I witnessed first hand in law school in the early 1980s the concerted and planned effort by “Palestinians” to co-opt indigenous rights movements to the anti-Israeli cause.
The push was led by people like George Bisharat, now a law professor at UC-Hastings Law School and self-identified Palestinian-American who frequently writes anti-Israeli guest columns in The NY Times, WaPo, and elsewhere.. In reality, there is nothing indigenous about Bisharat’s family’s connection to what now is Israel. As I demonstrated by quoting a family history Bisharat himself wrote for a Palestinian journal, Bisharat’s ancestors immigrated to Jerusalem in the late 1920s, only actually lived there for a few years, then left for greener pastures abroad before Israel was created. They were neither native nor displaced.
Yet Bisharat has weaved a public persona of a displaced nationality including dramatic accounts of how he returned with his family and cried as he visited his supposed ancestral home:
Instantly my little son embraced my leg, then my daughter hugged my waist, and finally my wife my upper body, and briefly, we stood there huddled together, tears streaking all our faces….
If Bisharat is an indigenous Palestinian, then Elizabeth Warren is an indigenous Cherokee.
I am a Métis from Northern Alberta. My father, Mervin Bellerose, co-authored the Métis Settlements Act of 1989, which was passed by the Alberta legislature in 1990 and cemented our land rights. I founded Canadians For Accountability, a native rights advocacy group, and I am an organizer and participant in the Idle No More movement in Calgary. And I am a Zionist….
Many claim that we Natives have more in common with the Palestinians, that their struggle is our struggle. Beyond superficial similarities, nothing could be farther from the truth. Beyond the facile co-opting of our cause, the comparison with the Palestinians is absolutely untenable. It trivializes our suffering.
Co-opting today’s native struggle to the Palestinian propaganda war is a fallacy. Though the Palestinians have undeniable ties to the land, first hand accounts by Mark Twain and countless other travelers to the Holy Land through the ages suggest that a large percentage of the Palestinian people immigrated to Palestine in recent decades. And for 65 years, the Palestinians have convinced the world that they are worse off than many other stateless nations, despite all evidence to the contrary. The Palestinians claim to have been colonized but it was their own leaders who refused to negotiate and who lost the land that they want by waging a needless war on Israel. They claim to have faced genocide but they suffered no such thing: their population has exploded from a few hundred thousand in 1948 to over 4 million today. They claim deprivation but their elites live in luxury while their people live in ramshackle poverty….
The Palestinians are not like us. Their fight is not our fight. We natives believe in bringing about change peacefully, and we refuse to be affiliated with anyone who engages in violence targeting civilians. I cannot remain silent and allow the Palestinians to gain credibility at our expense by claiming commonality with us. I cannot stand by while they trivialize our plight by tying it to theirs, which is largely self-inflicted. Our population of over 65 million was violently reduced to a mere 10 million, a slaughter unprecedented in human history. To compare that in whatever way to the Palestinians’ story is deeply offensive to me. The Palestinians did lose the land they claim is theirs, but they were repeatedly given the opportunity to build their state on it and to partner with the Jews — and they persistently refused peace overtures and chose war. We were never given that chance. We never made that choice.
I don’t kid myself that this is some sort of awakening which effect change. The Palestinian propaganda machine at the United Nations, various other international organizations, and in academia, is too entrenched, too powerful, and too dishonest.
All we can do is keep speaking truth to power.