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Israel, Lebanon and your own backyard

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Issue: 40 Section: Opinion Lebanon, Israel, Canada Topics: summer war, Indigenous

October 15, 2006

Israel, Lebanon and your own backyard

Canada and Israel are the same type of state: a nation state founded on colonialism

by Stewart Steinhauer

Canadians concerned with injustice abroad should also consider the land under their own two feet. photo: Lone Primate
When Israel has reduced its Arab population to three per cent of the national total and that Arab three per cent has stopped resisting and been "pacified," to use counter-insurgency jargon, then Israel will have reached the place where Canada is now. Canada and Israel are the same type of state: a nation state founded on colonialism.

In 1923, Vladimir Jabotinsky--one of the founders of Zionism--wrote 'The Iron Wall,' an essay that laid out a direct comparison between expropriation of the Arabs with the genocide of the indigenous people of North America.

"There can be no discussion of voluntary reconciliation between us and the Arabs, not now, and not in the foreseeable future," wrote Jabotinsky. All well-meaning people long ago understood the complete impossibility of arriving at a voluntary agreement with the Arabs of Palestine for the transformation of Palestine from an Arab country to a country with a Jewish majority. Each of you has some general understanding of the history of colonization. Try to find even one example when the colonization of a country took place with the agreement of the native population. Such an event has never occurred

Israel's actions in the Middle East receive public support from the heads of state of Canada and the US because both are involved in the same type of behaviour.

Canadians rightfully decry the deaths of hundreds of Lebanese civilians under Israeli military attacks, but there is no public outcry over the 2,374 on-reserve accidental deaths in Alberta between 1983 and 2002 recorded by Health Canada. Half of these deaths were suicides, while almost all involved addictions. This is just in Alberta; multiply these numbers by the entire landmass known as Canada and you have a staggering ongoing death toll.

In the pacified stage of colonial oppression, the resistance turns inwards and becomes self-directed. Better to die, or to live under the influence of drugs and alcohol, than to struggle hopelessly in a trapped and tortured situation. Incarceration rates are high, unemployment is high, disabling addiction levels are high, educational outcomes are low, health is poor; and all this happens in an environment micro-managed by Canada's Indian and Northern Affairs Department. Canadians lament the Israeli pass system for Palestinians, the bantustans, and the military control of the Arab population, but these were all aspects of Canada's Indian policy—written right into the Indian Act—between 1876 and 1960.

Things being what they are, the most effective place for well-meaning Canadians to protest Israeli actions is right at home, under their own feet. Canada's elected government can actually do something about this situation, unlike its capacity to right wrongs in the Middle East.

Five contested sites of power -- namely race, gender, class, authority and ecology -- come together in the indigenous struggle for survival in Canada. From north to south, the indigenous peoples of the Americas are leading the resistance to the global colonial madness. If Canada can be pulled out of alignment with the US/UK/EU sphere of influence, and into the Turtle Island-wide indigenous sphere of influence, it will have more impact on the Israeli/US Middle Eastern project than any amount of hand-wringing or fist-waving about a colonial project half a world away.

Why alter the colonial arrangement? Canadians will not act out of pure altruism; you need to see the money. Canada's GDP is over the trillion-dollar mark; $1.3 trillion in 2004 and $1.4 trillion in 2005. What if, instead of the current colonial arrangements -- where a legal fiction called 'The Crown' holds root title to all lands, and the state exercises totalitarian control over Indigenous Peoples through the Indian Act -- we go into a straight business relationship?

'Fee simple' (the term for the current property rights regime where people 'own' property while the Crown retains the underlining title) could be left intact, except with root title transferred from the Crown to Indigenous Peoples, and with the introduction of an annual royalty or rent to be paid to Indigenous Peoples, based directly on Canada's GDP. A two per cent royalty on Canada's GDP would be about $28 billion, which could be paid through the foreign debt repayment section of the federal budget. No new money has to be raised from taxpayers. Scrap the Indian Act, terminate the Department of Indian Affairs, and save about $12 billion that is currently pouring into that black hole built to hide corruption. Indigenous Peoples can establish an international trust fund that we will manage ourselves.

It's a business arrangement. Theft and murder is the business that organized crime is in; it doesn't have to be the business that the nation of Canada is in.

The most effective place for well-meaning Canadians to protest Israeli actions is right at home, under their own feet.

Stewart Steinhauer is an internationally-known stone sculptor who lives on the Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta, where he was born and raised. He is the author of Voice from the Coffin, a book about life on the Rez.

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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