March 28, 2008

A Tale of Two Peoples

In my view, analysis and action in social conflicts ought to be grounded in the aspirations of people struggling for more freedom and equality before law, wherever in the world. Consistently following this principle, it is possible to support Tibet and oppose the Communist and Islamic insurrections, without being accused of double standards. Dennis Prager's contrast of the world reactions to the Israel-Palestine and the China-Tibet conflicts highlights the opposite kind of double standards practiced by much of the world community. Here are some excerpts:

The long-suffering Tibetans have been in the news. This happens perhaps once or twice a decade. In a more moral world, however, public opinion would be far more preoccupied with Tibetans than with Palestinians, would be as harsh on China as it is on Israel, and would be as fawning on Israel as it now is on China.

But, alas, the world is, as it has always been, a largely mean-spirited and morally insensitive place, where might is far more highly regarded than right.

Consider the facts: Tibet, at least 1,400 years old, is one of the world's oldest nations, has its own language, its own religion and even its own ethnicity. Over 1 million of its people have been killed by the Chinese, its culture has been systematically obliterated, 6,000 of its 6,200 monasteries have been looted and destroyed, and most of its monks have been tortured, murdered or exiled.

Palestinians have none of these characteristics. There has never been a Palestinian country, never been a Palestinian language, never been a Palestinian ethnicity, never been a Palestinian religion in any way distinct from Islam elsewhere...

... Why have the Palestinians received such undeserved attention and support, and the far more aggrieved and persecuted and moral Tibetans given virtually no support or attention?

The first reason is terror. Some time ago, the Palestinian leadership decided, with the overwhelming support of the Palestinian people, that murdering as many innocent people -- first Jews, and then anyone else -- was the fastest way to garner world attention...

The second reason is oil and support from powerful fellow Arabs...

The third reason is Israel. To deny that pro-Palestinian activism in the world is sometimes related to hostility toward Jews is to deny the obvious...

A fourth reason is China. If Tibet had been crushed by a white European nation, the Tibetans would have elicited far more sympathy. But, alas, their near-genocidal oppressor is not white... Furthermore, China is far more powerful and frightening than Israel...

A fifth reason is the world's Left. As a general rule, the Left demonizes Israel and has loved China since it became Communist in 1948...

The sixth reason is the United Nations, where Israel has been condemned in more General Assembly and Security Council resolutions than any other country in the world. At the same time, the UN has voted China onto its Security Council and has never condemned it...

The seventh reason is television news, the primary source of news for much of mankind. Aside from its leftist tilt, television news reports only what it can video. And almost no country is televised as much as Israel, while video reports in Tibet are forbidden, as they are almost anywhere in China except where strictly monitored by the Chinese authorities...

The world is unfair, unjust and morally twisted...

Required reading for all the rational fools out there!


Link via a comment by Oldtimer on a related post at the Acorn. Thanks.
11 comments :
  1. There are many issues out here and I disagree on all of them. Let me start with some basic ones of principles.

    1. Why is it an either/or situation? Why should anyone be insisting as to whether justice in Tibet should receive more attention than Palestine? We can have progress on both without any contradiction.

    If we apply the principles here, eastern Congo should be the main topic of discussion today, where 5 million people have died in the past 15 years. And virtually all the nations are complicit, US, China, Europe. You can check how often Congo has appeared on FrontPage Mag.

    2. If we're rational, we recognize that all state boundaries are acquired by force. There's never been any logic or justice about any boundary.

    3. Why have the Palestinians received such undeserved attention and support...
    Do you think Palestinians have received undeserved attention?

    I have many quibbles about facts as well, but perhaps in a later post.

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  2. All true, all I can think of that is the least bit postive is that we are hearing about it, people are more aware of this happening than in the past. That is how change starts. If Tibet had oil, now that would be another story...

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  3. Could an additional reason also be that the Tibetan people themselves haven't lobbied much for international support in their effort to win their homeland back? Their leader has been too meek and action has also been sporadic and more in the form of feeble protests than in the form of the kind of action we have been seeing in the past few days.

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  4. You know, I think Joe DiMaggio once said, when he was referring to why he runs hard on every play, "because there may be some kid out there watching me play for the first time."

    Well this is the first time I've heard of, or read something by Dennis Prager. It will - hopefully - be the last. His commentary is absurd. I'll point to two reasons even though there are many others.

    1. He conflates national legitimacy with ethnocentricity: "Palestinians have none of these characteristics. There has never been a Palestinian country, never been a Palestinian language, never been a Palestinian ethnicity, never been a Palestinian religion in any way distinct from Islam elsewhere..."

    Oddly, the same thing can be said about the United States. I don't think that makes the U.S.' claim to a national identity any less legitimate than Tibet's.

    2. There is a very, very simple reason that, at least, the U.S. doesn't go out of its way to scold China about its treatment of Tibet. China is our friend economically - it pours many dollars into the U.S. in terms of foreign investment, and is a great market in which to sell our goods. Why would we want to alienate them?

    and... I don't know if Prager's talking bout the U.S. or the white world in general, but as far as the U.S. is concerned - the government AND the media - has largely ignored the Palestinian conflict over the past five years. and whatever coverage the conflict has received has been pro-Israeli in the extreme.

