The long-suffering Tibetans have been in the news. This happens perhaps once or twice a decade. In a more moral world, however, public opinion would be far more preoccupied with Tibetans than with Palestinians, would be as harsh on China as it is on Israel, and would be as fawning on Israel as it now is on China.
But, alas, the world is, as it has always been, a largely mean-spirited and morally insensitive place, where might is far more highly regarded than right.
Consider the facts: Tibet, at least 1,400 years old, is one of the world’s oldest nations, has its own language, its own religion and even its own ethnicity. Over 1 million of its people have been killed by the Chinese, its culture has been systematically obliterated, 6,000 of its 6,200 monasteries have been looted and destroyed, and most of its monks have been tortured, murdered or exiled.
Palestinians have none of these characteristics. There has never been a Palestinian country, never been a Palestinian language, never been a Palestinian ethnicity, never been a Palestinian religion in any way distinct from Islam elsewhere. Indeed, “Palestinian” had always meant any individual living in the geographic area called Palestine. For most of the first half of the 20th century, “Palestinian” and “Palestine” almost always referred to the Jews of Palestine. The United Jewish Appeal, the worldwide Jewish charity that provided the nascent Jewish state with much of its money, was actually known as the United Palestine Appeal. Compared to Tibetans, few Palestinians have been killed, its culture has not been destroyed nor its mosques looted or plundered, and Palestinians have received billions of dollars from the international community. Unlike the dying Tibetan nation, there are far more Palestinians today than when Israel was created.
None of this means that a distinct Palestinian national identity does not now exist. Since Israel’s creation such an identity has arisen and does indeed exist. Nor does any of this deny that many Palestinians suffered as a result of the creation of the third Jewish state in the area, known — since the Romans renamed Judea — as “Palestine.”
But it does mean that of all the causes the world could have adopted, the Palestinians’ deserved to be near the bottom and the Tibetans’ near the top. This is especially so since the Palestinians could have had a state of their own from 1947 on, and they have caused great suffering in the world, while the far more persecuted Tibetans have been characterized by a morally rigorous doctrine of nonviolence.
So, the question is, why? Why have the Palestinians received such undeserved attention and support, and the far more aggrieved and persecuted and moral Tibetans given virtually no support or attention?
The first reason is terror. Some time ago, the Palestinian leadership decided, with the overwhelming support of the Palestinian people, that murdering as many innocent people — first Jews, and then anyone else — was the fastest way to garner world attention. They were right. On the other hand, as The Economist notes in its March 28, 2008 issue, “Tibetan nationalists have hardly ever resorted to terrorist tactics…” It is interesting to speculate how the world would have reacted had Tibetans hijacked international flights, slaughtered Chinese citizens in Chinese restaurants and temples, on Chinese buses and trains, and massacred Chinese schoolchildren.
The second reason is oil and support from powerful fellow Arabs. The Palestinians have rich friends who control the world’s most needed commodity, oil. The Palestinians have the unqualified support of all Middle Eastern oil-producing nations and the support of the Muslim world beyond the Middle East. The Tibetans are poor and have the support of no nations, let alone oil-producing ones.
The third reason is Israel. To deny that pro-Palestinian activism in the world is sometimes related to hostility toward Jews is to deny the obvious. It is not possible that the unearned preoccupation with the Palestinians is unrelated to the fact that their enemy is the one Jewish state in the world. Israel’s Jewishness is a major part of the Muslim world’s hatred of Israel. It is also part of Europe’s hostility toward Israel: Portraying Israel as oppressors assuages some of Europe’s guilt about the Holocaust — “see, the Jews act no better than we did.” Hence the ubiquitous comparisons of Israel to Nazis.
A fourth reason is China. If Tibet had been crushed by a white European nation, the Tibetans would have elicited far more sympathy. But, alas, their near-genocidal oppressor is not white. And the world does not take mass murder committed by non-whites nearly as seriously as it takes anything done by Westerners against non-Westerners. Furthermore, China is far more powerful and frightening than Israel. Israel has a great army and nuclear weapons, but it is pro-West, it is a free and democratic society, and it has seven million people in a piece of land as small as Belize. China has nuclear weapons, has a trillion U.S. dollars, an increasingly mighty army and navy, is neither free nor democratic, is anti-Western, and has 1.2 billion people in a country that dominates the Asian continent.
A fifth reason is the world’s Left. As a general rule, the Left demonizes Israel and has loved China since it became Communist in 1948. And given the power of the Left in the world’s media, in the political life of so many nations, and in the universities and the arts, it is no wonder vicious China has been idolized and humane Israel demonized.
The sixth reason is the United Nations, where Israel has been condemned in more General Assembly and Security Council resolutions than any other country in the world. At the same time, the UN has voted China onto its Security Council and has never condemned it. China’s sponsoring of Sudan and its genocidal acts against its non-Arab black population, as in Darfur, goes largely unremarked on at the UN, let alone condemned, just as is the case with its cultural genocide, ethnic cleansing and military occupation of Tibet.
The seventh reason is television news, the primary source of news for much of mankind. Aside from its leftist tilt, television news reports only what it can video. And almost no country is televised as much as Israel, while video reports in Tibet are forbidden, as they are almost anywhere in China except where strictly monitored by the Chinese authorities. No video, no TV news. And no TV, no concern. So while grieving Palestinians and the accidental killings of Palestinians during morally necessary Israeli retaliations against terrorists are routinely televised, the slaughter of over a million Tibetans and the extinguishing of Tibetan Buddhism and culture are non-events as far as television news is concerned.
The world is unfair, unjust and morally twisted. And rarely more so than in its support for the Palestinians — no matter how many innocents they target for murder and no matter how much Nazi-like anti-Semitism permeates their media — and its neglect of the cruelly treated, humane Tibetans.