Butchery in Sri Lanka/Tamil Eelam

It is probably a pity, but as reactions to the G20 protest policing show, images often matter. So for example the analysis of new images may work as an important confirmation of “the persistent verbal testimony…from doctors, aid workers and civilians fleeing the area” – the Sri Lankan government is massacring civilians.

I’m reluctant to set much store by the category of ‘war crimes’, since very few crimes are as serious as the crime of starting a war itself, but for what it’s worth, this government is committing war crimes. That government is of course also, for what it’s worth, an authoritarian and racist one, even by the standards of modern governments.

I don’t have much to add personally, it just felt like something that could do with saying. It is of course interesting how little coverage and how little protest this conflict has prompted in the West, especially compared to the Israel-Palestine conflict, to which it bears many resemblances (apparently the governments involved recognise this, and do a lot of business trading weapons with each other). There has been protest, of course, some of it involving very brave hunger strikes, but it seems to have mainly been carried out by Tamils themselves, with less of the shouty lefty students.

Some supporters of Israel would no doubt claim this shows double standards and an unfair bias against Israel, but I think this is a mistake. Firstly, I think it’s a mistake to insist on consistency as a pre-requisite for outcry: if people can only offer criticism after haing equally criticised everything deserving of criticism, people will criticise little.

What does seem to me to be involved is largely a media-led feedback loop: because people have heard more about Israel, and see other people around them discussing it, and read reports and opinion piecesĀ  and debates about it, they find it much easier to form an opinion, to engage in discussion, and to take part in some political action. This then recreates those conditions for others, and the ‘issue’ maintains itself.

Whereas when people would have to learn new history, and form a personal opinion (rather than identifying which of the two sides is naturally ‘theirs’), they’re much less likely to do so – which means that there are fewer people talking about it, and it’s even harder to get a group of shouty lefty students together to leftily shout.

This is of course regrettable. The fact that I haven’t seen much (any? hmm) discussion of Sri Lanka on the lefty blogs that gave blow-by-blows of the assault on Gaza is regrettable, and plays into the hands of those who want to paint criticism of Israel as myopic and one-sided.

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