Friday, September 19, 2014

The Palestinian AND American Occupations

If you are an American citizen but not a Native American, you are currently occupying land that still belongs to American Natives, many of whom continue to languish on reservations, not unlike Palestinians in Palestine. 

Note that what I mean by Native American is a person who is Native to America, not those who have a case of Native American Princess syndrome.

Here are some flawed arguments you (as an American) may invoke to justify your distain for an occupied Palestine, while hypocritically excusing your own status as an occupier of Native American land: 

"The European occupation of North America began a long time ago, unlike Palestine." 

Occupation of someone else's land is still occupation. Native Americans and Palestinians have suffered greatly as a result of both occupations.

"Desperate times required desperate action."

Many people who aren't native to Palestine will argue England needed to "give" European Jews Palestinian territory as a refuge from religious persecution. A parallel argument exists for English occupation of America. The main difference is that part of the pro-Palestinian occupation argument is that (stolen) land was needed to guard against potential threats of completed genocide of Jews in the future. In both cases, developed land with long-established dwellers was stolen and Native people have been devastated as a result. 

"What is done is done."

( ... Or, "I'm not responsible for what happened long ago.")

As a non-indigenous US citizen, even if you aren't related to the folks who stole America; even if your people were originally kidnapped and forced onto American shores, today you are still occupying land belonging to indigenous tribes. You are still an occupier, as the Israelis are occupiers. 

What Should Be Done? 

I'm sitting here at my desk as a biracial, Ashkenazi Jewish American occupier of Native American land, asking What should I do about this? The easy answer is, or should be, leave. And that leads to another question: Why haven't I left? The selfish answer is: Because this feels too much like home. I've grown attached to the land and the sense of security it affords me. My identity is attached to both the experience of it and my personal history on it. 

More Questions

Other questions come to mind, based on my "security and comfort bias": Will my leaving at this point make any real difference? That question quickly leads to the what is done is done argument above. It hints at a belief that increased temporal distance from an egregious constellation of events renders those events (and their effects) irrelevant. A similar question arises: Is returning land to American Natives even a reasonable expectation at this point?

Since I'm unwilling to leave, what can I do as an occupier, to help reduce the damage in my wake, or to personally work toward reparations? Is
 donating time and money to tribes enough? Do I ask people from one or more NA nation to have prolonged talks about this issue (still, as an occupier)? Would those discussions unfairly place the burden of solving problems I/we have created or continue to create on them? Would the request be condescending, or just open wounds that have yet to be closed? Would not engaging be better ... or be worse? Seems individual responses would vary, like in any situation.  

The Importance of Acknowledging Occupation

Even though many of us hypocritically point our fingers singularly at the wrongness of Israeli occupation, facts are facts: both the American and Israeli occupations were and still are wrong. 

The price Israeli Jews are paying to enjoy their stolen "gift" is ongoing violent engagement, and a need to be in a constant state of high alert. White Jews in Europe have been segregated against, forced into ghettos and worse, but they have recently forced Palestinians into a segregated ghetto on their own land. It's tragic that anyone's life should end in violence and there's never an excuse for terrorist acts, but occupiers must also remember there are consequences - sometimes very unpredictable consequences - for taking over someone else's land, displacing a group of people, and causing them to suffer. 

Sometimes those who are oppressed become the oppressors, usually out of some combination of fear and greed. That goes for non-NA Americans and it goes for Israelis too. 

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