Criticism Of Israel’s Arms Trade With Myanmar Is Not Exaggerated

On October 16, the Forward published a letter from Abraham Wyner, a Professor of Statistics who argued that criticism of Israel’s sales to the Burmese military is exaggerated. He was writing in response to Peter Beinart’s article in the Forward calling out mainstream Jewish organizations for failing to criticize Israel’s provision of weapons and training to Myanmar.

Last month I wrote a piece for the Forward detailing the history of Israel’s collaboration with the brutal, and now genocidal, military of Myanmar and the thus far unsuccessful efforts of Eitay Mack, an Israeli human rights lawyer, to stop it, and I wanted to briefly address Wyner’s claim.

Wyner bases his claim of exaggeration on information from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, from whose graphs on the arms trade he concludes that previous to 2012 Israel was responsible for 3.7% of the arms sales to Myanmar, and post 2012 none.

There are a number of problems with Wyner’s information and analysis. As Jill Jacobs and Avidan Freedman wrote in the Forward last week, the primary problem is that it “fails to acknowledge Israel’s exceptional secrecy when it comes to its weapons exports and the resulting dearth of publicly-available information.”

In fact, as I outlined in my article, there is evidence that TAR Ideal Concepts, an Israeli company, as provided recent arms and training to Israel, taken from their own website. It was removed after Eitay Mack brought it to public attention as part of his petition to stop Israeli collaboration with Myanmar, which went before the Israeli High Court on Sep 25.

Contrary to Wyner’s suggestion that such arms sales are the actions of “private companies” and not the state, all military sales in Israel must be explicitly approved by the State and are considered, by the government, to be matters of foreign policy. In fact that is the very argument the Israeli government made to shield such arms deals from public scrutiny- that they are not subject to civil legal oversight but are a matter of defense policy.

Far from being inconsequential in the eyes of the Israeli government, the nature of the Israel-Myanmar relationship was considered so sensitive a matter that the state ordered the hearing on Mack’s petition to be classified and barred all public discussion of it.

Lastly, Wyner’s assertion that Israeli arms before 2012 accounted for a “mere 3.7%” of those sold to Myanmar is hardly comforting. Can you imagine someone defending a country for providing 3.7% of weapons and training sold to the Nazi government during WW2? Should we be reassured that Israel is only responsible for 3.7% of Myanmar’s atrocities? Would we feel better if we only held Israel accountable for 3.7% of the 500,000 refugees (around 18,500 people) or 4% of the murders (perhaps two or three dozen of the dead) or 4% of the rapes (how many hundreds) or 4% of the infanticides (even one would be too much).

Cold comfort indeed. No, the criticism of Israel is not exaggerated, and Israeli cooperation with the military of Myanmar must stop.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

Criticism Of Israel’s Arms Trade With Myanmar Is Not Exaggerated

Tagged as:

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Criticism Of Israel’s Arms Trade With Myanmar Is Not Exaggerated

Thank you!

This article has been sent!