onsdag 3. september 2014



I confess my article on your book was really as much about Sri Lanka and the Tamils as about Israel and the Palestinians. In case you are not aware of the former, please allow me to summarise. Ignorant of the widespread and deep sentiment that many Sinhalese harboured against them (unarticulated under British imperialism), Tamils quite contentedly saw themselves as “Ceylonese”. (Ceylon was the former name of Sri Lanka.) Similarly, many Jews saw too late the depth of feeling against them in Nazi Germany. Independence was granted in 1948 and, with it, came unpleasant reality. Independence ushered in not democracy but majoritarianism. Discrimination in law and in practise followed. Peaceful protest was repeatedly met by State and state-abetted mob violence culminating in the horrific pogrom of 1983. In desperation, Tamils resorted to armed struggle. Unfortunately, the leader of the Tamil Tigers was given to violence (often extreme and gratuitous); was short-sighted and foolish. Unaware both of ‘the bigger picture’ and of the long-term consequences of his actions, he made a series of misjudgement and miscalculation. Some Tamils, even now are emotionally unwilling or mentally unable to face these truths. But the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, their total elimination from the political equation, has left the Tamils defenceless. They are (at present) a prostrated people. Though there is not the slightest threat from the Tamils, there is a huge, oppressive (Sinhalese) military presence. Similarity with Zionism: As with religious Zionists, so there is the belief among Sinhalese Buddhists that the Buddha visited the Island three times (there is no record of him have ever wandered out of the Gangetic Plain) and decreed that Sri Lanka would become the place where his doctrine would be preserved in its purest form. This myth becomes justification for the subordination and exclusion of others. As with many Israelis, the Sinhalese believe they are a divinely chosen people, carrying out the Buddha’s sacred mandate. Belief in ‘racial’ purity leads to impure action. Similarity: As with Israeli policy, there’s state-sponsored colonisation of what were for centuries “traditional Tamil homelands”. Similarity: Like the Palestinians, those Tamils who can do so, flee “the Paradise Isle”. (Often, they do it in boats organised by people with government influence. (The misery of some is a lucrative business-opportunity for others. There’s no dearth of human vultures.) Similarity: Like in Israel where, according to you, official signs are in Hebrew and in a foreign language (English), official signs in Sri Lanka are in Sinhala and English but not in Tamil – not even in Tamil areas. (It is now forbidden to sing the national anthem in Tamil.) Dissimilar: unlike Israel vis-à-vis the Palestinians, in Sri Lanka there’s the systematic rape of Tamil women. (A traditional, conservative folk remain silent, and cope as best as they can.) Dissimilar: Unlike in Israel (but as in Egypt), the Sri Lankan army is permitted, encouraged, to do business. This (a) buys military support for the government and (b) helps to off-set low pay. In the occupied Tamil areas, “business” also takes the form of selling drugs to the young – the hope of the future - turning them into addicts. The international community (including neighbouring India) make ethical pronouncements and noises but there is no follow-through. (1) The behaviour of the Tigers has alienated world opinion. (India can neither forget nor forgive the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.) (2) Politics is self-interest: there’s something to be gained from a government in power; nothing to be won from a small, powerless, minority. (3) There’s no shortage of injustice, and the world is distracted. Like “compassion fatigue”, there is “concern fatigue” – concern for other peoples and their plight. After all, Sri Lankan Tamils are a small minority (steadily growing smaller) in a rather insignificant country. written by CSP

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