The Rohingya Are the New Palestinians

Rohingya migrants stand and sit on a boat drifting in Thai waters off the southern island of Koh Lipe in the Andaman sea on May 14, 2015. The boat crammed with scores of Rohingya migrants — including many young children — was found drifting in Thai waters. (Photo credit: Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images)

The systematic persecution of Palestinians has long occupied a place in the consciousness of the ummah, the global community of Muslims. Muslims worldwide have watched for decades as Palestinians have been repeatedly displaced, subjected to disproportionate collective punishment, and denied statehood.

While the Israeli occupation continues to stir up feelings of anger and powerlessness, another ethnic group — the Rohingya — is now emerging as the symbol of global injustice for Muslims. As Rashmee Roshan Lall notes in The Arab Weekly, the Rohingya are acquiring a status so far only given to the Palestinians. And the ummah is not sitting idly by.

The images of devastated villages and terrified Rohingya streaming into Bangladesh with nothing but the clothes on their backs resonates powerfully with the traumatic collective memory of the Palestinian Nakba, the “catastrophe,” when in 1948 Israeli forces expelled over 750,000 people from the territory of the British Mandate of Palestine. Muslims around the globe see the Palestinians and the Rohingya as having gone through similar experiences, being subject to flagrant abuses and pushed to the fringes of their respective societies. They are stateless, permanent refugees with few allies willing to officially stand up for their human rights.

Both groups became disenfranchised in the aftermath of colonial rule and imperial collapse, and both the Myanmar and Israeli governments have attempted to relocate them from their territory, portraying them as foreigners with no claim to the land. In both Israel and Myanmar, there have been attempts to rewrite the history of the two persecuted groups, claiming that neither constitute a “real” ethnic group and are thus interlopers and invaders.

Continue reading at Foreign Policy


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