By Athithan Jayapalan
State oppression and counter-insurgency do not exist in isolation; they are situated in a global nexus of inter-state relations and links. Thereby the experience of a state in repressing resistance and people struggles also often becomes the focal point of inter-state interaction. In this light it is of importance to illuminate the structural ties between the Zionist Israel and the Sinhala chauvinist Sri Lankan state.
As the oppressors collaborate and extend aid to each other, the oppressed also integrate their struggles and identify common grounds, thus the dynamics of resistance and oppression does not unfold in geographic isolation. Subsequently in the 1970’s Tamil militants from EROS, PLOTE and EPRLF established relations with the Palestinian revolutionary movement, the PFLP and went to southern Lebanon to receive training in guerilla warfare to fight the Sri Lankan state.
In contrast to the solidarity mentioned above the President of Sri Lanka was invited to Ramallah on the 6th and 7th of January 2014. Following his arrival the Palestinian Authority (PA) conferred the Palestinian Star upon the visiting President as a sign of gratitude for the solidarity of Sri Lanka towards the Palestinians. Moreover he was invited to the conferment ceremony while on his Middle East trip which included meetings with the Zionist Israel and the Monarchist Jordan. While he was praised by the oppressor of Palestinians in Tel Aviv for his genocidal campaign against Tamils, the PA resorted to opportunism by honoring Rajapakse in a bid to woo support for its admittance in to the U.N. This event raises serious questions regarding international solidarity, principled politics and anti-imperialism. What are the implications for the Palestinian people struggle when internationally sanctioned representatives of the oppressed, such as the PA pursue opportunistic politics? What becomes clouded in these representations is the larger political and socio-economical context of the event. Sri Lanka is interwoven into an axis of powers which actively engage and collaborate in counter-insurgency in a bid to crush oppressed peoples struggle for self-determination. Chief among their allies are the U.K and the Israeli state which implies that the Sri Lankan state’s national oppression of Eelam Tamils is interconnected with the Israeli national oppression of Palestinians. It is thus necessary to briefly look at the larger context in order to discern the dangerous ramifications of the event which unfolded in Ramallah.
Palestine and Eelam
Several elements in Sri Lanka’s structural genocide towards the Tamils resemble the Israeli state’s genocidal oppression of the Palestinian people. More specifically Sri Lankan colonization and militarization of Tamils’ lands resemble the Israeli policy of state aided Jewish colonization and military “Zoning” of Palestinian lands. It was a strategy which brought about the disjuncture of the traditional homeland of the Palestinian people into the West Bank and Gaza. As a consequence the oppressed Palestinian people beleaguered within two disjointed territories struggle to gain recognition for the contiguity of their traditional homeland, not to mention their right to self-determination. In Sri Lanka by independence more than 12 major state sponsored colonization schemes had been initiated in the Tamil homeland (Eelam). Post-independence saw the continuation of colonization under the aegis of the Gal-Oya Multi-purpose project and the Accelerated Mahaweli Project. The latter was a massive neo-liberal undertaking with heavy international financing, in particularly from Thatcher’s Britain. These schemes were strategically situated in crucial areas with the ulterior motive to disrupt the demographic pattern and the territorial contiguity of the Tamil homeland in a bid to break the backbone of the Tamil peoples’ struggle for self-determination. Under the pretext of “development” depressed Sinhala peasants and criminal elements were systematically settled with the ulterior motive to alienate Tamils and Tamil speaking Muslims from their lands.
With the onset of counter-insurgency in 1979, the army was sent to the Tamil North with a mandate to crush the militants. Subsequently the Sri Lankan government coordinated counter-insurgency with the entrenched practice of colonization and their discriminatory laws. The resemblances with Israel’s genocidal policies are not merely coincidental but reflect the structural linkages between Sri Lanka and Israel with the blessings of imperialist powers. In the mid-1980s Colombo sought active assistance from Israel and consequently Shin Bet and Mossad were dispatched to provide training and supervise the sharpening of the genocidal campaign against Tamils. This assistance was covertly facilitated by the U.S. as Sri Lanka being a member of the Non-alignment Movement (NAM) complicated the efforts due to India’s pro-Palestine stand at the time. As Sri Lanka had no official diplomatic relation with Israel, the U.S. facilitated an Israeli interest-section in the basement of the U.S. embassy in Colombo on 1st July 1984. This connection enabled the government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) to improve its counter-insurgency capacities with a keen interest in adapting the Israeli military-settler strategy. The Israeli assistance was also instrumental in the engineering of enmities between the Tamil speaking Muslims and the Tamils in Eastern Sri Lanka. This ingenious process eventually resulted in the anti-Tamil riots of 1986 in Amparai district and founded the grounds for the tragic cycle of violence between the kindred communities subsequently eliminating the potential of cooperation in fighting the chauvinist Sinhala state. Beside such ties, Israel became since then one of the biggest exporters of military equipment to Sri Lanka.
