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Saturday, August 16, 2014 - 3.20 GMT
Sri Lanka Underlines Friendship with Palestine

Lucien Rajakarunanayake


President Mahinda Rajapaksa's decision to provide US $ 1 million in financial aid to the Palestinians in the Gaza is an important move in showing that Sri Lanka's support for the Palestinian people has not changed. His decision came with the hope that the violence in Gaza is halted and peace prevails in the region.

Announcing this decision last Thursday was most timely, in view of moves from those in certain quarters to prevent public expressions of support for the people of Gaza, on the narrow ethnic lines of opposition to Muslims, which is campaign strategy of a "Bala Sena" or power group that brings discredit to the Yellow Robe, to state it lightly. This is a position that has no broad support among the people of Sri Lanka, and its government.

Sri Lanka recognized Palestine as a State in 1988, and since then has had the most cordial relations with the Palestinian people, and supported their moves for statehood in equality with all other nations, in all international fora. This friendship is underscored by Mahinda Rajapaksa being the founder President of the Sri Lanka Committee for Solidarity with Palestine, a position he held for 25 years, till his election as the President of Sri Lanka in November 2005.

The massacre justified

The situation in the Gaza demands international action to stop the brutality and massacre by Israel that has so far led to nearly 2,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians - and among those a very large number of women and children, being killed, thousands more being injured, and tens of thousands being forced to seek refuge in UN locations, such as schools and hospitals, some of which are targeted by Israeli air strikes.

The cost to Israel in this invasion of the Gaza has been 64 troops and three civilians killed, while a small number of citizens have been killed or injured by rocket attacks from Gaza. This is the most disproportionate attack on an enemy in war, when what are known as the Rules of War that are readily brandished against other countries, are not so eagerly shown to Israel.

In fact, the world is faced with a situation when the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declares that heavy civilian casualties caused by Israeli attacks "is justified and proportionate". He was reported stating that he regretted "every" civilian death, but said Hamas was responsible because it carried out rocket attacks from civilian areas, as reported in The Independent UK, on August 14, before the collapse of the first 72 hour ceasefire that prevailed. What Israel wants is for Hamas to disarm, or at least ensure that its fighters cannot re-arm, before considering the group's demand that Gaza's borders be re-opened.

The issue here is what exactly are Israel's borders that President Obama, UK's David Cameron, France's President Hollande the UN's Ban Ki-moon and all European leaders were emphasizing that Israel has every right to defend, from Hamas rockets? What Israel has are borders that have been moving for the past several years, from the time the State of Israel was recognized in 1948, and especially after its refusal to recognize the elected leadership of Gaza.

Mowing the lawn

The massacre that has taken place in the Gaza in this latest outbreak of conflict is what Israel refers to as "mowing the lawn". This "mowing" has been going on with increasing massacres of Palestinian citizens since the first attack was launched in 1997. As Paul Vallely, visiting professor of public ethics at the University of Chester, commented in The Independent of Sunday August 10, August: "Why, you might wonder, were some Palestinians so eager to restart the war after the mighty Israeli army had ceased its ferocious month-long bombardment? But that question fails to understand a fundamental clash of perspectives between the Israelis and the Hamas militants who control Gaza.

"Israel's demands are short term. It wants an end to violence. Its military objectives have been to destroy Hamas's ability to fire rockets and blow up the tunnels through which militants can enter Israel to launch attacks.

"The perspective of Hamas is more long term. For them a mutual cessation of violence is not enough. They want an end to the eight-year blockade which prevents a huge range of goods - A4 paper, crayons, shoes, crockery, wheelchairs, hearing aid batteries, pasta and even coriander - from entering the strip of land which has been described as the world's largest open prison. Israel says the blockade will not be lifted until Hamas disarms. Meantime, the retaliation will continue.

A Just War

"There are six classic criteria for a Just War. Your cause must be just; you must act with good intentions and have legal authority. More problematically for Israel, the means you use must be in proportion to the end you seek to achieve. It is on this that world opinion has found Israel wanting. The casualty figures confirm that. A quarter of the population of Gaza has been displaced, with 206,000 huddled in UN shelters. Almost 2,000 Palestinians have been killed, three-quarters of them civilians."

Paul Vallely continues: "There are six classic criteria for a Just War. Your cause must be just; you must act with good intentions and have legal authority. More problematically for Israel, the means you use must be in proportion to the end you seek to achieve. It is on this that world opinion has found Israel wanting. The casualty figures confirm that. A quarter of the population of Gaza has been displaced, with 206,000 huddled in UN shelters. Almost 2,000 Palestinians have been killed, three-quarters of them civilians.

