It’s been an ever increasingly worrying trend to watch the level of dehumanisation and indignity that has been thrust towards the Palestinian people in recent times. There seems to be an ‘infallible’ and set way in which we are ‘supposed to’ react to these events. The mainstream media calls for global citizens to be outraged at the launching of rockets towards an ‘unsuspecting’ Israeli population and laments Hamas for every one of these that leaves Gazan soil. If you ask many people about what they believe the root cause of this particular conflict to be, they will whole heartedly and without any question tell you that Hamas is to be blamed for the kidnap and murder of 3 Israeli teens. According to the mainstream media this is the sole reason for the invasion…. However, it has been stated, by members of the IDF themselves, that Hamas, were not actually responsible for this act. That they indeed, had nothing to do with kidnap and murder of these teens and that this was in fact committed by a lone cell, operating out of the West Bank. So then, wouldn’t that mean that the entire premise for this operation has been façade and a downright lie? This assault has been justified, once again, on the premise of a lie through the propaganda machine that is the US backed Israeli state.
It is with extreme pain and heartache that I write this article, and let me state from the beginning, that I am by no means opposed to a Jewish homeland or protection of a people who were subject to such levels of mistreatment and suppression that were the days of Nazism. No population should have to endure such levels of violence, hatred, injustice and criminality. However, in saying all of this, are you the readership starting to see a pattern? It is inconceivable to me, that a population that endured such oppression and indignity can then turn around and inflict the same sentiment onto another group of people. Are the Palestinian people not human beings? Are they not the indigenous people of the land you are now settled in? Are you not scapegoating an entire population in order to justify the existence of your own people? The comparisons are limitless.
Now I know, that there are those among us who read or see anything to do with the support of humanity and restraint towards the Palestinian people to be an act of anti-Semitism; it is not. When you see a comparison of 1,100+ civilians being killed on one side against 3 on the other, you have to question what is actually going on. Claiming self defence against such disproportionate numbers is really not a viable or even believable act. Targeting schools and hospitals and claiming that militant activity is being hidden within these institutions is another unacceptable action. The killing of 7 UN workers and the suppression of this information in order to protect the Israeli juggernaut is yet again, is an intolerable action.
The truth is, that Israel cannot be allowed to follow a different set of rules that the rest of the world, they cannot operate with the level of legal impunity that has been seen since its inception. Is it acceptable that the Israeli state receives more aid from the United States than they provide to the whole of the African continent? Is it fair that an army which is rated as the 4th largest and one of the most proficient in the World is using this technology against rockets? And let’s be frank, rockets, which the majority thereof, are neutralised by its US provided Iron Dome technology. Is it just that the entire Gazan population is labelled as terrorists? That there has been an embargo on these people from land, sea and air for the past 7 years? Is it viable that Gazan fisherman are only allowed to travel 6 miles out to sea to fish? Or that most Gazans have never left the Gaza Strip due to the sanctions imposed from their nearest neighbour.
Don’t let the mainstream media mould your thoughts on this conflict, Hamas is not representative of the entire Gazan population. These people, 1.8 million of them are trapped within a 360km squared radius; half of this population being children. They are men, women and children like you and me. They are mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers; sons and daughters. They bleed just like you and me and they have a right to dignity and justice, and the right to live a peaceful existence, just as you and I have. Remember that the next time someone is publicly shamed for uttering the words ‘Pray for Gaza’.
I felt compelled to write this post, as I have on many occasions for the last couple of years as I have consistently read through reports of the BBS running rampant in my beautiful island nation.
The entire idea of the incitement of yet another minority in this country leaves me baffled and with a sense of sheer frustration. It was only a few memories ago that a different marginalised group of society was treated as second class citizens in a land that they have called home for generations. The results were devastating and our country still continues to struggle with the societal cracks and scars that were inflicted.
In the past, when I read or heard about the sentiments of differentiation and hatred which were being promoted by the BBS, I being from a minority myself, of course felt angry. The sheer hypocrisy of it all is clear and evident to see. I can easily identify how absurd it is, that a group of Buddhist monks are brandishing hatred and inciting violence and retribution against other populations. That from a group who claims that all other minorities practice a level of extremism within the country, who obviously haven’t looked into a mirror lately. However, today, within this piece, I feel it more pertinent to illustrate not a defensive reply, but instead one that represents togetherness and unity; and that I, like other Sri Lankan minorities, are really not that much different than those of the majority in our nation.
The basic tenet at the heart of the BBS’ rhetoric is that there is an impending need to keep Sri Lanka a Sinhala Buddhist nation and to ‘protect’ the Buddhist population from catastrophic annihilation from ‘those extremist and oh so dangerous cult worshippers’, the Muslims and the Christians. The catchcry and defence mechanism utilised has been to point the finger at these minority groups and claim that conversion is rife and that if the Sinhala Buddhist population does not stand up against these ‘outsiders’, they will all be pushed into the sea. “Where will the Sinhala Buddhist population go if this continues?”, they cry; “You minorities can go to other Muslim and Christian nations across the World” they say…..
However, to the BBS I retort: although my religion may be different to yours, although my ethnicity may be different to yours, I am just as much Sri Lankan as you are. Yes, SOME of my ancestry can be traced back to elsewhere in the world, and yes this ancestry means that I and my family alike are Christian, however I am still Sri Lankan. Where can my family go if we cannot call Sri Lanka our homeland? Yes, SOME of our ancestry came over from Portugal or Holland, however this was in the 1500/1600’s and we know nothing of these people apart from the surnames we now bear and the religion we now adhere to & one that yes, like you are of your own, we too are similarly proud. Would it really be possible for myself and my family to knock at the door of these European nations and claim asylum? “We are Portuguese or Dutch I promise, I know not how, and why or from whom my lineage comes from but it has been dictated to me that I am”.
The only traditions we know, the only culture we practice, the only language we speak, is the same as yours. We are proud Sri Lankans who speak Sinhala and believe in our beautiful little country just as you do. We, like you, believe in the divinity of the one we worship to and yes, again, like you, this belief shapes the way we choose to live our lives. This belief means that we practice love, compassion and tolerance to our families, to those of the same religion and those who practice other forms of worship just the same.
To the BBS, we remind you that Buddhists in our country represent the overwhelming majority and as a small percentage of minorities we pose no threat. It is not our intention to drive you, our fellow countrymen, into the sea or anywhere else. We do not intend to blatantly disregard all forms of Sri Lankan culture or practice from the island. All we wish to do, is be treated the same and not as second class citizens in our own country. We wish to worship and practice our beliefs with the same type of freedom as those who adhere to the predominant religion in Sri Lanka; and most of all, we wish to be treated with dignity and respect, as fellow Sri Lankans in all elements of society and life.
Is this too much to expect?