The Tamil Tigers, South Africa and Palestine

Wednesday, 20th May 2009 at 11:34 UTC Leave a comment

Right now, sadly, we can more or less assume that the Tamil nation is dead. When any people group is raped and pillaged of its identity, or perhaps in this case, out-right murdered, I feel hurt. There is clearly no intention on the part of the Sri Lankan government to make Tamils an equal party in ruling, and we must assume that ethnic punishment will be meted out over the next decades.

Sadly, the news media, setting the tone for our Memory of the Tamil struggle for independence, has only sought to highlight the bad stuff. Once again it is the physical victor, not the moral victor, who is declared superior. Implementation of Unity by forced assimilation and/or cultural humiliation is now the order of the day.

Sure, we must remember that this was the group that bought us the suicide bombing, something totally antithetical to a Western mindset where personal advancement must always ultimately trump principles (though thankfully even in the House of Commons its possible for people to respect principles once in a while). The Tamil’s would-be liberators were some of the most ugly around, but in death they will be remembered as nothing more than savages, despite their aspiration to liberate a people group from the hands of its oppressors.

And so I’m reminded of the talk I went to on Friday night, by Shirley Gunn, a terrorist/freedom fighter in the African struggle to end Apartheid. A woman of huge courage, it appears she took the decision to take up arms based on a feeling that the struggle was irresponsible in making the black community so vulnerable. She was an incredibly fascinating speaker, and the links to the Palestinian struggle were very much in evidence, but what I felt I had to challenge was the basis of comparison between a largely (though far from totally) historic struggle, and a very real and present one.

Remember studying the French Revolution in school? You were probably told that it wasn’t totally successful, but were you told about how terrible the violence involved was? Or did the French seem justified?

The South African struggle is now presented as a totally just struggle, and very often the role of the armed insurgence are played down, which is a very dangerous situation of revisionism created by Liberals and sanctioned by those whom it serves most: the victims of the violence. Without the armed struggle, the leadership would have consigned many of its subjects to certain death. Shirley’s group carried out 27 bombings and only one person was ever injured, a passer by who took unfortunate interest in the milk carton containing the device.

Their may be specific, objective reasons why the Tamils were worse than the ANC, but lets be honest, the real reason they will be vilified is because Western Governments were never forced to accept the moral superiority of their case for partitioning the Island along its already-well-marked ethnic lines. Tactically thick, but not without a moral cause.

As to the Palestinians, the Israelis have made it clear they want nothing more to be said about them in history. They will either sign up to be integrated into (the bottom of) Israeli society, as long as there is still Jewish control, or they will stop at nothing to remove them as a threat through land grabbing and coerced repatriation. Till the Palestinian flag is but a memory, they will continue to act to make it seem an impossible struggle.

So much of struggle, of campaigning, is about memory and about how history is revised and presented to us. Those groups which assert the ethical strength of their position are now considered heroes, and those who have failed will be vilified. Details which are inconvenient, like the South African armed-wing of the struggle, are airbrushed out whilst the Tamil suicide bombings are brought to the fore. Memory, our word, is indeed a very powerful weapon.


Entry filed under: Activism, Africa, Asia, Culture, Education, History, Middle East, News, Politics, Tamil Tigers.

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