Take your hands off me! Not you! You!!!" - the voice of a
young woman in the darkened cinema, an old joke.
Take your hands off Tibet!" the international chorus is crying
out, "But not from Chechnya! Not from the Basque homeland!
And certainly not from Palestine!" And that is not a joke.
everybody else, I support the right of the Tibetan people
to independence, or at least autonomy. Like everybody else,
I condemn the actions of the Chinese government there. But
unlike everybody else, I am not ready to join in the demonstrations.
Because I have an uneasy feeling that somebody is washing
my brain, that what is going on is an exercise in hypocrisy.
mind a bit of manipulation. After all, it is not by accident
that the riots started in Tibet on the eve of the Olympic
Games in Beijing. That's alright. A people fighting for their
freedom have the right to use any opportunity that presents
itself to further their struggle.
support the Tibetans in spite of it being obvious that the
Americans are exploiting the struggle for their own purposes.
Clearly, the CIA has planned and organized the riots, and
the American media are leading the world-wide campaign. It
is a part of the hidden struggle between the US, the reigning
super-power, and China, the rising super-power - a new version
of the "Great Game" that was played in central Asia in the
19th century by the British Empire and Russia. Tibet is a
token in this game.
even ready to ignore the fact that the gentle Tibetans have
carried out a murderous pogrom against innocent Chinese, killing
women and men and burning homes and shops. Such detestable
excesses do happen during a liberation struggle.
the CIA has planned and organized the [Tibetan] riots,
and the American media are leading the world-wide campaign.
It is a part of the hidden struggle between the US,
the reigning super-power, and China, the rising super-power.
what is really bugging me is the hypocrisy of the world media.
They storm and thunder about Tibet. In thousands of editorials
and talk-shows they heap curses and invective on the evil
China. It seems as if the Tibetans are the only people on
earth whose right to independence is being denied by brutal
force, that if only Beijing would take its dirty hands off
the saffron-robed monks, everything would be alright in this,
the best of all possible worlds.
is no doubt that the Tibetan people are entitled to rule their
own country, to nurture their unique culture, to promote their
religious institutions and to prevent foreign settlers from
not the Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria entitled to
the same? The inhabitants of Western Sahara, whose territory
is occupied by Morocco? The Basques in Spain? The Corsicans
off the coast of France? And the list is long.
the world's media adopt one independence struggle, but often
cynically ignore another independence struggle? What makes
the blood of one Tibetan redder than the blood of a thousand
Africans in East Congo?
and again I try to find a satisfactory answer to this enigma.
Kant demanded of us: "Act as if the principle by which you
act were about to be turned into a universal law of nature."
(Being a German philosopher, he expressed it in much more
convoluted language.) Does the attitude towards the Tibetan
problem conform to this rule? Does it reflect our attitude
towards the struggle for independence of all other oppressed
peoples? Not at all.
then, causes the international media to discriminate between
the various liberation struggles that are going on throughout
are some of the relevant considerations:
the people seeking independence have an especially exotic
they an attractive people, i.e., "sexy" in the view of the
the struggle headed by a charismatic personality who is liked
by the media?
the oppressing government disliked by the media?
the oppressing government belong to the pro-American camp?
This is an important factor, since the United States dominates
a large part of the international media, and its news agencies
and TV networks largely define the agenda and the terminology
of the news coverage.
economic interests involved in the conflict?
the oppressed people have gifted spokespersons, who are able
to attract attention and manipulate the media?
is really bugging me is the hypocrisy of the world media.
They storm and thunder about Tibet. In thousands of
editorials and talk-shows they heap curses and invective
on the evil China. It seems as if the Tibetans are the
only people on earth whose right to independence is
being denied by brutal force.
these points of view, there is nobody like the Tibetans. They
enjoy ideal conditions.
by the Himalayas, they are located in one of the most beautiful
landscapes on earth. For centuries, just to get there was
an adventure. Their unique religion arouses curiosity and
sympathy. Its non-violence is very attractive and elastic
enough to cover even the ugliest atrocities, like the recent
The exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, is a romantic figure, a
media rock-star. The Chinese regime is hated by many - by
capitalists because it is a Communist dictatorship, by Communists
because it has become capitalist. It promotes a crass and
ugly materialism, the very opposite of the spiritual Buddhist
monks, who spend their time in prayer and meditation.
China builds a railway to the Tibetan capital over a thousand
inhospitable kilometers, the West does not admire the engineering
feat, but sees (quite rightly) an iron monster that brings
hundreds of thousands of Han-Chinese settlers to the occupied
of course, China is a rising power, whose economic success
threatens America's hegemony in the world. A large part of
the ailing American economy already belongs directly or indirectly
to China. The huge American Empire is sinking hopelessly into
debt, and China may soon be the biggest lender. American manufacturing
industry is moving to China, taking millions of jobs with
to these factors, what have the Basques, for example, to offer?
