The fighting in Sri Lanka’s civil war has intensified again. This is the war that has killed 70,000 and displaced hundreds of thousands. The war with the ceasefire that failed in 2007-2008. The war in a Commonwealth country. The war with its roots in the British legacy. The war with the internationally brokered ceasefires and peacekeepers and observers. Â The war with the complex confusing history and only shades of grey.
The war that we don’t see on the news.
New Zealand has more than 7,000 people who identified as Sri Lankan in the 2006 census, while onlyÂ 1,599 identified as “Israeli/Jewish/Hebrew” andÂ 2,607 who identified as Arab (and not a subset â€“ we don’t ask for Palestinian).
We exportedÂ NZ$168 million of goods to Sri Lanka in the 2004-5 year. To Israel the value wasÂ NZ$16.85 million in 2007.
Sri Lanka is closer, more people in New Zealand identify their cultural heritage as Sri Lankan, and we have more trade ties with it. Yet Gaza dominates the news and the bombing and shooting and civilian deaths in Sri Lanka go unremarked.
I happened to be in Sri Lanka when the the war stepped up in 2007. I was check pointed and searched and patted down more times than I can count, I had conversations with Sinhalese and Tamil, with parents, grandparents, children, soldiers and police. I saw guns and fighter planes and armoured vehicles and sandbags â€“ and vegetable gardens and elephants and children playing in the sea.
I write about Sri Lanka because I know about its war, but there are others we are ignoring too. What is it about their victims that make them not worth our time?