[News] Israel advises Sri Lanka on slow-motion genocide

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jul 30 18:31:10 EDT 2013

  Israel advises Sri Lanka on slow-motion genocide

Krisna Saravanamuttu 

30 July 2013

Towards the end of 2008, I joined thousands in Toronto to protest 
Israel's attack on Gaza 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/operation-cast-lead>. Like people 
all over the world, we called for an immediate end to the war. At York 
University <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/york-university>, where I 
was a student, we mobilized the campus to defend Palestinian rights.

A few months later, bombs were falling on my own people --- in the Vanni 
region of northern Sri Lanka. And once again, we hit Toronto's streets 
in protest.

I realized then that even though our homelands are oceans apart, 
Palestinians and Tamils have much in common.

Through the "war on terror," the Israeli and Sri Lankan armies have 
waged war on civilian populations.

The Rome-based Permanent Peoples' Tribunal has commissioned an 
independent report 
that finds the Sri Lankan state guilty of bombing hospitals, 
humanitarian operations and even government-declared "safe zones," in 
clear violation of international humanitarian law ("Preliminary report 
January 2010 [PDF]).

A United Nations report estimates that from January to May 2009, between 
40,000 and 75,000 persons were killed ("Report of the 
secretary-general's panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka 
<http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/Sri_Lanka/POE_Report_Full.pdf>," 31 
March 2011).

The Sri Lankan government's own statistical data reveal that almost 
147,000 persons remain unaccounted for: no one knows if they are held in 
prison, injured, or dead ("146,679 Vanni people missing within a year of 
war: Bishop of Mannaar 
<http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=33380>," TamilNet, 12 
January 2011).

    Major arms supplier

But there are more direct connections.

Israel has been a major arms supplier to Sri Lanka's government, as well 
as providing it with strategic military advice. With permission from the 
United States, Israel has sold Sri Lanka consignments of Kfir jets 
<http://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=152> and 
drones <http://www.sipri.org/yearbook/2009/files/SIPRIYB0907.pdf>.

Israel has also supplied the Dvora patrol boats to Sri Lanka, which have 
been used extensively against Tamils ("Sri Lanka learns to counter Sea 
Tigers' swarm tactics <http://www.defence.lk/news/Sri_Lanka_Navy.pdf>," 
/Jane's Navy International/, March 2009 [PDF]).

And Israel has also provided training to the Special Task Force 
<http://www.police.lk/index.php/special-task-force-/267>, a brutal 
commando unit in the Sri Lanka police.

The similarities don't end there. Both Palestinians and Tamils have been 
subjected to a process of settler-based colonialism.

In the 1980s, Israel offered advice to Sri Lanka as it built 
Sinhala-only armed settlements in the eastern province, which aimed to 
create buffer zones around Tamil-majority populations (the Sinhalese are 
the ethnic majority of Sri Lanka) ("Sinhala academic blames US-UK axis 
for genocide in Tamil homeland 
<http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=35097>," TamilNet, 15 
April 2012).

The strategy employed was the same as Israel's in the West Bank 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/west-bank>: to destroy the local 
population's claim to national existence and render invalid any 
political solution based on popular sovereignty.

Just like in Palestine, land seizures and settlement programs in Sri 
Lanka are fragmenting the Tamil people's national and social coherence 
throughout their historic homeland in the north and east of the island. 
As exiled journalist and human rights worker Nirmanusan Balasundaram 
wrote earlier this year, the effect is to undermine any possibility of 
creating a contiguous national homeland ("Sri Lanka: The intentions 
behind the land-grabbing process 
Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, 30 April 2013).

    Sham dialogue

Within the occupied West Bank, this process takes place against the 
backdrop of "dialogue," which more and more Palestinians see as a sham 
as Israeli settlements 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/israeli-settlements> spread across 
their land. After the 2009 war, the Sri Lankan government used the 
rhetoric of "reconstruction" and "redevelopment" to obscure its process 
of rapid colonization.

For Tamils, "post-war development" has become another form of 
counter-insurgency warfare, whereby Sinhala settlements, state-led 
militarization and the open gerrymandering of constituencies all 
threaten the Tamils' historic relationship to their homeland.

The Palestinian experience --- in particular, the Oslo accords 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/oslo-accords> signed by Israel and 
the Palestine Liberation Organization 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/plo> in 1993 --- has been 
instructive for Tamils.

An international agreement with India 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/india> foresees Sri Lanka holding 
elections this September for a Northern Provincial Council, supposedly 
another gesture of reconciliation. The US is backing the election, 
despite serious reservations within Tamil civil society and the diaspora.

The council, if elected, would provide Tamils with only the perception 
of self-determination --- similar to the experience of the Palestinian 
Authority <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/palestinian-authority> --- 
while the military occupation continues to dominate every aspect of 
civilian life. The council's powers would remain under the control of 
the Sinhalese-dominated government in Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital, and 
its governor would be a direct appointment of the Sri Lankan president 
(see "Much ado about nothing 
/Colombo Telegraph/, 21 April 2013).

Regardless of the façade of self-government, the crime of apartheid 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/apartheid> remains a fact of life 
for Tamils in Sri Lanka, as it does for Palestinians under Israeli rule.

Sri Lanka's treatment of the Tamils in the north and east of the island 
meets the definition of apartheid contained in the 1973 International 
Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid 

Apartheid involves the domination of one racial or ethnic group over 
another. The convention is not restricted to the particular 
manifestation of apartheid in South Africa or to majorities being 
oppressed by minorities. Instead, it condemns practices that resemble 
apartheid --- of which there is more than one version.

Without a doubt, there are critical differences between the oppression 
faced by Palestinians and the oppression faced by Tamils (and by black 
South Africans, for that matter). Nevertheless, both Israel and Sri 
Lanka are characterized by discrimination, repression and territorial 
fragmentation through stolen land.

The unitary Sri Lankan state structure constitutionally places all power 
of the state exclusively in the hands of the Sinhalese people, while 
denying Tamils equal access to education, their own language, their 
land, and self-determination.

    Common experience

In light of this common experience, the Palestinian and Tamil peoples 
are enduring a slow --- but relentless --- genocide. The massacres in 
Gaza and the Vanni were carried out to kill civilians, cause serious 
bodily and mental harm, and impose conditions of life that produce 
partial and gradual physical destruction --- all with little meaningful 
opposition from global capitals. Both can be considered cases of 
genocide, as it is defined by the United Nations 

In the case of Sri Lanka, as long as it uses the language of 
"reconciliation," it will continue to pursue the same strategy and enjoy 
praise from major powers.

But the realization of our peoples' aspirations does not depend on the 
whims of foreign governments. It rests with the Tamil people --- as the 
aspirations for a liberated Palestine rest with the Palestinians --- and 
the support of a mobilized and engaged international solidarity 
movement. By supporting each other's struggles, and by learning from 
each other's histories, we can get one step closer to a more just world.

For both Palestinians and Tamils, the attacks of 2008 and 2009 were part 
of a broader history of dispossession, occupation and genocide. Our 
people have a lot in common in the struggle for peace and justice. In 
fact, our oppressors appear to have lots in common too.

/Krisna Saravanamuttu is an activist based in Toronto, Canada. He is a 
member of the steering committee of the Canadian Peace Alliance, and is 
the spokesperson of the National Council of Canadian Tamils. Follow him 
on Twitter: @KrisnaS85 <https://twitter.com/KrisnaS85>./

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
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