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Speaker Provides Unique Perspective on Israeli-Palistinean Conflict

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Doctor Waziyatawin of the University of Victoria visited Ohio University to speak about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict from a unique perspective Thursday.

The scholar visited at the behest of Students for Justice in Palestine and Israel and spoke about “The Dangers of Abstraction: Recognizing and Resisting Colonial Occupation.”

Dr. Waziyatawin is a Dakota Native American scholar and academic at The University of Victoria’s Indigenous Government Program. In June of 2011, she traveled to Palestine with other scholars, activists and artists. Following this journey, the group issued a call to action “from indigenous and women of color feminists.”

Waziyatawin spoke mainly on the dangers of what she views as the imperialist behavior of Israel toward Palestine, drawing comparisons between the conflict there and the atrocities committed by colonizers toward Native Americans in the western hemisphere.

In her presentation she described the plight of not only her people, but of indigenous peoples everywhere.

“Settler colonialism is celebrated as a righteous act; it’s something that Americans benefit from on a daily basis. Therefore, the discussion I bring to the table is likely to cause considerable discomfort among American audience, though I think it is a perspective I think resonates among Palestinians,” she said of the argument that she demonstrated.

“Our people were ethnically cleansed from our homeland; bounties were placed upon the scalps of our people; and, as if that were not enough, the colonizers instituted a system of cultural genocide.”

The core of her argument was against a practice that she refers to as abstraction, that is, the practice of exerting inappropriate and unwarranted control over a population of people through means of surveillance via cameras, constructed obstacles like walls and military checkpoints.

This was the result of her observations in Palestine, where she feels the native people were oppressed, but not directly by human hands or force.

“What exists in Palestine is a particular reflection of a highly ‘technologized,’ or highly modern, Israeli military and security apparatus and the use of that apparatus to facilitate colonialist aims… the perpetrators of oppression become less identifiable…,” said Waziyatawin.

“… The technologies of oppression help distance the perpetrator from the acts of oppression, while still allowing them to directly benefit from it,” she said. “This is particularly insidious because it makes effective resistance against oppression more difficult.”

She drew commentary from the fact that Adolf Hitler claimed he took cues from the American elimination of Native Americans for his own genocide of the Jewish people, and also mentioned the irony of the fact that Zionist Jews, that is Jews that assert a formal Jewish nation of Israel, now oppress Palestinians in their own homeland.

“Israel is not defending itself, it is defending its occupation,” she said of Israel’s stance on their ongoing occupation of regions known as the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

She requests that Americans take a side in this issue of the Israel-Palestinian conflict as part of an ongoing pursuit of justice.

“There are a lot of efforts underway… the first major point that we made was supporting the BDS campaign,” she said of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel to champion the rights of Palestinians.

As far as a one-state or two-state solution for issue, she said, “I don’t think any nation-state founded as a colonial entity should exist, and that includes the American nation-state.”

As a final note, she focused on the relationship between the land and the people who live on that land, even if that land may originally belong to you.

“I’m not asking anyone to leave, I’m not asking anyone to get on their boats and go home… If you are going to call a place home, then defend it like hell. If you are going to lay claim to that space, make sure that you are fighting for that land, treat it like your mother, treat it like a being who you love…”

Students for Justice in Palestine and Israel meets Wednesdays at 3:00 p.m.

 

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