First nations protesters are silhouetted behind a flag as they take part in a demonstration in Toronto in 2013.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As someone who has been on the frontlines of the struggle for indigenous rights my entire adult life, who has stood outside in the rain and snow while demonstrating for the rights of all indigenous peoples, it is beyond ridiculous that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) was attempting to pressure the Iroquois Lacrosse team not to play in a world championship in Israel by pretending to share indigenous status with the Iroquois and by appealing to “solidarity.”
Its so-called solidarity is unwelcome to anyone who has studied the Middle East in any depth. The BDS movement has adopted a false narrative; while claiming to be standing up for the rights of indigenous peoples, its struggle against Israelis is based on the denial of the Jewish right to achieve self-determination in Jewish ancestral lands.
While its proponents have managed to convince decent people with good intentions around the world that it cares about a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, BDS seeks the destruction of the State of Israel. Its founder, Omar Barghouti, has repeated this time and again, including during his calls to boycott Israeli institutions while he was attending university in Israel. How can the Iroquois team be asked to forgo a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in a world championship when a senior anti-Israel activist himself attended an Israeli university?
The Iroquois team is followed by many native Canadians and we take great pride in their accomplishments. The history of the Iroquois is a long and proud one, with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy being one of the few native organizations that has successfully implemented aspects of sovereignty.
Israel as a country has respected this sovereignty by recognizing the passports of the Iroquois Confederacy, as the team landed in the country to play its first game against Team USA on Thursday. “Israel has already stated they will recognize those players who have Haudenosaunee passports. Thus the team says they will be asserting their independence and sovereignty as indigenous people,” Indian Country Today reported.
Considering that the team has not participated in tournaments in countries that refuse to recognize their passports, it is more than cynical to ask players to abstain from these championships – which happen only every four years – while they take place in Israel, a country that stands out for its proven respect for the Iroquois.
That doesn’t sound much like solidarity. That sounds like politics. And it raises serious questions about both the credibility and motive of the call to boycott the games. Solutions over the Palestinian-Israeli conflict can be argued over – but historical fact cannot. Who is indigenous to this land? If I look at my own history, the Palestinians are more akin to the white Europeans who forced alien tongues and alien methods of worshiping the Creator onto my people while they pillaged our sacred places. Among the indigenous peoples of the Middle East – with whom I have a common history due to circumstance – are the Yazidis, Amazighs, Samaritans, Assyrians and yes, the Jews.
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Claiming that the historical land of Israel belongs to the Palestinians is like claiming the Red River area, from where my ancestors hail, belongs to the Iroquois. It is like claiming that the lands of the Haudenosaunee belong to me.
The Jews managed to achieve the dream of indigenous peoples everywhere – they went home to govern themselves on their ancestral lands. If the BDS movement truly seeks to improve the lives of the Palestinians it shouldn’t waste its efforts on bullying athletes. It should be focused on creating good, not perpetuating lies and hate. As long as it does, I will be there speaking for the side of truth.The writer comes from the Metis nation of Alberta. He founded Canadians for Accountability, a native rights advocacy group.
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