“The first time it was reported that our friends were being butchered there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred were butchered. But when a thousand were butchered and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread.
When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out “stop!”
When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When sufferings become unendurable the cries are no longer heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.”
― Bertolt Brecht, Selected Poems

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for enough good men to do nothing.”Edmund Burke

“I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream…”
― Black Elk (Native American on the European settlers who massacred the locals.)

Sri Lanka has been in the harsh glare of public scrutiny for the last 5 years for all the wrong reasons. In an effort to permanently silence the Tamils in the northern area, the Sri Lankan government in 2008 and 2009, slaughtered between 125,000 to 175,000 Tamils in an unprecedented Nazi style operation, claiming the resultant  genocide to be , ‘a humanitarian operation’.

Let no one forget what happened, and who perpetuated and aided this cruel and barbaric pogrom. The internet has extremely graphic footage of the process and the aftermath which most corporately controlled media outlets do not have the  will/courage or honor to report on.

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/sri-lankas-killing-fields/4od

The Killing Fields

“What distinguishes genocide from murder, and even from acts of political murder that claim as many victims, is the intent. The crime is wanting to make a people extinct. The idea is the crime.”
― Philip Gourevitch, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda

Content taken with acknowledgement and thanks from: http://www.ushmm.org/

Genocide is a term created during the Holocaust and declared an international crime in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The Convention defines genocide as any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

a. Killing members of the group;
b. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
c. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
d. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
e. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The specific “intent to destroy” particular groups is unique to genocide. A closely related category of international law, crimes against humanity, is defined as widespread or systematic attacks against civilians.

Through an international treaty ratified on July 17, 1998, the International Criminal Court was permanently established to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The treaty reconfirmed the definition of genocide found in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It also expanded the definition of crimes against humanity and prohibits these crimes during times of war or peace.

Crimes Against Humanity: Any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:

(a) Murder;
(b) Extermination
(c) Enslavement
(d) Deportation or forcible transfer of population
(e) Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law
(f) Torture
(g) Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity
(h) Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender as defined in paragraph 3, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court
(i) Enforced disappearance of persons
(j) The crime of apartheid
(k) Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.

What happened in Sri Lanka in 2008-2009, and continues to this day fulfills all the definitions of genocide. The perpetuators and their accomplices should be brought to justice.

The Killing of a Young Boy in Sri Lanka

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The Killing of a Young Boy in Sri Lanka - From, 'The Hindu'

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New photographs of LTTE chief Velupillai Prabakaran’s son just before he was shot dead, obtained by Channel 4 TV, leave more questions for Sri Lanka to answer about war crimes It is a war that has produced some truly terrible images, but this one is particularly disturbing. A young boy sits looking distressed, like a child who has been lost in a supermarket. He has been given a biscuit or some kind of snack. In the second photograph, he is looking anxiously up, as though hoping to see someone he recognises. The boy is Balachandran Prabakaran, the 12-year-old son of Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabakaran. These photographs, which we are releasing today, form part of the new evidence in the forthcoming feature documentary “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka,” the culmination of three years of research which will be shown for the first time next month in Geneva, to coincide with the U.N. Human Rights Council meeting. The new evidence in the film is certain to increase pressure on the Indian government not only to support a resolution on Sri Lanka and accountability, but also to ensure that it is robustly worded, and that it outlines an effective plan for international action to end impunity in Sri Lanka. The new photographs tell a chilling story. This child is not been lost of course: he has been captured and is being held in a sandbag bunker, apparently guarded by a Sri Lankan Army soldier. In less than two hours he will be taken, executed in cold blood — and then photographed again. Forensic pathologist’s opinion In these photographs, which digital image analysis indicates were taken with the same camera, we can see he has been shot five times in the chest. Separate video footage, also apparently filmed as a war trophy by government soldiers, shows that alongside him lie the bodies of five men. They appear to have been Tamil Tiger fighters, probably his bodyguards. They have been stripped, bound, blindfolded and then shot in the head. The new photographs are particularly important evidentially, because they prove that Balachandran was not killed in crossfire, or in a battle. His death was deliberate and calculated. The pictures fill in chilling details on the circumstances of his murder — and leave the Sri Lankan government with yet more questions to answer about just how systematic the executions at the end of the war appear to have been. Last year, we first revealed video footage and stills which showed Balachandran’s body shortly after his execution. These were analysed for us by a respected forensic pathologist, Professor Derrick Pounder, to assess the cause of death. The professor identified what he thinks is the first of the shots to be fired at the boy: “There is a speckling (on the skin) from propellant tattooing, indicating that the distance of the muzzle of the weapon to this boy’s chest was two to three feet or less. He could have reached out with his hand and touched the gun that killed him.” The professor said the angle of the shots suggested that after that bullet was fired, the boy fell backwards and was then shot four more times. Unlike the men around him, there was no indication that the boy had been blindfolded or bound, so it was possible that the boy may have been made to watch the execution of his guards before the gun was turned on him. The new photographs released today give us a chilling insight into what happened before that. They appear to demonstrate that the situation was calm and orderly. Balachandran was given a snack and some water. There was time to take photographs while he was held in the bunker and again afterwards. The forensic analysis report on the photographs concludes that there is “no evidence to indicate fabrication, manipulation or the use of effects to create the images” and concludes that the photographs “appear to be an accurate representation of the events depicted.” From the separate video sequence recorded later (which has also been authenticated by both digital video analysis), it is clear that there were several military personnel in the area. Where the trail leads to It is difficult to imagine the mindset of an army in which a child can be executed in cold blood with apparent impunity. It also raises extremely difficult questions for the Sri Lankan military. With every month that passes, the evidence of systematic execution of prisoners grows. The pattern of apparent sexual violence against female fighters is disturbing in the extreme. As the respected international human rights lawyer, Professor William A. Schabas, says in our film: “If you look at what looks like the mass execution of naked prisoners, these all add up to possibly the claim that this was in fact systematic — and that could point to the highest levels in the military authority of Sri Lanka as being responsible for war crimes of summary execution, killing and torture.” India’s role And in Sri Lanka, of course, the highest levels of the military are virtually the same as the highest levels of the government. President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother, the Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, have some very difficult questions to answer. They may well continue to simply deny the evidence and cite the undoubted crimes of the Tamil Tigers. But as a defence, it is becoming increasingly threadbare. The crimes of one side do not justify the crimes of another. A government which claims to adhere to international humanitarian law cannot hide behind the brutal suicide bombings or the brutalised child soldiers of the Tigers. But for India there is a dilemma too. Because it matters not just what the answers to these questions are. It also matters who asks these questions. India is central to this. It has been said before, but it is true, and worth repeating. Without justice there can be no peace and reconciliation, and without truth there can be no justice. This is not an academic exercise in historical accountability. The men responsible for these crimes are still in charge. They are continuing to brutally repress Tamils in the north and persecute anyone who criticises the government including, as we have seen with the impeachment of the Chief Justice, their own judiciary. If there is no attempt to address these issues and to bring justice to those who suffered, the fear is that in the short term, political repression in Sri Lanka will increase and that in the long term, history is destined to repeat itself with yet more bloodshed and regional instability. It seems to most human rights defenders around the world, including those in India, that the only way ahead in this situation is for the creation of a credible, independent, international inquiry into these events, as called for by the U.N.’s Panel of Experts. That inquiry should examine all the crimes committed by both sides. If India was to declare its support for such an inquiry, many hope it could mark the start of the long, delayed movement towards peace, reconciliation and political justice in Sri Lanka. (Callum Macrae is director, “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka.” nofirezone.org. Follow him on Twitter @nofirezonemovie)