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  5. I agree with the theme of the post and, surprisingly, some of the comments, partly.
    Violation of rights by nations is equally bad. We, however, prioritise them according to the importance the media gives to us. The US has been extremely hypocritical in foreign policy issues for decades. It does not do enough to bring the reality in front of the Chinese that they are unacceptable when they invade countries like Tibet, or when they kill the Falun Dafa.
    Of course, the less said about the Indian Governments, the better. Disgusting.

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  6. If this highly flawed and Orwellian commentary by Dennis Prager passes for rational thinking, then heavens help us!!

    Yes, the Palestinians took to violence and killing of innocents. But they learned that from watching the world and how it works - where US and Israel had established the rule of "might is right." It's no surprise that when the Palestinians started using violent tactics, the West started listening and offered them a seat at the table - it's a language well-understood. Unfortunately.

    And no, criticism of Israel doesn't mean people hate that country or are leftists. Both Palestine and Israel have killed innocents of each other and both have made mistakes, though Israel does have the balance of power in its favor. Both of them need to sit down and talk, and work out a peaceful solution. I favor neither party - both are to blame. Anyone who takes side with only one or the other is looking at it through an ideological lens - with his understanding partial truth at best.

    As for the UN, maybe Dennis should check which country has consistently vetoed resolutions in the Security Council criticizing Israel for its violent actions. Or the US taxpayer money doled out to Israel, among other countries.

    As for China being loved by the leftists, that may be true of India, but in the West, it's US and other countries who favored China joining the WTO. It's the free market fundamentalists (and not so much the leftists) who love China and could care less for its shady humanitarian record, as long as cheap Chinese trinkets keep coming in. Next, Dennis will be telling us that Internet companies like Yahoo, Google, Microsoft doing business in China (and helping "filter" out content) are run by Russian comrades.

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  7. Thank you all for your comments.

    The point of this post is simply this: if tomorrow, by miracle, the Arabs and the Tibetans, consented to be law-abiding citizens of Israel and China respectively, who'd enjoy more freedom and equality before law?

    I oppose the Arab insurrection in Israel, because I have little doubt that if the insurrection succeeded, it'd simply result in an increase in the population under Islamic theocracy. I support the Tibetan insurrection because, if successful, it'd result in a decrease in population under communist dictatorship.

    @Anand:
    I don't know about undeserved attention, but undeserved support for "Palestine"? Yes.

    @acronn:
    Yup, that's realpolitik for you!

    @usha:
    The Tibetans, unlike the Arabs in Israel, don't have the oil pipeline to their refuge in India!

    @sri:
    It's the Arabs in Israel who have based their claim for a Palestine homeland on ethnic/religious distinctions. I read Prager as simply refuting this basis. The claim to the national legitimacy of the United States is not based on any ethnic or religious identity (although the Falwells and Robertsons may disagree).

    And, on the attention paid to Israel/Arab conflict by this administration, just how many Rice days and WaPo columns have been spent on this issue as opposed to other world conflicts (barring Iraq), do you think?

    @rambodoc:
    "Disgusting" summarizes the popular world views on these conflicts in just one word. Not surprising, coming from the master twister of word and mind :)

    @amit:
    If by Orwellian commentary, you meant that Dennis Prager viewed these conflicts as George Orwell would have, then I am all for it. After all, this entire blog reflects a distaste for dystopias of all sorts that closely matches Orwell's!

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  8. TRF, it shouldn't be that difficult to figure out from my comment what part of Dennis's essay are Orwellian in nature (i.e. blaming the left vis-a-vis China/Tibet instead of free market).

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  9. I don't know about undeserved attention, but undeserved support for "Palestine"? Yes.

    I'm curious. Undeserved support for Palestine by whom? The MSM in the US? USA government? UN?

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  10. Two things:

    1. Prager clearly advances the notion that ethnic homogeneity equals national legitimacy, regardless of whether the Palestinians first used that argument

    "Consider the facts: Tibet, at least 1,400 years old, is one of the world's oldest nations, has its own language, its own religion and even its own ethnicity. Over 1 million of its people have been killed by the Chinese, its culture has been systematically obliterated, 6,000 of its 6,200 monasteries have been looted and destroyed, and most of its monks have been tortured, murdered or exiled.

    Palestinians have none of these characteristics. There has never been a Palestinian country, never been a Palestinian language, never been a Palestinian ethnicity, never been a Palestinian religion in any way distinct from Islam elsewhere..."

    Many of these facts, I believe most Palestinians will tell you, are arguable. But I digress. The point is that Prager is making the argument that many secessionists make whether they are Quebecois, or the Ossetians, or even the Mexicans in Texas. The point is illegitimate.

    In order to make the larger point in his article, he engages in some lazy analysis by elevating the Tibetian struggle over the Palestinian struggle by pointing to their relative historical claims - be it an identity in terms of language, ethnicity or religion. So I don't agree with the premise of his article.

    2. As far as washington post editorials are concerned - in the run up to the Beijing olympics in August - I count several Chinese human rights abuse articles to zero to few Palestine-Israel articles.

    and for your reading pleasure - a fresh analysis on Chinese spying in the U.S. on today's front page.

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  11. ..Their leader has been too meek and action has also been sporadic and more in the form of feeble protests than in the form of the kind of action we have been seeing in the past few days.

    Usha,
    I don't know much about the history of Dalai Lama's international efforts, but IMO it is not meekness but strength to protest peacefully in the face of atrocities. It's very easy to grab a gun or blow oneself up to protest, but the other approach takes mental strength, and compassion for the oppressor, not just the oppressed.

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