The Alternative 1948 – Just Returned From Sri Lanka As An ‘Israeli traveller’

Filed under: Colombo Telegraph,Opinion |
 

By Dan Kosky -

DAN KOSKY

Dan Kosky

“Out of sight, out of mind” or so the saying goes.  However, having just returned from Sri Lanka on my first bona fide trip as an ‘Israeli traveller’, I am beginning to doubt the wisdom of this phrase.  The more I discovered about the ‘pearl of the Indian Ocean’, the more I uncovered uncanny parallels between the respective recent histories of Sri Lanka and Israel.  The similarities in their progression from colonial backwater to statehood are striking.  And yet today, they are radically different countries, revealing much that we Israelis should be proud of.

While leading lights of the early Zionist movement harked back to the ancient Hasmonean kingdoms for inspiration, Sri Lankans too can point to a proud ancient monarchy, with Sinhalese kingdoms dating as far back as the 6th century BCE.  Just as the dream of Jewish independence lay dormant for centuries, falling prey to foreign ambitions, Sri Lankan self-rule was slowly eroded away by the Portugese, Dutch and then the British.  Eventually, with the help of political pressure augmented by armed action, both Israel and Sri Lanka emerged from the shadows of the British Empire.  Providing something of a mirror image of each other, both declared independence in 1948.

In building their respective nation-states, the parallels endured.  The nascent Israeli legal system retained much of British civil and common law.  Similarly, Britain has left a clear footprint on Sri Lanka’s criminal justice system.  Like Israel, Sri Lankan society meshed together a complex and often tense ethnic mix.  Both countries have suffered more than their fair share of territorial disputes and related violence.  The bloody Sri Lankan civil war, which ended in 2009 claimed up to 100,000 lives.  To the horror of the Sri Lankan government, last month, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) urged the prosecution of officials and commanders accused of abuses during the conflict.  Coincidentally, the vote came during the same week that Israel, equally incredulous at the UNHCR albeit for different reasons, severed ties with the body.

Yet, despite these peculiar comparisons, the two countries are today marked by considerable differences.  As such, Sri Lanka offers a glimpse of what Israel could have turned out to be, a kind of alter ego if you will.  Economically, Israel has taken full advantage of its human capital, developing and selling countless world class technologies as the famed ‘start up nation’.  A far cry from cutting edge innovation, Sri Lanka’s top industries are still rooted in the country’s natural resources.  Tea (an industry which owes its success to British imperial initiative) and rubber remain the two most lucrative exports.  Israeli GDP stands at over four times its Sri Lankan equivalent.  The gap is just as wide when it comes to infrastructure.  Israelis may lament the slow development of big projects such as the Jerusalem light rail, but these schemes are in themselves simply a world away from Sri Lanka.  Anything other than a single lane road is a rarity on the island, while the Sri Lankan rail system appears to be almost unchanged since the days of the British who built it.  Power cuts are still not uncommon in some parts of the country.

Perhaps the most significant distinction though is the stark contrast in personal and political freedoms.  Virulent criticism of the government on the grounds of both policy and personality is almost an Israeli national pastime.  It is undoubtedly, a positive sign of a healthy and robust democracy.  Meanwhile images of President Mahinda Rajapaksa ominously adorn every other street corner in Sri Lanka.  A series of disappearances, arrests and general intimidation of journalists unsympathetic towards his government have helped ensure that public opposition and media criticism of Rajapaksa is almost unheard of.  Watchdog organization Reporters Without Borders ranks Sri Lanka 162 out of 179 countries on their press freedom index.  Rajapaksa has bolstered his grip on power by appointing family members to key positions.  One brother is the current Minister of Defense, another is the Minister of Economic Development, while the third and eldest is the Speaker of the Sri Lankan Parliament.  All cards have been carefully and calculatingly dealt it Rajapaksa’s favour.

While none of this of course negates the natural beauty of Sri Lanka or the friendliness of its people, it is a sobering contrast to what we casually take for granted in Israel.  Many Israelis, myself included are often quick to bemoan the state of affairs in our country.  While we should always strive to build a better society, it is important not lose sight or appreciation of what has been achieved.  The truth is that despite its many imperfections, Israel is a prosperous, thoroughly modern and free society.  Perhaps it shouldn’t require a journey of thousands of miles to act as a reminder and to realize that 1948 could have been the dawn of a very different country.

THE TIMES OF ISRAEL

 

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21 Responses to The Alternative 1948 – Just Returned From Sri Lanka As An ‘Israeli traveller’

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    Israeli economic growth is thanks to the $3 billion aid Israel gets from the United states annualy.. So that is not a miracle of economic growth and not to mention the technology shared by the EU and USA to Israel which has contributed to this growth.. and the protection Israel receives form the USA.. So if we in Sri Lanka received these benefits then well you will be writing a different story.. And many Israeli commentators, some journalist and NGOs who have criticised Israeli policy on the Occupation of palestine lands have been demonised by the right wing press.. So not a paradise as you would see it..

    sjv chelvanayakam
    April 11, 2012 at 10:55 am
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    Dan Kosky selectively omits to even touch upon the apartheid and murderous policy of the Israeli government towards Palestine and Lebanon. The article smacks of the self-satisfied tone of Zionism.

