Israel exploits Haiti for propaganda …and Sri Lanka?

Ethan Bronner in the New York Times took note Jan. 21 of the controversy surrounding Israel’s high-profile rescue mission to Haiti in a story entitled “For Israelis, Mixed Feelings on Aid Effort.” But the statements quoted are pretty tame compared to much of what is buzzing around the blogosphere. There is certainly something fundamentally perverse about the Israeli Defense Forces establishing a field hospital in Port-au-Prince as their blockade of the Gaza Strip is actively creating an ongoing humanitarian crisis. Commentators within Israel have made the point repeatedly. “Israel’s compassion in Haiti can’t hide our ugly face in Gaza,” wrote Akiva Eldar in Haaretz Jan. 18. Paul Woodward on the War in Context website Jan. 23 notes a piece in the Israeli daily Maariv entitled “The painful truth: Haiti’s disaster is good for the Jews.” Blogger Richard Silverstein Jan. 19 noted a piece in Israel’s Yediot by Yoel Donchin, a doctor who is himself a veteran of Israeli international disaster response teams—who accuses Israel of “Public Relations instead of saving lives.” Donchin actually blasts the IDF field hospital as a scam, saying that “sending portable toilets to Haiti would have been a better option, but this does not provide good photo opportunities.”

Twenty-two-year-old Emanuel Buso, who was extracted alive by an IDF rescue team after 11 days under rubble, can presumably be forgiven for loaning inadvertent assistance to Zionist propaganda. (YNet, Jan. 23) Unless the story is a creation planted in the media by Mossad, as the paranoid will undoubtedly tell us.

But more to the point: Whether or not Port-au-Prince needs port-o-sans, it is certainly a bit of a stretch to argue that it doesn’t need field hospitals. Oxfam is busy digging latrines (BBC News, Jan. 22), and we haven’t heard that they have dissed those operating field hospitals. A little time on Google News will reveal that Spain, Norway and Canada (as well as Doctors Without Borders) have also established field hospitals in Port-au-Prince. No such accusations are being made against them, that we are aware of.

Now admittedly, Spain’s treatment of the Basques, Norway’s treatment of the Sami, and Canada’s treatment of its First Nations don’t come close (in recent years, anyway) to Israel’s instrumented humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. But Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defense boasts in a Jan. 24 press release that it has a 1,000-strong contingent in MINUSTAH, the UN “peacekeeping” force in Haiti, which is involved in “the clearing of debris, the carrying out of rescue operations and the provision of medical assistance to the earthquake victims.” The statement also said Sri Lanka is donating 1,000 kilograms of tea for the relief effort.

This has met with no hand-wringing within Sri Lanka, nor accusations of propagandistic exploitation from without. Yet in Sri Lanka’s military campaign against Tamil rebels last year, an intentional humanitarian disaster was instrumented no less severe than that in Gaza. This persisted for months, until the besieged Tamil north of the island was finally overrun—because (in vivid contrast to the Gaza case) there was no international protest.

So, while we wish to cut Israel’s propagandists no slack, we do wonder: Why the double standard?

See our last post on Haiti

Please leave a tip or answer the Exit Poll.

  1. Please..Gaza cannot be
    Please..Gaza cannot be compared to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was battling a terrorist organization within it’s own borders. Hamas is an elected government.

    1. Please yourself
      So it is legitimate for Sri Lanka to violate international humanitarian law because it was battling a “terrorist organization”?


      1. Who says Sri Lankan gov. violate international humanitarian law?
        Who says Sri Lankan gov. violate international humanitarian law? US… UN..? Funny huh….
        SL people liberated there own country from 30 year old terrorism.

        Those who raise voice on SL people on violate international humanitarian law, please let us know what US, UN doing in/on Iraq, Afghanistan, N.Korea, Gaza…. (list goes on) away from their land.

        Is this Interesting….???

        1. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc.
          So US and Israeli crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, etc. justify those of Sri Lanka against the Tamils?


      2. should know the truth
        Sri Lanka never violated any human rights or so called law. Its that barberic LTTE terrorist who killed inocent unarmed people. Its very pathetic that you dont know about this. Thanks to our prsident now people in sri lanka can live in peace. If you dont know the truth dont talk.

        1. The truth is well documented
          So because the LTTE killed civilians, that means the Sri Lankan government didn’t?

          Or do you mean that because the LTTE killed civilians, the Sri Lankan government was justified in doing the same?

          Either way, interesting.

