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John Chuckman

LETTER TO CBC RADIO’S THE CURRENT

The Rohingya Muslims of Burma by all accounts are treated badly.

But in not one particular cited by your guests does the situation of these oppressed people differ from the situation of the millions of Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

Inability to freely travel limiting opportunities to earn a living; unfair treatment by officials and police; hate speech – all of these and more are the everyday experience of Palestinians.

The Rohingya, concentrated on the west coast of Burma in Rakhine State, sometimes leave their oppression because of the seas, yet the people of Gaza, stretched along the sea in much the same fashion, are not even free to use the sea: fishermen who go outside their tiny permitted zone are shot at regularly by Israeli naval forces; ships of needed supplies from other places are subject to attack by Israel on the high seas; and even natural gas fields discovered in the Mediterranean in areas which under international law should belong to Palestine are seized by Israel.

The comparisons are even closer because if you ask Burmese officials, they would tell you the Rohingya want their own state, something Burma will not grant, and are regarded as rebellious, something none of your guests discussed.

Yet CBC Radio, and The Current in particular, would not dream of treating the Palestinians’ plight, which after all is in every sense closer to home. You have not done so once in any meaningful way.

To add insult to injury in the piece you did, you interviewed a representative of the American Holocaust Museum whose investigations are said to have established that all the “early signs of genocide” were now present in Burma. I wasn’t aware that there was an official handbook of diagnosis for genocide, but these people appear to have one.

It does seem to me in view of the appalling conditions in Israel/Palestine, people from the Holocaust Museum are simply not qualified to comment on Burma.

Indeed, I think it not unfair to suggest that their statements effectively serve as diversions to a faraway topic from what is going on so much closer to home in Israel.

AFTERWORD: In a follow-up interview the next day with Burma’s ambassador to Canada, he said something along the lines of “There’s no such thing as the Rohingya people.”

These were exactly the same words uttered by Golda Meir about the Palestinians decades ago, and her chilling words have been echoed many times since, including a few years ago by Newt Gingrich on the campaign trail after receiving the best part of $20 million in campaign contributions from billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a devoted supporter of Netanyahu’s vision of Israel.

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