Bury my Heart at Gaza City

August 21, 2014 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Women and children running from death, hiding in whatever small place they can find. A young girl is used for target practice and eventually killed as she goes out towards the enemy waving a flag of surrender.

All men and boys of fighting age are presumed to be combatants and slaughtered without hesitation. Those offering no resistance make the easiest of targets.

It is a lusty, inhuman butchery of a peaceful native people by colonialists.

This is 1864, one hundred and fifty years ago, and the place is Sand Creek, Colorado.

Seven hundred US soldiers ran amok in the early hours of a frosty morning, amongst a camp of around two hundred Cheyenne. By the end the Cheyenne had scattered into the hills, around two-thirds of them killed. Bodies were mutilated by the troops and babies were murdered or left on the floor to perish in the cold.

It was supposed to be a revenge attack for raids carried out by a small group of warriors on cattle and farmsteads earlier in the year. That no such warriors were camped at Sand Creek did not matter. The government and the press called the massacre a ‘battle’ and spoke of victory. “Bully for the Colorado Boys!” crooned the Rocky Mountain News.

In the Eastern United States, the massacre caused discomfort and to some it became clear that the solution to the ‘Indian Problem’ was in reform, not simply to wipe them off the Earth. Senator James Doolittle went to Denver the following year and argued a case for a peaceful solution in front of a crowd at the Opera House. They had a choice, he told them, between giving the Indians adequate reservations where they might support themselves, or to exterminate them.

The crowd raised the roof with their response: “Exterminate them! Exterminate them!”

It is 2014 and there is another crisis in Gaza. Israeli bombs fall on schools, mosques, hospitals, power plants, UN buildings and homes indiscriminately. It is collective punishment of an entire people in the same way as Sand Creek, yet the scale is vastly bigger. At the time of writing nearly 2000 Gazans have been killed by the Israeli war machine, two-thirds of them civilians, a quarter of them children. Thousands more are injured and with no adequate care. Water is scarce, sewage spills out onto the streets, malnutrition is rife and the Palestinians have little left to hope for. History is not on their side.

Israel talks about protecting itself from random attacks and raids, and speaks of the impossibility of negotiation with the different Palestinian groups, indeed the people as a whole. Before the state will make its ceasefire permanent it is now demanding a complete remilitarisation of the Gaza Strip.

Without this, it says, it will not feel secure and therefore, the bombardment must continue.

Videos on Youtube show average Israelis speaking of their neighbours as ‘savages’ who do not even want peace. Groups of them sit in deckchairs on hillsides and whoop and cheer as bombs fall in the distance, and innocent men, women and children are killed or maimed.

Make no mistake, this is genocide, as described by the United Nations 1948 Convention (Article 2): To destroy in whole or in part any national, ethnical, racial or religious group by killing, causing bodily or mental harm, or deliberately inflicting conditions of life on a group calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part. It is genocide in the same stratum as that which the Cheyenne, Mohawk, Cherokee, Arawaks and hundreds of other native peoples of the Americas fell victim to.

But when this current attack on Gaza is over we cannot be deceived into thinking that peace has returned. There has not been peace in Palestine for more than a century. This is about land, pure and simple. History is indeed repeating itself and the method of the Zionists is the same as the American Continentalists: a relentless march into another’s territory. Those building illegal settlements in the West Bank are just as accommodated by the state as the Homesteaders of the American frontier.

The similarities between the building of Israel and the US are astonishing. Israel is a state born out of conflict, founded by religious extremists convinced that their God has granted them that land. In America it was called ‘Manifest Destiny’, in Israel it is the ‘Right of Return’. Both nations were settled by people escaping religious persecution who denied the validity of the claim to the land by the native population. Indeed both nations are so blinded by their own sense of insecurity and moral superiority that they will inflict persecution on others without question.

The native people are portrayed as savage, inherently violent, unable to understand peace. The colonialists portray themselves as victims, under attack. When they kill, they justify it in the name of security.

Just a little more land and we will feel secure. Just a little more.