          1. well yeah its interesting.
            well yeah its interesting. do u know that terrorism as we know it today was introduced by the ltte. they introduced the suicide bombers and their organization was one of the most ruthless terrorist/rebel organizations ever. a war cannot be fought without collateral damage and this is true for any war. So of course civilians died but the government did not kill them intentionally. its all about intent. can you point to a war where civilians have not lost their lives.

            1. Deeply fascinating
              So when Israel encircles and bombards Gaza, keeps out humanitarian aid, and bombs hospitals, it is intentionally killing civilians, but when Sri Lanka does the same thing in the Tamil North, it is just acceptable collateral damage.

              This really does just keep getting more and more interesting.

      3. Both sides did violate But we are better off now…
        I am a tamil living in Jaffna/Colombo and seen this war for last 30 years. I am so glad this is over. We haven’t had much when LTTE was here. Our children have a better future now. Come and visit us in Jaffna. There were lot of innocent people killed, but i think it is best to move forward rather accusing each other.

  2. Fake War
    The bottom line is that the US tried to airlift the Tiger leadership out of the country by force if necessary at the end of the siege and the allegations of war crimes significantly from those countries trying to orchestrate it. The resulting massacre of the 200 or so, Tigers at the end was a direct result of these machinations.
    Our SL Secy of Defence is an American citizen and if he was guilty of war crimes he could have been arrested when he visited the UN six months ago.
    The Gaza situation is completely different to what was happening in SL at the end of our so-called ethnic conflict when in fact more people of other ethnicities live and continue to live outside the N & E. People like Qadri Ismail who made the original comparison to Gaza are misleading disinformationists in the pay of Western elites.
    Our govenrment has been moving closer to China, Russia, Iran and Venezuela all the time, because the Western powers have been in the pay of rich Tamil billionaires whose sons never fought in this war.
    There are civilian parts of Colombo still with open sewers, in this instance the IDP camps are much more comfortable than those places.
    Overall this was a fake war, because as you know the Tigers were apparently fighting for govt jobs, places in universities etc. etc. all of which are middle class that any peasant, sinhala muslim or tamil could never aspire to. In Lanka if you are poor you are damned. It does not matter your ethnicity.
    As I wrote to Arundathi Roy in response to her
    Dear Ms. Roy: I am surprised that some one like you who has shown a basic understanding of the roots of poverty has not grasped that peasants are dieing for middle class aspirations in this fake war funded by a diaspora that in the main have not visited the island for long time or not at all. It is inaccurate to claim that the LTTE started as a peaceful non-violent protest when in fact it started with the assassination of the democratically elected Mayor of Jaffna Alfred Durraiappah. Further when the late S Nadesan met Prabhakaran by accident at Madras Airport prior to the calamity of 1983 and told him you must be careful because when you do things in Jaffna we get affected in Colombo, Mr. Nadesan told my Dad Ashroff Mansoor the Big Pee said: “Why should we care about you, you have never cared about us.”
    According to the LTTE’s own figures 8000+ people were murdered in 1983 in a government pogrom which is something of much shame to us, but nevertheless it has never been acknowledged that more than a million Tamil people were protected by their fellow citizens against the government and the mobs.
    You have in your article failed to acknowledge that the LTTE themselves are using the civilian population as a human shield, which is a war crime, and that suicide bombers have been deployed at crossover points. Obviously one holds a government to a higher standard than a terrorist organisation and without denying the possibilities of excesses in a war of attrition, it nevertheless stands to reason that a full documentation must be made of civilians coming out of a war zone especially in light of the recent suicide bombing on Prophet Muhammed’s birthday in the deep South of the island.
    The tragedy is that the Sinhala people themselves do not seem to realise that the forces that set about destroying their way of life 500 years ago with the advent of the Portuguese have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams when crackers are lit to celebrate ‘victories’ instead of the recital of pirith for the dead. In fact I argue the Sinhala peasants have been more victimised than anyone else in this country simply because the Tamils and the Muslims are mindful of community and support each other, while successive central governments have continued the extraction of resources despite local protests. Our railways and roads are much the same as when the British first built them, village electrification has been piecemeal, while massive industrial parks manufacture goods that no one has the money to buy. Basically in this country it does not matter what your ethnicity if you did not go to certain schools, if you do not speak English, if you do not come from a middle class background your options are very meagre indeed.
    At a recent briefing for US nationals in the country the Security Advisor to the US Embassy and its staff, said that satellite pictures showed approximately 30’000 shelters in the not-so “Safe Zone”, which would indicate the numbers being held hostage by the LTTE to be somewhere in the region of 90’000 to 150’000. He also said the LTTE are firing at the army from the Safe Zone.
    Maybe the Indian political leadership and the Tamilian population of the world would better serve those trapped in the Wanni by demanding that the LTTE release them sooner rather than later.

