Highlighting Israel’s role in the making of refugees

Some 1,500 Palestinians, mostly refugees from the 1967 war, are facing a new expulsion order from the neighbourhood of Silwan in Occupied East Jerusalem, making them refugees twice over.

It seems appropriate, on World Refugee Day tomorrow, to consider Israel’s contribution to what has become an unprecedented global crisis of mass displacement.

I am not just talking about the 85 per cent of the indigenous population of Palestine driven out of their homes in 1948, nor am I only talking about the approximately 6 million Palestinian refugees in the world today, nor either the tens of thousands of internally displaced families within Gaza rendered homeless by Israeli airstrikes.

No, indeed; Israel has been a refugee creation machine on a far grander scale than just the Palestinians.

Seven out of the top ten worst refugee crises in the world today are in Africa; South Sudan, Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and Burundi.

All of these crises were precipitated by violent conflicts fought largely with small arms and light weapons, in many cases supplied by the Jewish State – either officially or illicitly.

Africa has been awash in cheap Israeli weapons for decades and Israel has a long history of arming despotic regimes across the continent; from Apartheid South Africa in the 1970s and 80s, to the genocidal Rwandan government (as well as opposition rebels) in the 1990s.

Today, both formal military aid – including weapons, training, and intelligence support –as well as an endless flow of small arms from Israel fuel violent conflict across Africa.

The United Nations documented Israeli weaponry on both sides of the civil war in South Sudan; Israel has continued weapons exports to Burundi even after both the US and EU suspended sales due to heinous atrocities; Israeli arms and munitions have been shipped from Rwanda to the DRC by the ton; Israel is making a killing in Africa…literally.

One of the three non-African refugee crises that has also been empowered by Israel is the genocide of the Rohingya in Myanmar. Israel has not disclosed details of its connection to Myanmar’s military government, but public records show that Israel has sold Myanmar’s military patrol boats, guns, and surveillance equipment as well as trained its special forces – again, even despite other nations suspending military assistance.

Israel’s collusion and enabling of violence around the world is so well-documented that human rights lawyer Eitay Mack, who is pursuing criminal investigations of top Israeli weapons manufacturers and government officials, has said, “wherever war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed, you find Israel is present.”

As we mark World Refugee Day it is natural for our thoughts to bend toward the plight of the tens of millions of families – more than ever before – suffering forced displacement; but we also must consider the situations and circumstances, the catastrophes, they are fleeing.

With the exception of environmental disasters, most refugees are escaping violent conflicts, and those conflicts are all being enabled by a relentless supply of weapons, funding, and training, and more often than not, these are being provided by Israel.

Israel has consistently ranked among the top ten international exporters of heavy weaponry and light arms, and that is largely because they sell to rogue regimes and violent factions shunned by others; putting deadly weapons into the hands of the worst people committing the worst crimes and causing the worst refugee crisis the world has ever seen.

Founder, Centre for Human Rights Research & Advocacy (CENTHRA)

*Published in New Straits Times

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