Sri Lanka War Crimes-Genocide with West Complicity

by Ron Ridenour / May 25th, 2012

The US-UK axis is quite adroit at launching aggressive wars against governments and peoples who do not buckle under. Today’s method of domination is often linked with media propaganda about doing the right thing for “human rights”.In the case of its ally Sri Lanka it did not need to send troops to win the war against Tamils struggles for liberation. The Western powers provided Sri Lankan governments military with weaponry, war intelligence and training to win the long war against Tamil nationhood. But, after the mutual victory, the axis also criticizes the current government for having committed excesses. This approach is the best of all possible worlds for Western dictates: world domination for the cause of humanity is what they say if you read between the lips of communicators for globalization George Bush- Barack Obama-Hilliary Clinton, Tony Blair-Gordon Brown-David Cameron.

While China and Russia also militarily and economically assisted Sri Lankan governments in avoiding federalism for the two peoples: majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils, they did so without the hyperbole of “protecting human rights”. Unfortunately, Cuba and its associates in the eight Latin American nations ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance of the peoples of the Americas) got caught up in the geo-political game by supporting Sri Lanka Sinhalese chauvinism politically but without funds and weapons.Rodolfo Reyes Rodríguez, Cuba’s Permanent Representative to United Nations Office at Geneva, argued at the 19th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), last March 22, that the United States acted contradictorily for presenting a resolution asking Sri Lanka to implement its own mild report, Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), and slightly criticizing the government for not addressing human rights abuse that occurred during the end of the civil war between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).1

Rodríguez ridiculed the US position given that, as he said, 40% of military hardware sold to Sri Lankan governments between 1983 and 2009 (the duration of the war for liberation) came from it and its closest allies, the UK and Israel.“Why do they doubt Sri Lanka after having sold so many weapons?” Rodríguez inquired. While Cuba backed Sri Lanka 100%, disregarding the plight of over two million Tamils, its ambassador considered the US resolution as “interference” into the affairs of the sovereign state.An excellent book, Arms Trade with Sri Lanka: global business, local costs, put out by the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society and the Swedish Sri Lanka Committee provides some hard-to-find figures on what countries provided what armaments to Sri Lanka. Most of the weaponry that the LTTE acquired came from capturing enemy arms and some were bought on the black market. Sri Lanka bought its weapons from a score of governments of all stripes. The Sinhalese governments spent between 7 and 17% of their budgets on the military during the war. Between 1999 and 2008, the largest military equipment (towed guns, tanks, fighter and trainer and transport aircraft, helicopters, fast sea craft, mines, radar, missiles and rockets, armored bridge layers, surveillance and communication equipment) came from China and Russia, later also Ukraine and Iran—on the one end of the spectrum—and from the US and nine EU states on the other end. Military suppliers also included Pakistan and India from the middle. This article focuses on military support the US, EU and Israel provided the repressive Sri Lankan governments. Moreover, the US and EU are Sri Lanka’s greatest economic trading partners.

Israel

The Zionist State—which practices genocide against the Palestinians whose right to self-determination was recognized by 46 governments on the HRC during the 19th session with only the US voting against—hardly comes into the spotlight when the Sri Lanka-Tamil conflict is discussed. Nevertheless, “Israel has been a faithful supplier to Sri Lanka” serving the military, commerce and politics, as the Swedish book maintains. The most decisive sales and donations in the latter years of war came from Israel (and China). A vast number of combat aircraft—nine of 24 since 2000; 16 Kfir jets in all—and many of the ships (especially six Super Dvora and 38 Shaldag fast patrol craft) used by Sri Lanka came from Israel. It also supplied seven unmanned vehicles, 16 anti-ship mines, communication and surveillance equipment, and great quantities of ammunition; plus pilots and Mossad intelligence agents.