    1. Fake Research
      We share your antipathy for leftist darling Arundhati Roy‘s unseemly enthusiasm for the Tamil Tigers (and Naxalites, jihadis, etc.). But I will thank you to provide some documentation for your absurd conspiracy theories or stop cluttering up my website. I trust nobody who makes excuses for atrocities—and that is what you are doing. You are the mirror image of Arundhati Roy! Don’t you get it?

      Probably not.

      1. Fake Logic

        How Lanka averted US move to evacuate LTTE leadership
        by Shamindra Ferdinando

        About two months before the final battle on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon in May, the United States had offered to evacuate top LTTE leaders and their families.

        The unprecedented proposal had been made by the then US Ambassador in Colombo Robert Blake after the Co-Chairs to the Sri Lankan peace process, spearheaded by the Norwegians agreed that the LTTE could no longer halt the army advance.

        Although a section of the press in March 2009 speculated that the US was exploring the possibility of evacuating civilians trapped in the war zone, it can now be revealed that the actual move was to evacuate the LTTE leadership. Well informed sources told The Island that the US plan envisaged taking over 100 persons, including Velupillai Prabhakaran, Sea Tiger leader Soosai, Intelligence Wing leader Pottu Amman and their families.

        Sources said that Ambassador Blake went to extent of calling US experts to Colombo to work out modalities regarding the deployment of US assets to evacuate the LTTE leadership discussed the possibility of deploying US vessels to carry out the evacuation.

        Sources said that an aircraft from Hawaii carrying US experts touched down at the Bandaranaike International Airport following a dispute over formalities regarding landing rights. Sources said that the US embassy had alerted the government of the impending arrival of the aircraft only after it was airborne.

        Responding to The Island queries, sources said that at one point the Sri Lankan government had suggested that Ambassador Blake should also consult New Delhi regarding the controversial evacuation plans.

        While secret negotiations were taking place, the Army had advanced slowly but steadily into the remaining LTTE-held territory in the Mullaitivu district. By the second week of March, a multi-pronged ground offensive was eating into some 45 square km territory under LTTE control. At the beginning of the Sri Lankan offensive in September 2006, the LTTE had about 15,000 square km under its control.

        Sources said that government forces could have finished off the Tigers earlier had the army carried out an all out attack regardless of civilian losses. In fact, UN Chief Ban-ki-moon had inquired why the government did not carry out an amphibious assault on the Mullaitivu beach to conclude the offensive as he flew over the Vanni battlefields.

        Sources said that much talked about UN bid to save about 50 LTTE leaders and their families was made hot on heels of the failed US attempt. Sources said that had international operations to evacuate the LTTE leadership succeeded, Sri Lanka would have faced an extremely difficult situation and the so-called Eelam government in exile would not be a joke had they escaped.

        The US and the UN had intervened on behalf of the influential Tamil Diaspora which continued to play a pivotal role even in the post-LTTE era. Sources said that those pushing US and western capitals were not only Sri Lankan Tamils but influential groups from South Africa and South East Asian countries.

        After Sri Lanka had successfully thwarted international intervention, the LTTE on its own tried to use one of its vessels to evacuate Prabhakaran and his family, the sources revealed.

        Navy Commander Vice Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe last Monday (Dec 21) said that a 90-metre ship seized by a special SLN team was believed to have been involved in a last ditch attempt to rescue Prabhakaran. He said that a light chopper launched from the ship could have picked Prabhakaran as the army advanced on the last LTTE stronghold.

        Fearing an LTTE operation, the navy deployed the bulk of its assets on the north-eastern waters while the SLAF stationed a pair of jets at the China Bay air base to meet any eventuality.

        Once the 55 and 59 Divisions linked-up on the Mullaitivu beach, it was only a matter of time before the Tigers collapsed on the Vanni front.

        1. Fake Journalism
          The above barely qualifies as journalism. Everything is attributed to mysterious and unnamed “sources.” And even if we assume it is all true, it doesn’t let the Sri Lankan government off the hook for its grave crimes against the Tamil people.

          1. Mindless Accusations

            Kohona accuses West of attempting to thwart victory over terror

            Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative at the UN Dr. Palitha Kohona on Thursday (Jan 21) accused Western countries of making an abortive bid to thwart the security forces’ victory over the LTTE. He said that a last minute attempt was made to throw a lifeline to the sinking Tigers last year. The security forces had eliminated terrorism when the whole country was under a blanket of terror, he said.

