The rhetoric of evasion
If anyone is interested in playing the right-wingers' game, all they have to do is learn a few simple steps:
1. Equate the whole of the nation you are attacking (Tamil Eelam, Palestine) with the most extreme rhetoric and deeds of the most extreme individuals in that nation (eg, pounce on the anti-semitic language used by some leaders of the small Islamic Jihad group, and claim that it expresses the viewpoint of all Palestinians; note the attacks by a few armed Tamils on the Sinhalese minority in the Jaffna Peninsula in the 1980s, and claim that all Tamils want to exterminate the Sinhala majority of Sri Lanka).
2. Deprive the aforementioned words and deeds of any sort of historical context, so that they seem like expressions of a deep-rooted, irrational worldview (forget that the anti-semitism of some Palestinians is an unhealthy response to decades of oppression by a Jewish state; ignore the fact that Tamils who attacked the Sinhala minority in Jaffna in the '80s were responding, however wrongly, to the slaughter of thousands of their compatriots in the south of Sri Lanka in a government-orchestrated pogrom).
3. Claim that the sheer irrationality of your opponents' actions shows that their claim to be oppressed is false. Claim that even if their demands were met, they would continue to hate and fight you. Conclude that there is no point in negotiating with them, or offering them any concessions. (You might like to quote Bibi Netanyahu, who says that a Palestinian state will do nothing to stop the conflict in his part of the world, or Prime Minister Rajapaksee, who says that there is 'only a military solution' to Tamil grievances.)
4. Condemn any outside party - it might be a protest group in the West, an NGO, or even an arm of the UN - which criticises your approach to the conflict, and imply that they are giving support to irrational, evil forces.
5. Sit at your keyboard and cheer as the bombs fall and the bullets fly.
The demonstration I attended on Saturday did not demand solidarity with the Tamil Tigers - it called for a ceasefire in the fighting which has left a quarter of a million people displaced. Do those who have condemned the event really believe that there is a military solution to the grievances of the Tamil people? Do they imagine that Tamil people will suddenly embrace the Sri Lankan state and forget their grievances, if enough of their families and friends are killed?
Even if the Sri Lankan Army over-runs all the Tiger-held territories, there will be no lasting stability in Sri Lanka, because Tamil people will see the army as an occupying force rather than a liberator. Without some form of political settlement - the sort of settlement that can only arrived at through negotiation - the violence will continue indefinitely.
The people of Tamil Eelam have consistently expressed their desire to be either autonomous from or completely independent of that state. Their desire has been reflected in the popularity of the Federal Party amongst Tamils in the '50s and
'60s, the rise of the Tamil United Liberation Front in the 1970s, the pro-independence Vaddukodai resolution ofhe mid-70s, and the popularity of the Tamil National Alliance Party today. Even if we disregard the Tigers and other violent groups completely, it is still very clear that Tamil people have repeatedly supported organisations that call for either autonomy or complete independence.
The year 1983 is cruical to understanding why so many Tamils have embraced armed struggle against the Sri Lankan state. In July 1983 anti-Tamil riots broke out in the south of the country, and lasted for ten bloody days. Three thousand Tamils died in the mayhem, which was not condemned by the Sinhalese government of the time until it was almost over.
The riots of 'Black July' were followed by an act of parliament - an act which was debated for a mere day before it was rammed through by the Sinhala majority - that asked all MPs to swear an oath to a unitary Sri Lanka. Because they could not swear this oath, the Tamil nationalist MPs who constituted the official opposition in parliament were forced to give up their seats. Thus the peaceful representatives of the Tamil desire for independence were pushed out into the cold, and this along with the deadly riots encouraged many Tamil people to believe that armed struggle was the only way to express their grievances.
Imagine if anti-Scottish riots broke out in London, thousands of Scots living there were killed, and the British parliament reacted by demanding that Scottish National Party MPs in Westminister swear an oath that they would not try to break up the British state. Would an armed struggle not quickly arise in Scotland in these circumstances? And would some of the keyboard warriors who have visited this site and indymedia over the past few days begin to talk about a congential 'Scottish irrationality' and an unplacatable 'anti-English fanaticism'?