Makhdoom Babar, editor-in-chief of the pro-Sri Lanka government Daily Mail reported that Israel uses Sri Lanka waters to test their missiles. A 2009 SIPRI report, “International Arms Transfers”, shows that between 2000 and 2007, Sri Lanka acquired “several large warships from India, Israel and the USA”. The Swedish-based international arms conflict monitor reported that Israel has been a major and effective arms supplier.2 Mossad-Israel military intelligence also played an important role in preventing Tamils from gaining their liberation. In the 1980s Israeli experts advised Sri Lanka to create border villages and arm Sinhala civilians as home guards. This is what the US also did in parts of Southeast Asia during its genocidal war in the 1960s-70s.

European Economic Union

EU sale of weaponry to Sri Lanka has violated its code of conduct on arms export since it was enacted in 1998 to prevent aiding and abetting human rights abuse. As if to compensate for its hypocrisy, the EU lifted part of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) in August 2010 due to Sri Lanka’s “poor human rights record”. But EU still offers “limited tariff preferences” to Sri Lankan imports. Despite this lessened export tax break, the EU continues to be a major market (SL largest apparel buyer), and the island’s economy grew by 8%, in 2010, thanks to loans from the IMF. During the last decade of war, France provided several small sea craft. Czech Republic sold 16 rocket systems and 52 tanks. Slovakia is, after the UK, the only European country that publicizes its military sales to SL after the restart of the war, in 2006. It lists the sale of 10,000 rockets worth £1 million. A June 2, 2009 article, “UK sold arms to Sri Lanka during Tamil Tiger conflict”, points out the hypocrisy of European governments in voicing criticism of human rights abuse while they continue to sell arms to the Sri Lankan mass murdering regime. In 2008, the UK approved £4 million worth of weaponry including armored vehicles, pistols and machine guns, and 12 large naval guns. At the close of the war, the EU Observer reported: “The EU is appalled by the loss of innocent civilian lives as a result of the conflict and by the high numbers of casualties, including children, following recent intense fighting in northern Sri Lanka,” said European foreign ministers in a statement, 18 May, 2009. The EU calls for the alleged violations of these laws to be investigated through an independent inquiry,” the statement continued. “Those accountable must be brought to justice.” Nevertheless, EU member states – including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the UK, France, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Poland – had armed the Sri Lankan government since the election of Mahinda Rajapaksa, in 2005. According to the EU’s latest report on arms export licenses published in December, the nine governments authorized arm sales licenses to Sri Lanka to the value of €4.09 million in 2007 [small weapons, ammunition, explosives, missiles, vehicles, naval vessels, aircraft], the same year that Colombo launched its final offensive on the Tamil rebels. Australia is among the western suppliers to Sri Lanka. It granted $52.5 million in development assistance (2010-11) — plus $11 million to catch criminals including Tamil refugees trying to flee the blood-torn nation.

3.“U.S. Military Assistance to Countries Using Child Soldiers, 1990-2007” This Center for Defense Information report (above sub-head) shows how the United States continues to supply military support to many countries, including Sri Lanka, when the government or its paramilitary allies recruit children to war against opponents, despite United Nations ban on such support.

4“The U.S. Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” shows where it supplied military assistance between 1990 and 2007, and often to states that commit human atrocities: “the United States continues to provide millions of dollars in Foreign Military Sales (FMS), Direct Commercial Sales (DCS), Excess Defense Articles (EDA), International Military Education and Training (IMET), and Foreign Military Financing (FMF).”A CDI chart shows that the US sold (or donated) $143 million in military aid to Sri Lanka’s military in the 17-year period. US foreign military sales, in 2007, were $60.8 million—the greatest amount for any single year—plus $1.44 million was spent on military training and financing. Green Berets were used since 1996 in “Operation Balanced Style” to train soldiers. Contrary to claims that the US cut off military sales or assistance, it has not done so. Between 2007 and 2009, the US sold a few cutters, radar systems, and 300 trucks. It also sold helicopters, some of which were made in Canada. (Canada also sold small arms amounting to less than $1 million in 2007-9.) The US did cut back sales in 2009 but the 2010-12 fiscal year budget calls for nearly $3 million in Foreign Military Financing and International Military Education and Training. Economic and Military sales and assistance continue despite the fact that the US admits that the Sri Lanka government and its paramilitary allies practice torture, murder, disappearances, child recruiting and other brutalities. The US Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor report of March 6, 2007 reads: The [Sri Lanka] government’s respect for the human rights of its citizens declined due in part to the breakdown of the CFA [Cease-Fire Accord of 2002]. Credible sources reported human rights problems, including unlawful killings by government agents, high profile killings by unknown perpetrators, politically motivated killings by paramilitary forces associated with the government and the LTTE, and disappearances. Human rights monitors also reported arbitrary arrests and detention, poor prison conditions, denial of fair public trial, government corruption and lack of transparency, infringement of religious freedom, infringement of freedom of movement, and discrimination against minorities. There were numerous reports that armed paramilitary groups linked to government security forces participated in armed attacks, some against civilians… the government strengthened emergency regulations that broadened security forces’ powers in the arrest without warrant and non-accountable detention of civilians for up to 12 months. The US State Department’s April 6, 2011 “Background Note on Sri Lanka” shows that the US has steadily supported Sri Lanka militarily and has benefited economically from trade.Exports to the United States, Sri Lanka’s most important single-country market, were estimated to be around $1.77 billion for 2010, or 21% of total exports. The United States is Sri Lanka’s second-biggest market for garments, taking almost 40% of total garment exports. U.S. assistance has totaled more than $2 billion since Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948… In addition the International Broadcast Bureau (IBB)–formerly Voice of America (VOA)–operates a radio-transmitting station in Sri Lanka. The U.S. Armed Forces maintain a limited military-to-military relationship with the Sri Lanka defense establishment. Even as it publicly expressed some criticism of Sri Lanka for not implementing its own investigation into possible human rights abuse, the Obama administration backed a $213 million World Bank loan last March for Colombo development.

