A quarter million civilians are under siege, facing lack of food and supplies in their small isolated enclave because of aggression by a stronger outside government that will not let them have their own state, while the most recent atrocity is the shelling of a civilian hospital and that at least 50 wounded children are unable to get care for their wounds due to fighting.

Photos of the wounded were broadcast as the lead story of numerous TV news channels, and millions around the world demonstrate in solidarity for the suffering of the

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And millions around the world ignore the sufferings of the civilians because they aren’t being attacked by Israelis in retaliation for three thousand missile strikes against Israel.

Because this story is about the last gasp of the Tamil Tiger uprising in SriLanka, not Gaza.

SriLanka is, of course, an island off the southern coast of India, but unlike India it is mainly Buddhist in religion, while the Tamil ethnic group is mainly Hindu or Roman Catholic, with some Muslim members.

The war has been going on for years, since the Tamils rose in response to perceived discrimination by the majority ethnic group in 1972, seeking their own ethnic enclave. Over 70,000 people have died in the conflict, and it is best known for it’s pioneering invention, the suicide bomb.

I don’t pretend to take a stand on the conflict: It resembles a lot of other ethnic conflicts around the world, from the Moro rebellion in the Philippines to the Aceh, Papuan, or East Timor rebellions against Indonesia.

These conflicts drain the economy of our countries at a time when money would be better spent on development than arms.

But all of them resemble the old question: Should all small ethnic groups be able to decide on their own laws and have their own countries, or is it better for all involved to join a larger, ethically mixed country that is more economically viable?

For example, East Timor is still an economic basket case after it’s independence; would that country have been better off in a messy but ethnically diverse Indonesia?

And then you have the second question: if you allow self determination for every ethnic group, what do you do with the minorities in these smaller ethnic areas?

Do we allow ethnic cleansing, and the mutual displacement of minority populations? Think Bosnia. But also remember the 12 million who fled the partition of India in 1948, or the similar ethnic migrations following the establishment of Israel,  when   a quarter million Palestinians fled and were essentially replaced with a quarter million Sephardic Jews who fled ethnic cleansing in a half dozen Middle Eastern countries.

Most of these are more ethnic conflicts than religious, and have deep roots in history.

I don’t have an easy answer to any of these questions, but I am sarcastic at so called “pacifist” groups that demonize only the Jews for their self defense that kills civilians in the cross fire, but who don’t even bother to shed a tear for the dozens of other ethnic wars that are killing children in dozens of ethnic and tribal conflicts in Africa and Asia and South America.

There are enough dead children to go around, you know.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She blogs about human rights in Africa at Makaipablog

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