The genocidal characteristics of the Sri Lankan state were thus enhanced by Zionist Israel in the 1980s and have continued till date as does the case with the genocidal oppression of the Tamils.
Military occupation and International machinations: Denial of the Right to Self-determination
The post-war situation in the Tamil North-East is also startling as it has become one of the heaviest militarized territories in the world. Moreover large swathes of lands in the northern province of Jaffna have since the 1990s been occupied by the military through the establishment of High Security Zones (HSZ) which resemble the Israeli policy of “Zoning” around military installments.
If such blatant oppression is perpetuated, and the international community continues to abide by GOSL’s narration of the ground situation and treat the oppressor as a legitimate party in deciding the future of the oppressed, what options are then left for the Tamil nation? Despite contextual differences, the Palestinian people have likewise succumbed to an internationally machinated peace process which renders their national aspirations and the one state solution futile. By accepting the Israeli military occupation and a disjointed Palestinian homeland, the international community has cemented the status quo for the benefit of Israel. This was a political solution which resulted in an illusionary PA incapable of safeguarding their people and homeland from both Israeli military aggression and apartheid. The dominant powers in the international community seem to abide by their state counterparts regardless of how genocidal they are, so far as it serves their vested interests. In the same vein the international community is pushing for the Tamil nation to accept an inadequate political solution presented in the forms of provincial councils unable to challenge or arrest the genocidal policies of the Sri Lankan state. This is a system which allows the central government and their military generals to override the decisions of these provincial councils in the name of “national security” and sovereignty.
Likewise the PA has been commented upon as a futile practice and many have questioned the commitment of “President” Mahmoud Abbas to the Palestinian people and their national aspirations. It is further a mockery of solidarity when the PA invited the Sri Lankan president to award the Sri Lankan state which is found guilty of perpetuating genocide on the Tamils. In spite of such pro-Zionist and genocidal characteristics, the Sri Lankan state is ironically represented as advocates of the Palestinians and honored. Subsequently the PA and Sri Lanka also signed cooperation deals and President Abbas proclaimed “Our two countries maintain good relations and i wish it will improve more and more”. Solidarity becomes desecrated through such machinated events; Sri Lanka is represented as honored by the people of Palestine. The PA is in effect willingly or unwittingly legitimizing the national oppression of Eelam Tamils when glorifying Sri Lanka. This is at the expense of genuine bonds, such as extending solidarity to the Tamils. Such true comradeship was exhibited by the PFLP but the recent visit by Rajapakse illuminates a contra-revolutionary undertone within the contemporary international solidarity movement.
For oppressed people, in particular the Palestinians and the Tamils, it is necessary to integrate their struggles, their experiences and to sensitize one another about the subsequent hoax and trickery propagated by their respective oppressors and the international community. Thus it is crucial for Palestinian activists and civic society to denounce such acts by the PA which embraces a genocidal government. Despite the geographical distance the people of Palestine and Eelam are connected through their collective experiences of genocide, military occupation and territorial fragmentation. Likewise Zionism and Sinhala chauvinism conflates as the Israeli and Sri Lankan state coordinate their respective counter-insurgencies and advance their military and economic ties.
In the pursuit to serve their own ends imperialist powers and comprador states will inevitably sacrifice the righteous struggles of the oppressed on the altars of international diplomacy. There is no principled stand on the right to self-determination and thereby no solidarity to be found in such castles. Thereby to forsake principled solidarity for opportunistic politics is myopic and unfruitful. The great game of geo-politics played amongst the Imperialist and the genocidal Nation-states renders oppressed people with little access to decision making power, we risk thereby falling prey and becoming mere pawns.
Only solidarity among the oppressed will create the adequate grounds to fight Imperialism, Zionism and genocidal oppression as it will be principled on the right to self-determination and the equality of nations.
– Athithan Jayapalan is a student in social anthropology and studied in Oslo and Pondicherry universities. Born in Jaffna, he currently lives in Oslo, Norway. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.