Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Dalai Lama & Friends

In the Dalai Lama's speech on the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese occupation (10/3/59), he described the occupation of his homeland as "hell on earth." "These 50 years," he said, "have brought untold suffering and destruction to the land and people of Tibet."

The Dalai Lama's characterisation of Chinese occupation is searingly accurate. There is no such thing as a benign occupation. Never has been, never will be. Understanding this, our hearts go out to the suffering people of Tibet, just as they do to the people of Palestine for whom the Israeli occupation is also hell on earth.

Yet how does one explain the man's woefully inadequate comments back in January as the Israelis mercilessly hammered the Palestinian population of Gaza? "Israelis and Palestinians must stop fighting and start respecting each other," he is reported to have said at an international forum. (Dalai Lama urges Israel & Palestine to stop fighting,, 18/1/09) It's as though he's commenting on a war between equals and simply cannot see that Israel is to Palestine as China is to Tibet. Considering his international reputation, what does this tell us about the Dalai Lama's capacity for knowledge, understanding, and empathy?

Nor does the Dalai Lama seem to have any qualms about visiting the Israeli occupier, having been there twice, playing to capacity audiences. In fact, he seems to resonate with a certain kind of Israeli: "The buzz that I feel exists around his current visit [2006] leads me to think that... there is a deep yearning for a saviour, a Messiah... The disappearance of our father figure Ariel Sharon and the victory of Hamas in the recent Palestinian elections do not add to our inner peace." (, 17/2/06).

This sad case of selective concern - seeing hell only in Tibet - even extends to Australia where Tibet's spiritual leader has found an ally in Labor MP for Melbourne Ports and Israel, Michael Danby, chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Tibet group,* which includes Greens' leader Bob Brown (who isn't, to my knowledge, in any way perturbed by the company he keeps).

[*Danby is also secretary of the parliamentary Australia/Israel Friendship Group & deputy chair of the Australia/US Parliamentary Friendship Committee.]

But I suppose we shouln't be too hard on Danby. After all, he's just bravely faced down the Chinese occupation of Tibet in the form of the Chinese ambassador who had the chutzpah to ask him in a letter to "refrain from attending" a "'Tibetan independence' activity" scheduled for March 10 outside federal parliament. This fearless supporter of Israel, the United States, and Tibet (in that order) was in no way dismayed, telling the Sydney Morning Herald, "We are free and independent here. As the Australian people would expect, no self-respecting MP would respond to a letter like this." (China tells MP to avoid Tibet rally, Cynthia Banham, 10/3/09) What a mensch!

Now I'm going to make a prediction here. Danby's prevailing on Rudd, even as I write, to give this meddlesome ambassador... hell. Not that I'm omniscient, of course, but I did read in one of his speeches on his website that "Rudd has persistently and publicly denounced Iran's bellicosity and I have personally witnessed his formal and excruciating dressing down of a senior Iranian [diplomat?], following President Ahmadinejad's first threat to destroy Israel." (Time for change Down Under, 7/10/07) Just remember, you read it first on Middle East Reality Check.


anon2 said...

It is especially hypocritical, considering Danby and Senator Mitch Fifield attended a pro-Israeli rally on January 4, 2009.

Anonymous said...

The PA refused the Dalai Lama entry into Bethlehem, after pressure from china. We live in a crooked world.