Thursday, 14 May 2009

Nakba Day! Anniversary of the declaration of independence of Israel and the formal beginning of 61 years of war. So let's pay attention to Sri-Lanka and Burma, where other peoples are being oppressed in their own lands. The cases are not strictly parallel of course; historic situations never are. The Tamils never were the majority in Sri-Lanka, and many of them are descended from ancestors brought in by the British as cheap labour, but they are a big minority - the majority in large areas of the North - and now they are being attacked by a government that offers them no option but surrender. Burma is controlled by one of the most appalling regimes in the world, which has never accepted its defeat in the only general election it ever organized, and which maintains its people in poverty and ignorance.

Just as Palestine was abandoned to Zionism thanks to President Truman of America, who used his power to swing the vote in the UN, so the Burmese generals are kept in power with Chinese complicity and the Sri-Lankan government owes much to Japanese aid and investment. The wider world too has a share of responsibility, failing to use the methods which were so successful in putting an end to apartheid in South Africa.

But the main point I want to make is that no one blames Buddhism for oppression in Burma and Sri-Lanka - two countries with Buddhist majorities, and no one should blame Jews or Judaism for oppression of the non-Jewish minority in Israel and of the Palestinians on the West Bank and in Gaza. The aims and methods of Zionism owe nothing to the religion of the great prophets who shaped the Jewish religion, and many of those who most vehemently denounce Israel do so in the name of Judaism.

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