US assisted in annihilating Tamils

In January 2006—just weeks after the Rajapaksa-led government had come to power—then US ambassador, Jeffrey Lunstead, warned the LTTE that if it refused a settlement on Colombo’s terms it would face “a stronger, more capable and more determined Sri Lankan military.”Lunstead added: “Through our military training and assistance programs, including efforts to help with counter-terrorism initiatives and block illegal financial transactions, we are helping to shape the ability of the Sri Lankan government to protect its people and defend its interests.” For such support, Sri Lanka signed the Access and Cross Servicing Agreement in March 2007 that allows US warships and aircraft to use facilities in Sri Lanka. Combined support by the US and its allies, as well as China-Pakistan-Iran immense sums of military armaments, weakened the ability of the LTTE to hold its ground. This led to the “liberation” of Kilinochchi, “the city that for a decade had served as the capital of the LTTE-controlled enclave in parts of the island’s north and east,” as Keith Jones wrote. “Last Wednesday [January 7, 2009], the US embassy in Colombo issued a statement that welcomed the Sri Lankan state’s recent victories in the war…and urged Sri Lanka’s government and military to press forward with the annihilation of the LTTE. The key passage in the statement read: ‘The United States does not advocate that the Government of Sri Lanka negotiate with the LTTE, a group designated by America as a Foreign Terrorist Organization since 1997.’” “US pressure was critical in getting Canada, the states of the European Union, and other countries to proscribe the LTTE. These bans have deprived the LTTE of financial support from the hundreds of thousands of Tamils chased from their island homes by the civil war,” Jones continued. “The new-found prowess of the Sri Lanka military is due almost entirely to the support it has received from Washington directly or from key US allies.” The United States and its allies thoroughly supported Sri Lanka governments, allowing genocide and aiding in war crimes, and now dawns a façade of “concern for human rights.”

Conclusion

US-UK axis hypocritical complicity should lead Tamils and their supporters everywhere to change strategy in the struggle for justice. Sinhala academic Dr. Jude Lal Fernando speaking in Toronto recently on the “Tamil struggle for self-determination: a leftist Sinhala perspective” compared the success of the peace process in Ireland to the failure of the peace process (2002-6) in Sri Lanka. His conclusion, as summarized, shows how it was primarily the US-UK axis that prevented a peaceful solution in which autonomy (some at least for Tamils) could have been the outcome for both sides. And he spoke of a new strategy. The negotiations in Ireland were based on “parity of status” between the warring parties while in Sri Lanka neither the Sri Lankan Mahinda Rajapaksa government nor the US-UK axis allowed for parity and that is why the LTTE did not surrender arms and sometimes engaged the government army in battle during the cease-fire. In the case of the warring parties in Ireland, the Clinton regime allowed representatives of the Catholic liberation forces to meet the Irish Diaspora in the US and to negotiate equally. In contrast, the Bush regime forbad the LTTE to enter its territory. Dr. Fernando argues that the former treatment bolstered the confidence of the Irish Republican Army in the peace process, while the latter treatment resulted in the opposite, and thus the US is as “blameworthy for the 2009 massacre” as is the Rajapaksa regime. This also includes the role of UK-EU since its 2006 ban on the LTTE made explicit a military solution by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and its allies. Dr. Fernando was a key coordinator of the Dublin Permanent People’s Tribunal in Sri Lanka, which, in January 2010, concluded that Sri Lankan governments had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, and that the issue of genocide should be investigated. The “tactic employed by the Sri Lankan government, aided and abetted by the international community, was to bomb the Tamil people until they were ‘reduced to a survival instinct’ but not to the human instinct of demanding freedom. In this light, the entire reality of the 2009 genocide has been misconstrued and misrepresented to the world as simply a military operation against terrorism. On the contrary, the peace process itself confirmed that the Tamil national question is a legitimate political question and not a terrorist problem”, asserted Fernando, according to Tamil Net. Finally, Fernando speaks directly to the erroneous tactic of many Tamil groups in the Diaspora. He maintains that many have been deceived by the US sponsored resolution at the Human Rights Council. The pro-LLRC resolution does not oppose or even mention the root causes of the national question, nor the history of genocide. In fact, it accepts the legitimacy of waging war to protect the sovereignty of the state, which is, ironically, the same position as Cuba-ALBA, Russia and China. By launching a slight criticism of the state, without going to the core of the matter, the US-UK axis diverts attention away from the real causes of the long-standing conflict: nationalist Sinhalese chauvinism, racism, religious intolerance, and the “right” to practice discrimination and genocide. “Instead of trying to align itself with international powers, the Diaspora must stand on its own two feet and say that the aspirations of the Tamils uncompromisingly remain the same based on the principles of nation, homeland, and self-determination,” concludes Fernando.

