USACBI condemns unequivocally the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group in majority-Buddhist Myanmar. The numbers of Rohingya who have been forced to flee to neighboring Bangladesh now approaches 300,000. We condemn in particular the Burmese military’s involvement in the planning and execution of this campaign, which now amounts to deliberate genocide.
Myanmar’s campaign of ethnic cleansing has been widely condemned. The European Union and even the US, not normally very discriminating when it comes to the use of its weaponry in abuse of human rights, have long maintained an arms embargo on the Burmese military due to its violations of human rights and religious freedom. Despite this international condemnation and sanctions, and even during this ongoing genocidal campaign against its Muslim population, Myanmar has been supplied with weaponry by Israel.
This is by no means the first time that the Israeli defense industry has supplied repressive regimes with the tools of their trade, from apartheid South Africa to Pinochet’s Chile and the Guatemalan dictatorship: its weapons industry, indeed, proudly boasts of the fact that its products come well “field tested”. They usually fail to mention that their weapons have been tested in repressing Palestinian resistance to an illegal occupation, conducting war against the predominantly civilian refugee population of Gaza, or in maintaining surveillance and policing of the illegal apartheid wall that runs through the West Bank.
Those who have been following the close connections between the Israeli defense industry and the United States will not be surprised to learn that among the companies hosting Burmese military officials is Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems, specialists in surveillance equipment that has been deployed both along the apartheid wall and on the U.S. border with Mexico. Less well known is the defense firm TAR Ideal Concepts, a conglomerate of Israeli manufacturers of military and police equipment that also hosts a defense fair, ISDEF in Tel Aviv. CEO Aviad Matza proudly claims that ISDEF has become “the international flagship of the Israeli defense industry.” Matza is among those who attribute Israel’s prowess in producing the technologies of repression to the laboratory that Palestine furnishes.
Israel’s military technology maintains a 50-year regime of occupation and a 12-year blockade on Gaza even as it equips the arsenals of some of the world’s most repressive regimes. Israel’s affiliation with those regimes is no accident: its own history and current practices of ethnic cleansing go back to the Nakba of 1947-8 in which some 750,000 Palestinians were forcefully displaced. Palestinian refugees are still denied their internationally recognized right of return to their homes, and Israel’s ethnic cleansing continues in its current practices of quiet “transfer” of Palestinians from Israeli-controlled territories. Like Myanmar, Israel is a state dominated by a single ethnic and religious group that seeks to maintain its political supremacy in open violation of international law and human rights. Its affinity with Myanmar is only the latest example of the natural alliances that it forms with other regimes whose survival depends on an ideological commitment to ethnic or ideological supremacy.
Firms like Israel’s TAR Ideal Concepts use that experience of control and repression in ways that should concern us all: it not only sells weapons to a genocidal Burmese military, but also operates what Bloomberg describes as “a defense academy that provides training, including military, police, homeland security, and professional training, as well as K-9 training services. It serves ministry of defense (MOD), police departments, and prisons; and law enforcement forces … in Israel and internationally.”
Among the police organizations training in Israel are US law enforcement departments, both police and Homeland Security, who have been brought there annually by the Anti-Defamation League in collaboration with Israel’s national police, military and intelligence services. Their training, funded by US taxpayers, includes participation in operations in the occupied West Bank against Palestinians. Multiple groups that monitor law enforcement violence have expressed concern that the highly militarized training of US police forces in Israel has exacerbated the brutality and excessive force that has been used against peaceful demonstrators from Baltimore to Ferguson. Such concern has inspired Jewish Voice for Peace’s “Deadly Exchange” campaign against these exchange programs that inculcate the “worst practices” of repressive policing.
Israel’s world leadership in military and other repressive technologies is also due to the close collaboration between its universities and the corporations that rely on their graduates and their research to develop their weaponry. The ties between Israeli universities and the military are exceptionally close at every level, from the special access given to students serving in the IDF, to special programs for the IDF and intelligence services, to research programs that specifically develop military technology. Israeli universities are inseparable from both the military occupation of Palestine and from the wars regularly inflicted on Gaza and Lebanon. They are not mere independent institutions of higher learning, but crucial instruments of a racist state.
USACBI respects the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions until such times as all Palestinian rights under international law and human rights norms are implemented. We call on all US academics to join us in honoring and promoting this boycott and ending Israel’s practices of and complicity with ethnic cleansing and other crimes against humanity, in Palestine and everywhere these “field tested weapons” are put to use.