"But there are two other key Just War criteria. You must have a reasonable prospect of military success. And all other ways of resolving the problem must have been tried first. On both of these Israel's record is questionable.

"This is the fourth war in Gaza in a decade. Israeli military strategists talk, chillingly, of "mowing the lawn". Even leaving aside the morally questionable nature of seeing human flesh as grass, that the chore needs such repetition suggests that its success is very limited. Moreover, the circumstances of those four campaigns have not been morally equivalent. Gaza's outside contact has been steadily constricted since the sealing of its borders in 2007."

The other side

It is also interesting to read the other side of the story. This is effectively said in "The Jerusalem Post of August 04, by Ari Abramowitz, currently serving as a sharpshooter in Israel's "Operation Protective Edge". He is a filmmaker, educator and the host of Israel Inspired Radio on the forthcoming Voice of Israel broadcast network. As he states it: "The reason that I and my fellow soldiers want to continue putting our lives in jeopardy, sleeping night after night in the dirt under mortar fire, rocket attacks and the perpetual danger of terrorist attacks via tunnels is because this war is not yet over. Israel is in danger and when Israel is in danger every member of the Jewish family is in danger.

"Today Jews around the world are experiencing the greatest fear and insecurity since the Holocaust.

"The masks are coming off and it is increasingly clear that this is not a war against Israel, but a war against the Jewish People. This week's cover of Newsweek was titled "Why Europe's Jews are fleeing once again." Scarcely a day goes by when there is not another horrific act of anti-Semitism somewhere in the world. A poll this week indicates that a vast majority of Jews in France are considering leaving. A friend in the army told me that there is not a family in Holland that is not considering leaving. We have seen how quickly the winds can change and we are here fighting this war to protect your home for when you should want - or need - to return.

In the poetic words of King David "He who sews with tears reaps with joy."

As we cry together this Tisha Be'av (when the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed ages ago) as one loving family, may we soon merit the opportunity to laugh together and celebrate with love and joy."

The wrong image

Israeli and large sections of the Western media are recalling the Holocaust and the rise of anti-Semitism in this new narrative of the massacre of the people of Gaza. It is useful to remember that the Holocaust was not caused by the Palestinians or Arabs. It was the final expression of the hatred of the Jewish people that was shown by the Western Christians through the ages, from the time the Jews were expelled from what was their homeland, long before Islam was born. Hitler thought he was driving the final nail into the Jewish coffin, and achieving the goal of misguided Westerners and Christians (with no offence to all Christians). What is important to know is that the Holocaust was not something that the Palestinians did, and using recollections of the Holocaust to justify the current massacre of Palestinians is a terrible twist of history to suit the purpose of Israeli expansionism.

There is another dangerous distortion that is now emerging in the West. These are the reports of anti-Semitism. It is sad fact that there are increasing attacks on Jewish synagogues and business establishments in the West today. Yet, what must be remembered is that the Jews are not the only Semitic people in the world. Semites are people speaking a Semitic language, in particular the Jews and Arabs, and Semitic refers to an Afro-Asiatic sub-family of languages that includes Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic and certain ancient languages such as Phoenician and similar tongues. Semites are not a racial group, but a wider linguistic group. What is being sought to achieve is to tar the Palestinians and all Arabs who support them, as being anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish, as the Westerners have been for centuries. What is in fact taking place today is that one group of Semites - the Jews of Israel, are attacking, and massacring another Semitic group in Palestine.

It is also necessary to note that that while the Western media gives much publicity to the Jewish synagogues in the Western countries being attacked, in the pro-Palestinian protests in those countries, there is hardly anything being said of the number of mosques totally destroyed by the Israeli bombing in the Gaza Strip. There is the need for proportionality in such reporting too, to be both fair and not hide the brutality of the Israeli forces, against the people of Gaza, who are hemmed in what amounts to an open concentration camp, that should also bring memories of the Holocaust to those who are carrying out the attacks on Gaza.

I shall conclude by quoting what the "Economist" UK, has stated editorially on August 2, before fresh fighting broke out in Gaza. "Having created a huge open-air prison in Gaza, Israel remains committed to a blockade that contains Hamas - but also ensures that ever more Palestinians grow up angry. On the West Bank, Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has gone backwards: he has said that Israel cannot relinquish security control of the West Bank for fear of Islamist attack. That implies an intention to consolidate the occupation, thus withdrawing all hope from Palestinian moderates. The West Bank would be likely to explode too, then, while the demographic clock ticked on".

The Palestinians do need all support the world can give them. 





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