The CDI was founded in 1972 as an independent non-NGO monitoring institution of US and international security defense policy.
Ron Ridenour is a veteran journalist and author of nine books, the latest is Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka. Read other articles by Ron, and visit Ron’s website. http://www.ronridenour.com/index.htm

The Bloodbath in Sri Lanka

(This article was published by Counterpunch in the USA in April 2009- it serves as a historical indice on what was happening and what was to come in Sri Lanka)

Over the course of a long and brutal war with Sri Lanka’s armed forces, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the LTTE) emerged as one of the world’s most formidable insurgent groups. Besides engaging the Sri Lankan government in a bloody battle for more than 25 years, the LTTE (or, more informally, the ‘Tamil Tigers’) managed to seize substantial chunks of government territory, and operated these as a quasi-state for well over a decade. Today, however, the mighty Tigers are on the verge of total military defeat. Will their demise bring peace to Sri Lanka?

Unsurprisingly, the LTTE’s hammering has come at an enormous price. Since its beginnings in the early 1980s, the war has claimed more than 70,000 lives, rendered some half a million Tamils refugees in their own country, and driven an equal number out of Sri Lanka. The last six months of fighting have been particularly intense, with the Sri Lankan government at its most aggressive in decades. Reports from the United Nations, Red Cross and several other reputed humanitarian organizations indicate that the country is on the brink of a colossal humanitarian disaster. Some 6,500 civilians have been killed since January, and another 100,000 are caught – facing carnage, and without adequate food, shelter and medicine – in the crossfire between the Tigers and government forces. An additional 40,000 or so that have fled the war zone are being held in military-run camps, where conditions, according to the most recent reports, are similar to those in Nazi-run concentration camps (journalists and humanitarian workers have been banned from these camps for over a month).

Led by the United Nations, concerned voices in the international community have repeatedly pleaded for a halt to the fighting, or even a ceasefire of a reasonable length, in which more civilians may be moved to safety, and aid workers allowed access to the sick and wounded. Determined to run the Tigers to the ground, however, the Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has remained undeterred, apparently confident that a full purging of the LTTE – now perhaps only days away – will have been worth the carnage and dislocation, and the palpable damage to his country’s international reputation. Rajapaksa evidently believes that a Sri Lanka free of the Tigers will be a Sri Lanka whither all good things will come.

Over the years, the LTTE has earned the reputation of being a ruthless organization; one that turns children into hardened soldiers; that has perfected suicide bombing as a tactic; that relies on extortion and smuggling for funding, and that has zero tolerance for critics and competitors. While there are no reliable measures of the extent of support for the LTTE among Tamils in Sri Lanka, or within the vast diaspora, Tamil human rights activists both inside and outside the country have spoken out against the LTTE’s cruel ways, totalitarian structure, and uncompromising, maximalist demands. The LTTE has duly assassinated many of these detractors. Indeed, given all of this, it is tempting to presume that Sri Lanka will be infinitely better off without the LTTE, and that its elimination will necessarily steer the country towards order, stability and reconciliation. But though appealing, this conclusion ultimately rests on a wrongheaded view of the Tigers’ role in the conflict. The LTTE is the product, not the cause, of Sri Lanka’s deadly politics.

To begin with, the conflict, if not the war, predates the LTTE by a few generations. Its origins may be traced to the effects of the nefarious “divide and rule” policies devised by British colonial administrators to govern Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The British used the island’s Tamil minority to keep its Sinhalese majority in check, and in return, gave Tamils the best government jobs and the benefit of English education. With independence in 1948, however, the Tamils were deprived of their patrons, and found themselves outnumbered and marginalized inside the new Sri Lanka’s unitary state and majoritarian institutional framework. With the Tamils rendered politically irrelevant, short-sighted politicians competed with each other for the Sinhalese vote, and soon discovered that the political party with the stronger anti-minority stance was almost always guaranteed electoral success.

Such “ethnic outbidding,” as scholars have characterized the dreadful process, led to the rise of a ferocious Sinhala nationalism that demanded revenge for the Tamils’ supremacy during the colonial period, along with a revival of Sinhala language and culture. It saw Sri Lanka as for the Sinhalese alone, and insisted that the Tamil minority submit to its second-class position or, better still, simply leave the island. In the first few decades following independence, Sri Lanka’s Tamils were systematically stripped of their erstwhile social and economic privileges, with the demotion of their language (Tamil) to secondary status, and the imposition of strict quotas that shrank their employment and educational opportunities. Sinhalese farmers were encouraged to settle in and around the island’s north-east, in an obvious attempt to reduce the concentration of Tamils in these areas.

Initially, the Tamils attempted to resist these changes through democratic means, forming political parties that pressed for federalism and various minority guarantees. While many sensible Sinhalese politicians warmed to such appeals, the forces of majoritarianism always seemed to triumph. Any government seen as making too many concessions to the Tamils was swiftly pulled down, a disheartening ritual that eventually left most Tamils alienated, and the Tamil parties largely discredited. By the late 1970s, the conflict had taken a violent turn, with the surfacing of several militant outfits, including the LTTE, which called for armed struggle and secession – the creation of a Tamil ‘homeland’ (‘eelam’) out of the Tamil majority areas in Sri Lanka’s north-east. The LTTE proved the strongest of these militant groups, and, out-powering its rivals, became locked in bitter conflict with the Sri Lankan state.

As an insurgent force, the LTTE has been remarkably successful. By the early 2000s, it had captured much of the north and east, and was governing these territories as though they were already a separate state (the LTTE provided schools, postal services, and even rudimentary hospitals). The LTTE brought forth a harsh and authoritarian regime, but one that was, perhaps, an inevitable response to the harsh and authoritarian regime that the Sri Lankan government had become. Human Rights Watch has characterized the Sri Lankan government as one of the world’s worst perpetrators of enforced disappearances. Indeed, in many ways, the LTTE and the Sri Lankan state have been reflections of each other’s total lack of generosity. Both have squandered numerous opportunities for peace, though it is unlikely that the Sri Lankan government would have agreed to negotiate at all – as it did in 2003, following a ceasefire – had it faced a lesser organization than the Tigers. The annihilation of the LTTE will mean that only one of the two fearsome, unbending contenders in the country’s long and bloody war will have left the arena and, that too, probably not for good. Far from being a recipe for peace, this will probably ignite a new cycle of grotesque injustice and pitiless retaliation.