Like the Tibetans, they inhabit a contiguous territory, most
of it in Spain, some of it in France. They, too, are an ancient
people with their own language and culture. But these are
not exotic and do not attract special notice. No prayer wheels.
No robed monks.
do not have a romantic leader, like Nelson Mandela or the
Dalai Lama. The Spanish state, which arose from the ruins
of Franco's detested dictatorship, enjoys great popularity
around the world. Spain belongs to the European Union, which
is more or less in the American camp, sometimes more, sometimes
the competition for the sympathy of the world media,
the Palestinians are unlucky. According to all the objective
standards, they have a right to full independence, exactly
like the Tibetans. They inhabit a defined territory,
they are a specific nation.
armed struggle of the Basque underground is abhorred by many
and is considered "terrorism", especially after Spain has
accorded the Basques a far-reaching autonomy. In these circumstances,
the Basques have no chance at all of gaining world support
should have been in a better position. They, too, are a separate
people, who have for a long time been oppressed by the Czars
of the Russian Empire, including Stalin and Putin. But alas,
they are Muslims - and, in the Western world, Islamophobia
now occupies the place that had for centuries been reserved
for anti-Semitism. Islam has turned into a synonym for terrorism,
it is seen as a religion of blood and murder. Soon it will
be revealed that Muslims slaughter Christian children and
use their blood for baking Pitta. (In reality it is, of course,
the religion of dozens of vastly different peoples, from Indonesia
to Morocco and from Kosova to Zanzibar.)
does not fear Moscow as it fears Beijing. Unlike China, Russia
does not look like a country that could dominate the 21st
century. The West has no interest in renewing the Cold War,
as it has in renewing the Crusades against Islam. The poor
Chechnyans, who have no charismatic leader or outstanding
spokespersons, have been banished from the headlines. For
all the world cares, Putin can hit them as much as he wants,
kill thousands and obliterate whole towns.
does not prevent Putin from supporting the demands of Abkhazia
and South Ossetia for separation from Georgia, a country which
Kant knew what's going on in Kosova, he would be scratching
demanded its independence from Serbia, and I, for one, supported
that with all my heart. This is a separate people, with a
different culture (Albanian) and its own religion (Islam).
After the popular Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic, tried
to drive them out of their country, the world rose and provided
moral and material support for their struggle for independence.
Kosovars make up 90 per cent of the citizens of the new state,
which has a population of two million. The other 10 per cent
are Serbs, who want no part of the new Kosova. They want the
areas they live in to be annexed to Serbia. According to Kant's
maxim, are they entitled to this?
world media are shedding tears for the Tibetan people,
whose land is taken from them by Chinese settlers. Who
cares about the Palestinians, whose land is taken from
them by our settlers?
would propose a pragmatic moral principle: Every population
that inhabits a defined territory and has a clear national
character is entitled to independence. A state that wants
to keep such a population must see to it that they feel comfortable,
that they receive their full rights, enjoy equality and have
an autonomy that satisfies their aspirations. In short: that
they have no reason to desire separation.
applies to the French in Canada, the Scots in Britain, the
Kurds in Turkey and elsewhere, the various ethnic groups in
Africa, the indigenous peoples in Latin America, the Tamils
in Sri Lanka and many others. Each has a right to choose between
full equality, autonomy and independence.
leads us, of course, to the Palestinian issue.
the competition for the sympathy of the world media, the Palestinians
are unlucky. According to all the objective standards, they
have a right to full independence, exactly like the Tibetans.
They inhabit a defined territory, they are a specific nation,
a clear border exists between them and Israel. One must really
have a crooked mind to deny these facts.
the Palestinians are suffering from several cruel strokes
of fate: The people that oppress them claim for themselves
the crown of ultimate victimhood. The whole world sympathizes
with the Israelis because the Jews were the victims of the
most horrific crime of the Western world. That creates a strange
situation: the oppressor is more popular than the victim.
Anyone who supports the Palestinians is automatically suspected
of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
the great majority of the Palestinians are Muslims (nobody
pays attention to the Palestinian Christians). Since Islam
arouses fear and abhorrence in the West, the Palestinian struggle
has automatically become a part of that shapeless, sinister
threat, "international terrorism". And since the murders of
Yasser Arafat and Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the Palestinians have
no particularly impressive leader - neither in Fatah nor in
world media are shedding tears for the Tibetan people, whose
land is taken from them by Chinese settlers. Who cares about
the Palestinians, whose land is taken from them by our settlers?
the world-wide tumult about Tibet, the Israeli spokespersons
compare themselves - strange as it sounds - to the poor Tibetans,
not to the evil Chinese. Many think this quite logical.
Kant were dug up tomorrow and asked about the Palestinians,
he would probably answer: "Give them what you think should
be given to everybody, and don't wake me up again to ask silly
The above article is published by Gush Shalom.
articles by Uri Avnery:
Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush
Shalom. He is one of the writers featured in The Other
Israel: Voices of Dissent and Refusal. He is also a contributor
to CounterPunch's hot new book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism.
Those who want to help out Gush Shalom can email [email protected]
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