Native American confronts Wesleyan Prof. over denial of Jewish indigenous status in Israel
We’ve written frequently about the ludicrous “pinkwashing” movement, whereby anti-Israel “queer” (their word) activists in academia demonize Israel not for mistreating gays, but for talking about how Israel doesn’t mistreat gays.
The worst crime of all to the Pinkwashing movement is that Israel has the temerity to let people know that unlike its Arab neighbors, including in the territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, Israel does not torment, persecute, torture and kill people because they are gay.
If you want to know what anti-Israel “queer” (their word) hate looks like, watch this video. It’s not surprising that many of the key academic BDS supporters are involved in the Pinkwashing movement.
“Greenwashing” refers to complaints that Israel highlights its environmental successes. It’s one of the arguments used against SodaStream.
But there’s a new movement afoot, “Redwashing.” We mentioned in passing the Redwashing conference held at the American University in Beirut by some of the leaders of the American Studies Association boycott, Chaired by Wesleyan University Professor J. Kehaulani Kauanui.
(Kauanui also is a leader of the Pinkwashing movement, leading a Global Queer Anti-Occupation Activism conference in April 2013. She was one of the founders of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, whose Council recently adopted an anti-Israel boycott.)
As reported by Indian Country Today:
“This panel session aims to document and critically engage the cultural and political formation of ‘redwashing,’ what I define as the promotion of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas as a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of the Palestinian people,” Kauanui explained in an overview of the panel sent to Indian Country Today Media Network. “In these cases, Israelis typically appeal to Indigenous Peoples by drawing parallels between their respective claims to indigeneity, legacies of genocide (evoking the Jewish holocaust), and ongoing adversity regarding threats to ‘cultural extinction.’”
Kauanui points to a number of examples of redwashing in the recent past: Last April, Kauanui, Warrior and other indigenous scholars wrote to Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly expressing disappointment at his support for Israel and urging him to pursue international relationships that mirror indigenous values and justice.
The letter followed Shelly’s December 2012 visit to Israel where he met with Israeli diplomats and members of the Arizona Israel Business Council and a follow up visit by Israeli farmers to speak to Navajo farmers at a two-day agriculture conference. In 2012, a group representing several First Nations led by Cree First Nation Grand Chief David Harper visited Israel’s Knesset at the invitation of a Christian lobby group to express support for Israel. Also in 2012, 30 young aboriginal leaders from Canada traveled to Israel to study culture and society in the Zionist state as part of “The Youth Leadership Development Mission to Israel” under the auspices of Canada’s Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg.
“And then there was the scandalous 2012 case of Native American poet and performer Joy Harjo (Muscogee) who rejected mass appeals that she abide by the academic and cultural boycott and took up a residency at Tel Aviv University,” Kauanui said.
Here’s how Kauanui described Redwashing in connection with the Beirut Conference, “Redwashing: Israeli Claims to Indigeneity and the Political Role of Native Americans”:
Inspired by Edward Said’s legacy of cultural and political analysis, this proposed panel session aims to document and critically engage the cultural and political formation of “redwashing,” what I define as the promotion of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas as a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of the Palestinian people. In these cases, Israelis typically appeal to indigenous peoples by drawing parallels between their respective claims to indigeneity, legacies of genocide (evoking the Jewish holocaust), and ongoing adversity regarding threats to “cultural extinction.” In turn, many indigenous groups and individuals have responded….
In an op-ed at Indian Country Today, however, Ryan Bellarose, a Native Indian from Canada who is supports Israel, took exception with the attempt by these academics to usurp the indigenous North American peoples for anti-Israel purposes, and specifically argued that Jews are the indigenous people of Israel.
… 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. Kēhaulani 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 column continues at great length. Here Bellarose addresses the ASA boycott specifically:
This is not a victory, it has cost Native American scholars credibility, credibility for which we have fought hard….
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 propaganda being spread in our name, we can be pro Palestinians and still be pro Israel and pro indigenous statehood
It’s no surprise that the ASA boycotters also seek to deny the Jewish people indigenous status in Israel. It completely destroys the “anti-colonial” and “post-colonial” foundation of the BDS movement.
The inability to come to grips with a fair examination of indigenous rights is not limited to ASA boycotters.
UNESCO first canceled then delayed an exhibition on the Jewish people’s ties to Israel dating back 3500 years after protests from Arab countries, out of fears that such an exhibition would endanger the peace process. The U.S. refused to support the Exhibition for the same reason.
Benjamin Netanyahu was smart to insist that Israel be recognized as the homeland of the Jewish people as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. It goes to the heart of the issue. And it’s an issue as to which the Palestinians, and their American boycott supporters, can’t handle the truth.
[Note: The title and featured image of this post were changed shortly after publication.]
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