Parallels in Conflicts: The facts on the ground — Part 4

Disturbing echoes of the last phase of the civil war in Sri Lanka and the treatment of Palestinians under Zionist Occupation

6 mins read
[ Photo: Yousef Salhamoud/ Unsplash]

Click here to read Part 3 of this series

This deflection flies in the face of the facts. As Reuters reported in the first six weeks of the war, hospital morgues sent figures to the health centre which were then collated. Excel spreadsheets were used to keep track of names, ages and ID numbers, which were then transmitted to the Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah. As the aerial devastation continues it has become harder to keep track as vital infrastructure has been destroyed and health workers have been killed by the indiscriminate and sometimes targeted bombing.[i] It should be noted that the figures that were collated after earlier aerial bombardments were seen as accurate. In fact, the current figures could be a gross underestimate, as identifying bodies buried under tons of rubble has now become almost impossible.

Oxfam estimates that the Zionist military machine is killing 250 Palestinians a day with many more prone to hunger disease and cold, which could like in Lanka could kill many civilians. It is estimated that this carpet bombing of civilians is the highest daily figure for wars anywhere in the world in the last 24 years. Even the horrific Syrian conflict (96 deaths per day) Sudan (51.6) Iraq (50.8). It is considerably greater than the carnage in Ukraine (43.9) and trouble plagued Yemen (15.8)[ii]

Amnesty International early in the conflict began collating and analysing data from satellite imagery, verified photos, and investigated air bombardment carried out by the Zionist forces between October 7 to 12 and investigated five cases of bombing which wiped out whole families. It came to the conclusion in each of these cases internal international humanitarian law was violated by a failure to distinguish between civilian and military targets.

In their stated intent to use all means to destroy Hamas, Israeli forces have shown a shocking disregard for civilian lives. They have pulverised street after street of residential buildings killing civilians on a mass scale and destroying essential infrastructure, while new restrictions mean Gaza is fast running out of water, medicine, and electricity.

It has decimated whole families, leaving only memories and rubble in its wake.[iii] At the time of writing the death toll is over 26,000, with around 60,000 wounded and the vast majority facing starvation and lack of water, medicine and shelter. This continual pressure and the lack of a political and economic solution makes the possibility of a non-violent response fade by the day.

What makes a person join the LTTE or Hamas? In Jaffna, which was under the control of the Sinhalese military, a mother of a female member of their elite Black Tiger Unit observed: ‘We could not separate ourselves from the war. We lived inside it’.[iv].

For many there is an intergenerational perspective on whether to just survive or fight back. As the mother of the cadre said: ‘When a child experiences too much sadness it can feel no more. We tolerate and bear everything. Not all children accept suffering.’ Her daughter: ‘Father was killed in the middle of Jaffna town. He is going to work in the post office, he was a peon. If I did not join, people will be pushed into slavery.’

Critics can dispassionately point out that at the time she made the statement there had been well over 300 suicide missions. These missions caused deaths and terror and hardened opposing opinion. But what good would such a hectoring, patronising and rarified tone achieve? Instead of labelling her a terrorist and a fanatic, we must first try and empathise with her very real sorrow, pain and sense of injustice and lack of rights. Like the millions of people around the world who march in solidarity with the Palestinians all one can do is listen to the sorrow, pain, her very real sense of injustice and lack of rights. These are important matters which we must first deal with, instead of imposing labels on the marginalised and the dispossessed. To do so the respective unitarist states of Lanka and Israel must be democratised from the “river to the sea” with equal rights for all. If this is not done the vicious cycles of brutal discrimination, atrocities and horrific counter offenses becomes the norm. Context is everything and the above narrative begs the question who are the real terrorists?

Conclusion

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in a judgement of 15 to 2 against the Zionist state stated that there is a plausible case for genocide against Palestinians. The targeting of civilians, hospitals, schools, UN compounds, mosques, universities buttress the case. The ICJ also argued that statements made by the current Israeli president and members of cabinet, combined with the actions of the military, can be construed as genocidal intent. The beleaguered prime minister Netanyahu then let the cat out of the bag and unequivocally stated that from the river to the sea the land is for Jewish Zionists only. Both these statements have put the Zionist project in Palestine under a critical microscope. Miraculously, after this expose, the Zionist state came up with evidence that twelve workers from United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA) were involved in the October 7 attacks. Immediately, and without assessing the evidence, Australia, Britain, and the US withdrew aid, taking no account of the fact that UNWRA has sacked nine of the accused and has started an investigation. As mentioned, around 80 per cent of the population of Gaza are facing imminent starvation and their principal food source is UNWRA. The fact is that many of the claims that Israel has made about Palestinians are demonstrably false, not to mention the fact that it makes no sense to attack an organisation that employs around 13,000 people because of the alleged crimes of twelve of their workers. Barely mentioned is the fact that settler fanatics are trying to block vital food going to Gaza.[v] The Zionist state is yet to provide evidence to support their claims and the western countries who have withdrawn funding seem in no hurry to get the evidence unlike the UN.