One danger that looms heavily is that the Sri Lankan state will try to use its victory to seek a permanent solution to its “Tamil minority problem.” The government might begin by preventing Tamil civilians interned in its military camps from returning to their villages. These camps have already taken on an air of permanence, with the government arguing that no-one can be moved until the LTTE is fully flushed out, and the military demines the conflict zone. This could take months, if not years. It is entirely possible that while tens of thousands of Tamils languish in these camps, encircled by razor-wired fences, the government will move large numbers of Sinhalese settlers into the island’s north and east, thus stamping out, once and for all, the geographical rationale for a separate Tamil homeland. The counterpoint to the government’s expected belligerence might be an even darker phase in the Tamil resistance; one with a more lucid and focused fury that will bring great disquiet to Tamils everywhere.

To most governments, the bloodbath in Sri Lanka is the consequence of a sovereign power besieged by a brutal domestic insurgency. This is to be expected in a world where states are generally considered legitimate, no matter what they do, and those that challenge their authority are immediately viewed as criminal – a distinction that’s been sharpened, of course, by the menacing language around the “war on terror.” Indeed, following Sri Lanka’s success in having the LTTE proscribed as a terrorist organization by 31 countries, including the United States, the sense that the Sri Lankan state is on the right side of history has gone from strength to strength, which might explain the muted condemnation of its actions in the rapidly unfolding tragedy.

It’s probably too much to expect the US government – or any other government for that matter – to accept the argument, however rigorously advanced, that the Sri Lankan state and the LTTE have mirrored each other’s unyielding attitudes and methods, and, that ultimately, the noble sovereign power and the sinister terrorist organization are two sides of the same bloodied coin. The one, small opening for peace that the LTTE’s retreat may provide, however, is that without its looming spectre, the Sri Lankan government will be less able to shield its decaying democracy and ugly human rights record from the eyes of the world. It will, hopefully, be the subject of an international initiative that helps rein in the country’s majoritarian forces, thus barring any further acceleration of the vicious cycle of injury and retribution these tend to set in motion.

Mitu Sengupta, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Politics at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.

The History and Morals of Ethnic Cleansing

By VICTORIA BUCH

I arrived in Israel 40 years ago. It took me many years to understand that the very existence of my country, as it is today, is based on an ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. The project started many years ago. Its seed can be traced to the basic fallacy of the Zionist movement, which set out to establish a Jewish-national state in a location already inhabited by another nation. Under these conditions, one has, at most, a moral right to strive for a bi-national state; establishing a national state implies, more or less by definition, ethnic cleansing of the previous inhabitants.

Albert Einstein grasped this fallacy a long time ago. A short time after WWI “Einstein complained that the Zionists were not doing enough to reach agreement with the Palestinian Arabs…He favored a binational solution in Palestine and warned Chaim Weizmann against `Prussian style` nationalism”[1]

But such warnings passed un-heeded by the Zionist movement. So here we are, nearly a century later, with a Jewish national state dominated by militaristic and militant nationalists, who diligently pursue colonization and “judaization” of the land under Israeli control, on both sides of the Green Line (1967 border). The project has been pursued continuously and relentlessly under the different Israeli governments, recently under the cover of bogus “negotiations” with President Abbas. Most of the Israeli institutions participate in it. Young Israelis, generation after generation, join the army to provide the military cover. The young folks have been brain-washed to honestly believe that the army pursues Israel’s “fight for existence”. However it seems evident to the author of this article, as to many others, that the survival of the Jewish community in this country depends on establishing viable mechanisms of coexistence with the Palestinians. Thus, under the slogan of “fight for existence”, the State of Israel is pursuing an essentially suicidal project.

This long-standing outlook of the Israeli governing classes was summarized succinctly in a recent book `Palestine Inside Out` by Saree Makdisi, an American academic. His book “suggests that occupation is merely a feature of an ongoing Israeli policy of slow transfer of the native Palestinian population from their lands. This policy predates the founding of the state, and all of the various practices of the occupier: illegal settlement, land confiscation, home demolition and so on, serve this ultimate purpose.”[2]

If you do not believe the above assessment, consider several statements by David Ben Gurion himself, from the time before the establishment of the State of Israel (Ben Gurion was the leader of the Zionist movement before 1948 and the first Israeli Prime Minister after 1948):

“The compulsory transfer of the [Palestinian] Arabs from the valleys of the proposed Jewish state could give us something which we never had, even when we stood on our own during the days of the first and second Temples…We are given an opportunity which we never dared to dream of in our wildest imaginings. This is more than a state, government and sovereignty, this is national consolidation in a free homeland.” [3]

“With compulsory transfer we [would] have a vast area [for settlement]…I support compulsory transfer. I don’t see anything immoral in it.”[3]

During the 1948 war, about two-thirds of the Palestinians who would become refugees were in fact expelled from their homes by the nascent Israeli army, and one-third became refugees while escaping the dangers of war. All these people, 0.75-1 million of them, were prevented from returning to Israel after the armistice agreement, while their homes and property were demolished or appropriated by the State of Israel.

