Rohingyas are seen at a makeshift camp in Teknaff, Bangladesh on 23 September 2017
A new report by Amnesty International has accused Israel of selling arms and intelligence equipment to serial human rights violators, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), South Sudan and Myanmar.
The report – which was published by Amnesty’s Israel office in Hebrew – found that “Israeli companies continue to export weapons to countries that systematically violate human rights” and that “often these weapons reach their destination after a series of transactions, thereby skirting international monitoring and the rules of Israel itself”.
The human rights organisation therefore called on Israel’s Knesset and Ministry of Defence (MoD) to “more tightly monitor arms exports and enforce transparency guidelines adopted by other Western countries that engage in large-scale weapons exports,” Haaretz reported.
The Israeli daily translated large portions of the report, which argues that since “there are functioning models of correct and moral-based monitoring of weapons exports […] established by large arms exporters such as members of the European Union and the United States, there is no justification for the fact that Israel continues to belong to a dishonorable club of exporters such as China and Russia.”
Amnesty continues: “The absence of monitoring and transparency [has] for decades let Israel supply equipment and defense-related knowledge to questionable states and dictatorial or unstable regimes that have been shunned by the international community.” Eight such “questionable” states were named in Amnesty’s report, including South Sudan, Myanmar, the Philippines, Cameroon, Azerbaijan, Sri Lanka, Mexico and UAE, some of which were under sanctions and weapons-sales embargos at the time Israel sold its arms.
A number of the countries named in Amnesty’s report have previously been exposed as recipients of Israeli arms and intelligence equipment. The UAE, for example, is known to have purchased Israeli spyware firm NSO Group’s Pegasus software, a tool which has been used to hack into the iPhones of prominent activists, journalists and Amnesty International staff. Just this week, Amnesty announced that it was supporting legal action against Israel’s MoD to demand that it revoke NSO’s export license.
Meanwhile, Israel’s selling of surveillance technology and assault rifles to South Sudan, where the regime and army has committed ethnic cleansing and aggravated crimes against humanity, has drawn fierce criticism from activists. In 2017, a group of Israelis petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court to force the disclosure of the names of those Israeli companies involved in selling arms to the East African nation.
However, as today’s Amnesty report notes, “with no documentation of sales, one cannot know when [these arms] were sold, by which company, how many, and so on”. Amnesty adds: “All we can say with certainty is that the South Sudanese army currently has Israeli Galil rifles, at a time when there is an international arms embargo on South Sudan, imposed by the UN Security Council, due to ethnic cleansing, as well as crimes against humanity [including] using rape as a method of war.”
Israel’s arms deals were thrust into the spotlight once again in 2017 by the crisis in Myanmar, which saw the Burmese military forcibly displace over half a million Rohingya Muslims from Rakhine state, driving them into neighbouring Bangladesh. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights subsequently called for the Myanmar government to be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity including ethnic cleansing and genocide.
In September 2017, Israel issued a gag order against its Supreme Court, forcing it to keep secret details of its ruling on a petition against arms sales to Myanmar. As a result, few details pertaining to the sales are known, with Amnesty’s report adding only that Myanmar’s chief of staff carried out the arms deal and apparently posted about it on his Facebook page.