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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mahina's picture
David, Why not read Vincent's reply below?
dmkorman's picture
All I said was that these issues would be more appropriately raised in other forums. The bare and very debatable assertion that “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" does not change my opinion on the issue of whether this is the correct platform for such discussions.
patrickwolfe's picture
There is a direct association between the situation of Indigenous Palestinian people who have been invaded by Israel and Indigenous peoples who have been invaded by other settler colonizers. Examples include the Tibetans (invaded by China), Indigenous peoples in Australia (invaded by Britain), Indigenous peoples in the USA (initially invaded by Britain, France, Spain and other European countries and subsequently invaded by the USA), Indigenous people in Hawai'i (invaded by the USA), and Indigenous peoples in East Timor and West Papua (invaded by Indonesia). Settler-colonial invasion is not simply a matter of racial prejudice, though the Natives whom settlers dispossess are usually demonized in racist terms by the settlers. Rather, settler colonialism is a zero-sum contest in which the settlers come from outside with the intention of stealing the Natives' homelands and removing the Natives from them, by whatever means they choose to remove them. Palestinians are currently in the situation that Native Americans faced at the very moment they were first being driven from their ancestral homelands. The frontier is now - in occupied East Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank, and surrounded Gaza. Millions of other Palestinians languish in the exile that Israeli militias drove them into in 1948, when they stole their country and their homes. Other Palestinians live as second-class citizens inside Israel. As an invaded, dispossessed and dispersed people, Palestinians are currently enduring the Native plight at its most extreme. The experience of settler invasion is what binds them so closely to Native Americans. Their situation is comparable to the situation of Indians undergoing removal in the 1830s. The relevance to readers of Indian Country Today is that Native Americans can share some of their historical experience with invaded Palestinians - a violent and oppressive historical experience that they have endured at the hands of the one settler society that is currently providing Israel with the means to carry out its inhuman violation of Palestinian people's inalienable rights.
suki12's picture
I thought this was a fabulous piece and completely connected to the issues that Indian Country network covers. The Sinn Fein, the leading nationalist leaders of resistance to British oppression in Ireland long ago saw the connections between the settler rule that the Palestinians and the Irish in Northern Ireland both suffered under: partition and supremacy are part of life in the occupied counties of Ireland...this recognition expanded their work and enriched it, and has given the struggle for freedom from British oppression credence: far from being seen a simple chauvinistic response to British "outsiders", Irish responsiveness to the Palestinian struggle has given it legitimacy within the anti-colonialism movement and helped sustain it at points when the struggle was acute.
montanamiddle's picture
Jews aren't 'colonialists' just because the Roman empire expelled them from Jerusalem. The second Jewish Temple – erected 70 years after Solomon’s Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE – was razed by the Roman Empire at the conclusion of the Great Revolt in 70 CE in which all Jews were exiled from Jerusalem in a second Diaspora. All that remained of the temple was the Western Wall. When Jews visited the wall after Jerusalem was taken by the British from the Turks in 1917, they would cry in anguish, and hence it became known as the “Wailing Wall” to observers. Nearly two millennia after the Jerusalem under Jewish control was destroyed by the Romans, the state of Israel was created in 1948. It's important to note that some 85% of current Israeli lands were bought legitimately and at high prices by Jews from rich Arabs who really didn't care for the 'swampy' land in the first place. As the old Jordan King Abdullah wrote about the Arabs selling their land: "The Arabs are as prodigal in selling their land as they are in useless wailing and weeping."
dmkorman's picture
There is no shortage of oppression of peoples in history and today- including First Nations, Northern Irish, Jews, Tibetans, Arabs, Muslims, Latin Americans, Africans, Native Hawaiians, etc. I have made no substantive argument on the merits of the flotilla or Israeli policies (indeed, my initial post stated that I disagree with many of Israel’s policies). Many of the commentators here have demonstrated my point about the inappropriateness of Dr. Kauanui’s piece in ICT. A quick search on Indian Country Today shows virtually no coverage of those other situations mentioned by other contributors. Many of the substantive points on the Israel-Palestine issue are valid- many are debatable. The debate, however, should be at a different forum. To continue the debate here is to engage in a hijacking of Indian Country Today by proponents on both sides of the issue to which I will not participate any further.
michelebegay's picture
quikslvr0's picture
You may do well to read this piece again as well as the comments below.
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!!!!