Myanmar shows off its Israeli weapons

Ali Abunimah, Electronic
, 23 October 2017.

An Israeli-made Super Dvora Mk III gunboat recently acquired by
the Myanmar navy. (
Myanmar Navy)

Myanmar has been
showing off its new gunboats, confirming that Israel is supplying the country
with weapons in spite of official secrecy around the matter.

The Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz highlighted photos posted on Facebook by Myanmar’s navy of its Israeli-made
Super Dvora Mk III gunboats.
“Welcome to Myanmar Navy,” the post
“The post is from April, only half a
year ago, when the Myanmar (Burmese) army was already being accused of war
crimes,” Haaretz notes.
Last month, Israel’s high court granted a government request to keep a blanket of secrecy over
Israeli military sales to Myanmar.
The court issued a secret ruling on a
petition by human rights lawyer Eitay Mack demanding a halt to such sales.
Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say that the military in Myanmar, also
known as Burma, is committing crimes against humanity. 
“The military has committed forced
deportation, murder, rape and persecution against Rohingya Muslims in northern
Rakhine State, resulting in countless deaths and mass displacement,” Human
Rights Watch said.

Ethnic cleansing

Last week, top UN officials estimated that
500,000 Rohingya refugees had crossed into neighboring Bangladesh in less than
five weeks, many “fleeing discrimination, violence and persecution, as well as
isolation and fear.”
The UN’s top human rights official has called the
Myanmar military’s campaign a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
According to Haaretz,
the pictures of the boats on Facebook “also reveal the weapons that have been
installed on them, all blue-and-white products.”
These include a remote weapons station
for firing heavy machine guns, made by Elbit Systems, Israel’s biggest arms
“The new patrol boats are only part of
a larger transaction signed between Israel and Myanmar,” according to the
In 2015, Min Aung Hlaing, a senior
general from Myanmar, posted pictures on Facebook showing him and other officials on a
shopping spree at various Israeli weapons companies.

“We don’t connect
the two things”

In an interview with The
Myanmar Times
this month, Israeli ambassador Daniel Zonshine said Israel was determined not
to let the mass expulsions of the Rohingya interfere with growing bilateral
The ambassador said he would continue
to “differentiate the economic relations and the situation in Rakhine. At the
moment, we don’t connect the two things.”
According to The
Myanmar Times
, Israeli exports to Myanmar reached $34 million in
the first half of this year, already outpacing the $23 million for all of 2016.
This trade is reportedly concentrated
in telecoms and electronics, as well as irrigation and medical devices.
But these figures presumably exclude
the arms sales which Israel keeps secret. Haaretz estimates that the military trade
alone is worth tens of millions of dollars.
Zonshine offered Myanmar some advice –
undoubtedly based on Israel’s own propaganda tactics – on how to whitewash its
bloodsoaked image.
“When the story in the international
media is framed as it is today, it doesn’t help to create more markets. It
doesn’t help promote the [country’s] image,” Zonshine said. “It is something
that should receive some attention from the government in order to show that
although there are problems, Myanmar is still Myanmar. In other words, not to
let the conflict define who or what Myanmar is.”