Israel lied when it claimed to have stopped all its military exports to [Myanmar] in 2018,” Israeli lawyer Eitay Mack told Middle East Eye, commenting on the Haaretz report. “Israeli military exports continue just in a more sophisticated manner.”

Following a petition led by Mack in 2017, Israel’s high court ordered the country to stop arms sales to Myanmar over its genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority. 

The ruling was not made public until the following year after public pressure from human rights activists. 

‘Israel has no problem assisting junta’

In August 2017, Myanmar’s military forced 700,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh in a campaign described by the United Nations as “genocidal”. 

MEE reported at the time that Israel continued to sell Myanmar weapons as Rohingya refugees fled the military’s violent crackdown in the Rakhine state.

The weapons sold to Myanmar included over 100 tanks and boats used to police the country’s border, according to human rights groups and Myanmarese officials. This was despite Israel officially saying that year that it would stop exporting weapons to Myanmar.

“While the 2017 petition to the High Court of Justice focused on the fear that Israeli weapons would be used against the Rohingya, this time the shipments of parts for weapons were sent after the military coup,” said Mack. 

“As long as the military junta serves Israel’s interests, Israel has no problem assisting the junta both in exterminating the ethnic minorities and in exterminating a large part of the rest of the population that opposes the coup and wants to live under democracy.”

MEE has reached out to the Israeli defence ministry for comment.