it’s not just rhetoric

there was an interesting discussion on al jazeera’s “riz khan” show with anand naidoo this week on the genocide against the tamils in sri lanka. it featured devinda subasinghe, sri lanka’s former ambassador to the u.s. and mexico; anna neistat from human rights watch; and jan jananyagam from tamils against genocide. i’ve seen jananyagam quite a bit on al jazeera and generally think she’s an excellent speaker, though there was one major flaw in her argument. the stuff she pointed out on the destruction of culture, language, books as well as the massacre against the tamils is important. too, her response to the ambassador who asks her to “dial down the rhetoric” was key: “it’s not rhetoric when people are held in camps.” she details the situation of tamils in concentration camps, as does neistat, although as typical for human rights watch neistat thinks there are two sides which there can never been when you have those responsible for massacre and those massacred. but in the second part when jananyagam compares the situation to palestine she’s wrong: the conflict is different not because palestinians rightly refuse to acknowledge the right of a foreign people to colonize their land. it is different because the palestinian people’s land is colonized whereas in sri lanka neither the tamils nor the sinhalese are colonizers. in any case, it is worth watching this discussion.

but i would also recommend listening to nora barrows-friedman’s interview with norweigan dr. mads gilbert on the subject as he has lived and worked with the tamils in sri lanka as well as in gaza. his sense of the situation and its parallels are far more apt. there are other parallels too, for instance, the sri lankan government thinks it should investigate its own war crimes just like the zionist entity as catherine philip reports for the telegraph:

The European resolution that Sri Lanka is aiming to defeat has already drawn the ire of human rights groups for failing to push for an international war crimes inquiry. It calls on the Sri Lanka Government to conduct its own investigation into breaches of international law and allow unfettered access to camps where more than 200,000 displaced Tamil civilians are detained.

and there are not only parallels, but also deep ties between the state terrorism of the zionist entity and the sri lankan government as the pakistan daily reports:

In May 2000, just one day after India refused to give Sri Lanka any military assistance in its war against the Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka and Israel resumed diplomatic relations. Although the corporate media are focusing on Sri Lanka’s military assistance from China, little mention is being made of the nation’s military links with Israel.

After the establishment of diplomatic ties between Jerusalem and Colombo, Israeli military technicians arrived to maintain Sri Lanka’s Israeli-made Kfir fighter-bombers and Russian MiG-27 aircraft and provided Sri Lanka with Dvora fast naval attack craft. Israeli arms and ammunition also began flooding into Sri Lanka, with still no mention of the Israeli-Sri Lankan ties in the media.

Soon, Israeli military advisers and “consultants” were regular visitors to Colombo’s new Access Lanka Building, owned by relatives of Sri Lanka’s top military officers. Among Israel’s security exports to Sri Lanka was state of the art electronic and imagery surveillance equipment. Israeli Air Force pilots reportedly flew Sri Lankan attack aircraft against Tamil Tiger targets on the Jaffna peninsula. Israeli military personnel were also reported to have taken part in Sri Lankan military attacks on Tamil units.

Due to Israel’s military assistance to Sri Lanka, India reportedly began aiding the Tamils in the 1980s. It is also believed (and not that hard to believe either) that Israel’s Mossad recruited agents among Sri Lanka’s large contingent of foreign workers in the Persian Gulf Arab states. There were also reports that Israelis were also providing weapons and training to Tamil guerrillas in order to maintain a “market” for Israeli arms suppliers in the civil war-wracked island nation.

On March 2, 2007:

Cambodia discovered that the Mossad and Cambodian criminal syndicate allies continue to obtain bought-back Cambodian weapons from Cambodian government warehouses and are selling them to guerrilla groups throughout Asia, including Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers, anti-Laotian Hmongs, the small anti-communist Free Vietnam Movement, and Burmese tribal guerrilla groups. WMR photographed a number of Zim shipping containers portside along the Mekong River in Phnom Penh. From this and other port facilities, including the port of Sihanoukville, bought-back Cambodian weapons, some originally provided to the Khmer Rouge by Israeli tycoon Shaul Eisenberg and the Chinese, are making their way to insurgent groups around Asia, possibly including Iraqi guerrillas battling U.S. forces in Iraq.”

Tamil guerrillas have claimed to have destroyed an Israeli-made Sri Lankan fast naval attack craft,” which was deployed off the Lebanese coast during the 2006 Israeli attack on Lebanon, with a C-802 Iranian-made Noor missile.”

Although Sri Lanka suspended diplomatic ties with Israel in 1970 over the failure of the Israelis to withdraw from illegally occupied Palestinian territory, however, operating an Interests Section within the U.S. embassy in Colombo, Israeli-Sri Lankan ties began to grow closer in the mid to late 1980s. Israel provided Sri Lanka with military advisers and established a special commando unit for the Sri Lankan police.

