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Through Canada’s Rez Zone Looking Glass

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Issue: 59 Section: Opinion Geography: Canada, Middle East Turtle Island, Palestine/Israel Topics: Apartheid, Empire

April 12, 2009

Through Canada’s Rez Zone Looking Glass

Israeli Apartheid Week

by Stewart Steinhauer

Native artifacts and ceremonial dresses in display at Heritage Park Museum in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Photo: © lucbourgeoisphoto.org

KUTENAI TERRITORY, TURTLE ISLAND–Divining the past can be difficult, especially when your crystal ball is a bit smudged; it’s not all shooting fish in a barrel. In this fifth consecutive year of an international effort to call attention to the nature of the relationship between the Israeli state and Arab Palestinians living within and without that or any state, a question has been stirring at the margins of permissible thought.

What would a Canadian Apartheid Week look like? American Apartheid Week? Mexican Apartheid Week? An Apartheid Week for every nation state in the so-called Americas? Except for Bolivia, of course. After the last Bolivian national election, the new President said that Bolivia would no longer be needing a Department of Indian Affairs because the Indians were now the government.

As an Indigenous person, I ask myself if there is some level of hypocrisy going on in Canada if progressives demonstrate against Israeli state actions while continuing to enjoy the benefits of living in an entire hemisphere of apartheid, at home on native lands. Why not do both at once? And while we’re at it, why not join in with an international movement to guarantee the right to life for Jewish folk no matter where they are located?

Before the Empire, under Britain’s fading leadership at that time, declared an Israeli state in 1948, Jewish Palestinians and Arab Palestinians were living comfortably side by side. That peaceful co-existence can be traced back a long ways. As a member of Turtle Island’s Indigenous Peoples, the year 1492 stands out for me, as an important date in history. It’s an important date in Jewish and Muslim history, too: the year that Sephardic Jews and Muslim Moors were expelled from Spain. Where did the majority of Sephardic Jews flee to? The Arab Muslim Ottoman Empire, where Sephardic Jews were valued and appreciated for their skills, particularly in areas of scholarship. It was a reciprocal relationship, with Jews also introducing into Western Christian societies important Arabic knowledge in maths and other sciences.

Sad to say, but Empire has other needs. Now under US leadership, the Empire needs the Israeli state to continue relentlessly on the warpath it started down in 1948, a war of extermination against Arab Palestinians located within the region coveted by Eretz Israel. Eretz Israel is the land promised by the Hebrew Bible’s God to Abraham and his descendants through Issac and Abraham’s grandson, Jacob. This arrangement suits the Empire’s needs quite nicely, namely as a highly developed forward base for Empire’s ambitions in the Middle East. I’ll describe apartheid’s economic functions in more detail shortly, but for now suffice to say that, as long as the Israeli state follows the same exact methods practiced in Canada, the United States of America, Mexico, etc., etc., on down to and past (but now having to avoid Bolivia) then it will all work out... for the Empire.

This calculation leaves out the question of blowback against Jews, no matter were they are located. A thousand years of pogroms resulting from elites setting up Jews to be the fall guys should be enough of a history lesson, but consider the fate of Israeli Jews when Empire loses it’s regional grip. Add in Empire’s weakening of secularism within Arab states and Empire’s strengthening of fundamentalist beliefs, whether Christian, Islamic, Hindi, or Judaic, all united by the common belief that their own God has asked them to kill members of all of the others, and it looks like a sure recipe for disaster. Why would an intelligent Israeli Jew want to travel even one step further down that path?

Is anyone else confused about why the three major world religions that claim to descend from Abraham, namely, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, all seem so intent on remaining bitter enemies, in action repudiating their own philosophies of brotherly love?

The question at hand, however, is a discussion about an international Israeli Apartheid Week. In all fairness to Israel, Zionist war mongers would have to kill hundreds of millions of Arabs, and occupy 16,430,000 square miles of Arab territory, in order to achieve parity with the apartheid system calmly proceeding, apparently unnoticed, on Turtle Island, in Canada, the US, Mexico, and so on.

An area that size would have to include all of the Middle East, plus considerable amounts of South and East Asia. A territorial expansion of that magnitude is certainly in Empire’s "New American Century" playbook, but clearly not in the cards for Israel. For an accurate comparison between Israeli Apartheid and Americas Apartheid, one must look at the historical record to make stage by stage comparisons.

Avigdor Lieberman’s call for the administration of a loyalty oath to Arab Israelis needs to be compared to the nation state of Canada’s Province of British Columbia, where new legislation is currently under consideration to legally recognize Indigenous Peoples within the boundaries of the province as human beings. Lieberman is ahead of the Province of British Columbia in that he already recognizes Arab Israelis as human beings, viciously prejudiced as his judgement may otherwise be. In BC, I’ll have to wait with bated breath, as the business community battles the Recognition and Reconciliation Act proposals, to discover whether I will become a legal person in the eyes of the law. Since Governor James Douglas' 1858 legal declaration that the lands in the new Crown Colony of British Columbia were unoccupied, Indigenous Peoples within that territory have been non-persons, especially in relation to any type of property rights, Indigenous or Canadian, a declaration still in effect at the time of this writing.

