This is for them, written by Ryan Bellerose, a Metis activist. Originally published in the Times of Israel. Ryan's got their number
On the Theft of Indigenous studies
I see people claiming commonalities with my people all the time. They tell me “My people are just like yours,” but the reality is quite different. I hear people telling me “My people have similar experiences to yours,” when the reality is that they have undergone nowhere near the marginalisation or oppression that my people have somehow survived.Ryan finds the comparison of his people's struggles with that of the Palestinians offensive. Here's why:
When someone invokes the experiences of Native North Americans in order to claim commonalities with us, it’s almost always in order to demonise another country. In the majority of cases I see, it’s Arabs or white people trying to demonise Israel, first by calling them colonisers, and second by inferring that they stole the land on which they built their state. The irony should be obvious.
What I have learned after years of study is that if there is one people in the entire world who can legitimately claim commonalities with us, it is not the descendants of 7th century conquerors who were ascendant for 600 years, until the past century, when the cycle was reversed. The arab muslims who dominated the region after conquering it are the furthest thing from my people. Rather, our fraternity here is with the people who only recent underwent a real genocide and who have still managed to maintain their cultural integrity. That people are the Jewish nation. I do not say this lightly; it comes after years of research, years of speaking to and listening to survivors both of residential schools and the Holocaust. It is not a comparison of tragedies, nor is it a contest; rather, it is about empathy and understanding through common experience.
The Arabs calling themselves Palestinians have not only adopted the mantle of the coloniser/ occupiers, but have also embraced it. They were not forced to take the Arab language, nor were they forced to become converts to a religion that is not their own. There are no residential schools forcing them to keep that foreign language, that alien religion, or those unknown traditions. They do so by choice. They were offered a state of their own three times and refused each time. It’s patently offensive to compare that with the history of my people, especially the Metis, who fought two rebellions and were expelled from their homes a third time. The Arabs who call themselves Palestinians have been given money and weapons consistently by Iran and other supporters of terrorism. They have been encouraged to kill civilians indiscriminately – they talk about resistance, but the truth is that they are pawns fighting a war against Israel as proxies for the Arab world. They are not freedom fighters, because they fight against the only truly free country in the region. Don’t believe me? Try building a church or synagogue in the Palestinian authority.Ryan Bellerose will be in the Bay area later this year. Many of us are looking to forward to hearing more of what this articulate young man has to say.