Jews rally for Tibetan cause

By Simon Griver, March 21, 2008
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Jewish campaigners in both the UK and Israel have been showing support for the Tibetan struggle for independence from China.

Some 100 people are reported to have been killed in renewed unrest.

The Tibetan Jewish Youth Exchange has been fundraising to help buy computers for Longsho, the Tibetan youth movement. Marc Bergen, a trustee of the exchange, said: “The fact that we have had Israel since 1948 is a great inspiration to the Tibetan people —as the Dalai Lama himself has pointed out — who are also dreaming and hoping to one day get their own homeland back and are seeking to retain their identity, language and culture in the meantime.”

Adrian Munk, a member of the TJYE, said: “As Jewish people we must stand in solidarity with the people of Tibet. As in our own history, the Tibetan people are being prevented from practising their religion freely. Since the invasion of Tibet in 1950, the Chinese government has sought to systematically destroy the indigenous culture of the Tibetan people.”

Demonstrations against the escalating violence have also taken place in Israel. A planned event outside the Tel Aviv Cinematheque last Saturday turned into an impromptu protest against the increasing death toll in Lhasa. Hundreds of demonstrators again turned out on Wednesday outside the Chinese embassy in Tel Aviv.

Ran Natanzon, spokesman for the 1,000-strong Israeli Friends of the Tibetan People, told the JC that the Israeli government must make its voice heard. “The Israeli government must at least express its condemnation of what is happening,” he said. “At the very least, the Chinese ambassador should be called up to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and reprimanded.”

Among the protesters were 50 Tibetan students studying agriculture in Israel. But the seven Tibetan exiles in the country who are married to Israelis stayed away for fear of reprisals on their relatives in Tibet, with the exception of Lobsang Yeshi, who lives in Tel Aviv and has called on Israel to boycott this summer’s Olympics in China.

Meanwhile Alex Gilady, an Israeli and member of the International Olympic Committee who is currently in China, has said that he is not surprised by the current escalation in Tibet. “Everybody manipulates the situation before the Olympics,” he said. “There were riots in Mexico before the 1968 games, and before the Seoul games in 1988 thousands of students demonstrated and there were fatalities.”

Claiming that the Olympics nurtured social change, he added: “We saw the first cracks in Moscow in 1980 that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union a decade later.”

    Last updated: 1:37pm, June 3 2008