Staying silent while Sri Lanka burns isn’t an option 
Posted: 08 May 2010 01:23 AM PDT

As writers, we have a duty to question our own people and their actions. It is a responsibility.
A fellow advisor on the UK-based Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, Roma Tearne writes in the Independent on the pain of Sri Lanka and why we should all raise our voices:

On the island of Sri Lanka, an important anniversary will soon be celebrated. 18 May is the day last year on which the war ended in a government “victory” over the Tamil forces of the LTTE. In a token gesture, to coincide with World Press Freedom Day, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has pardoned Tissainayagam, the journalist sentenced unlawfully to 20 years in jail.
Although many other journalists languish in prison and 80,000 civilians in camps, the bloody years appear to be a memory – a memory discarded and ignored among the land mines, and the mass graves.
There is another anniversary that occurs this May. Unnoticed by the West, it marks a tragedy from almost 30 years ago: an event of such significance that even today, educated Sri Lankan Tamils cannot speak of it without a tremor. I am not talking about the violence perpetrated by government and terrorists alike.
Nor am I talking about those genocidal crimes against tens of thousands of Tamils, the human rights abuses, or even the continued hounding of the press. I am talking of something simpler, older, more symbolic: the burning of the public library in Jaffna over a period of three days and nights in 1981.
I was in my twenties at the time, a young mother, working part-time as an assistant librarian at the University of Leicester. One morning my father, a Tamil man living in London, rang me with the news. He was close to tears as he described the details.
Two Singhalese policemen had been killed at a political rally in Jaffna. Later that evening, police and government-sponsored paramilitaries set fire to the public library, razing it to the ground. Over 97,000 books and scrolls of historical value to the Tamil people were burnt. Once scholars came from all over India to study these manuscripts, some the only copies in the world. Now the works of philosophers, dramatists and writers, all who had made so significant a contribution to Tamil culture, lay in ashes.
Sri Lanka has been at war with itself for as long as I can remember. My earliest memory was in 1958 when, aged four, I watched a Tamil man being set on fire in Colombo. Self-hatred has ebbed and flowed ever since, penetrating every aspect of life in this small, beautiful island and turning it into a fool’s paradise.
For the psychological structure of a country cannot flourish when large swathes of the population continue to live in fear and deprivation. It comes as no surprise then, that the handful of Sri Lankan-born writers lucky enough to achieve international recognition no longer live there. Instead, they have chosen Canada, the US, Australia and Britain, taking the opportunity to develop in an environment free from aggressive censorship.
Yet those expatriate writers have other issues to deal with. Although their writing often borders on the sublime, through no fault of their own they too are the victims of what is happening in their homeland.
Like rare orchids they are visible, but silent. Theirs are not the voices one hears first proclaiming the injustices of the last 50 years. For when the official line of the Sri Lankan government is zero tolerance of any criticism, how can writers, in their struggle against forgetting, speak out?

Israeli media rules: smear Goldstone, love the state and deny responsibility 
Posted: 08 May 2010 01:01 AM PDT

This is how Israel’s biggest newspaper, Yediot, conducts its “journalism”. Smearing and in the service of the state. Here’s the lead:

Yedioth Ahronoth investigation reveals man preaching human rights, who authored scathing report against Israel’s operation in Gaza, sent at least 28 black defendants to gallows as South African judge under Apartheid regime.
He asserted that Israel committed war crimes and came out against the Israel Defense Forces, whom he claimed violated basic human rights. Judge Richard Goldstone forgot just one thing – to look long and hard in the mirror and to do some soul-searching before he rushes to criticize others.

And the final section could have been written by the Israeli Foreign Ministry:

Following the revelations, prominent American lawyer Alan Dershowitz compared Goldston’e defense to that of Nazi war criminals. “Goldstone took a job as an apartheid judge. He allowed dozens of black people who were unfairly tried to be executed,” Dershowitz told Channel 2 TV.
“You know, a lot of people say we just followed the law, German judges… That’s what (German SS officer and physician Josef) Mengele said too. That was Mengele’s defense and that was what everybody said in Nazi Germany. ‘We just followed the law.’ When you are in an apartheid country like South Africa, you don’t follow the law,” Dershowitz added.
Israeli politicians and the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday welcomed the Yedioth Ahronoth investigation, which revealed Goldstone’s dark past as a cruel judge in South Africa under the Apartheid regime.
A Foreign Ministry official referred to the investigation as “explosive PR material”. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman plans to instruct his office to send the information published in the newspaper to all of Israel’s representatives in the world to be used in their PR activities.
Both right-wing and left-wing Knesset members slammed Goldstone and his “problematic past”.
“The judge who sentenced black people to death and supported what he defined as a ‘reward for crimes’ is a man of double standards,” Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said during a meeting with his Cypriot counterpart, who is visiting Israel.
“Such a person should not be allowed to lecture a democratic state defending itself against terrorists, who are not subject to the criteria of international moral norms,” added Rivlin.
“Although he was involved in clear racist activity, he had no problem writing such a report,” said MK Hasson. “It’s puzzling and disappointing that the Foreign Ministry did not check and know in real time about the man’s past. Had this been done, it would have greatly helped us in our activity against the report.”

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima), chairman of the Knesset’s State Control Committee, said the investigation revealed that Goldstone was a hypocrite not just towards reality, but also towards himself.

Of course there’s nothing here to examine Goldstone’s findings over Israel’s conduct during Operation Cast Lead.

Clegg loves Israel (how could he not?) but urges some changes 
Posted: 08 May 2010 12:23 AM PDT

Britain’s Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, currently the man of the hour in the UK, told Haaretz this week about his real views on Israel:

“As to the accusations that I am hostile to Israel, my actions prove the opposite. I have always sharply opposed various efforts to impose academic and cultural sanctions on Israel. I am also one of those who said that Britain should not have participated in the Durban 2 conference when it became clear that it would turn into an anti-Israel event.”
“I have tremendous admiration for the state of Israel and its people. When I visited, I was once again exposed to the genius of this nation, which has managed to maintain a democratic regime and a thriving and open economy, despite its existence under a constant threat. This is a great achievement.
But we must distinguish clearly between the Israeli and the Jewish people on the one hand, and certain actions of the Israeli government on the other. If I have criticism it is focused solely on these actions. I plan to continue to voice my thoughts, which stem from honest and legitimate concern, and in my estimation that the long term interests of the people of Israel are not being met properly at this time.”
Clegg rejects speaking to Hamas “as long as Hamas continues to nurture an extremist ideology of violence and terror. I totally understand the feelings of the residents of Sderot who are under constant missile attacks that are meant to impose terror. My condemnations of Hamas have always been clear and unequivocal, and the same is true of my attitude toward the fact that Israel has the full right to defend its inhabitants. That is the role of every country and every government.
“However,” he adds, “I don’t understand the Israeli strategy regarding Gaza. The imposition of the siege against 1.5 million people, many of them young people who become increasingly itter, and the disproportionate use of force.
Operation Cast Lead did of course bring about a certain neutralization of the attackers and the missile attacks ¬ but did it reduce the bitterness prevailing between the peoples, did it weaken Hamas’ position, and did it guarantee Israel’s long-term security interests? I’m not at all certain.”
Clegg comes out against Israel’s “continued development of the illegal settlements,” he welcomes the approaching proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and as far as Hamas is concerned, he says:
“The only way to deal with Hamas is to work to split the organization between the extremists who want to destroy the peace process and those who are willing over the long term to recognize Israel and to work to find a solution in a non-violent manner.”
Clegg rejects out of hand the claim that the British public is today the most “anti-Israel” in Europe.

See: www.antonyloewenstein.com


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