In 1990, Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa ordered the Israeli Interests Section at the U.S. embassy to close and two Israeli diplomats in Colombo were ordered to leave. In 1990, Premadasa also ordered a government investigation of charges that Mossad was training both Sri Lankan and Tamil guerrilla forces.

On September 25, 1991, Reuters reported from Colombo:

“Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa, fighting against a campaign to have him impeached, yesterday accused the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad of plotting against him because he closed the Israeli interests section in the U.S. embassy. He spoke at the opening session of parliament.”

On May 1, 1993, Premadasa was assassinated in Colombo during May Day festivities by a suicide bomber said to be a Tamil guerrilla. Twenty-three other people were killed in the blast. On May 28, 1993, Abdul Hameed Mohammed Azwer, Sri Lankan minister of state for Muslim affairs, said in Jeddah, “Israel was enraged by when they were expelled from Sri Lanka by Premadasa and I suspect the Mossad was behind the dastardly murder of this respected leader.”

Premadasa’s assassination remains an Asian “cold case.”and On September 23, 1997, Attorney General Sarath Silva released 18 Tamil suspects in the assassination of the president, citing lack of evidence – leaving the Attorney General with an ‘unsolved case’.

During a March 2009 trip to Israel by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, talks were held with Israel’s leading arms suppliers on increased military aid by the Israelis to Sri Lanka.

Israel continues to supply Sri Lanka with arms and excessive military training even after the United States and Britain stop endowing military supplies to Sri Lanka over the government’s human rights violations.

there are differences, too, of course. for instance, the number of tamils massacred compared to the number of palestinians as gethin chamberlain writes in the guardian:

The UN today described the death toll in Sri Lanka as “unacceptably high”, as an unsubstantiated report suggested 20,000 people had been killed in the final days of fighting between government soldiers and Tamil Tiger rebels.

Precise figures for casualties have been impossible to confirm as daily reports from doctors working at the scene were regularly disputed by the Sri Lankan government. The UN has come under pressure over its statements on Sri Lanka, particularly with regard to casualty figures.

catherine philip also chronicles the struggle of families separated by the war in concentration camps. while palestinians in gaza are living in the world’s largest open air prison, within gaza they can move around, albeit bombs still fall, and people are still fired upon from the land and sea borders. but these new concentration camps created by the sri lankan government are trapping innocent tamil people inside because the sri lankan government thinks it is “protecting” tamil civilians:

The Tamil Tigers came for Rajibalan in February during a rare pause in the shelling. Every family in his village, Palamattalan, inside the besieged no-fire zone, was to give a son or daughter for the fight — taken by force, if necessary. There would be three more months of fighting until the war was over and 18-year-old Rajibalan and his family would wade together across the Nanthikadal lagoon in surrender.

When they did, they were met by government troops at the Omanthai checkpoint. “The soldiers announced that all the LTTE people would have to register separately from the civilians,” his sister, Sentura, recalled. “They said if they did so, they would be released, but if they did not, they would get 15 years in jail.”

That was more than a week ago. Sentura has not seen her brother since. He is just one of the 9,100 “terrorists” that the Sri Lankan Government is holding in special detention centres separate from the 270,000 sent to civilian camps. Yesterday Sentura wept as she recounted her struggle to find out where her little brother had gone. “Those who went on their own and those who were forced by the Tigers are treated just the same,” she cried. “What will happen to my brother now?”

Hundreds of Tamil civilians pressed up against barbed-wire fences at the 1,400-acre (570-hectare) Manik Farm camp yesterday, clamouring to speak to the crowds outside desperately searching for missing relatives. Some spoke of children lost in the chaos of the flight, others of brothers, like Rajibalan, taken away by the army. A Roman Catholic nun who came looking for her sister’s family when she received a note that they were in the camp left despondent after four hours of searching in the sticky heat.

The task of tracking down lost relatives is complicated by the fact that inmates are forbidden to leave the camp just as foreign aid vehicles are forbidden to enter — because of the risk, the Government says, that fighters inside may escape. When the UN pressed for unfettered access, Sri Lanka said that it would be given as soon as it had finished screening the camps for remaining fighters — in three to four weeks.

However, on a rare military-led visit to the camp yesterday, officials admitted that no such screening was taking place, raising questions over the purpose of the continued detentions. “No formal screening at the camps, no,” Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, the military spokesman, said.

The only screening for those fleeing the conflict zone has already taken place, at the checkpoints where young men and women were separated from their families. The military calls the process “voluntary” and denies using the threat of prison sentences to encourage confessions.

The Sri Lankan Government originally expressed its intention to keep civilians in the camps for up to a year but promised, under Indian pressure, to resettle 80 per cent within six months. Statements made by military officials at the camp yesterday suggest that the Government is in no hurry to allow the civilians to walk free.


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