Challenging the Dalai Lama on his Views on the Israeli Occupation

On Tuesday 19th June 2012, the 14th Dalai Lama visited the University of Westminster to deliver a lecture on Tibetan Values and Democracy. Having been a naïve supporter of the Dalai Lama in the past, easily impressed by his quotes on compassion and not really having analysed his viewpoints on freedom and democracy, today’s lecture was an eye-opener to the reality of the Dalai Lama’s perspective.

A comment I had come across previously in the Morning Star by the Dalai Lama was “Among Tibetan refugees we are always saying to ourselves that we must learn the Jewish secret to keep up our traditions, in some cases under hostile circumstances,” followed by ‘Tibetans and Israeli’s want to live in peace.’ I wanted confirmation whether this suggested the Dalai Lama to be an Israeli sympathiser. Israel is a blatant poison to humanity whilst it is allowed to exercise its fascist Zionist ideology and breach Palestinians human rights. Given the opportunity by my lecturer Dr Dibyesh Anand, I questioned the Dalai Lama on his views on the Palestinian struggle; grateful for not being silenced in a room filled with a few hundred people including diplomats and media, on an issue mainstream media intentionally fails to cover.

His Holiness, around the time Tibetans lost their rights when they were occupied by China, another nation faced a similar tragedy, the Palestinians. The Israeli occupation of Palestine continues with full support from the United States and the American Israeli Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Millions of indigenous Palestinians have been made refugees on their own land and have lost the right to return to their homeland. We sometimes read your statements sympathetic to Israel but not on the suffering of the Palestinians. Could you please enlighten us with your view on the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians under illegal Israeli occupation?”

The Dalai Lama responded along the lines of “I’ve been to Israel a few times. On hearing the Jewish viewpoint, it still looks sort of sub-reasons from  thousands of years old they have certain rights in their place. They themselves in ancient times they became refugees thousands of years ago in different countries. Then on the same occasion, I met some groups of Palestinians and I heard their sort of complaint and they also want rights that the place belongs to them, so it is difficult to judge. The best way is, no matter who they are they should live together and help each other. I’m very much impressed that in Jerusalem where the Jewish community there, their land is much greener and they use every technique, water, trees and grass is much greener. Whereas on the Palestinian side it still remains dry like the desert. It is better to live together and use the Jewish communities skills and in the mean time live together. On my second visit to Tel Aviv, I met a small group of Palestinians and Jewish together, a small group trying to make a bridge and harmony so that is the only way. I think among Israeli’s a number of them are against the government hard line and policy. I know nobel prize Shimon Peres, I think he is very much committed about genuine peace. Sometimes the government is difficult but then the people there show more interaction. In India also, my friends who have some close connections with some Pakistani’s , that is very important. I think after all if both sides stand firm, sooner or later there will be some clash and that will not solve the problem. More clash, sooner or later a clash will not sort the problem but will further any reconciliation. Palestine is an older issue than the Tibetan issue but violence is still involved. It is very sad.”

Dalai Lama showed some encouragement towards a one state solution but the latter comments were very disappointing and disheartening coming from a man who is respected for being ‘compassionate.’ The Dalai Lama holds a neutral view with no real political stance and dismissed the question around the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians but commented on violence, from whom? To be a friend of Israel and not criticize Zionism and what it stands for, to legitimize an illegal occupier and to encourage Palestinians with Israeli identity to normalise and not resist against the crimes against humanity by ignoring the fact Palestinians on the other side of the apartheid wall have no human rights, no freedom of movement, their land being colonised and being dehumanised daily whilst facing Israeli soldiers at checkpoints, to not oppose Israel and demonstrate oneself to be a leader of compassion whilst championing the injustices against Tibetans, is as hypocritical as the Western states the Dalai Lama seeks to sugar coat and gain support from whilst exposing the state crimes of China alone. To defend Shimon Peres who is a warmonger and persecutor of an entire nation and responsible for the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, responsible for children killed by white phosphorous dropping on their homes in Gaza, responsible for thousands of Palestinians being held in Israeli prison inhumanely in administrative detention without trial, is abominable.

