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'Never again': Rabbis demand Israel halts arms sales to Myanmar amid violence

Hundreds of rabbis from across the United States have also demanded the US government stops training programmes with the Myanmar army
Rohingya refugees from Myanmar on their way to the refugee camps in Palang Khali, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh 19 October 2017

Hundreds of Jewish religious leaders from across the United States have signed a petition calling on Israel to stop selling arms to Myanmar, which is said by the UN to be committing "ethnic cleansing" of the country's Rohingya Muslim minority.

The petition comes after it was reported last week that Israeli arms manufacturers continued to sell millions of dollars of military equipment while hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh.

The petition, organised by T'ruah - an organisation made up of rabbis and cantors, Jewish prayer leaders - calls on the Israeli government to halt arms sales to Myanmar and demands that the United States government stops conducting training sessions alongside the Myanmar military.

"As American citizens and as Jews, we refuse to accept any involvement by the US or Israel in training or arming a military that is carrying out a brutal ethnic cleansing against a minority population," the petition says.

The petition cites verses from the Talmud - a key Jewish religious text - that forbids the selling of weapons to dangerous parties.

As American citizens and as Jews, we refuse to accept any involvement by the US or Israel in training or arming a military that is carrying out a brutal ethnic cleansing against a minority population

- Petition statement

"The rabbis of the Talmud forbid selling 'weapons or accessories of weapons' to dangerous individuals or groups, as well as 'grind[ing] any weapon' or even selling a certain kind of iron predominantly used for weapons lest we find ourselves contributing to bloodshed. (Avodah Zarah 15b-16a)."

In a show of solidarity with the Rohingya, signatories drew historical parallels between the treatment of Jews and the Rohingya.

"Our commitment to 'Never Again' compels us to take action to protect today's victims of ethnic cleansing," the petition says.

The petition follows a call by 55 Israeli rabbis and community leaders urging the Israeli government to stop weapons sales to Myanmar and expresses support for activists who have taken the Israeli government to court in an effort to halt sales.

A top UN human rights official, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, has said that Myanmar's response to Rohingya attacks is "clearly disproportionate" and a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing".