Some thoughts on Israelis in Gaza
Posted on May 15th, 2021

H. L. D. Mahindapala 

When the first Israeli airstrike hit Gaza on Monday nine children and 13 others were killed, according to Washington Post. (Monday 10, May, 2021). By Saturday the  death toll had risen to over hundred and 33 of them were children. Simultaneously, Taliban bombs exploding in Kabul on Tuesday killed 85 Muslim school girls, according to CNN. What’s the difference? How can we condemn the Israelis when the Muslims are committing the same crime of killing Muslims?  Can Muslim violence descend to a more inhuman level than in Kabul? In Africa? In Sri Lanka?

How can we condemn the Israelis when our  own Tamils committed the biggest crime  of their history : they killed more Tamils than all the others put together? How can we condemn  the Israelis when the Sinhala terrorists in the fascist JVP showed  no mercy in killing the Sinhalese? One has to expect beastly behaviour from the enemies but not from your own kind. In moral metrics, the crime of Muslims killing Muslim children is greater than the Israelis killing  the children of their inveterate enemies. This principle applies to Tamils and Sinhalese as well.

This is written not to exculpate the Israelis of  their heinous  crime of deliberately killing civilians to punish Hamas sending rockets to Jerusalem. Those who watched the Israeli airstrikes bringing down  civilian high-rise buildings where civilians, including children, live will agree that Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister  of Israel,  has been and continues to be a cold-blooded killer. The Jews who were the victims of ethnic hatred throughout Christendom – just not under the Nazis — have no moral right to engage in war  crimes, crimes against humanity and, specifically, crimes against another ethnic community. They were victims who suffered continuously in Christian Europe because  the  Christians hated the Jews as Christ-killers.

The irony is in the way the Jews have turned their wrath against the Muslims who are not guilty of such crimes against  the Jews and with whom  they have to live in the Middle East, particularly in Palestine,  whether  they like it or not. Ethnic crises invariably remind us of the central  issue that is plaguing global politics: how can communities competing  for territory, power, dominance, equality, dignity, justice, liberty etc., co-exist peacefully?  Invariably it boils down to a minority vs majority issue. Is there a recipe  to resolve the tensions and conflicts between these two competitors? Each zone of conflict comes with causes and personalities specific to its time and place. History repeats itself in each case but with variations.

As for Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of a minority that became a majority, is going down the same path of the Nazi majority that oppressed and persecuted his minority when they were living in the holocaustic past. Of course, he is displaying not his power but the power  of his ally, America. American morality stinks to high heaven when it says that Israel has right  to defend itself. Does that right include killing children and non-combatant housewives indiscriminately? Also, why didn’t America apply the same principle to Sri Lanka? Why did Ambassador Robert Blake ask the Rajapakse regime to stop the war or face charges  of war crimes? Will the American ambassador in Israel apply the same bullying tactics to restrain Netanyahu? Besides, why is it vindictively pursuing a policy of punishing Sri Lanka for restoring  peace and ending a brutal war saving thousands of lives? Why hasn’t the foreign minister of France and UK jointly rushed to Tel Aviv to stop the war like the way they did when the Sri Lankan  forces were at the gates of the Tamil Tigers? Why is Israel, condemned umpteen times  by the UN and yet face no serious  consequences? Why is Israel given favoured treatment and why is Sri Lanka given the middle finger by the US? Is American foreign policy driven by morality or by stupid — not enlightened — self-interest?

In all this what is most unbearable and heart-rending is the plight of the children. Why must children pay for the sins of the adults? Why must children be abducted from schools  in Africa by Muslim terrorists? Why did the Tamil terrorists too go to the extreme of forcibly abducting Tamil children and throwing them as fodder into the frontlines of their futile war? Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, that vexatious  litigant, never took  the Tamil leadership to court  holding  them accountable for committing  war crime and crimes against  humanity. The paper Tigers in the Tamil diaspora are passing resolutions of genocide in Ontario, accusing the GOSL, when the killer of the greatest number of Tamils was the leader they backed all the way. They financed the biggest massacre of Tamils by Tamils.

The genocide of Tamils is unacceptable. But that was committed by the Tamil Pol Pots with the consent of Tamil diasporans who financed it from the beginning to Nandikadal. Boosted by the backing of the Diaspora, Tamil Pol Pots ran berserk with blind hatred of the other”. They began by decimating the established, conservative Tamil leadership and unable to face the horror of it the Tamil diaspora the Tamil diasporans have accused the Sinhala state” of killing Neelan Tiruchelvam and even Appapillai Amirthalingam. They also financed the massacres  of Muslims and Sinhalese. They knew that S. C. Chandrahasan, the son of S. J. V. Chelvanayakam had said that Prabhakaran had killed more Tamils than all the others put  together. V. Ananadasangaree, the head of the TULF,  too had confirmed that Prabhakaran  had killed more  Tamils than anyone else. And now that their guilt  has caught up with them, after losing the war they financed,  they are making a desperate bid to wash their guilt away by passing  the buck to the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL.)

Muslims targeting their co-religionists in divided sects, or perceived enemies like the Christian worshippers on Easter Sunday 2019 in Sri Lanka, too are driven by blind hatred which knows no limits. In their minds killing is  pathway to heaven and virgins therein, waiting  to open their legs. Killing is pursued as a signature sign of their prowess to dictate terms to their enemies. It is a mindless strategy that has taken them nowhere, so far. For instance, where has it taken them in Sri Lanka except into the bad books of the nation? They have successfully degraded the respected the word Muslim” into  the equivalent of Tamil Tigers – a dirty word.

Killing because they have money to buy the wherewithal and mobilise fanatics willing to kill or die in  the process of killing is not a tactic that will deliver them their caliphates or glorify Islam. Glorification of Islam with territorial conquests is a thing  of the  past. Israel too is  employing this tactic. The latest explosion in Palestine  was caused by the far-right Jewish activists moving to capture Sheik Jarrah, the territory occupied by the Muslims in Jerusalem. They were out to evict the  Arabs forcibly from East Jerusalem in  the hope of making the whole of Jerusalem their capital, freed from Arabs. It is pure ethnic cleansing. It is unacceptable. It  is unpardonable. They became the Wandering Jews because they had no home, or territory to call their own. Now that they have some territory, they are doing to the Arabs what the Christians did to them. How fair and just is that?

Once I spent one night in the kibbutz of Kiryat Shmona. In the morning my Jewish  escort told me, pointing. quite proudly, to the open fields without any people, that the Jews opened fire on the fellaheen who were farming  in the  neighbourhood and drove them away. The Jews then took over their  lands. Well, that is similar to the expulsions of the Muslims from Jaffna by the LTTE in 1990. The Muslims did not go to Maldives, or Saudi Arabia. They came to live with the Sinhalese in the south – and they still do.

This is not an essay to explore the whole gamut of the ethics of violence. Dayan Jayatillleka has made a daring attempt to do so in his book Fidel’s Ethic of Violence, exploring, as he says, the moral dimensions of the political thoughts of Castro. That, of course, needs a separate  chapter on another day. But this theme of  violence being played out in Palestine right now opens the opportunity to explore some aspects  of the violence that had rocked Sri  Lanka in the post-independent period and even before because it is a theme exploited by the intellectuals to add fuel to fire with their tendentious theories and partisan politics. It has been a very controversial issue  in which some schools of thought have identified only one  party  — namely, the Sinhala-Buddhists — and flayed them as  the sole provocateur, promoter, perpetrator and pursuer of violence. The general argument of these schools goes like this: Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country  and why  is there so much violence  in  it? It is this question  that  launched the  controversial book from Harvard University written by Prof. S. J. Tambiah, Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics and Violence in Sri Lanka.

Coming with the imprimatur of authoritative Harvard it had a  clout which other public intellectuals did not. It was to be the definite reference point for other scholars  and they did fall for the anti-Sinhala-Buddhist line spelt out by Tambiah. By the time he wrote his text demonising Sinhala-Buddhist history and culture, there was nothing original in his selected theme. The original authorship of demonising Sinhala-Buddhist culture goes to G. G. Ponnambalam who caused  the  first ethnic conflagration in 1939 with his crude denunciation of Sinhala-Buddhist culture. All Tamil politics and ideologies operated within the framework laid down by him. No Tamil ideology operated  outside his  triad of (1) demonising Sinhala-Buddhist culture (2) demanding disproportionate territory and power and (3) crying their heads out, claiming to be victims of majoritarianism. Tambiah too adhered to  this pattern. In other words, he fell in line with the anti-Sinhala-Buddhist politics of the NGOs, left-wing academics, and the applauding Tamil claque. He was aided and abetted by Lal Jayawardana and his  wife Kumari Jayawardana, the inveterate anti-Sinhala-Buddhist academic. Lal Jayawardana, who was  then the head of the World Institute   for Development Economic Research (WIDER) of the United Nations University rewarded Tambiah  handsomely, with funds from WIDER.

Tambiah did a cheap job which any sophomore  could have done. Putting together anti-Sinhala-Buddhist data was not a difficult task considering the fact that most of the research  was done  for him partly by Kumari Jayawardana and her fellow-travellers like H. L. Seneviratne and C. R. de Silva. They saw a Sinhala-Buddhist under every bed waiting to spoil their political honeymoons. Everything went wrong, everything that failed was blamed on Sinhala-Buddhism. Here’s what a fairly competent historian like Nira Wickramasinghe wrote about the failure of the Left movement: The trajectory of the left, as movement and as idea, can also  be  read as  the gradual decline in  ideological terms of a democratic and secular project unable  to sustain the assault  of the  hegemonic forces  of Sinhala Buddhist exclusivism.”  — Pathways of the Left in Sri Lanka, Marshall Fernando and B. Skandakumar, Editors.

This ignores the basic fact that the Left died of self-inflicted  wounds. The splits that divided the  Left into micro-mini fragments on fake theoretical  differences, which, in reality, were masks to cover the  self-serving  power struggles of the aspiring leaders, were one of the primary bases that led to the collapse of the Left.  The working class too were led astray with strikes of rival unions that were politically oriented more than  feeding  the economic needs of the  workers.     Marxist leaders  were hoping to climb  into power on the back  of the workers. Their revolution was confined to paralyse elected  governments with strikes. In the end the Marxists  joined the very capitalist class they condemned. They misled the workers from the beginning. The promised revolution never came and when  the perverted version  of the revolution came through the  fascist JVP the Marxist fathers of the Revolution condemned it as a CIA plot. When the revolution came they were hanging on to seats in  the SLFP cabinet and  they were naturally inclined  to protect their ministerial position than the revolution. The people disillusioned  with their alliance with the capitalist class threw them out lock, stock and barrel. But our Left-wing intellectuals, wearing tinted glasses, blame it on the hegemony of Sinhala Buddhism”.

Demeaning and demonising the majority has been the standard stock in trade of our public intellectuals. It was not so all the time. There was a time in the pre-Vadukoddai Resolution period when some leading Tamil theoreticians recognised the value, power and glory of Sinhala-Buddhism. Prof. A. J. Wilson, for instance, commended Sinhala-Buddhism as the  force that sustained democracy. It was Calvin Woodward, an American scholar, in his review of Wilson’s book, Politics in Sri Lanka, 1947 – 1973, states: The uniqueness of Sri Lanka, Wilson points out, is that it (Sri Lanka) has faced challenges without veering from the democratic path. Certainly then, the key  to the future lies in  an understanding of the past. How and why, in other words, has the democratic experiment been able to work so well in Sri Lanka? The author investigates this and concludes that the  political stability so far maintained in Sri Lanka is due mainly two factors, one of indigenous origin and the other the result of Western implantation. Primary is the Buddhist ethos and the doctrine of tolerance. This, according to Wilson, has acted to dissuade the majority community from unduly imposing itself on the minorities and encouraged it to respect the fundamental rights and distinctions of others in the plural society.” (p. 72 – The Ceylon Journal of Historical and  Social Studies – Vol III, July-December, 1973, No.1.)

But he too flipped. He too later joined the mob and blamed Sinhala-Buddhism as a force inimical to minorities, peace and progress. Another one who somersaulted was Prof. K. Indrapala, the  first  professor of  history in Jaffna University. He obtained his Ph. D by writing a thesis on history in which he acknowledged that  the Jaffna settlers arrived  in 12 – 13th centuries from S. India. This was not acceptable to the Tamils who  claimed in the  Vadukoddai Resolution – the  most authoritative political manifesto of the Tamils – that  they were there  from  the dawn of time. He was virtually chased out of the Jaffna University. He later attempted to make amends by producing another  history in which the Tamils go  back to  prehistoric  times.

They were re-writing history according to the needs of contemporary politics and  not according the way it happened. History has been an explosive force both in Sri Lanka and Israel. For instance, the move to evict the Arabs by far-right Jews began when  the  courts declared that  the  land occupied by the Arabs in  Sheik Jarrah belonged to the Jews before 1948. Disentangling the knotted threads of history is not  an  easy task even to the  courts  or the experts. History looms large in politics. Netanyahu’s military manoeuvres are aimed at   erasing the history of the Arabs and make Jerusalem the exclusive capital of  the Jews. Each move he makes  is also to diminish the two-state solution for the two communities. Inch by inch  he  has been gaining ground. Donald Trump gave him  the greatest gift that any Jew could expect  : Jerusalem as their capital. Now the far-right Jews are moving to clean up the whole city. They are bent on ethnically cleansing Jerusalem to make it the exclusive sacred city of  the Jews. The Palestinians have been retreating reluctantly and helplessly accepting  each  gain of the Israelis as the new normal. The two-state theory too is diminishing its force. Israel has succeeded in normalising relations with a string  of Arab states to  the dismay of Palestinians. Trump administration did the backdoor work to strengthen Israel’s position in the Middle East. The emerging scenario is not the  most positive for the Palestinians. They end up  getting  the  worse  end  of the deal  with each military offensive. Their misery increases. So, does the glory of Israel. To be an Arab in Israel today is like being an insect in  one  of Kafka’s novels. It is nightmarish, humiliating and positively  oppressive. Muslims in Sri Lanka should go down on their knees  and thank God that they are not in Israel, in particular Jewish-occupied Palestine.

2 Responses to “Some thoughts on Israelis in Gaza”

  1. dingiri bandara Says:

    The problem with religions today, as I see , is that the so called religious leaders have failed to teach the basic teachings and concepts of religions. Today there is so much praising and worshipping of god, singing hymns. making offerings,festivals , ceremonies etc. But most of them do not teach the devotees how to live like good human beings as god would have wanted to live, without too much greed for power or wealth, without hatred etc. Dalai Lama once when asked, what the best religion is, he said ” The One That make one a better Person “. What good is a religion or God if people kill each other, in the name of a god or a religion. Is it what god who is said to know everything, makes things happen the way they do?
    In Christianity, it is often said that god has a plan for everything and Islam the Muslims always say Inshallah or god willing. The mother of the woman who was beheaded in Saudi is supposed to have said ,it the will of Allah. The Muslims, I believe, should not complain of anything that happens to them, if they truly believe that it is the wish of Allah. If nait they need to change for the better. The same goes for Christians too. The Dharmic religions Mainly Hinduism and other faiths like Buddhism believe in cause and effects. Anyway humans truly do not have clue to what is happening and wht life is about, they however should live a decent life as perceive what good is.
    As regards to ethnic strife, I do not know if it is Genetics of the wish of the Almighty or simply evolution.

  2. Nimal Says:

    Israel is hell bent on creating a complete Jewish state where the Jews will be the majority in the entire Palestine. The present corrupt PM,wanted for corruption wants to get off the hook with this conflict has his saviour, where he is using a sledge hammer to crack the Hamas nut.Sadly the important nations are either approve it or scared to come out to defend the suffering Palestinians. This horrible situation will further radicalize people in the Muslim world.I will not be surprised if they take to the streets and commit violent acts against us the non Muslims in many nations.
    People in nations who look to western countries for justice and fair play will get closer to China and Russia, should the Western countries can’t find a solution to both parties.Illegal settlements by Israel will be a great obstacle to peace. Sadly an average Muslim getting drifted away from the rest of the non Muslim people adds to the problem where they will not be readily accepted in most developed world that matters. Hope they realize this and give up their social habits and live amicably with the rest.The day they give yup the restrictive woman’s attire and treat them as equal is an important step towards them coming together with rest of the world that matter. I think China is achieving this with some determination and will bring harmony to their nation which will be envied by many.

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