Anyone who is genuinely compassionate can recognise injustice without being obliged to smile and play the violin to it but to have the courage to stand against it, regardless of the lack of support one may receive. Which compassionate individual would join hands with an oppressor spilling the blood of a nation in order to free their people whose blood is also being spilt by a different oppressor? Is the Dalai Lama placing more value on the rights of Tibetans over other oppressed occupied nations? Dalai Lama plays into the hands of Western powers, supportive of states and leaders who are warmongers in different countries which champion imperialism and colonialism. He encouraged 1.3 million Chinese people to know the reality of their state and regarded censorship as being immoral. He praised the Indian government which was contradictory considering they are responsible for the occupation in Kashmir. He admired India for their ‘religious tolerance’, failing to recall the massacre of thousands in Gujarat less than ten years ago. Compassion should allow every occupied nation to unite and confront their oppressors, recognising which nations are the oppressors and which nation is the oppressed which Dalai Lama failed to do so. To stand side by side with the oppressor who slaughters nations but to only comment negatively on the oppressor of your people, does not define compassion but obligation and responsibility. It was already difficult to stomach Barack Obama issuing the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Shimon Peres, but the Dalai Lama praising him metres away from me was even more painful.  Anyone who is legitimately chauffeured around the world to champion the rights of their occupied nation, the agenda and interests of those who support these individuals needs to be scrutinised.

I do not believe the Dalai Lama represents the will or determination of Tibetans who are notorious for carrying out self-immolation in desperation for their rights. Any oppressed nation or representative would be inspired by the non-violent resistance for rights to self-determination and dignity carried out by the Palestinians against the illegal occupation. Dalai Lama himself said the Tibetans want him as a leader but whether they want to listen to him is a different story.

Article by Shareefa Panchbhaya


15 Responses to Challenging the Dalai Lama on his Views on the Israeli Occupation

  1. The Dalai Lama is a nice guy but he is not as informed about a wide variety of subjects. He takes religion seriously so it is very easy to convince him with Zionism. He got used to being acquainted with Western media because they are pro-Tibet in most cases (or anti-China to be more accurate) so he would discover the Palestinian situation through the eyes of Western media. He think Palestinians are largely violent apparently and we know that that’s far from being true.

    • Nigel says:

      Agreed, but as he seems really to know next to nothing about it, he should probably just have nothing to do with it. Like Madonna and her ridiculous ‘concert for peace’ gig in Tel Aviv… if you’re completely ignorant, just keep out and don’t go there. They all know at the very least that there’s some sticky, contentious stuff going on. This should apply even more if you’re considered a moral compass of sorts, like the Dalai Lama. And if he wanted to comment, then I dunno, maybe he should pick up a book. Maybe we should send him a lovely little collection.
      On another note, why do these great people have issues have just saying ‘I don’t know’? I mean, he doesn’t. And he doesn’t have to know everything. If he were answering honestly, he should’ve answered Shareefa’s question with, ‘I don’t know. But as you seem to think it’s comparable to Tibet, which would be a really big deal, maybe I should have a teeny look.’ Or, ‘They’re being ethnically cleansed? *mindblown* Where can I read about this stuff? Everywhere on the net? kk cool thnx guys xoxo’

  2. Jamie says:

    load of bias bollocks

  3. Nigel says:

    PS Great article and I’m so glad it was you there and not me. I possibly would have thrown up or burst into tears or both.

  4. Kenmore says:

    Perhaps it’s deliberate/conspicuous silence, but I think it’s worth noting that His Holiness didn’t refer to the state of Israel (and thus it’s policies) at all. He referred to the Israeli people in the section you quoted above, and when he mentioned President, it was to discuss him personally, and his character.

    I agree, he should have taken a far more vocal stance against Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians. I am incredibly disappointed that he didn’t. But given the tumultuous place that the Dalai Lama occupies in the international arena, it’s unsurprising that he would not be critical. The Tibetan Government in Exile needs as many friends as it can get, and if they ever plan on returning to Tibet proper, they cannot alienate the United States.

