How Tibet and Palestine Are Fighting for Freedom
23-04-08 On international TV channels, the Tibetans and the Palestinians are demonstrating against their respective occupiers and oppressors, China and Israel. Both peoples are fighting for their freedom, but what else do the two conflicts have in common?
China is one of the largest countries in the world, Israel still one of the smallest. Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, where the majority of Palestinians live, are poor districts, adjacent to and part of the large Arab world, and the powerful Israeli world.
Tibet, on the other hand, is a potentially wealthy country, source of six major Asian rivers and rich in mineral deposits like chromium, copper, zinc and lead, the last three discovered in 2007, conveniently located near the railroad. Their exploitation will double the Chinese import. Rich Tibet and poor Palestine.
Are there any premises for a logical comparison at all? But this is not supposed to be a logical comparison. So why bother? Why not compare Haiti with Kosovo, for example?
Both are small independent countries that declared their independence against strong opposition (Haiti from France in the 18th c, Kosovo from Serbia just the other day). All these countries have had their moment in the public eye, on TV and in the press, in the last months.
Are Tibet and Palestine “more important,” either to the international community, or the extended Arab community, or the Caribbean area, or the world at large?
Every country is most important to itself. Is Palestine most important because it has been in the news over the longest period of time, on and off, or Tibet because it has existed as a country for a far longer period than all the rest––unified in the 7th century?
Some facts on both: in 1950, according to the Tibetans, Chinese armies invaded Tibet. The Chinese say that their armies were ‘accomplishing a peaceful liberation.’
Now for Palestine: in 1948, according to the Israelis, the future Israeli armies won the war for the independence of Israel. According to the Palestinians, their entire country was erased in what they call the Year of the Catastrophy, 1948. In 1951, the Chinese agreed to the right of all Tibets to return to their homeland under an autonomous form of gov’t which would maintain their existing political system, including the status, functions, and powers of the Dalai-Lama.
None of these agreements were respected. In 1959, the Dalai Lama himself had to escape from his own country, Tibet, over the Himalayas to Nepal Since 1949, the Israelis have signed many covenants with many countries agreeing to a wide series of rights for the Palestinians: at Madrid, at Oslo, at Camp David and at Maryland in the United States, all agreeing on many things from guaranteed freedoms and rights to the establishment of a sovereign state of Palestine. None of these agreements were respected by the Israelis.
In March 1989, massive Tibetan demonstrations against the Chinese occupation were brutally repressed by the Chinese military, and the dialogues between the Chinese gov’t and the Dalai Lama were interrupted. In the 21st century, the Dalai Lama renounced his demand for Tibetan independence, and agreed to an autonomous status within China.
Factions have developped in the Tibet opposition (essentially in exile since within China no opposition is tolerated) between independentists and autonomists. Both, however, continue to recognize the sovereignty of the Dalai-Lama. In 2005, the Hamas party won the elections in Palestine, and in 2006 defeated the Fatah militia in the Gaza strip.
Hamas does not recognize Israel as a sovereign state. It has indicated its willingness to accept a vote on this question by the Palestinian people. China does not recognize Tibet as a sovereign state period. The question is not open to discussion, neither is the question of Tibetan autonomy.
So much for our comparison. Incomplete. What about China and Israel being more important than Tibet, Palestine, Haiti and Kosovo all rolled into one? China and Israel certainly think they are. How about the rest of the world? We are certainly more inclined to pay more attention to conflicts that risk disrupting our own countries: if we boycott the Olympics, down the drain go four years of training to win the marathon or beat out the competition for all round athleticism (even though we may put our Olympic champion in jail and take back her five medals––hello, Marion Jones!).
For once, let’s stop focusing on the rich and powerful. Haiti, a small, poor country invaded by the United Nations, and Kosovo, a small poor country freeing itself from Serbia, with United Nations approval, are as important as anything else on the agenda in 2008.
Tags: June Van Ingen , Palestine
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