Taken in total, I’d like to suggest that Palestinian Arabs, Jews of the world no matter where located, and Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island have common cause: surviving genocidal onslaughts. Cynical power players within Arab, Jewish, and Indigenous populations can be seen siding with Empire, no doubt prompted by a misguided sense of Darwinian notions about survival of the fittest. This individualist perspective leaves out long-term analysis, especially an analysis of long-term non-human global reactions. For instance: general environmental destruction, to name just one.

We humans have the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual capacity to turn course, change direction. The recent presidential election in the United States was a collective expression of exactly that desire, immediately subordinated to the needs of Empire. As a not-yet-recognized-as-human denizen of Canada’s Rez Zone, BC division, I’d like to humbly suggest that the solution to the apartheid problem could be more quickly advanced by a solidarity movement involving Indigenous folk, Jewish folk, and Arab Palestinian folk, against Empire in general, and apartheid states in particular.

Near the site where Holy Angels residential school used to stand and overlooking Lake Athabasca, this monument was erected to heal painful memories from the residential school years where native children were subjected to decades of institutionalized physical and mental abuse from their legal guardian and caregiver, the Catholic church. Prayers, wishes and significant objects were sealed inside the monument. But, as a lightning rod, it also provided an outlet for frustration and destruction. Photo: © lucbourgeoisphoto.org

Canada’s Indian Act and Indian Policy is the acceptable role model for Israel’s apartheid policy, and for South Africa’s apartheid policy of yesteryear. Canada’s Gaza Strip and West Bank were happening in the 1800s: mass slaughters in various colonial frontier encounters, like the Chilcoot War; forced starvation, for instance the sealing off of western prairie reserves as collective punishment after the North-West Rebellion, where up to 50 per cent of reserve populations perished; and the systematic destruction of Indigenous economic, political and social structures that was and still is Canada’s Indian Act.

When I was a child there was a large “NO TRESPASSING” sign, in English, a hundred yards from my house at the edge of Saddle Lake Indian Reserve # 125, obviously meant for Canadians to obey. Centuries of forced separation still play out in the daily lives of Cree folk and Canadian settler descendants; in small towns like St Paul, Alberta, the apartheid is so palpable you can cut it with a knife, and folks on both sides of the now-invisible barriers regularly do.

However, in spite of five hundred years of living this experience, I’d like to suggest that our common cause is much more significant than our presumed differences. This is true for any of the so-called areas of conflict in the post-modern world, where folks tend to focus on gender/sexual orientation, or race, or class, or ecology or authority. From an Indigenous perspective these are all parts of the elephant being described by blind persons as they each touch the portion closest to them. Apartheid systems are just one facet of the global control system I’ve been calling Empire.

As promised earlier, I’ll return to a brief examination of the economic function of apartheid. Apartheid serves as a necessary firewall between human beings belonging by birth to differentiated groups. Differentiated groups are brought into close physical proximity by colonial expansion, which I’ll call imperialism. Imperialism solves some of the inherent contradictions in capitalism, by expanding capital supply through primitive accumulation (expropriation of lands and resources), expansion of non-home markets, safety valve outlets for burgeoning unwanted home population, sources of lower cost labour power, and, in more advanced cases, through the creative destruction of productive property, thereby allowing a new cycle of production to begin by generally reducing previous over-productive capacities.

One problem encountered in the settlement stage of colonial expansion is that humans have the tendency to ignore the artificially imposed differentiations, and spontaneously re-group. Some sort of apartheid policy is necessary to prevent the potentially “destructive” co-mingling of plain human beings. Theories of race were invented to specifically re-enforce this artificial separation.

In Canada, apartheid is still an important social dam holding back a generalized reaction against the ongoing systematic de-humanization that I and all Indigenous Peoples inside of Canada are daily subjected to. The BC Chamber of Commerce is very concerned about the proposed new Recognition and Reconciliation Act because it threatens this apartheid relationship which allows smooth functioning of traditional colonial accumulation through dispossession. Timber. Minerals. Real Estate. Water.

At a moment in human history when the obvious contradictions of capitalism, imperialism, sexism, and ecological destruction are glaringly in-the-face of the human public, amplified by the as yet unrestricted access to information provided by communications technology, a unified pro-life choice movement may be timely.

Without the needs of Empire to sustain, there would be no need for the accumulation by dispossession facilitated by apartheid systems. Scarcity, like race, is an artificially constructed ideology that serves the purpose of Empire. Overcoming the ideology of scarcity is the next major collective undertaking facing humanity. If Jewish Peoples, Arabic Peoples, and Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island were to unite in an anti-scarcity campaign, properly called a pro-plenty for all campaign if we remember to share, then we would see real, sudden, and dramatic change; the kind of change folks in the US thought they were voting for, the possibility of such a change that folks around the world celebrated ecstatically, on the evening of November 4th, 2008.

I realize that it’s a bit more complicated than that, and I’ll return to economic issues later, but for now I’ve had my say about apartheid. What do you think?

Gifted with a white privilege suit on his Birth Day, Steinhauer has been slipping back and forth across the invisible boundary between Turtle Island and Canada, since 1952, in his lovely birthday suit. And this is what he saw.

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