Reactionary Palestinian groups, like the PLO or Hamas, the ones who choose to take up arms for freedom, are called terrorists. They become an instant justification for slaughter. Hamas? Comanche? Arafat? Crazy Horse? A little provocation or a minor false flag event here or there gives an excuse for the state to continue the genocide. Rockets? Cattle raids?

Deeper and deeper they encroach into native land. The natives, meanwhile, have been pushed onto reservations and subjected to a series of peace treaties that the colonialists break almost as a matter of course.

These reservations are heavily policed by the colonialists, blockaded even.

Crowds of settlers pour onto the reservations and militarise themselves, seizing control over natural resources, stealing. So many settlers and settlements that the reservations themselves are a joke. The West Bank appears to be the largest chunk of land set aside for the Palestinians, yet with 531,000 Israeli settlers living there [1] it is in real life an unsustainable fragmented area, controlled at every turn by Israel. While those natives living amongst the colonialists are second class citizens, those living in the reservations are no better off (numerous check points, road closures, blockades, incursions, etc.)

Native culture is oppressed. Their education and health care are deliberately broken. Just look at the statistics of Gazan children before this current attack began: 10% of children were chronically malnourished, 58% of school children were anaemic, and 95% of water supplied through Gaza’s depleted aquifer did not meet WHO safety standards and was unfit to drink [2]. With one hand Israel denies adequate food supplies to Gaza, and with the other hand it takes West Bank resources for its own gain. Upon the Great Plains white buffalo hunters wiped out herds of buffalo within a matter of years, exploiting the animals for the fastest possible monetary gain, despite the devastating effect this had on native livelihoods. In Israel they do the same with olive trees.

Native American groups have begun to sympathise with the plight of the Palestinians. The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association has given its support to the academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Blackfoot activist Gyasi Ross writes: “Indigenous people, as well as other oppressed groups worldwide, regardless of race or religion, have a vested interest in learning from the genocidal atrocities that the US government initiated on Native Americans. Every person who strives for humanity also has a strong interest in preventing those same atrocities from occurring in another place at another time to another group of people – in this particular situation, to the Palestinians.” [3]

There are of course, huge differences too, not least the fact that Israel is supported internationally in its genocide by other world powers, largely the US. Israel and its backers have no desire for an independent Palestinian state. Since 1948 they have been playing the waiting game, and it is almost over now. At this rate, within twenty years the Palestinian diaspora will be complete and the crumbs of Palestine will be absorbed by Israel.

It is now too late to prevent Israeli nationalism. The country is there to stay. But a two-state solution is unviable – there is simply too little land left to build a second state for Palestinian self-determination.

The only just course of action from here on is to create a viable single state where all are equal and free.

That is why the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is so important from an international point of view. Israel needs to feel the weight of pressure of outside disdain, just as white South Africa did in the 1980s. The Israeli public themselves have the biggest part to play. By constantly electing right-wing nationalists to their government they are inviting expansionism, and encouraging Zionist ideological drivel.

Where the United States reformists went wrong in the latter half of the nineteenth century is that they tried to change native populations – to make them more like whites. When that did not quite work they just abandoned them to their reservations, where still today they live in some of the poorest communities in North America. The US still clings to its dogma of being a shining example of democracy and liberty, despite its entire history being in contradiction of this. Where else but Israel is this attitude so vividly entrenched?

The challenge now for Israelis and the outside world is to see this conflict for what it is: a gradual, measured genocide of a population by one of the most militarized states in history. Only then can we prevent the same tragedy cursing the Palestinians as that which befell the Native Americans.

[1] B’Tselem, ‘Land Expropriation and Settlements’, 23rdJanuary 2014. http://www.btselem.org/settlements

[2] Save The Children & Medical Aid for Palestinians, ‘Gaza’s Children: Falling Behind’, June 2012. http://www.map-uk.org/downloads/reports/Gazas-children_falling-behind.pdf

[3] Mike Ahnigilahi, ‘Native American Indians Take a Stand for Gaza’, CounterCurrentNews, 9thAugust 2014. http://countercurrentnews.com/2014/08/native-american-indians-take-a-stand-for-gaza


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This post was written by Oliver Lewis Thompson

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