The CCAR gratefully acknowledges resolutions on the Rohingya crisis previously written and adopted by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. Those resolutions were utilized with permission in crafting this resolution.
September 30, 2021
Since August 2017, the Myanmar military has engaged in a brutal genocide against the Rohingya people of Myanmar, also known as Burma. Soldiers have razed entire Rohingya villages; indiscriminately massacred thousands of Rohingya men, women, and children; and forced over 700,000 others to flee their homes and make the perilous journey to Bangladesh’s refugee camps—which already housed many thousands of Rohingya from earlier periods of violence targeting them. Myanmar government officials have shielded military officials from accountability by denying or downplaying these atrocities, and by accusing the Rohingya of burning their own homes. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has called the attacks “a textbook case of ethnic cleansing.”[i]
In 2017, a coalition of Jewish organizations came together to create the Jewish Rohingya Justice Network,[ii] a consortium of Jewish nonprofits advocating for the rights of the Rohingya people. Despite repeated calls for a firm response, the United States, Canada, and the international community have taken insufficient measures to address these atrocities.
The Rohingya people, an ethnic minority group from the Rakhine State of Myanmar, have a unique language and culture, and while they live in a predominantly Buddhist country, the majority of Rohingya people are Muslim. Despite having a presence in Burma for centuries, they are often reviled as outsiders, unjustly accused of being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. In 1982, the Myanmar government stripped Rohingya residents of their citizenship, and through subsequent waves of violence destroyed many of their communities and severely restricted their rights, including the right to work, travel, marry, and access health services. Those forced to flee to Bangladesh lack food, proper shelter, and medical care in the camps. According to UNICEF, the Kutupalong-Balukhali refugee settlements in Bangladesh—consisting of thirty-five smaller camps, which together now comprise the largest refugee camp in the world—are home to approximately 877,000 people. Many refugees are malnourished and in need of psychosocial support for their trauma, including the sixty percent of the refugee population who are women and girls, many of whom were victims of sexual violence.
The camps currently offer only one hospital facility per 130,000 people. COVID has greatly aggravated the plight of the refugees and further overwhelmed the medical facilities there. On top of all of this, a massive fire, which raced through four of the thirty-five camps of Kutupalong-Balukhali in the spring of 2021 left some 45,000 people homeless and scores more children separated from their parents. In addition, approximately 150,000 Rohingya are still living in terrible conditions, mostly in primitive refugee camps, in Rakhine province.
As Jews, we have so often over the centuries been the victims of ethnic cleansing, banishment, and exile, and we continue to live with the legacy of the Holocaust. We therefore know all too well the brutal consequences of global indifference, when people and nations turn their backs on those persecuted for their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or other distinction, degrading the value of human life.
Whereas, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, among others, has found compelling evidence that the Myanmar military committed genocide against Rohingya people—the deliberate and intentional destruction of their community based on their ethnicity and religion;[iii] and
Whereas, it is incumbent upon the Jewish community to raise awareness about and advocate against the slaughter, persecution, and displacement of the Rohingya people at the hands of the Myanmar military; and
Whereas, the Jewish community, for whom the phrase “Never Again” is a rallying cry against genocide and other atrocities, cannot remain silent;
Therefore, the Central Conference of American Rabbis:
- Calls upon the governments and legislatures of the United States, Canada, Israel, and every nation of the world, as well as the United Nations, to take crucial steps in stopping the violence by condemning the genocidal ethnic cleansing, imposing strong economic sanctions on Myanmar, and providing humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya refugee communities.
- Urges these governments and the international community to:
- Continue to impose targeted sanctions on Myanmar military officials and others involved in the ongoing atrocities;
- Expand the provision of humanitarian aid to Rohingya refugees to a level necessary for their subsistence and well-being;
- Explore international justice mechanisms, such as the International Criminal Court, to adjudicate the crimes committed by the Myanmar military against civilians, including the Rohingya people; and
- Pressure the Myanmar government to ensure the safety and well-being of the Rohingya remaining in Myanmar and to allow international observers to monitor, and relief groups to coordinate, with the government in serving the Rohingya.
- Commends the U.S. and Canada for their arms embargo of Myanmar and calls on all nations to immediately cease and prohibit arms sales to the Myanmar military.
- Calls on international bodies to ensure that any repatriation planning process includes Rohingya decision-makers and restores full and equal citizenship to the Rohingya people with unfettered human rights and safety guarantees;
- Implores CCAR members and the communities we serve to educate themselves about the urgent plight of the Rohingya people, to advocate on their behalf, and to build interfaith, intercommunity coalitions to advocate for the rights and well-being of the Rohingya people.
[i] Zachary Perdek, “The Rohingya and International Laws of Ethnic Cleansing,” Syracuse Journal of International Law and Commerce, September 24, 2017, The Rohingya and International Laws of Ethnic Cleansing – Syracuse Journal of International Law and Commerce.
[ii] Members include American Jewish World Service, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, American Jewish Committee, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Union for Reform Judaism, CCAR, HIAS, Anti-Defamation League, Jewish World Watch, JACOB, T’ruah, Reconstructing Judaism, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Rabbinical Assembly. Allies: Hebrew College, The New York Board of Rabbis, Uri L’Tzedek, Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, and The Shalom Center.
[iii] The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has concluded that there is compelling evidence based on its own on-the-ground research, which resulted in a joint 2017 report with Fortify Rights, as well as recent State Department and United Nations reports. American Jewish World Service has also determined that the atrocities constitute genocide.