Sadly, the majority of Israelis, if opinion polls are anything to go by, support the crushing of the Palestinians. But cracks in the “rules-based order” are starting to appear. Many senior bureaucrats and journalists in the West have signed a letter deploring their countries’ double standards when it comes to Israel.[vi]

In Sri Lanka, in 2022, it was clear that the economy was collapsing. The government had to go cap in hand to the International Monetary Fund to bail out the country. For many Lankans this was an eye-opener, as they discovered that the existential threat of the Tamils was not the cause of their misery. It was a combination of political and bureaucratic incompetence combined with corruption. Since being granted independence in 1948 the country has never been able to pay for its imports or expand its industrial base to a degree that could make the country economically viable. Instead, the politicians kept on borrowing, resulting in periodic crisis.

This time a group of young people coalesced in loose affiliations demanding the resignation of the government and structural change. This became known as the Aragalaya (the struggle in Sinhalese). It morphed into a mass protest movement and toppled the then President, forcing him to flee the country. This mass movement was open to all, but its loose structure was not a match for the state. Parliament appointed as an interim President a wily operator who had decades of experience in quelling protest and shifting the gaze of the populace to manufactured enemies. This he gradually did again, with arrests, imprisonment, and thuggery, aided by the legislative, administrative, and constitutional armoury built over decades to evade scrutiny and accountability. This suite of powers had been traditionally used against Tamils, left wing parties, journalists, civil rights activists, and trade unionists. It was now being used on ordinary people who might have in the past supported measures against what they presumed to be the ‘other’. An election will be held later this year and the disgraced political elite are preparing to return to power, blaming foreigners, minorities, and progressive political formations for the crisis which they themselves clearly caused. They seem to be clawing back some of their supporters, though whether they will succeed is still an open political question. [vii]

With regard to both the Zionist and the Lankan state, the international community has, for strategic, commercial, and political reasons, been lax and gullible. Neither the Zionist nor the Lankan state has ever been prevailed upon to change its behaviour. For how long is the international community[viii] going to accept their assurances (extending over decades) that they are democratic states and their enemies are the terrorists? For killing of the ‘others’ on an industrial scale and herding them into ghettos, the Zionist and Lankan states should both be in the dock.

10 March 2024


[i] Sawafta, Ali and Fick, Maggie, ‘How many Palestinians have died in Gaza? Death Toll explained’. Published December 9, 2023. Retrieved: www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/how-many-palestinians–have-died-gaza-war-how-will-counting-continue.

[ii] ‘Daily Death Rate in Gaza higher than any other major 21st century conflict.’ Oxfam Press Release, 11 January 2024. Retrieved: www.oxfam.org/en/press-releases/daily-death-rate-gaza-higher-any-other-major-21st-century-conflict-oxfam

[iii] ‘Damning Evidence of war crimes as Israeli attacks wipe out entire families in Gaza.’ Amnesty, October 2023. Retrieved: www.amnesty.org.latest news, 2023.10

[iv] All the conversations are from the documentary, Arnestad, B. and Daae, M. (2007) My daughter the terrorist. Snitt film Production.

[v] Jones, Owen. ‘Smear Campaign Against UN’s Palestinian Refugee Agency Taken Apart.’ Broadcast on 30 January 2024. Retrieved: https://www.patreon.com/owenjones84.

[vi] ‘Grave Violations’: Western officials in unprecedented Gaza protest. The New Daily, February 2, 2024.

[vii] For a good overview see Dr Lionel Bopage’s recent interview on 3CR with Green Left Weekley Radio. The podcast is available at: https://www.3cr.org.au/greenleftweekleyradio/episode/behind-weapons-industry-australia-economic-crisis-sri-lanka-sovereignty.

[viii] It should be noted that the main backer of the Lankan state is China. In the UN the main countries blocking any change also include Russia, Cuba, and Venezuela. On the opposite camp are the ardent supporters of the Zionist state, Australia, Britain and the United States.

Michael Colin Cooke

Michael Colin Cooke is a retired public servant and trade union activist who has a lifelong interest in South Asian history, politics and culture. He has served as an election monitor in Sri Lanka. He has also penned when the occasion demanded a number of articles and film reviews.

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