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News > World

Friends in Ethnic Cleansing: Myanmar and Israel Sign Education Deal to Rewrite History

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes part in a memorial ceremony for the sinking of the Altalena ship, in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 30, 2018.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes part in a memorial ceremony for the sinking of the Altalena ship, in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 30, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 May 2018

Both countries signed a cooperation agreement to “mutually verify school textbooks, particularly concerning the passages referring to the history of the other state."

Controlling how history is taught also gives you control over how people think about their past and present, and the Israeli and Myanmar governments are well aware of that.


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The governments of both governments signed an education cooperation agreement Monday allowing them to rewrite their own history in each other's textbooks, contributing to a more benevolent image of them and their responsibility in ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians by Israel and against the Rohingya muslims in Myanmar. 

According to the agreement, of which the Israeli newspaper Haaretz got a copy, the countries will “cooperate to develop programs for the teaching of the Holocaust and its lessons of the negative consequences of intolerance, racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia as a part of the school curriculum in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.”

“An education agreement with Myanmar. Cooperation continues with our friends all over the world.”

However, both countries fail to remember and acknowledge their own violent, intolerant, racist, and xenophobic acts against native populations in their countries or in territories they control.

The agreement will also promote academic cooperation, including conferences, training courses and even the development of Israeli and Jewish studies programs in Myanmar and Myanmar studies in Israel, including language programs.

The countries will be able to “mutually verify school textbooks, particularly concerning the passages referring to the history of the other state and, where needed, introduce corrections to these textbooks,” a move that will basically allow them to write their own nationalist narratives in each others' textbooks and ignore that fact that Israel and Myanmar have been respectively ethnic cleansing their territories from the Palestinian and Rohingya peoples.

A Rohingya refugee stands next to a pond in the early morning at the Balukhali refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh December 26, 2017. Photo | Reuters.

The Rohingya, a Muslim minority in the predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, have been victims of a systematic ethnic cleansing program by the government for years, but the process intensified in 2017 when the military carried out mass executions and rape, forcing about 700,000 of them to flee to Bangladesh and other neighboring countries.

The United Nations has said Myanmar's campaign against the Rohingya Muslim population “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

"Of course Israel sees Myanmar as a friend. Both states share  the same exclusionist world view. Both states have engaged in mass state crime criminality against those they have defined as non-citizens. Both states operate systems of apartheid, structural discrimination and unfettered state brutality. It is entirely predictable that they now engage in a shared educational programme of state crime denial," Penny Green, professor of law and globalization at Queen Mary University of London, told Middle East Eye.

But cooperation between Israel and Myanmar is not only ideological. More than 100 tanks, as well as boats and light weapons have been sold to the Myanmar government by Israeli arms companies, according to investigations by several human rights groups, despite the United States and the European Union imposing an arms embargo against Myanmar.


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One company, TAR Ideal Concepts, has also trained Myanmar special forces in northern Rakhine state, where much of the violence is taking place.

Israel has a long history of contributing to other countries' own ethnic cleansing.

In 1982, the General Efrain Rios Montt came to power after a military coup, becoming president of Guatemala between 1982 and 1983. During an interview with ABC News, Rios Montt said the coup had easily succeeded because many of this soldiers “were trained by Israelis.”

The Israeli military then helped Guatemalan regimes that carried out a genocide against the Mayan population. Between 1954 and 1996, the Guatemalan juntas killed more than 200,000 people, 83 percent of which were Indigenous Mayans. The period known as the “Mayan Genocide,” which lasted from 1981 to 1983, coincides with the peak of Israel-Guatemala military cooperation.

It comes as no surprise that many voices in Guatemalan politics, especially from the right-wing, deny there had been any ethnic cleansing in the country.

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