Siege Against Gaza; Support the Freedom Flotilla!

J K?haulani Kauanui

This week, nearly 40 passengers (unarmed peace activists and media people) will board The Audacity of Hope, a U.S. flagged boat, which will set sail from Greece and join the international Freedom Flotilla II. These courageous passengers join people from over 20 countries who will take part in the Freedom Flotilla sailing the last week of June to break the blockade of Gaza. The Israeli-led and U.S.-backed siege and blockade is the longest in modern warfare. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and many human rights organizations have all called the siege and blockade a violation of the human rights of the 1.5 million Palestinians who live in the Gaza strip since it constitutes a form of collective punishment in violation of international humanitarian law. The passengers on the U.S. boat include men and women from virtually every geographic region including people of color and American Jews. Alice Walker, one of America's great novelists, will take part and has said the flotilla is the "Freedom Ride of this era." The effort has been endorsed by more than 85 organizations across the United States and supported by thousands of individuals.

Certainly any analysis of the Palestinian condition should resonate for indigenous peoples around the globe. The Israeli government is forcibly subjecting Palestinians to brutal settler colonialism—the policy and process of conquering a distant land to send settlers so as to reshape it to resemble the land of the colonizer—that pushes for the destruction of indigenous societies and then imposes assimilation programs for those who survive the process of systematic extermination and removal. Many indigenous peoples throughout North America have had their eyes on Israel given the comparative issues of indigeneity and sovereignty raised in the conflict. As Steven Salaita argues in The Holy Land in Transit: Colonialism and the Quest for Canaan, the European settlement of the New World and the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous peoples that went with it informs the European Jewish settlement of Palestine and founding of Israel at the expense of the original Palestinians who were living there.

The historical and political parallels between these cases are especially striking when comparing the enduring ideology of Christian Manifest Destiny with Jewish Zionism. As Stephen Newcomb argues in his book, Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery, U.S. federal Indian law and policy are premised on Old Testament narratives of the chosen people and the Promised Land. This premise is exemplified in the 1823 Supreme Court ruling Johnson v. McIntosh that states that the first "Christian people" to "discover" lands inhabited by "natives, who were heathens," have an ultimate title to dominion over these lands and peoples. M. Shahid Alam argues that European Zionists determined to create a Jewish state in Palestine induced Western Jews to become colonists; and, above all, recruited Western powers to adopt their colonial project. Their state-craft was supported by the ideology of Zionism in claiming the Holy Land as the rightful place for the existence of a sovereign Jewish state in what looks like the re-creation of "Indian Country." Commonalities in these two cases studies include the culture and politics of occupation, colonialism, land dispossession and forced removal. Also, indigenous resistance to settler violence in both cases has been construed as alternately "savage" or "terroristic."

People of conscience can stand in public solidarity with the Palestinian people in their quest to break the siege against Gaza by supporting the international Freedom Flotilla II. The Israeli and U.S. governments have deemed the project one of "provocation" as though non-violent resistance gives them license to criminalize protest, providing a rationale for attacking protestors like they did last year when Israeli forces killed nine people (including one U.S. citizen) aboard the Mavi Marmara. Let us be clear here: it is the Israeli government that is engaged in an unlawful and brutal occupation. People in support of those on The Audacity of Hope can act right away by serving as a "boat watch" volunteer and calling their U.S. Senators and House Representatives, the U.S. State Department (#202-647-4000); and the U.S. Israeli Embassy to: 1) let them know you support this heroic human rights mission; and 2) that they insist that Israel take a "hands off" attitude to the boat. The people of Gaza have the human right to receive humanitarian aid, and all Palestinian people have the right to live free from illegal occupation, settler colonialism, and violent state terrorism under Israel.

J K?haulani Kauanui is an Associate Professor of American Studies and Anthropology at Wesleyan University. She is the author of Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity (Duke University Press, 2008). She is also the producer and host of a public affairs radio program, “Indigenous Politics; From Native New England and Beyond” which is syndicated on ten stations across the United States. Kauanui serves as an Advisory Board member for the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