            “They made a concerted effort via devious means to achieve their sinister goal when terrorism was a scourge in many countries and the affected countries were seeking their cooperation to get rid of this menace,” he said.

            Kohona pointed a finger at US Secretary of State and former First Lady Hilary Clinton, who he said launched a severe campaign in the Western block, spearheaded by the US government, to influence the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against Sri Lanka.

            “But our leadership stood firm without relenting to the pressure exerted by them and the security forces fought gallantly without taking into consideration the risk they had to undertake in fighting the Tigers who had terrorised the nation for 27 long years,” Kohona said.

            The diplomat was addressing a seminar titled “Past present and future” organised by the Young Engineers Association of Sri Lanka at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute.

            The LTTE shunned the government’s efforts to reach a peaceful settlement to the prolonged war and continued with terror leaving no option for the latter other than return to a military campaign to eliminate terrorism, he said.

            “The International Community went on the overdrive attacking Sri Lanka and we had to present our case to other countries and prove that the military option was the only choice for Sri Lanka,” Kohona said.

            “We had to use other means to end the violence perpetrated by the LTTE with tact and foresight and the government succeeded,” he said.

            “The US stopped selling Bushmaster guns to Sri Lanka, but we succeeded in obtaining our requirement from a different source. Russia came to our help when the West turned its back on us,” he said.

            The train full of military hardware for Sri Lanka was plying from one end of Europe to the other looking for a country willing to ship the material to Sri Lanka and finally Poland agreed to allow the use of one of its ports for that purpose, he said.

            A number of countries from the western block, particularly the UK, US, France and Germany threatened to curtail assistance provided to Sri Lanka to make it submit to their terms, but the country never yielded to their demands and convinced other countries to provide it with military assistance and they helped, he said.

            Russia, Poland, China, Israel, Pakistan Japan, India and the Czech Republic were among the countries which readily assisted Sri Lanka in its hour of need. India played an important role in Sri Lanka’s military victory over the LTTE when the UK and France urged the government to ‘pause’ its humanitarian operation in Nanthikadal lagoon to rescue beleaguered civilians fleeing from the clutches of the Tigers, when the noose was tightened on the LTTE, he said.

            “When we didn’t accede to their request and said that we could on our own handle the ‘Humanitarian Operation’, they threatened to invade the country by other means, but our diplomatic skills helped us to avert the situation and finally achieve our goal of eliminating terrorism and the perpetrator the LTTE, Kohona said.

            1. Successful Strategy
              Well, at least I provoked you into posting a story that actually has attributable quotes, although Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN is hardly the most objective source. Again, even if the charges are true, it in no way lets the Sri Lankan government off the hook for its crimes. Sanctions against Sri Lanka would have been fine with me, just as sanctions against Israel would be fine with me.

      2. Fake Response
        My comment is not about justifying atrocities it is about differentiating between Gaza and the end of the Tigers. And in any event, if someone is coming with a knife to stab you, you don’t have to wait until you are stabbed to shoot him.

  3. why the difference? here’s why..
    There should be room in our heads here in America for outrage about both Sri Lanka’s slaughter of noncombatants and Israel’s assault on noncombatants. Yes, Sri Lanka’s government killed more civilians in the past 18 months. But this is not a competition.
    There is an important difference, which has been pointed out already by many commenters on the Mondoweiss entry that links to this page. The difference is, we Americans are partially responsible for what Israel has done and is still doing. America is far less complicit in what the Sri Lankan government does. How so? Israel is our biggest recipient of foreign aid, about $3bn a year in weaponry and materiel. Most readers of this comment will know this, but most Americans do not know this. We single out Israel for diplomatic support and military support. This makes us in some measure responsible for Israel’s outrages against human rights like the Gaza assault. America has far more leverage over Israel than we have over Sri Lanka. (Yes, both liberals and conservative foreign policy elites in the US like to think that our country is omnipotent in its powers to solve the problems in other nations, but this is a fantasy, and it often leads to disaster.) Crimes against humanity that we are responsible for are problems that we should single out for our attention. And no, this does not mean ignoring or even downplaying outrages elsewhere, it simply means we take responsibility for our actions, and recognize the limits of our powers.
    I suppose this doesn’t answer your question Bill about the double standard re charges of hypocrisy against both the Israeli and Sri Lankan relief efforts in Haiti, but I do think it puts things in perspective a bit.