By Jamal Juma
On the anniversary of the Six Nations Land Reclamation we express our solidarity to you and to all those that are defending today their land and livelihoods against theft and colonization.
On February 28th, 2006, after the Canadian government gave a construction company the permission to build a settlement on their land, the people of Six Nations took it back, demanding an end to the theft and destruction of their land and to settler encroachment on their territory. Many of them now face charges in Canadian courts for defending their land. This sounds tragically familiar to us in Palestine and to many others around the world. For over 500 years the same mechanisms have been used against indigenous peoples, to colonize and dispossess.
500 years ago empires and their missionaries spread Christianity and civilization with their swords. Today, these empires and their TV channels spread their so-called “freedom” and “democracy” with cluster bombs. The truth behind this ‘democratization’ became clear when we practiced their democracy, albeit under Israeli occupation and apartheid. The international community imposed on us a brutal siege for not choosing their candidates to lead us.
As Palestinians we are still victims of a colonial project and a state that continues to refer to itself as the “only democracy in the Middle East”. The fact that it has been scrutinized by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination for its policies and even the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights accuses it of apartheid policies seemingly does not detract from its status.
Apparently only technology has improved.
After the swords, in the Americas came the agreements. Agreements were to settle land “disputes” for lasting peace. The violations and renegotiations of these agreements by the colonizers – in other words the continuation of land theft – are proverbial today. Here in Palestine, we are facing the same colonial tactics.
The international community asks us to endorse and comply with all agreements ever signed in order to be “partners” and exempted from the embargo imposed on us. An absurd logic that forces those under occupation to pass a series of tests to become in the end partners of the occupiers.
At the same time Israel , the colonizing power, has never respected any of the agreements it has signed with us and nevertheless is granted Free Trade Agreements and diplomatic honors world-wide. Its noncompliance doesn’t matter. The Palestinian people are pressured to sign new agreements and compromises to revive the “peace process” and the Occupation authorities have already been quite clear that they will not be as “generous” as the previous.
Some 300 years ago, when the indigenous peoples of Turtle Island ( North America ) were forced onto reservations, the White Man came to teach the hunting nations how to farm land unsuitable for agriculture. Today, after the second industrial revolution, they come to Palestine to bring the sweat shops and industrial zones to the dispossessed farmers enclosed behind Israel ’s Apartheid Wall. A UK “charity” recently announced a new strategy to adapt our people to the ghettos. For our university graduates it offers to export the industry of call centers to Palestine – unqualified, low paid jobs without red tape, decentralized in the different cities.
Over the centuries something has changed. The colonizing powers have created rules and institutions that are to regulate international relations and lead to global justice.
A long list of international conventions and laws has been developed and the International Court of Justice has its seat in a beautiful palace in The Hague. Yet, this all doesn’t protect the Six Nations, the Palestinians and all the other people occupied and colonized.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) unanimously declared the Wall in the West Bank illegal almost 3 years ago. Yet, Israel continues its construction, 70% of it is now complete. Nobody has moved to enforce this ruling. Israel was admitted to the UN with the obligation to respect international laws and the UN resolutions. Today it is flouting dozens of resolutions and international conventions and still maintains its status as a full member. Only recently it has admitted to possession of nuclear weapons; yet it has never allowed UN inspectors into the country, and refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement. Nevertheless a global war is prepared against Iran for developing a nuclear energy program. At the beginning of the year, in Herzeliya , US and Israeli neo-conservative leaderships held their annual conference to plan the future of the region. In Jerusalem , the Occupation authorities are already distributing new gas masks in preparation of the new war code-named “Operation Iranian Freedom”.
In fact, Canada shows certain coherence in its politics.
It criminalizes those on whose land it has constructed its wealth for defending the little that is left to them. At the same time it ensures that this logic is enforced globally. It has abstained in the UN General Assembly vote endorsing the verdict of the ICJ on Israel’s Apartheid Wall; it continues to maintain Free Trade Agreements with Israel; it was the first state to impose the siege on the Palestinian people for democratically electing their leadership; and it continues to toe the US and Israeli line of aggression against the people of the Arab World.
But hope is alive and strong. You have faced 500 years of land theft, massacre and genocide, but you are still fighting for your sovereignty and dignity. This should be a sign for those that today wait for our surrender. 60 years is not enough to forget our land and dignity, these are things that time cannot kill. Rewriting history works only with those that want to believe in lies. Although we have been dispossessed, we know our history, we know the names of every village and town that our colonizers have tried to erase, we remember every tree they have uprooted, and every river and lake that they have dried up and polluted. Just as the memory and dignity of the Iroquois people in Turtle Island is still alive, 6 million Palestinian refugees are still struggling to return to their over 500 villages destroyed and ethnically cleansed in 1948. We say this not as the dying remnants of another era; our history has still to come.
The future will look substantially better than the past only when the peoples of the world stand together united by their solidarity. The oppression of colonizers will only end when they are forced to end by the states that support them. If the states that make up the international community do not take action to stop these crimes, then it is up to the people that make up the international society to do so, and the people of Palestine will always stand on the side of those fighting for their freedom and dignity.
-Jamal Juma’ is the coordinator of the Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, www.stopthewall.org