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hawaiianembassy's picture
Aloha kakou, Yes it is very easy to demonize the Israeli nation and show comparisons to war criminals in their approach to Palestinians. I would prefer as Hawaiians to not be made out as victims by comparison and more over, not subjugated as a great people in racial terms used by those who oppress us. Indigenous, like many terms is a yoke around our political necks. My problem is that Palestinians support war and I do not. I work for peace and support our creed of forgiveness [e kala mai]. We should engage our brothers and sisters in the Palestine to seek peace. Peace can only include the same people we are encouraged to hate in this commentary and that approach does concern me. Kai Landow
laura's picture
Absolutely the most absurd twist on reality that I have ever heard!!!!
hawaiianembassy's picture
Aloha Laura, Actually i agree with you about absurdity. The problem is that one thing is not the other. Hawaiians are not Palestinians, period. I believe this article is simply not about the middle east conflict and that it is truly absurd.
bryanb's picture
Gaza is Muslim territory because it was conquered by Islam. Prior to its conquest by Islam it was Jewish/Christian territory. Islam's claims to Gaza have been made legitimate by several centuries of colonial rule. Islam is as much a force of colonialism as any other ideology is.
dmkorman's picture
I am not sure why this editorial is in Indian Country Today. I would not be responding were it in another forum. It is important to note that both Jews and Arabs are indigenous to the region with roots of several thousand years. Prior to 1948 there was no state of Palestine- the Arab and Jewish inhabitants were citizens of Jordan, Trans-Jordan, Egypt, etc. Although there is plenty of blame to go around on both sides, the abuses by Israel, by any honest review, are less than those inflicted by Arabs upon themselves in many countries, or by many other countries (e.g. China, N. Korea) upon its citizenry or enemies. I am not arguing the merits of Israel’s policies (many of which I oppose)- just the selectivity of what is published. Will the editorial pages of Indian County Today be open to all issues of abuse throughout the globe regardless of any connection to the indigenous peoples of the Americas? If so, then we might want to re-title the publication and modify its mission.
sarge712's picture
Correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't the last Freedom Flotilla a bunch of knife weilding nuts? There's a reason the Palestinians aren't welcome in any of the surrounding countries: they are THE troublemakers of the Arab world. The so called "Palestinians" have caused more trouble than they were worth anywhere they have been so the other Arab nationa surrounding Israel are more than happy to dump them back on Israel regardless of country of origin. I enjoy reading ICT Online but if this is the acid trip turn its taking, I can take my patronage elsewhere. Why is this drivel being posted here when Indian country has so many of its own problems more deserving of coverage than this farce of a "Freedom Flotilla?"
mahina's picture
Kai Landow could benefit from re-reading the op-ed. The author's article makes NO reference whatsoever to Hawaiians (and last I heard, Kanaka Maoli were not indigenous to North America!). Yes, the author is Hawaiian, but she makes no comparison between Hawaiians and Palestinians; the comparison is between Israel's settler colonialism in Palestine, and the U.S. government's settler colonialism in Indian Country. Also, not sure why Landow uses the term "us" when referring to his regard for the term "indigenous" since he is a white man. Landow claims to represent the Hawaiian Kingdom in an embassy based in New York -- as such, he should be invested in international law. And if so, he would acknowledge that the 44 year Israeli occupation of Palestine is unlawful!
delmuti's picture
I just wanted to thank Professor Kauanui for shedding light onto the deplorable, inhumane situation that's taking place in Gaza today. I want to commend her for standing on the side of justice for the Palestinian people, who have continued to be vilified and terrorized for over 63 years now. The Palestinian people, particularly the people of Gaza, have been denied the very basic human rights that we here in the United States have and take for granted every single day. Not only does the world continue to ignore the heart-wrenching screams and pleas of the Palestinian people, but so many Americans continue to add to their misery and injustice through the unconditional financial and military support from our tax dollars given to Israel every single year, without ever questioning why. As a first-generation Palestinian, I feel immensely guilty that I abet in this injustice and inhumanity, and my silence on such atrocities is complicity. So, when people like Professor Kauanui take a stand for such a noble cause, I feel that there is still hope in this world, and that the Palestinian people will one day receive the long overdue justice they deserve. As a Palestinian, I thank you with all my heart, Professor. As a student, a social worker, and a humanitarian, I am indebted.
mshihade's picture
Thanks Kehaulani for the op-ed. It is very timely as people from around the world are preparing for another solidarity action against the siege of the Palestinian people living in Gaza imposed by Israel and supported by the United States. It is very important for Americans also to take responsibility for the crimes their governments did in the past and the present, and to do so by taking a position on Israel/Palestine is not a selective act but very much at the heart of being anti-racist and true and honest to one's calling himself/herself progressive, anti-racist and for peace. Critiquing racism is not promoting hatred, to the opposite. Those who do not want to talk about racism, want consciously or not, to continue the status-quo and allow for more violence against Native people everywhere. Palestinians and Natives from around the world have so much in common, and their struggles are very connected. To criminalize such solidarity is act of racism and violence and hatred. What you are promoting is honesty and solidarity so that the world all over lives with less oppression and violence. Thanks again, and this is especially touching for a Palestinian who lives on the ground and knows first hand the complicity of Israel and the USA in oppressing the Palestinian people who are made prisoners in their own lands.
vincent's picture
All these comments by people asking what this article is doing in Indian Country obviously have not even read the article, which plainly states "the European settlement of the New World and the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous peoples that went with it informs the European Jewish settlement of Palestine and founding of Israel at the expense of the original Palestinians who were living there". It's excellent Indian Country is addressing this issue, and I think more and more of the world is losing patience with the apartheid-type aspects of Israeli society. The people on the flotilla, hoping to focus world attention on this, are very brave.