I’m dismayed to read Nick Estes’ letter to James Anaya, published in Indian Country Media Network on April 6.
In his letter, An Open Letter to S. James Anaya: Honor the Palestinian Call for Academic Boycott and Human Rights, Mr. Estes perpetuates a revisionist inversion of history by equating Palestinian with Indigenous Peoples and Jews/Israelis with settler/colonialists. There are a myriad of grave implications and political consequences that flow from this premise which actually work to undermine peace between Jewish, Arab and Palestinian neighbors.
The poster for the last Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) rally I saw at the University Saskatchewan included the slogan: “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” Estes sees no connection between BDS and antisemitism but this slogan is a clear call for the elimination of Israel as a Jewish homeland and it ominously recalls the Nazi fantasy of a nation that is “judenfrei.”
In spite of the fact that all Jewish creation stories are rooted in ancient sites strewn throughout Judea, Samaria, Palestine (the Roman name) and Israel; and archaeological evidence clearly shows that Jews were born of and flourished in this land well before Arab people planted their temples and cities directly over Jewish sites (conquerors do that), the Jewish claim to its Aboriginal homeland, and evidence of its ancient presence is pervasively undermined – even by those who themselves are fighting for emancipation from settler-colonialism.
Unfortunately, Mr. Estes’ argument well represents the dominant views of most progressive, left-leaning social activists (a political spectrum with which I have always identified). Grounded historical evidence is inverted and besmirched as propaganda, and sound counterarguments are quickly dismissed and labeled neo-liberal and colonialist. Peaceful and productive coexistence must be built on a foundation of mutual recognition and respect.
Ryan Bellerose is an interesting (and unlikely) advocate for Jewish self-determination. He is a Métis from Northern Alberta. His father Mervin Bellerose, co-authored the Métis Settlements Act of 1989, which was passed by the Alberta legislature in 1990. He founded the Native rights advocacy group: “Canadians For Accountability” and was an “Idle No More” movement organizer. He writes like a warrior and has a clear sense of history and identity. Read his response to Nick Estes’ letter to James Anaya here.
Marcus Miller is Director of the Gordon Snelgrove Gallery at the University of Saskatchewan. He teaches courses in the Department of Art and Art History in the theory and practice of contemporary art. He has worked across Canada as a curator, teacher and critic