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American Jewish organizations condemn military rule in Burma, call for U.S. action


Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association joined with other members of the Jewish Rohingya Justice Network in the following statement: 

The Jewish Rohingya Justice Network (JRJN) condemns the military’s coup in Burma (Myanmar), its brutal crackdown on peaceful protests, and the unjust and arbitrary detention and arrest of democratic leaders, activists, and protestors. The JRJN stands in solidarity with the Burmese people as they fight for their safety and civil and political rights.

The Burmese military seized power on February 1, 2021, through a coup d’etat, choosing to flout the outcome of democratic elections in November 2020. In the wake of the coup, the military has: installed a new undemocratic government; arbitrarily detained senior civilian government officials, journalists, human rights defenders, and others; restricted access to the internet and social media; and used excessive force against peaceful protesters, resulting in multiple deaths. We are alarmed at the potential for further violence by the military against peaceful protesters.

The same military that led the coup also orchestrated a genocide. Their leaders conducted state-sanctioned violence against the Rohingya people, an ethnic and religious minority in western Burma, for decades. This violence escalated in August 2017, as the military razed Rohingya villages and committed unspeakable crimes resulting in hundreds of thousands fleeing for their lives into Bangladesh, where they live in limbo to this day. The recent coup makes the likelihood of voluntary return to Burma an even more distant possibility than before.

We are deeply concerned about the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people who remain in Burma—including the nearly 200,000 people who are internally displaced— as well as members of other ethnic minorities who have also faced severe restrictions, persecution, and violence at the hands of the Burmese military.

As a network of Jewish organizations, we know the horrors and indignities of ongoing genocide, and the danger of the international community remaining silent. The atrocities that have been—and continue to be—perpetrated against the Rohingya people constitute genocide. We call on the United States Government to designate it as such, while instituting additional targeted sanctions and taking other concrete actions aimed at those responsible for these atrocities, and work with international justice mechanisms to bring those responsible to justice.

As the coup continues, the JRJN is aware that the same structures that led to this coup are the same ones that can lead to a genocide. And while the genocide of the Rohingya people in Burma represents one of the most terrifying actions of the Burmese government and military, we know that many ethnic minorities in Burma are also persecuted and denied their basic rights by the same forces. Likewise, the ongoing crackdowns on protesters, journalists, and members of the burgeoning civil disobedience movement throughout the country threatens all people in Burma, regardless of ethnicity or faith. We stand firmly in solidarity with the many people of all backgrounds who continue to resist and fight for their human rights and dignity. They are not silent in the face of these injustices. Nor are we.

Throughout Jewish history, we have known what it is like to face genocide, denial of rights, and exclusion from society. We understand deeply the fight for a pluralistic and democratic society, which seems further out of reach today in Burma. We also understand all too well the cost of silence. The international community must not remain silent.

That’s why the JRJN calls on the international community to seek the following in Burma:

  • The democratically-elected parliament should be seated as planned. Those elected in the November 2020 elections to serve in parliament must be allowed to fully resume their duties without impediment.
  • There must be an immediate and unconditional release of all those detained unlawfully by the military, including civilian leaders, journalists, human rights defenders, and others arbitrarily detained as a result of the coup.
  • All forms of communications, including internet connection, must be fully restored and not limited in any way. Communication access must remain fully operational to ensure people have the information they need to stay safe.
  • The military must allow for full freedom of expression, including the right to protest, press freedom, and freedom of movement. All attacks on protestors must cease immediately.
  • The military must allow all those providing aid and services inside the country to do so with no limitations, and the international community must pressure the Burmese military to make this a reality.

As organizations representing every major denomination of the American Jewish community, the JRJN asks the Biden Administration to respond in a sustained manner by taking the following actions:

  • Reinstate previously waived sanctions and impose further targeted sanctions aimed at Burmese military leaders, military-owned businesses, key partners of the Burmese military, and others connected with the coup and past abuses, including the genocide against the Rohingya. Sanctions should be targeted so as not to harm the Burmese people and their livelihoods.
  • Encourage U.S. partners and allies, including the E.U., to enact similarly targeted sanctions regimes.
  • Engage with allies and partners to spur greater coordinated action at multilateral institutions, including the United Nations, to condemn the coup, pursue accountability for human rights violations—in particular for the international accountability initiatives currently in process as a result of the genocide against the Rohingya people—and pursue sanctions against Burmese military leaders, military-owned businesses, key partners of the Burmese military, and others connected with the coup and past abuses.
  • Do not recognize the military as the legitimate government and condition any resumption of U.S. economic and security relations on the full restoration of the civilian-controlled parliament and release of all those who were unlawfully detained.
  • Ensure that the U.S. continues to provide sufficient humanitarian aid to the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh and in the region, and ensure that the United States begins to resettle robust numbers of Rohingya refugees and other persecuted populations in need of resettlement to a third country.

American Jews stand with the people of Burma as they pursue genuine democracy. We stand with the Rohingya people, whose pathways to justice and repatriation continue to be blocked by the Burmese military. We stand with all ethnic minorities who are being denied their right to live with dignity in their homeland.


The Jewish Rohingya Justice Network

Jewish Rohingya Justice Network Members signing this letter include:

  • American Jewish Committee
  • Association of Rabbis and Cantors
  • The Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island
  • Cantors Assembly
  • Central Conference of American Rabbis
  • HIAS
  • Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council
  • Jewish Community Relations Council of New York
  • Jewish Council for Public Affairs
  • Jewish Labor Committee
  • Jewish World Watch
  • Mitzvah Matzos
  • Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education
  • The Orthodox Union
  • Rabbinical Assembly
  • Reconstructing Judaism
  • Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
  • Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
  • Torat Chayim
  • T’ruah
  • The Union for Reform Judaism

Jewish Rohingya Justice Network Allies include:

  • Ameinu
  • Foundation for Ethnic Understanding
  • Hebrew College
  • The Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee
  • The New York Board of Rabbis
  • Never Again Coalition
  • The Shalom Center
  • Uri L’Tzedek

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