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The Great Genocide game

Genocide is an extremely ugly action. Unfortunately it is now seen also as a word that can be used, while conveying the idea of something ugly, to ensure results that are also ugly, in a very different way. In short, the word is used exploitatively, to denigrate and indeed to do down others by playing on emotions.

The game, for it is a game, of enormous cynicism as well as skill, began perhaps through an accident. The word took on enormity in the 20th century because of the genocide perpetrated on the Jews. This genocide was perpetrated principally by the Germans under Hitler, but it was also promoted by several other European nations.


Palestine’s supporters hold placards showing wounded Palestinians as they rally during a protest to denounce Israeli’s offensive in Gaza in front of the Greek Parliament in Athens last week. AFP

So, when the war was over, and Hitler was defeated, and the question of recompense arose, nations that had been complicit in genocide were anxious to make amends.

This was also one way of making clear that the new ruling elites were not complicit in the monstrosities that had taken place. So they decided to promote a new country for the Jews, a country in which they would be safe from genocide.

Unfortunately it never occurred to them that it was the perpetrators of genocide who should make amends. In the great redrawing of the map of Europe that took place in 1945, they did not think that perhaps the Jews should be given a territory of their own where they would be safe in the Great Pale where they had lived for generations, perhaps in part of that Germany which was given to Poland, perhaps in part of that Poland which was given to the Soviet Union.

No, it was much easier to give them a large slice of Palestine, since the previous inhabitants of Palestine did not really count in European eyes, certainly not as much as either the victims or the perpetrators of genocide.

And what a successful stratagem that turned out to be. In all fairness to the Anglo-Saxons, they were not the prime movers of the project.


Prof. RAJIVA WIJESINGHE

Indeed their ruling classes, not having been involved in the horrors of the concentration camps, were less ashamed then of their residual anti-semitism than the Europeans. But once the game started, it was a game they were well equipped to play to a finish.

Britain, having suffered from Jewish terrorism in the run up to the creation of Israel, and then having washed its hands of the area it had so avidly grabbed at the end of the First World War, behaved just like Balfour, when he moved to an exalted position under Lloyd George when Asquith was overthrown.

Roy Jenkins, in his seminal biography of Asquith, cites the Churchill description of Balfour making the move ‘like a powerful graceful cat walking delicately and unsoiled across a rather muddy street’.

I had thought of Balfour in this connection, because it was his Declaration that was used to give the concept of Israel some legitimacy from the time of the First World War. Though Balfour may not have necessarily meant Palestine, and indeed that assumption ran contrary to what the British were promising the Arabs whom they had roused against the Turks, he obviously felt something was owed to interests that had helped furnish the wherewithal to conduct a protracted war.

So the stage was set for the extraordinary ambiguity of the British in exercising their mandate over Palestine over the next three decades, decades in which the Palestinian proportion of the population of their homeland was drastically reduced through sponsored immigration.

Nevertheless the British did not wholly sell the pass in the period after the Second War, and they suffered for it as in the explosions that took the lives of their leading officials, one of the first indications that terrorism can sometimes pay. In the fifties however, like Balfour, they shifted position powerfully but gracefully. Anthony Eden evoked the shade of Hitler when Egypt turned dangerously socialist, and joined with France in establishing for Israel its role for the next few decades, that of the Western oasis in the desert.

The prophecy was to prove self-fulfilling, not least because the United States, having maintained its previous more idealistic detachment over Suez, jumped on the bandwagon in the sixties, terrified perhaps by continuous left-leaning coups against Arab monarchies, traumatised by the polarisations caused by their adventures in Vietnam. And so the recompense made for genocide proved remarkably advantageous for the West, not perhaps so much for the actual perpetrators, but for those saw themselves as responsible for their security, and that of the world.

Obviously, if a stratagem is successful, it makes sense to repeat it. For fifty years however, this could not be done through the United Nations, given the polarisations of the Cold War. But once the War was over, and when it seemed likely that the World would be led by the West for decades to come, the Great Game could resume. And so we have the remarkable spectacle of Kosovo, where cries of genocide in 1999 played on feelings roused by earlier incidents. In those earlier incidents, the world had accepted that the ghastly action and the emotive word matched, with regard to the Holocaust, Rwanda, Srebenica.

No matter that the case was much less clearcut in Kosovo: if the United Nations would not act, then NATO would. As it happened, the countries opposed to intervention gave in with good grace, perhaps overwhelmed by military force, but also relying on guarantees that autonomy would not lead to independence.

But guarantees mean nothing, in the ruthless world of the Great Gamers. Words are given in order to break them when convenience dictates. And while Jews can trump Muslims, Muslims can trump Orthodox Slavs.

Hence the wonderful doublespeak of an official, Western of course, committed to the independence of Kosovo, in response to a suggestion that Serbian-dominated northern Kosovo was also entitled to decide on its own position.’If you had subdivided Kosovo with a partition, where would that ever end?

You would then have a metastatis of mini-states around the Balkans. Every medium-sized minority would want its own state and that would be a formula for instability.’It obviously never occurred to him that the same argument could have been made against partitioning Serbia so as to create Kosovo.

But it would be na‹ve to expect consistency, or principled solutions to problems, when self interest is all. What would be funny however, were it not so sad, is the manner in which naked self interest is promoted under the guise of principles - or rather through the use of emotive words intended principally to denigrate whatever is disliked for whatever self-contained reason.

And, incidentally, if one ever needs to consider the origin of ‘a metastatis of mini-states’, one need only consider the brilliance with which the British, with a little help from the French, carved up the Arab portions of the Turkish empire they brought down along with the Austrian and the German empires in 1918.

While they gave independence to the states created out of the latter two empires, they kept careful control of the alien others. Except for Arabia, which they doubtless thought a useless desert, they created Protectorates in the three states given to the other sons of the Sheriff of Mecca, and they kept for themselves the invaluable Mediterranean coast, through the Mandates of Lebanon and Palestine. And so too, brilliantly, they ringed Arabia round with a metastatis of mini-states, guarding the waterways, all solidly under occidental control. Such genius. Such utterly unashamed double standards.

To be continued

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