For centuries Ceylon allured traders with its tea, spices, and gems, in particular clove and rubies. First it was the Arabs, then the Portuguese, then the Dutch. Finally in 1815, Great Britain took control of the entire island, and kept control until independence in 1948. In 1972, it changed its name to Sri Lanka or Resplendent Island. But that exotic allure was to end in 1983, when vicious sectarian violence was to brake out between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. Like Israel, Sri Lanka's early history is enshrouded in religious writings. The chronicle "Mahavamsa" says a king left northeast India, and sailed 860 nautical miles with 8 ships and 700 followers to the island in 543 B.C.E. Their descendants accepted Buddhism in 380 B.C.E. Thus the origins of the Sinhalese. But there was a people there before them, the Veddah, a primitive hunting and gathering people racially related to the Australian Aborigines. But more people were to arrive to the Resplendent Island. In 205 B.C.E., came a people out of southern India, a Hindu people called the Tamils. For centuries, Sri Lanka was an island to two civilizations, that both went through periods of greatness, and left behind incredible monuments. But the Tamils also had a very strong presence in southern India too, in fact India has a state called Tamil Nadu. But eventually these two civilizations came under foreign domination, and under that domination they did not compete. It made all of the sense in the world, for Great Britain to grant independence in 1948. But in 1983, those two civilizations started to compete again.
For 26 years, it was non-stop conflict between the Sri Lankan Army, mostly composed of Sinhalese, and the Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Which consisted of massacring villagers, political assassinations, suicide bombings, and use of rockets, mines, and poisonous gas against each other. Broken cease-fires, outside invention by India, and a diaspora of Tamils in both Great Britain and Canada, trying to drum up support for their side. A conflict that left nearly 100,000 dead, destroyed each others historical monuments, many of them UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A tsunami in 2004, which killed 35,000 Sri Lankans. But it was in 2009, that the Sri Lankan Army finally defeated the LIberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam, and the LTTE admitted defeat. After the 2009 defeat, a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Committee was formed by the Sri Lankan Government, and accusations of war crimes against both sides just flew like crazy. A report of war crimes by both sides was submitted to the Sri Lankan Parliament, which the Parliament just tabled.
Questions for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
1. Sri Lanka was a united country until 1983, then it return to one in 2009, after the defeat of the LTTE. Israel and the Palestinians have never been a united country, so will it depend on an Israeli defeat of the Palestinians in Gaza?
2. Both the Sinhalese and Tamils have a rich history in Sri Lanka, and both the Arabs and Jews have a rich history in the Middle East. Jewish history has really been negated by the Arabs, because of Israel. How can that Jewish history be returned to the Arabs, so that rich plural history can be recognized and appreciated by both?
3. How can a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Committee be formed by both Israel and the Palestinians, to heal the long period of strife between the two?
4. How can accusations of war crimes by both, just be tabled?
5. Why is it in Sri Lanka, there has never been a cry for the Tamils to go back to India, while in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict it will be claimed all of the time, that the Palestinians can just go to Jordan?
The office of a Tamil-language newspaper was set on fire by some unknown assailants, the newspaper has been critical of the Sri Lankan government. A lawmaker for the Tamil National Alliance, which has links to the Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam, claims that the government has not been taking enough steps to prevent and persecute those responsible for such sectarian violence.
Not only is Israel celebrating its 65th anniversary this year, but so is Sri Lanka.