An Israeli diplomat asked to justify the country’s arms sales to Burma amid its crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim population has said that “the two sides in the conflict are conducting war crimes”.
Amir Sagie, Israel’s deputy consul general in New York, told a group of rabbis that the current conflict began “after Muslims attacked government positions in Myanmar” and that Israel “applies a policy of non-intervention in Myanmar’s domestic issues”.
According to Haaretz he said: “We deny totally any kind of relations or any connection to Israel with this tragedy. There is no direct or indirect connection with what is going on with the Rohingya people.”
Weapons deals are “done with due diligence”, the site reported Mr Sagie as saying. The diplomat said Israel took into account human rights in its arms export process.
Investigations by human rights watchdogs found more than 100 tanks, as well as boats and light weapons, had been sold to the Burmese government by Israeli arms companies in recent years.
One company, TAR Ideal Concepts, also trained Burmese special forces in northern Rakhine state, where much of the violence has taken place.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled Burma, a Buddhist-majority country, for neighbouring Bangladesh.
In a statement on Monday, the UN Security Council had urged Burma to “ensure no further excessive use of military force” and expressed “grave concern over reports of human rights violations and abuses in Rakhine state”.
The UN has denounced the violence during the past 10 weeks as a classic example of ethnic cleansing to drive the Rohingya Muslims out of the country.
Rejecting that accusation, the military said its counter-insurgency clearance operation was provoked by Rohingya militants’ synchronised attacks on 30 security posts in the northern part of Rakhine state on 25 August.
Israel’s foreign ministry said: “Israel is not involved in the tragedy in the Rakhine region of Myanmar. The oversight policy of Israel’s security exports is examined frequently in keeping with various considerations, among them the human rights situation in the destination country, as well as the policy of the UN Security Council and other international entities.”
Additional reporting by agencies