Colonizing “Settler Colonialism”

magid shihadeI recently attended an “Open round table” discussion at the University of California at Davis. I went to listen to a professor from Bir Zeit University who was teaching a class in the United States. I thought the event was a panel on “settler colonialism,” and we would discuss “settler colonialism.”

The beginning of the event should have prepared me. The visting professor, Magid Shihade, said he was going to have some students who attended his class speak about the class and the source materials he used to teach them about “settler colonialism.” I should have known it would be a gong show; the professor was from Bir Zeit University in the PA territories, and has written vitriolic screeds as “The Racialization of Religion.” Bir Zeit – if you didn’t know – is the academic hotbed of the PA, with such impressive alumni as Yahyah Ayyash, the chief bombmaker for Hamas, and Fathi Shaqaqi, founder of the terrorist group Islamic Jihad. No joke, do a Google search of Birzeit and those two names come up first as “notable alumni.” In fact, 4 of the 9 notable alumni are terrorists.

I was unaware that the event was basically an infomercial for his class. But I sat and listened politely as one girl in a Hijab explained that in Magid’s class she learned that “Hamas is just reacting to their oppressor and is just resisting the occupation.” I shook my head, but then had to listen to another student, a young hispanic named Estevan, speak about how they learned that Native americans don’t like when people make comparisons to our genocide, something I myself have written extensively about. However, that’s when Estevan lost me; he said he read it in a book by a man named Ward Churchill, and it was in reference to Jews comparing the Holocaust to the genocide of Native Americans. At this point, I asked if he was aware that Churchill is not a Native American (and thus shouldn’t be representing Native Americans,). The professor looked pissed and said there would be time for questions afterwards. I don’t think he liked me questioning one of his basic sources. Later, I would speak to his assertion, and the response I got was comical (the looks on their faces when I spoke still makes me chuckle). They had clearly never been told the truth.

I won’t go into everything, and to be honest, having to listen to people taking about how the “Zionists” oppress not only palestinians but all “Arabs in the region” was enough bullshit for me to listen to once anyway.

I had an Arab descendant of colonizers question MY validity as a person who has actually experienced settler colonialism firsthand. When I questioned the narrative he is teaching, and pointed to some of the fallacies, he became very upset, and his brainwashed little toadies tried to shout me down. Of particular humor to me was when Magid said “The Jews have no connection to the city of Hevron.” I responded “They absolutely do! Anyone who goes to Tel Rumeida can see for themselves it is the city of King David.” He responded “Jewish scientists have shown that the Jews aren’t connected to the land,” to which I replied “You mean Shlomo Sand?” He answered “Yes”, to which I responded  “You know Shlomo Sand was thoroughly debunked right?” He smiled and said “Yes, by Zionists.” I laughed and said “No, by scientists.” Even a couple of the students there laughed; that’s why Magid got so pissed off – the students were actually asking me questions and not sucking up to him.

That’s when two women asked me to leave! They said I was dominating the discourse. I laughed and said that this was ridiculous; I was merely answering questions that were asked of me. The Native woman said I was being too forceful, at which point I said “I’m not the one trying to deny a peoples’ history.” She responded “Yes you are,” to which I replied “I can’t believe you are a teacher. You need to read some history books.” I got up to leave and picked up my iPad. That’s when one girl said “Make him delete the video.” I laughed and said “Not likely.” I started walking to the door, and a tall Arab man with a beard stepped in front of me. I walked up closer to him and he stepped backwards. I opened the door and laughed again. He said “You can’t leave with that.” I asked him who was going to stop me and he said “ I better not see you on the street bro.” I laughed again and said “Whatever, little man. I’m right here.” I don’t think he really wanted to fight me once he realized that I was willing to throw fists. I left shaking my head.

Afterwards, I went and did some research on this “professor. ” First off, he is using debunked “sources” such as Ward Churchill who is not an Indian but pretended to be one to get jobs, and has written antisemitic 9-11 garbage. Shihade’s students spoke of using Steven Salaita’s books as sources as well. Salaita has no degree in Native American studies or history, and his poorly written and researched screeds are a joke among actual students of history. I won’t even go into why using Shlomo Sand’s completely discredited work is problematic; that’s just commonsense. I am struggling to understand why it is that we are allowing people like Shihade to not just co-opt our struggles, but to outright appropriate them. Why is he allowed to teach outright lies and false narratives? Is there no governing body overseeing this stuff?

The Arabs are not indigenous people who are fighting a colonialist state. They are not “poor brown-skinned people fighting cruel and imperialist white people.” In point of fact, they are the descendants of colonizers who have found themselves in a bad spot after the true indigenous people regained control of their ancestral lands. In true bully fashion, instead of graciously accepting defeat and living in peace, they are now trying steal the identity of the Jews and other displaced indigenous peoples by colonizing our struggles. You see it in the Ferguson Protests, the so called “solidarity.” How exactly was Ferguson like “Palestine” again? How exactly is the struggle for Native American self-determination even remotely like the palestinians’ situation? Perhaps I missed all the Jewish attempts at genocide; I must have read over the chapter that talked about Jewish residential schools, the Jewish attempt to forcibly convert Arabs, and the horrific and drastic drop in population that EVERY NATION WHO HAS EVER SUFFERED A GENOCIDE HAS EXPERIENCED. How exactly are the palestinians suffering the way Black South Africans suffered under Apartheid? Where are all these things and how did I miss them?

The issue here is simple, and I am tired of pandering to the Arab Muslims who consistently attack the struggle of my people by being nice. So I am going to say this in no uncertain terms: The Arabs who call themselves “Palestinians” are nothing like Indians, who were never offered a state, let alone one twice the size of the state of the dominant people. We are indigenous, and they are descended from colonizers. We have been peaceful and lived in peace with the other peoples in North America for over 200 years, while the Arabs have never lived in peace for any amount of time unless they were dominant. They have never undergone even a fraction of the horrific things that other sufferers of settler colonialism have, BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT VICTIMS OF SETTLER COLONIALISM; THEY ARE PERPETRATORS OF IT. They have not undergone a genocide no matter how much they talk about it. A genocide always leads to a drastic decline in population; that’s  the meaning of the goddamned word. They perpetrated several genocides – ask the Kurds, Yazidi, Copt, Armenians, and PRETTY MUCH EVERY INDIGENOUS PEOPLE IN THE MIDDLE EAST – so they should be well aware of what the word really means. The truth of their situation is that they were on top for a long time, and they are just pissypants now because that is no longer the case. That’s not tragedy, that’s justice. They are the bully who stopped growing in Grade 6 and is now in Grade 10, and is the smallest kid in the class and not enjoying it nearly as much. They don’t want justice; they want someone to put things back to the way they were when they were the biggest and had their own way.

For me the bottom line is simple: I don’t want palestinian solidarity, the solidarity that has a price tag of betrayal of another indigenous people. I refuse to allow them to use my people as a weapon against another indigenous people. I will not stand by while people try to colonize MY struggle, just because their own is not inherently just, and if that bothers some people, I am OK with that. It’s not like I haven’t won some fights against pretty long odds already, and if I need some help, I can always ask my Jewish friends. They have a little experience with David and Goliath situations too.


Ryan Bellerose

A member of the indigenous Metis people, Ryan grew up in the far north of Alberta, Canada with no power nor running water. In his free time, Ryan plays Canadian Rules Football, reads books, does advocacy work for indigenous people and does not live in an Igloo.

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