[News] Israel advises Sri Lanka on slow-motion genocide
news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jul 30 18:31:10 EDT 2013
Israel advises Sri Lanka on slow-motion genocide
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
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
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
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
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
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
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).
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.
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>./
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