Israeli envoy wishes Myanmar success in trial over alleged genocide
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Israeli envoy wishes Myanmar success in trial over alleged genocide

Ambassador, who has maintained friendly ties with Naypyitaw despite condemnation over crackdown on Rohingya, deletes tweets but expresses befuddlement over controversy

Rohingya refugees gather near a fence during a government organized media tour to a no-man's land between Myanmar and Bangladesh, near Taungpyolatyar village, Maung Daw, northern Rakhine State, Myanmar, June 29, 2018. (Min Kyi Thein/AP)
Rohingya refugees gather near a fence during a government organized media tour to a no-man's land between Myanmar and Bangladesh, near Taungpyolatyar village, Maung Daw, northern Rakhine State, Myanmar, June 29, 2018. (Min Kyi Thein/AP)

Israel’s ambassador to Myanmar was criticized Wednesday after wishing the country’s leaders good luck in an international tribunal over the alleged genocide of Rohingya Muslims.

On Sunday, Ronen Gilor tweeted “”Encouragement for a good decision and good luck!,” in a tweet that linked to an article about Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi leading the country’s defense at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

In a second tweet Wednesday, he said he discussed the trial with Myanmar politicians, ending the tweet with “GOOD LUCK.”

Both tweets were deleted Wednesday, though screen captures of both were published by the Haaretz daily, which was the first to report on Gilor’s comments.

Ronen Gilor at an event on December 7, 2018. (Charles Dunst)

Myanmar’s military has been accused of carrying out mass rapes, killings and arsons against Rohingya during a counterinsurgency campaign initiated in western Myanmar in August 2017 after rebel attacks. Myanmar’s population is overwhelmingly Buddhist, and the country has long denied citizenship and other rights to the Rohingya.

Gambia filed the genocide case on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the court based in the Netherlands said Monday it would hold public hearings on December 10-12.

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi delivers her address before students of Yangon University general assembly in Yangon on August 28, 2018. (AFP Photo/Ye Aung Thu)

Gilor and the Israeli Foreign Ministry did not respond to requests for comment. However, when Tel Aviv University international law professor Eliav Lieblich wrote on Twitter that the comments were “horrible,” Gilor responded by asking “why do you think that?”

When asked by Lieblich what Israel hoped a “good decision” would be, Gilor responded “I like to see a resolution of the conflict.”

Rohingya scuffle to get aid from local volunteers at Kutupalong, Bangladesh, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

The head of a UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar warned last month that “there is a serious risk of genocide recurring,” and the mission also said in its final report in September that Myanmar should be held responsible in international legal forums for alleged genocide against the Rohingya.

Despite the widespread condemnation, Israel remains on friendly terms with Myanmar and has remained relatively silent on what even the US Holocaust Memorial Museum has called “compelling evidence” of genocide in the country that straddles South and Southeast Asia.

In 2011, Yaron Mayer, then the Israeli ambassador to Myanmar, told Moment magazine that Myanmar was “one of Israel’s few, true friends.”

In December 2018, Gilor refused to respond when asked by JTA about Israeli officials’ refusal to utilize the term “Rohingya.” (Myanmar rejects the term and does not recognize them as citizens, instead considering them to be “Bengalis” or foreigners.)

Bangladesh army soldiers stand guard as Rohingya Muslim men, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait to receive aid during a distribution near Balukhali refugee camp in Bangladesh on September 25, 2017. (Dar Yasin/AP Photo)

Days earlier, he told Mizzima, a Myanmar news site that “Humanity is full of conflicts, and along the way of the democratization of Myanmar you also have conflicts that you have to solve.”

“It is not easy — you have the media, you have the international community, you have expectations of all kinds.”

In August, a UN report listed Israel as one of seven countries continuing to sell arms to Myanmar despite the regime’s brutal repression of the Rohingya.

Israel has been accused of selling weapons and military services to human rights violators around the world for decades, including to apartheid South Africa, Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, and in recent years to South Sudan, despite a near-universal arms embargo over the bloody civil war there.

JTA and AP contributed to this report.

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