    That said, here’s to hoping His Holiness will be more courageous in the future, and develop/articulate a more substantial position for next time.

  5. DaBkr says:

    perhaps the Dalai Lama does not criticize “zionism” the way the author here presents it as a “crime” but more likely identifies with the Jews who longed for their ancient traditions in the land from where they came. Maybe he doesnt buy the argument that Zionist Israelis are ‘really’ european ‘khazars’ (or whatever). Just like the generations of Tibetians having been pushed out of Tibet are not Indians because they have established themselves in Dharmsala. And perhaps he has problems dealing with the palestinians who ‘supposedly’ out of desperation-and not seething anger and hatred for Jews/Israelis/ Zionists decided to blow up not only themselves-but to take out as many Israeli babies,Old folks and of course soldiers as they possibly can. A little different then a ‘self-immoliation’ I met the DL once (for a split second so no big deal) but I imagine that in addition to his religious status-like the pope, the mullahs and the top rebbe’s-he is also just a man. He sees things the way he sees them. He is not beholden to either Israel or to Palestinians.

    Its rather pathetic that the palestinians seem to think that if they get some form (a quip, quote, soundbite, whatever) from EVER friggin spokesperson for a peaceful organization that it will somehow bolster their case. But the case needs NO bolstering. cA deal has to be cut. Israel is not only the stronger party but has been victorious in Battles over the past 60yrs. The Palestinians are trying to dictate terms which they know Israel will NEVER go for. SO-either keep whining that Israel is the “intransigent” one while demanding the ‘right of return’ and the olde city and see how far it gets you-OR-make a realistic deal that dozens of brilliant political strategists from ALL nations have known for over 20yrs id the ONLY deal that will work. Take the 92-94% of the WB and the upper portion of the Noble Sanctuary, Let Israel compensate the ORIGINAL 6-700,000 refugees and if they want-hold a lottery for a symbolic amount to be allowed back. At the same time the billions in assets stolen from Arab Jews kicked out of 22 arab nations must also be addressed and acknowleged with some form of symbolic restitution. No Palestinain Military for 5-10 yrs and then the treaty is revisited. Strategic grounds kept by Israel; for security measured can also be reviewed. The Pals get their state-a connecting road bewteen WB and GZ and some world body has to verify that Iran id not arming the HAMAS to the teeth with smuggled weapons.

    This is the deal that everybody with an ounce of common sense KNOwS is the only deal thats going to fly. The alternatives are : Staus quo …indefinitely….OR….the pals and same neigbs may launch an All-Out attack which would undoubntedly harm Israel but ultimitly would utterly DESTROY Jordan, Leb. Syria, And Irq and probably attack Iran as well.

    It won’t be a pretty site. But I believe that MANY young Pals are actually ready for the ‘Big War’ to come. And thats sad, for sure

  6. The reason that the grass is greener on the Israeli side of their land grabbing wall is that they nicked all the water off the Palestinians in the first place. without water it’s very difficult to keep grass green.

    Palestinians have a daily water allocation about 20% of what the Illegal Israeli colonialist/settlers steal from them each and every day!

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  9. actually not sure if you wrote down what he said correctly and the latter points especially were missing quite a few things…. You note above “sooner or later a clash will sort the problem” I think he said that if both parties stand firm violence will continue and a big clash “won’t” solve the problem. Don’t take my word for it since this is a matter of public record: jump to 1:02:33

  10. rafik says:

    for the dalai lama to say that the grass [materialism-external condition], is greener on the other side,exposes him as a man with no compassion.

  11. happydude says:

    Dalai lama, is a sell out. simples!!!

  12. happydude says:

    “Palestinian side id dry” why doe she think that is.. the bloody Israelis keeping bombing the place.. so nothing grows…

  13. Hasan says:

    SHAME on you Dalai Lama – How Hippocratic are you – Shame – Shame

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