55 rabbis, educators and communal leaders call on Israel to stop selling weapons to Burma

To the honorable Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Mr. Binyamin Netanyahu

And the honorable President, Mr. Reuven Rivlin,

The Rohingya tribe, an ethnic minority in Burma (Myanmar) often referred to as the “most persecuted minority in the world,” have suffered systematic discrimination for decades. A UN report from June 2016 suggested that the government’s actions against the Rohingya, including torture, disappearances, executions and rape, should be considered crimes against humanity. For the last two weeks, in response to a terror attack by rebel Rohingya, the situation has deteriorated, and the government began a brutal crack-down which has caused over 300,000 members of the Rohingya to flee their homes. Testimonies from refugees tell of babies beheaded, killings, and gang-rape, and satellite photographs attest to a “scorched-earth” policy which has left entire villages burned to the ground. The United Nations’ representative for human rights called the current situation in Burma a “text-book case of ethnic cleansing.”

Our role as a nation ought to be to take positive action to help the dire situation there.  But before we can engage in “doing good,”  we must first “cease from evil.” Before Israel can condemn the actions of the government in Burma, it must first stop supporting its military with weapons sales and training it provides.

Although Israel does not publicize the list of nations to which it allows the sale of arms, postings by Burmese generals, as well as by an Israeli weapons exporter provide clear proof that Israeli weapons are being used by the forces in Burma.

It is untenable that a state founded on the vision of the prophets should support such a government. The Jewish people is currently in the midst of the “month of mercy and forgiveness,” when we ask for mercy from God, whose “mercy is upon all His creations.” Our sages have taught us that we are commanded “just as He is merciful, so must you be merciful.” As rabbis and rabbaniyot, educators and leaders of communities who follow the Torah “whose paths are paths of pleasantness, and all whose ways are peace,”  we cannot remain silent while the state of Israel supports the actions of powers bringing destruction to the world.

It is clear to us that the arms industry is a critical one to Israel on many levels- militarily, diplomatically, and economically, but there must be the proper balance of moral oversight, inspection, and considerations properly weighed.

We, the undersigned, call upon the Israeli government to immediately forbid weapons exports to Burma, and to create legislation which will ensure that we will no longer sell weapons to countries engaged in gross human rights violations, so that we might come closer to the realization of the great vision of the prophet Isaiah: “Nation will not lift sword against nation, and they will no longer learn war.”


*Names of organizations are for identification purposes only, and do not necessarily imply agreement of the organization to the opinion of those who signed

Dr. Tehilla Elitzur, Matan, Herzog College

Rabbi Yehoshua Engelman

Rabba Tamar Elad Applebaum, Zion community, Jerusalem, Beit Midrash leRabbanut Yisraelit

Rabbi Daniel Ashkenazi

Rabbi David Bigman, Rosh Yeshiva, Maale Gilboa

Tamar Bitton, Head of Midreshet Be’er Yerucham

Rabbi Yitzchak Ben David, Head of Midreshet Ein HaNetziv and Rabbi, Kibbutz Ein HaNetziv

Yaffa Benaya, Kiryat Ono College, Kehillat Degel Yehuda

Rabbi Yehuda Gilad, Rosh Yeshiva, Maale Gilboa and Rabbi of Kibbutz Lavi

Rabbi Dr. Irving (Yitz) Greenberg, President emeritus of CLAL: The Jewish Center for Jewish Life and Learning

Rabbi Steven Greenberg, Founder, Eshel

Rabbi Shmuel David, Chief Rabbi of Afula

Rabbi Binyamin Holzman, Rabbi of Kibbutz Maale Gilbo’a

Rabbi Dr. Meesh Hammer-Kossoy, Pardes Institute

Rabbi Tyson Herberger

Rabbi Shai Zarchi, Rabbi of Kehillat “Niggun HaLev”

Rabbi A. Yuter, CJCUC

Rabbi Yair Yaniv, Givat Massu’a, Jerusalem

Rabbi Benny Lau, Rabbi of Ramban synagogue, Jerusalem

Rabbi Dr. Ronen Lubitch, Rabbi of Nir Etzion

Rabbi Yehoshua Looks

Rabbi Marty Lockshin

Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, Rosh Yeshiva of Sulam Yaakov

Dr. Ayelet Libson, Harvard School of Legal Studies

Rabbi Mosheh Lichtenstein, Alon Shvut

Rabbanit Surale Rosen, Matan

Rabbi Dr. David Rosen, International director of interreligious affairs, AJC

Rabbi Daniel Landes

Rabbi Leon Aryeh Morris, Pardes Institute

Vered Mezuman-Aviad, Head of Beit Midrash-Maarava, Emunah

Rabbi Dr. David Mescheloff

Rabbi Michael Melchior, Rabbi of the “New Talpiot” community, Jerusalem

Rabbanit Anat Novoslesky, Director of “Horut LaNetzach”, Sheilna Beit Horaah

Dr. Ayelet Sigal, Bar Ilan University

Rabbi Dani Segal, Rabbi of Midreshet Ein Prat

Rabbi Yair Silverman, Moed organization

Rabbanit Devora Evron, Director of the Institute for Halachic Leadership, Midreshet Lindbaum

Rabbi Shmuel Feuchtwanger, Rabbi of Moshav Sdeh Ilan

Rabbi Dr. Yonatan Feintuch, Bar Ilan University, and women’s Beit Midrash, Migdal Oz

Dr. Ariel Picard, Shalom Hartman Institute

Rabbi Shay Piron, Rabbi of the Shchuna Datit, Oranit

Shlomit Flint, Midreshet Amit Be’er Yerucham

Channi Frank,  Alei Zahav

Rabbi Dr. Eugen Korn

Rabbi Zvi Koren, Rabbi of Kehillat Kinor David, Raanana

Rabbanit Oshra Koren, head of women’s Beit Midrash, Matan of the Sharon

Yafit Clymer, Matan, Tzahali, Herzog College

Rabbanit Tirza Keleman, Midreshet Nishmat

Rabbanit Rachel Keren, head of Beit Midrash, Midreshet Ein HaNetziv

Dr. Biti Roi, Shalom Hartman Institute

Rabba Hadas Ron, Founder of the Midrasha in Oranim

Rabbi Moshe Shpeter, Rabbi in Yeshivat Netiv Meir

Rabbanit Yael Shimoni, Pelech High School, Jerusalem

About the Author
Avidan Freedman is the rabbi of the Shalom Hartman Institute's Hevruta program, an educator Hartman Boys High School in Jerusalem, and an activist against Israeli weapons sales to human rights violators.
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