Engaging Hamas? Hamas is a Mideast Reality (LA Times)

Hamas is a Mideast reality

The group has evolved dramatically as a movement that can’t be wished away by the U.S. and Israel.
By Fawaz A. Gerges


January 31, 2009

Now that the guns have fallen silent and the dust is settling over Gaza, it is time to revisit the received wisdom in Israel, the United States and some European quarters that Hamas is a monolithic, Al Qaeda-like terrorist organization bent on Israel’s destruction and that, therefore, Israel has no choice but to isolate Hamas and use overwhelming force to overcome it. READ MORE

Israeli Atrocities in Gaza

The recent Israeli human rights violation during its 22 days assault has been extensively covered on the web. One of the best resources is Aljazeera.

What can we do to help the Palestinians?

1.Remember that Palestinian crisis is not Palestinian problem alone. It is ours. Indeed, Aqsa is the first qiblah, Muslim sacred land. Do something to the best of our ability to help them. How?

2.The weakest response is to remember them in our prayer. Perform salat hajat & qunut nazilah for them.

3.Donate to the Palestinian cause for many of our brothers/sisters have “donated”/sacrificed their blood and even life for this sacred land.

4.Try our best to boycott Israel (even country/ies which support Israel) products.

On a lighter note, the following is Zubir Ali’s award-winning song  (in Malay)”Balada Seorang Gadis Kecil”, which was composed in remembrance (and condemnation of) of Israeli massacre in Sabra & Shatilla in the early 80s (Indeed, Israel’s crime against Palestinians is not new- it has been a long standing one at least dating back to 60 years ago since its occupation and seizure of Palestinian lands)

Save Gaza! Save Palestine!

Some basic facts about Tibet (From the AP, April 14, 2008)

GEOGRAPHY — Bounded by the Himalayan mountains to the south, the region sits on a high plateau at 4,000-5,000 meters (13,000-16,400 feet), resulting in its nickname “the roof of the world.” The capital, Lhasa, lies in a valley shielding it from the harshest weather.

POPULATION — About 2.7 million people, mostly Tibetans, according to the Chinese government. Official figures are believed to underestimate large numbers of China’s Han ethnic majority who have migrated to the region in recent years to find work or open businesses.

RELIGION — Once a warlike kingdom, Tibet adopted Buddhism 1,300 years ago. The Dalai Lamas became the supreme spiritual and temporal leaders about 300 years ago. Over centuries, Tibet was at times part of expansive Chinese empires. Chinese Communist troops entered Tibet in 1951 to reassert control, and the Dalai Lama fled in 1959 following an abortive uprising.

ECONOMY — Tibet remains China’s poorest province. China has poured billions of dollars in investments and subsidies into Tibet to boost the economy and tamp down anti-government sentiment. Most Tibetans remain farmers and herders. Average incomes hit 2,788 yuan (US$395; euro270) last year according to official statistics.

POLITICS — Radical Communist policies in Tibet eased in the 1980s, but controls over religion tightened again following 1989 riots against Chinese rule, led in part by the Buddhist clergy. Talks between China and envoys from the Dalai Lama occurred sporadically earlier this decade, though without substantive progress. The Dalai Lama says he seeks genuine autonomy for Tibet within China, though Beijing accuses him of promoting separatism.

Extracted from http://www.latimes.com/sports/olympics/other/la-fg-tibet-facts,1,1107658.story


Don’t Know Much about Tibetan History (from NY Times)

The Tibetan view holds that Tibet was never subject to foreign rule after it emerged in the mid-seventh century as a dynamic power holding sway over an Inner Asian empire. These Tibetans say the appearance of subjugation to the Mongol rulers of the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th and 14th centuries, and to the Manchu rulers of China’s Qing Dynasty from the 18th century until the 20th century, is due to a modern, largely Western misunderstanding of the personal relations among the Yuan and Qing emperors and the pre-eminent lamas of Tibet. In this view, the lamas simply served as spiritual mentors to the emperors, with no compromise of Tibet’s independent status.

In China’s view, the Western misunderstandings are about the nature of China: Western critics don’t understand that China has a history of thousands of years as a unified multinational state; all of its nationalities are Chinese. The Mongols, who entered China as conquerers, are claimed as Chinese, and their subjugation of Tibet is claimed as a Chinese subjugation.

Here are the facts. The claim that Tibet entertained only personal relations with China at the leadership level is easily rebutted. Administrative records and dynastic histories outline the governing structures of Mongol and Manchu rule. These make it clear that Tibet was subject to rules, laws and decisions made by the Yuan and Qing rulers. Tibet was not independent during these two periods. One of the Tibetan cabinet ministers summoned to Beijing at the end of the 18th century describes himself unambiguously in his memoirs as a subject of the Manchu emperor.

But although Tibet did submit to the Mongol and Manchu Empires, neither attached Tibet to China. The same documentary record that shows Tibetan subjugation to the Mongols and Manchus also shows that China’s intervening Ming Dynasty (which ruled from 1368 to 1644) had no control over Tibet. This is problematic, given China’s insistence that Chinese sovereignty was exercised in an unbroken line from the 13th century onward.

The idea that Tibet became part of China in the 13th century is a very recent construction. In the early part of the 20th century, Chinese writers generally dated the annexation of Tibet to the 18th century. They described Tibet’s status under the Qing with a term that designates a “feudal dependency,” not an integral part of a country. And that’s because Tibet was ruled as such, within the empires of the Mongols and the Manchus. When the Qing dynasty collapsed in 1911, Tibet became independent once more.

From 1912 until the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, no Chinese government exercised control over what is today China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. The Dalai Lama’s government alone ruled the land until 1951.

Marxist China adopted the linguistic sleight of hand that asserts it has always been a unitary multinational country, not the hub of empires. There is now firm insistence that “Han,” actually one of several ethnonyms for “Chinese,” refers to only one of the Chinese nationalities. This was a conscious decision of those who constructed 20th-century Chinese identity. (It stands in contrast to the Russian decision to use a political term, “Soviet,” for the peoples of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.)

There is something less to the arguments of both sides, but the argument on the Chinese side is weaker. Tibet was not “Chinese” until Mao Zedong’s armies marched in and made it so.

Elliot Sperling is the director of the Tibetan Studies program at Indiana University’s department of Central Eurasia Studies.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/13/opinion/13sperling.html?_r=1&scp=10&sq=tibet&st=nyt&oref=slogin

Talking Point:

How do you explain China’s current occupation of Tibet in the historical context of Chinese expansionism?  Is there any sense in which Tibet is historically or culturally Chinese?