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Don't Mix Indigenous Fight With Palestinian Rights

The December 31, 2013 article “‘Redwashing’ Panel Follows Academic Associations’ Boycott of Israel” on is rife with inaccuracies and outright fallacies, from the opening paragraph where it speaks about "using native americans to cover up the ongoing illegal occupation of [Palestinian] lands."

The author clearly doesn't understand that in fact Judeah and Samaria are not "Palestinian" lands but the ancestral homeland of the Jewish nation. this is easily verified through archaeology and study of the region. The Jewish nation does not lose their ties to their land simply because it was occupied first by Rome and then by the Ottomans. To accept that would be to put our own claims in danger.

Its important for us to examine who these people are who are claiming to speak on behalf of Native americans, because they hide their bigotry underneath our banner.

Lets look first at the ringleader J. K?haulani Kauanui. She is not a Native American. She claims she is "part indigenous Hawaiian,” but her experiences are about as Native American as a native Australian's would be. I am not saying they don't have their own history of persecution and oppression, but its very different from ours and I am getting tired of reading this woman’s claims. She is doing nothing more than inciting bad feelings towards Israel and pushing her agenda of bigotry and racism.

Lets examine the claims we know she's made:

She claims that the Palestinians are indigenous, something that only a person with very little knowledge of the Middle East would make. Anyone capable of opening a history textbook knows that Arabs conquered the Middle East in the 7th century CE. The Palestinians self-identify as Arabs. Some may carry indigenous blood, but blood quantum is a white man's concept. They deny their indigenous culture and heritage and instead follow the culture and claim the heritage of the colonizer people. How is that indigenous? Indigenous status is a complex combination of things, but the most important is the genesis of culture and tradition in conjunction with ancestral lands, which would mean that the Jews of Israel are indigenous, and the Arabs of "Palestine" are not. They can claim indigenous status, but to the Arabian peninsula, which is not the Levant. Ask an Arab where his most holy place is, unless he is one of the tiny minority of Christian Arabs, he will tell you its Mecca, and he will tell you this in Arabic both of which track back to.... the Arabian peninsula. Ask a Jew where their holiest place is, and they will tell you, and they will do so in the language that developed in the holy land.

I don't think Kauanui understands that by her argument, Americans are now indigenous to Hawaii, because the first white people showed up in Hawaii in the 1700's about 1200 years after the first "Hawaiins" By using her own logic that conquerors can become Indiegnous through the passage of time, it means that Arabs showed up about 3 thousand years after the first Jews in the Levant, and became indigenous through conquer and time, it follows that 1200 years is really quite insignificant. I somehow doubt that Kauanui will enjoy the conclusion that her logic arrives at when followed in a straight line, these partially educated people rarely do. They do not consider the damage that this argument makes when one is arguing the validity of indigenous rights.

The article also speaks of "victories" for the "Palestinian based boycott" which is also quite misleading, first because its actually an Israel based boycott, the founder of BDS, Omar Barghouti, is a student at Tel Aviv University, which is in Israel. also it neglects to mention that dozens of universities are withdrawing from the organizations who have expressed support for this ridiculous display of racism and bigotry. But dont take my word for it. Note that universities like Harvard, Yale and Princeton have condemned this boycott, while only a few community colleges and less well known schools support it. to infer otherwise is to ignore facts, something these people seem pretty skilled at.

This is not a victory, it has cost Native American scholars credibility, credibility for which we have fought hard. It also has had several setbacks as more and more people realize that this boycott is nothing more than bigotry. Now there is a movement to remove funding from universities who support this bigotry.

I am active in the indigenous rights movement, and I have been quite active in Idle No More since last December, I have been at both ends of the spectrum, I have organized events, participated in them and done everything in between, in my time with INM I have seen several groups try to coopt our struggle, to piggyback on our tragedies. I have written about this, because its offensive when people who have not gone through what we have gone through, are claiming solidarity with us, while ignoring the key aspects of our struggle. We are warrior peoples in the majority, we do not believe in targeting women and children and we revere life, how would we reconcile that with solidarity with people who actively target women and children and celebrate attacks that kill them?

Let me be very clear here, Indigenous rights are incredibly important, and when we attack the indigenous rights of any group who legitimately lay claim to them, we are in fact doing the colonists work for them. To attempt to grant indigenous rights to a group that has no right to them, even in an abstract sense is directly attacking our own rights because any inconsistency in our arguments will be picked up by our enemies.

I am also disgusted to see someone attacking Joy Harjo, who is an indigenous artist and activist, I actually watched on her page on Facebook as people threatened her, insulted her and lectured her on oppression, as if an Indian woman who has experienced oppression and marginalization needed some old white liberals to lecture her on oppression. you want to talk about scandalous? the fact that people are still attempting to smear her is ridiculous and disgusting. This woman followed her heart and her conscience and went to Israel, she has spoken about the things she doesn’t agree with about israel, but she went because her art heals rifts, it doesn’t create them.

I would also like to know who this "Ashtan" person is and what enables him to speak to this so called "solidarity" with Idle No More. As I said, I am heavily involved in INM, which is a grassroots organization. while we are grateful for support, we neither want nor accept support from those who would deny indigenous people their rights to a state on their ancestral lands. this attempt to coopt our struggle is ridiculous and frankly its unacceptable. I cannot claim to speak for every Indian, we are a multitude of peoples, but to try and suggest that we have anything more than surface similarities to the Palestinians is humorous and ridiculous. Because we are indigenous peoples, we have more in common with indigenous peoples than we do with colonizers who showed up in the seventh century, (and in point of fact, the majority of Palestinians showed up in the 20th century). Do not presume to lie to us and perpetuate false narratives.

More and more Native Americans are realizing that in the age of information, we no longer need to listen to these false narratives being spread by people who claim to speak for us. we are educated, intelligent and can speak for ourselves, people like Kauanui, Salaita, and Ashtan should learn to speak for their own people and not pretend to speak for us. I have spoken to many of my people after reading this, and while there are some who are Pro palestinians rights (as I am) we do not accept this Anti Israel propoganda being spread in our name, we can be pro Palestinians and still be pro Israel and pro indigenous statehood

I would suggest in the future, these people invite some actual indians who have the knowledge and the background to discuss these issues, but then we wouldnt be welcome in the sort of conference that is being attended, because we are able to speak for ourselves and not just parrot false narratives.

Ryan Bellerose is a Métis from Paddle Prairie Alberta. He founded Canadians for Accountability, a Native rights advocacy group, and is an Idle No More movement organizer. As an indigenous rights activist, He is also a founding member in the Calgary United with Israel (CUWI) organization and is a self-proclaimed Zionist."