Among the common mantras provided to the Israelis to justify the above is the following: “Israel accepted the UN partition plan, and Arabs did not, so what happened afterwards is their own fault”. What is conveniently overlooked is that Palestinian Arabs constituted between one third and one half of the population of that designated Jewish homeland (according to various UN reports). Why should these people, whose ancestors lived there for generations, accept living in somebody else’s designated homeland? Imagine, for example, the reaction of French Belgians if their country were designated as a “Flemish homeland” by the UN.

But the main mantra drummed into the conscience of an Israeli citizen from kindergarten, is that in 1948 “it was either them or us”, “Arabs would have thrown us into the sea if we did not establish a Jewish majority state with a strong army”, etc. I have my doubts about that line, too, but let us suppose for the moment that in fact, it was so. And then came the year 1967, and the Six Day War. Another chapter in the Israeli “fight for existence” against recalcitrant Arabs who just keep trying to throw us into the sea. On the face of it, that is how it seemed. I together with most of my compatriots believed for years that 1967 was in fact a moment of existential danger for Israel. Until I stumbled upon some telling quotes, uttered by our very own leaders [4]:

“(a) The New York Times quoted Prime Minister Menachem Begin`s (1977 – 83) August, 1982 speech saying: `In June, 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that (President Gamal Abdel) Nasser (1956 – 70) was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.`

(b) Two-time Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (1974 – 77 and 1992 – 95) told French newspaper Le Monde in February, 1968: `I do not believe Nasser wanted war. The two divisions which he sent into Sinai on May 14 would not have been enough to unleash an offensive against Israel. He knew it and we knew it.`

(c) General Mordechai Hod, Commander of the Israeli Air Force during the Six-Day War said in 1978: `Sixteen years of planning had gone into those initial eighty minutes. We lived with the plan, we slept on the plan, we ate the plan. Constantly we perfected it.`

(d) General Haim Barlev, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief told Ma`ariv in April 1972: `We were not threatened with genocide on the eve of the six-day war, and we had never thought of such a possibility.`”

So: instead of “thwarting an existential danger”, in 1967 the State of Israel carried out an effective military operation to acquire some real estate. There is nothing new about that “existential danger” propaganda. Acquisition of real estate by conquest has been already called pleasing names by various other conquerors and occupiers, throughout the old and new history: such as “manifest destiny”, “white man’s burden”, “spreading true religion / culture / democracy”, whatnot.

The reader may like to know that the 1967 real estate acquisition by the State of Israel was anticipated some twenty years earlier by Ben-Gurion, at the time of the partition plan (which was supposedly accepted by the Zionist leadership). See the following quotes of Ben-Gurion, which can be found in the book by an Israeli historian[5]:

“Just as I do not see the proposed Jewish state as a final solution to the problems of the Jewish people, so I do not see partition as the final solution of the Palestine question. Those who reject partition are right in their claim that this country cannot be partitioned because it constitutes one unit, not only from a historical point of view but also from that of nature and economy”.

“After the formation of a large army in the wake of the establishment of the [Jewish] state, we shall abolish partition and expand to the whole of the Palestine”.

I wonder if at any point in history there was any association of people who acquired goodies by brute force, and who viewed themselves candidly as such. Times and again, conquerors considered themselves unwilling victims of circumstances, and the barbarians (their own victims!) against whom they have to regretfully protect their rights. Consider the following pronouncements of Benny Morris, a historian who documented the 1948 ethnic cleansing. In a 2004 interview with Morris which was published in Haaretz one reads[6]:

Q: The title of the book you are now publishing in Hebrew is “Victims.” In the end, then, your argument is that of the two victims of this conflict, we [Israelis] are the bigger one.

Morris: “Yes. Exactly. We are the greater victims in the course of history and we are also the greater potential victim. Even though we are oppressing the Palestinians, we are the weaker side here. We are a small minority in a large sea of hostile Arabs who want to eliminate us.

The above opinion is representative of the Israeli mainstream. It has been raised to the status of axiom over the years, and no reasonable peace offers (such as the latest Saudi one) are likely to put a dent in it. Israelis are using this slogan to exempt themselves from normal human decency towards Palestinians. Most Israeli Jews have convinced themselves that they have a moral right to expropriate and expel Palestinians because Palestinians are such barbarians, who did not respond to Israel’s”generous peace offers” and “only wanted to throw us to the sea”. Because we are a nation of Holocaust survivors. My compatriots imagined themselves starring in a modern version of Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” – starring as beautiful elves, of course, who were forced by sad fate to fight ugly goblins the Palestinians (goblins = “terrorists”). Human mercy does not apply to “terrorists”. You do not make territorial compromises or peace agreements with “terrorists”.

The above explains the mass participation of otherwise normal and more-or-less decent Israelis in the ongoing ethnic-cleansing projects. How else can you account for a dying elderly man and his wife being dragged out of their east Jerusalem apartment to make space for Jewish settlers. Building the Jerusalem “Museum of Tolerance” on the site of an ancient Muslim graveyard. Onslaught on West Bank orphanages supported by Islamic charities. State-subsidized Jewish settler-thugs conducting pogroms against Palestinians in Hebron and elsewhere in the Occupied Territories. Widespread sadism practiced by Israeli soldiers against Palestinian detainees. Trashing of Palestinian homes during nightly military incursions in Palestinian towns and villages. Demolitions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem under the brazen pretext of “illegal construction”. Extensive land grab for settlers. And much more.[7]

The Gaza Strip is the place where the self-righteous Israeli sadism has reached new heights. The Strip is densely populated, mostly by descendants of Palestinians expelled in 1948. Well before the Second Intifada, choice Gazan real estate along the beach (about ¼ of the Strip land) was confiscated for a few thousand Jewish settlers. Still, a million and a half Gazan Palestinians had a sort of normal life (under the Israeli occupation) – growing fruits and vegetables, making construction materials and other products for Israeli markets, and working as laborers within the Green Line. Before the second Intifada, very little terror was coming from there to Israel.

