Friday, August 14, 2009

Snake Oil Salesmen

The Australian's foreign editor Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan dispenses 'sage' advice to Uighur freedom fighter Rebiya Kadeer:

"She needs to see her immensely successful visit to Australia as a template for how she should campaign throughout the West. The most important lesson she must learn from her time here is that she and the Uighur movement must definitively abandon any quest for a separate state. I had a long conversation with Kadeer in Melbourne and the formulation she uses is that the Uighur movement is not asking for independence or for autonomy but for self-determination... [This formulation] is extremely dangerous. Self-determination always means independence... Tibet's Dalai Lama, whom Kadeer greatly admires, does not support an independent Tibetan nation. Rather, he wants Tibet to remain part of China but to enjoy cultural and regional autonomy. As a result many Western leaders, including Kevin Rudd and John Howard before him, have been able to meet the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader and endorse better human rights for Tibetans." (Uighurs must fight for rights within China: If Rebiya Kadeer is wise, she will follow the example of the Dalai Lama, 13/8/09)

What a stunning coincidence! It just so happens that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu also advocates autonomy for the Palestinians writhing under the heel of his army's jackboot, but not statehood. And as the Australian mainstream media's foremost spruiker of the Likud line, it just wouldn't do for Sheridan to be advocating for one brand of self-determination while denying another, now would it? Nor do we want Kadeer pursuing a policy that might result in 'inappropriate' analogies being drawn between Chinese and Israeli colonialism. So Rebiya, abjure Uighur statehood, and go for autonomy within China instead. Do a Dalai and get to visit wonderful places like Australia, where you too can chat with the likes of Kevin Krudd himself.

Not, of course, that all those years of abjuring statehood and kowtowing to China has done anything to advance the Tibetan cause. In fact, the Dalai Lama has finally admitted to having been there and done that:

"'The situation inside Tibet is almost like a military occupation', I heard the Dalai Lama tell an interviewer last November... 'Everywhere. Everywhere, fear, terror. I cannot remain indifferent'. Just moments before, with equal directness and urgency, he had said, 'I have to accept failure. In terms of the Chinese government becoming more lenient [in Chinese-occupied Tibet], my policy has failed. We have to accept reality'... [The Dalai Lama] acknowledged... his 'Middle way' policy - of not seeking full independence from China for Tibet, but only a 'genuine and meaningful autonomy', whereby China could control Tibet's defense policy and foreign affairs, while Tibetans might enjoy the freedom to take care of their culture, their religion, and their special environment - was coming under more and more criticism. So, he said, he would step aside and allow others to come up with a 'new, wiser, realistic' approach." ('A Hell on Earth', Pico Iyer, The New York Review of Books, 9/4/09)

And what, precisely, is it that Sheridan doesn't like about "the quest for a separate state"? "Once you start on the process of ethnic separatism you never stop. The logic is inexorable; why should I be a minority in your state when I can make you a minority in my state? That way lies ethnic cleansing and perhaps genocidal violence... "

What a coincidence! Just what the Chinese have been accusing the Dalai Lama of doing: "China terminated its regular meetings with [the Dalai Lama's] envoys, essentially accusing him of arguing for ethnic cleansing." (ibid)

And speaking of coincidences, that's just what the Israelis and their supporters, who want to hang on to their illegal West Bank/East Jerusalem colonies, have been accusing those who call for their removal:

"If you can't convince 'em, accuse 'em. That's the advice from The Israel Project (TIP) for pro-Israel activists answering questions about settlements. Rather than try to defend Israeli settlements, change the subject. If that doesn't work, try accusing those who advocate removing Jewish settlements of promoting 'a kind of ethnic cleansing to move all Jews' from the West Bank." (Change the policy, or change the subject? Douglas M Bloomfield,, 9/7/09)

And speaking of Israeli colonies, what's the latest Sheridan line on those?:

"Obama's obsession with settlements in the West Bank and even in East Jerusalem, as if the entire Middle East, no, the entire Muslim world, hinged on this minor matter, is in the deepest sense irrational." (Obama gets serious on Middle East, The Australian, 1/8/09)

There you go, Rebiya, stop banging on about such a "minor matter" as Chinese colonization of your homeland - it's just not healthy!

Sheridan wasn't the only one whispering in Kadeer's ear, though. She also met with federal Labor MP Michael Danby, crusader for human rights everywhere - everywhere but Palestine, that is.

In an opinion piece on the Stern Hu case in The Australian, Danby referred to China's "brutal crackdowns in Tibet and Xinjiang, and their clumsy local interventions over the Olympic torch and attempts to stifle Rebiya Kadeer at the Melbourne International Film Festival and at the National Press Club..." (Let's not appease Beijing, 14/8/09)

Again - quite coincidentally - he too was an advocate for doing the Dalai:

"Danby was one of two parliamentarians to speak at Sunday's controversial film premiere of The 10 Conditions of Love - a documentary on Kadeer's life - the other was Greens leader Senator Bob Brown... At the premiere, Danby delivered a message to Kadeer supporters from his good friend, the Dalai Lama. 'He asked me to convey to you in Melbourne that she is another one of the national leaders who is a paradigm of non-violence', Danby told the audience." (Danby v China, The Australian Jewish News, 14/8/09)

Danby, who is chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Tibet group*, was off in India last month paying a visit to the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, the capital of Tibet's government-in-exile. There, according to the AJN, his "eyes were opened."

To what, exactly? To the chalk and cheese difference - I kid you not - between Dharamsala and... Ramallah! Take it away AJN:

"The thing that would strike you if you went there is that everything is so well organised... Everything is so frugal, everything is so modest, but they have institutions for archives, for medicine, an institute of the arts with Tibetan artists, institutions for refugees, for retraining nuns. What strikes you is that here is a people who get no support from the United Nations, not a dollar, who get very little assistance from any government apart from the Indian government... who have everything'. Danby... contrasted the set-up in Dharamsala with the Palestinian government in Ramallah. 'The difference in the mentality and institutions is something', he said. 'Here you have Ramallah, [and] the Palestinians, who are having butter gorged down their throats by the United Nations, by the European Union, and yet they don't have anything by comparison with the Tibetans. It is not something that you can really make a wider point about outside the Jewish community, but inside the Jewish community people would understand. It is so maddening to see this."

[*Along with Melissa Parke (Labor MP), Peter Slipper (Liberal MP), Greens senators Sarah Hanson-Young and Scott Ludlum and independent Senator Nick Xenophon.]

What can one say about a man who would use Tibetan suffering as grist for his pro-Israel propaganda? That there might be some significant differences* between the cases of Dharamsala and Ramallah is obviously neither here nor there for Danby. Never miss an opportunity to attempt to score a cheap propaganda point for Israel.

[*When was the last time, for example, Chinese tanks, armored personnel carriers, and bulldozers moved into Dharamsala, destroying its water mains, cutting its electric lines or digging up its roads? When was the last time the PLA stationed snipers on its high buildings and erected road blocks? When was the last time Chinese tanks and bulldozers attacked the compound of the Dalai Lama, confining him to the basement? This was, of course, the fate of Ramallah on just Day 1 of Israel's Operation Defensive Shield (29/3/02-21/4/02). And how many Tibetans live outside its borders? A mere 2%, compared with over half of the Palestinian nation.]

With 'friends' like these, Rebiya, who needs enemies?

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