    Rory Winter
    April 11, 2012 at 11:37 am
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    Mate, Yes, Sri Lanka has a long way to go. Mainly, due to family based, corrupt politicians Sri Lanka is cursed with for 60 years now, since 1948 Independence. Great if, Israel is such a prosperous, thoroughly modern and free society as you claim. However, your medal has another side. You are massivley subsidised and protected by an extra special relationship you have with USA. That is sustained by corrupting the US foreign policy through AIPAC, the infamous Israel lobby in Washington. Israel may have prospered and good for you. The real price of your success is paid for by impoverished and defenceless Palestinians. They have lost almost everything. Including almost all of their land not least human dignity. And where is Mordechai Vanunu? The Israeli scientist who exposed nuclear secrets and ambitions of his country. Jailed for life? So much for your free society.

    Ben Hurling
    April 11, 2012 at 1:43 pm
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    If not for the American handouts,Israel would be worse than Somalia.Damn stingy jews.Land grabbers.

    Max Silva
    April 11, 2012 at 2:09 pm
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      Come on Max, moderate your own comments. You may have come from elite class or gutter class but have som decorum. ie. see the other comments. Now I konow you are no way related or connected to the ruling class, you just a boot licker! Just look at what Israel gave to us – The Dvora’s, Kfir’s, Radar technology, Giuded bomb technology & the list endless. May be they got good money for it. There was a time we cold not get any thing of value militarily. I also may not agree with Dan Kosky. He is doing the best with limited intellectual capability.

      Lutronman
      April 11, 2012 at 3:41 pm
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        Rajiv Ghandi gave training in weapons and money to you ungrateful tigers.He even gave his bulletproof west to your terror thug of a leader “Velu”.You paid back by murdering him.Bloody defeated Tamil Tiger Terrorists!

        Max Silva
        April 11, 2012 at 8:14 pm
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    The situations between the two countries have also too many disparities you fail/ ignore to point out. Some astute commentators however have zeroed in on some of them. It is better to export tea and cinnamon than have conveyor belts churning out weapons as if they were cookies, aiding & abetting bloodshed all over the world, hoarding up on the dollars and calling yourself prosperous.

    Chandrani
    April 11, 2012 at 2:34 pm
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    Be very mindful of what The Holy Bible says; “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you” This is the Lord God of creation, making a statement to the Patriach Abraham (Gen. 12, Verse 1 to 3). If you cannot say something nice about the Jewish nation and her people, you are advised to be silent. What is more, Israel is the ONLY nation on earth that was “birthed” by the spoken word of God. All other nations came about by a process of migration and/or conquest. Why did God choose Israel, the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? That we have to ask God. Finally, know that almost ALL crutical discoveries were by the Israelis! It is not just the US aid but Heavenly aid.

    Kumar Soysa
    April 11, 2012 at 7:43 pm
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      Who is this joker?We are not attending Sunday church here.But confronting a bunch of defeated Tamil Tiger terrorists.By the way any news of Satan?Whose children are bombing civilians in Palestine,Afghanistan,Iraq etc?Is it the kids of the all mighty god or that of Nathan?

      Max Silva
      April 11, 2012 at 8:18 pm
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    Don’t believe there is any need to be rude, obnoxious or belligerent in this context. Dan Kosky is just expressing a comparative opinion based on his travels to SL. Unlike other writers who write about SL and her issues from far of shores, Dan has written pursuant to his visit to the host country. Therefore, one may or may not agree with what he has written but there is no need to personally attack the writer for the views expressed by him. It’s just not Sri Lankan?

    L de Silva
    April 12, 2012 at 7:30 am
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      Thank you for being a Gentleman.

      Lutronman
      April 12, 2012 at 7:37 am
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      I personally accept what you say is true as the article is based on the writer’s travelling viewpoint. But what most of us finds it difficult to accept what the writer is trying to say because article is UNBALANCED.

      Dr. Maverick
      April 14, 2012 at 9:59 am
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    @ Kumar Soysa. Please do not quote the scripture out of context. The entire Old Testament paradigm changed with the birth and especially the death of Jesus which nullified all that. However, this is not a good place to go on about a Biblical debate. It’s kind of puzzling that one has to always say nice things about the Jewish people or not say anything at all.

    Chandrani
    April 12, 2012 at 8:28 am
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      Chandrani, the old Testament was FULFILLED by the Birth, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament cannot be detached from the New.

