Human rights groups have filed a complaint with the Israeli High Court of Justice demanding that the government stop selling automatic weapons to Ukrainian neo-Nazi militia.
More than 40 human rights activists signed the petition arguing that Israel is selling military-style Tavor and Negev automatic weapons to the Ukrainian government, knowing that some of these arms end up in the hands of right-wing, neo-Nazi Azov militia.
Azov, now 3,000 members strong, was formed was formed in 2014 after the Russian invasion of Crimea. Since 2015 it has been one of the government’s regular security forces but manages to maintain itself as a separate paramilitary of sorts. Highly troubling is that Azov members openly use the Hitler salute and don swastikas and SS insignias.
While the Israeli government won’t disclose its arms sales, the court claim, lead by Jerusalem-based human rights attorney Itay Mack sites abundant evidence that Ukraine is purchasing these weapons.
Mack says that Azov militia and Ukrainian soldiers are regularly armed with Israeli-made Tavor rifles, reports Haaretz. The Azov website also shows its members using Tavor rifles. Mack notes that the Ukrainian militia is being trained by Israeli Defense Forces.
In addition, Ukraine’s air force chief also met with an Israeli defense company in 2016 to discuss the upgrading of Ukrainian warplane communication systems. Adding to the evidence of bilateral arms deals, the Ukrainian company ‘Fort’ was approved to produce Israeli Tavor, Negev, and Galil rifles.
The petitioners contend that Israel should not be selling its weapons and arms licenses to avowed neo-Nazis.
The formation of Azov and its possession of Israeli weaponry coincides with an upsurge in outward aggressions toward Jews and minorities in Ukraine.
Neo-Nazi groups have attacked Jews and Jewish memorial sites across the country in recent years. Journalists, Roma people, and LGBTQI have also been attacked by nationalist groups in Ukraine. In May right-wing groups marched through Odessa, claiming that the city belongs to Ukrainians, not Jews, who should be eliminated from the city.
Not only are social groups aligning with neo-Nazi nationalist ideologies, but so are those within the government.
An Azov founder, Andriy Biletsky is now an elected member of Ukraine’s parliament. He once headed the now-defunct neo-Nazi group, Patriot of Ukraine whose members defected to Azov.
"Our nation’s historic mission at this critical juncture is to lead the final march of the white race towards its survival," Biletsky has said. "This is a march against sub-humans who are led by the Semitic race."
As well, Ukraine’s internal affairs minister, which oversees the Azov militia, is Arsen Avakov, a senior Azov member and potential candidate for prime minister. He appointed a militia member as head of Kiev’s police department.
One Ukrainian legislator said last year, "there is non-Ukrainian blood thirst within the government, and this must be addressed."
Ukraine’s administration is trying to deny the country’s role in the Holocaust, just as Poland is outlawing historical references to the country’s involvement of the extermination of Jews during WWII.
Previous appeals to the Israeli ministry of defense for transparency in its arms deals went unanswered.