However, since the beginning of the Intifada (a year and a half before the first Palestinian rocket landing across the border) the Israeli army embarked on the systematic destruction of the Strip. Incursions were carried out every few weeks and included the destruction of factories and workshops, roads, agricultural land, homes, and whatnot. Access to the Israeli economy was closed. Eventually, desperate Palestinians resorted to shooting Qassam rockets which rarely caused casualties or real damage but served as an excellent pretext for Israeli military “action”.

And then Sharon carried out his brilliant propaganda move of “disengagement” from Gaza. The whole operation was marketed as a demonstration of Israeli good will. The Israeli settlements in Gaza were in fact removed, but the army was redeployed around the Strip, and the Strip was converted to a large scale prison. The economic strangulation of Gaza was tightened to a draconian extent, especially after the Hamas government suppressed the Israel-cum-USA sponsored Fatah putsch. (I am no fan of Hamas but their government was democratically elected by the Palestinians) Hamas offered several times to conduct negotiations with Israel, based on 1967 borders, but the offers were under-reported and ignored. It is likely that such negotiations would have stopped the Qassams, but Israeli leaders appeared interested in continuation of the violence. The Qassams created a great opportunity for more “poor little us” propaganda, and a great pretext to wiggle out of legitimate international requests to stop the massive colonization of the West Bank.

Finally, a truce with Hamas was negotiated. Since the beginning of the truce defense minister Barak commenced preparations for a massive attack on Gaza[8]. On November 14th the working truce with Hamas was deliberately broken on Barak’s orders, by killing several Hamas fighters. A totally predictable Palestinian response ensued – cancellation of the truce and a barrage of rockets. The barrage was used by Barak as a pretext for that large-scale operation, including the slaughter of hundreds of people in Gaza with missiles deployed from airplanes. This muscle-flexing is an obvious part of Barak’s and Livni’s forthcoming election campaign, at the price of hundreds of Palestinian casualties, and several Israeli ones (as meanwhile Palestinians have improved their aim). In a forthcoming ground operation Israeli soldiers are also likely to pay with their lives for this form of electioneering.

Do you know what mainstream Israelis make of the above? ‘We, Israelis, in an act of self-sacrifice, removed poor Jewish settlers from their “homes” in the Gaza Strip and gave Palestinians a chance for free and happy existence. But the Palestinians spurned our peace efforts and preferred instead to pursue their addiction to “throwing Jews to the sea.” Gaza could have become a new Singapore, but the Gazans chose instead to shoot rockets at Israelis.’

The disengagement was thus an act of brilliance on part of that evil genius, Sharon. He provided mainstream Israelis with a sweeping moral absolution. Palestinians “disappointed” them. Now the Israeli leaders can do anything they wish to Palestinians. Do not expect a squeak of public protest from the Israeli Jewish public, except for a tiny minority of “self hating Jews” like yours truly.

Believe me, these Jewish-Israeli mainstreamers are not natural-born monsters. They just do not know any better. Alas, I used to be one of them. Then one day I stumbled, more or less by chance, into the West Bank with a group of activists. I acquired some Palestinian friends and finally understood the criminality of the treatment of the Palestinians by my country. And I learned to ignore the daily portion of preposterous propaganda which is provided to my compatriots by the media in lieu of “news”. But how to convince my compatriots not to listen to this propaganda? I do not know.

Then again, it does not have to be so. In addition to four million or so stateless Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories, there are about a million Palestinians living within the Green Line and carrying Israeli citizenship. Despite the very considerable internal racism, many of these Palestinian citizens are deeply involved in Israeli society. You meet Arab doctors and nurses in Israeli hospitals, Arab students in Israeli universities etc. There is quite an element of coexistence and cooperation between Jews and Arabs there. But a mainstream Jewish-Israeli colleague who might treat his or her Arab co-worker perfectly decently would still be proud of a soldier son who is “serving the country” in the Occupied Territories. He or she would still repeat racist propaganda about the “demographic danger” to the State of Israel from its Arab citizens, and believe the bloodthirsty speeches of generals and ex-generals on the TV. And vote for any of the three major Zionist parties, Likud, Kadima and Labour, whose leaders have been dedicated ethnic cleansers over the years.

For the sake of both nations living in this country, this outrage must be stopped. It must be stopped by pressure from outside, because at present within Israel there are no significant political forces to oppose it. Please do something, my friends, and do it urgently. And kindly ignore the endless “negotiations” between our government and the powerless Palestinian Authority, they are just a cover for more ethnic cleansing. If you do not believe me, come and see the massive settlement construction in East Jerusalem and West Bank. And the walls of the Palestinian ghettos.

Victoria Buch is an Israeli academic and anti-Occupation activist.

[1] From “The Pity of It All”, a book by Amos Elon on German Jews.
[2] From a review of Makdisi’s book: `Palestine Inside Out`, by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha, IMEU 2008.
[3] From “Righteous Victims” by Benny Morris
[4] Collected by Stephen Lendman, see http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/15348)
[5] From The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities,by Simha Flapan
[6] The full text of the interview can be found in the Counterpunch website
[7] *Information can be found, e.g., in the Occupation Magazine, the website of Israeli anti-Occupation activists.
[8] “Disinformation, secrecy and lies: How the Gaza offensive came about” By Barak Ravid, Haaretz http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050426.html