      Kumar Soysa
      April 12, 2012 at 12:58 pm
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      Chandrani, you have only to go to the United Nations to hear all the bad things about Israel.

      Kumar Soysa
      April 13, 2012 at 6:21 pm
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    this article only shows one side of the story but the writer seems to be colourblind. SRI LANKA NEVER INVADED OTHER NATION’S LAND. Sri Lanka lived in Peace and prefer living in Peace and does not accept other countries being a big brother for Sri Lanka’s existence. The core of all problems in today’s world is because of Israel’s land invasion from a nation that sheltered them after the WWII.

    Dr. Maverick
    April 13, 2012 at 10:38 am
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      Dr. Maverick, We fully endorse that Sri Lanka never invaded any other nation and we are a unique people, dignified and content. However, we, the Sinhalese are of Aryan origin and our Tamil brothers/sisters are from South India. The Muslims are the Arab traders who came here many centuries ago. However, Dr. Maverick can you or anyone SUBSTANTIATE “Israel’s land invasion after WW II” ?? That shows utter lack of knowledge. Israel and Judah was established in the Land of Canaan over four thousand years ago and even if you ignore the Book of Genesis in the Bible, you cannot ignore world history; the kings of old Israel, David, Solomon and several others, the Prophets etc. Finally, if there was no Israel prior to WW II, where oh where was the Lord Jesus Christ born, crucified and resurrected?! I really like to know how you came to this assumption, that Israel “invaded” Israel.

      Kumar Soysa
      April 13, 2012 at 6:19 pm
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        My dear Kumar, I respect your religious prospective. What you are mentioning here is in accordance to your belief and scriptures, which probably the Old Testament. Correct me if I am wrong, the Testaments (Old and New) have been revised many times and I don’t think that you would have read the original manuscript of the Testaments, which was in Aramaic language. I can detail you the origins, which is a bit lengthy stuff. If the Testaments have been revised according to the current needs, don’t you think that what you have read and written could have been manipulated, concocted and made you’ll to believe what the religious scholars fictionally think? I personally do not wish to argue/debate on faiths which could hurt my or other people’s feelings. With respect to the land grab issue, please read http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/exposed-the-truth-about-israels-land-grab-in-the-west-bank-2020110.html And http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/mapstellstory.html

        Dr. Maverick
        April 14, 2012 at 7:15 am
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          Dear Dr. Maverick, The Bible was first translated from Hebrew to English in what is commonly known as “The (old) King James Version”, because King James of England commissioned the first ever translation. This version was in what one might say is in “olde and ancient English” and reading it is somewhat tedious for those whose English is based on modern prose. Translations thereafter into versions called NIV, AIV, NKJV etc (there are many) were to make the reading easier than even the later New King James Version (NKJV). But all these are faithful translations made by annointed scholars, whose lives are dedicated to the Christian Ministry. They will dare not make changes that are fictitious or wrong. The fact that Israel was in existence is recorded not only in the Bible but also in other history books. There are accounts of Israel in the book of Josephus that are irrevocable. Israel was invaded by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Romans but they were never totally dispossesed. During the Babylonian captivity, the Jews were sent to distant lands, some even to India, Burma etc. Hitler killed 6 million of them and Stalin also is supposed to have killed many. But God, who is the God of Israel will never allow the total dissemination of the Jews nor Israel. In the Book of Ester we read of an attempt made by a Jew-Hater to wipe out the jewish nation but it was he who was hanged.

          Kumar Soysa
          April 16, 2012 at 6:58 pm
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    Yes, fulfilling is true in that the lineage of the families leading to Jesus’s birth is carefully recorded and his birth prophecied by the prophets and the rare encounter with the Archangel Michael. But the paradigm change was that the scriptural laws changed from those espoused by Moses to those exemplified by Jesus and the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles not only the Jews. Yes, it’s good to know that at least one world body is breaking the mould that Israel should always be coddled. Again, yes the Bible has many versions authorized under different Kings / denominations and leaders of the Churches and when translating from Aramaic, Hebrew, Latin, Greek and the early languages to numerous others, it is possible that there could be variations in translations. However, I’d like to think that the essence of the teachings have not been lost.

    Chandrani
    April 14, 2012 at 11:35 am
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    Read up on British held Mandatory Palestine, the UN partition plan,the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the 1967 Six-day war, and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The moral issues of the establishment of the nation of Israel are debatable, but the hard, “real”, fact that cannot be changed is that they are here to stay, and a lot can be learned from such a nation. Despite their situation, their constant struggle with the entire world (not just the Arab world mind you, just look at a few comments on this page!) Israel has still survived, and gone beyond mere survival. Here are some fast facts on it, if you are interested in learning a little more than what the traditional media portrays about it. http://www.jfns.org/page.aspx?id=43769

    Devon M.
    November 19, 2013 at 10:29 am
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