Today, most acknowledge the crimes against Indigenous people as genocide. In this way, Gazans are counterparts to Native Americans.
My trip to the Little Bighorn was chilling. Driving across the country, we had to stop when we saw the signs for Custer’s Last Stand, also known as the Battle of the Greasy Grass. A decisive victory for the Lakota Sioux, Arapaho, and Northern Cheyenne, the battle claimed the lives of two hundred ten US soldiers as well as about fifty of Sitting Bull’s warriors.
What struck me most when I visited the memorial was how the National Parks Service honored the fallen on both sides, each in a unique way. It also recognized faults and violence on both sides. We must understand the parallel between the historical US/Native American conflict and the struggle between modern Israel and Palestinians. By doing so, we will see the plight of those pushed onto reservations and the desperation with which they strike out against their oppressors.
Ancient Israel and the Palestinian Genocide
In “The Chosen People and Guns: Our History of Supremacy, Violence, and Genocide,” I wrote about the United States taking its cue from ancient Israel. As a young nation fresh out of slavery, Israel invaded and occupied ancient Palestine, enslaving, murdering, and driving out the original inhabitants. They did this because they believed themselves to be God’s “chosen people,” with a divine right to the “promised land” they believed God had given them. They saw themselves as fulfilling holy orders to drive their enemies to extinction. Among other scriptures that call for the genocide of Israel’s enemies, 1 Samuel 15:2-3 says:
Thus says the Lord of hosts: I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”
According to this narrative, many problems result because they didn’t finish the job. When King Saul kills everyone but spares the Amalekite king, God rejects Saul as ruler of Israel. The horrible lesson here is that when God calls you to commit genocide, you’d better do it completely.
In a future article, I’ll write about how this notion of divinely inspired genocide in the Bible was the first step in my deconstruction. For now, I’ll say that I reject the notion that God commanded Israel to obliterate their enemies. When the United States took its cue from the Israeli conquest of Canaan, it followed a false narrative that God chooses some nations as favorites and marks others for destruction.
US/Native American Relations
The young US followed the false doctrine of Supersessionism or Replacement Theology, where the Church replaces Israel as God’s “chosen people.” Viewing itself as a Christian nation, the nascent United States believed itself to be God’s specially chosen—God’s new Israel on earth. This doctrine gave America a God-given right to occupy the land from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It fueled the fires of Manifest Destiny and gave the US government the grounds it needed to justify the enslavement, murder, forced conversion, and imprisonment of Native Americans. The United States created the largest concentration camp system in the world and called them “Indian reservations.” (Click here to read about poverty statistics on reservations.)
Let me be clear—I do not condone violence on any side of conflict. But, for the record, it was European settlers who spread disease, enslaved, murdered, and brutalized Native Americans first. It’s understandable, then, when people resort to violence to protect their land, their families, and their way of life. Americans demonized Native Americans as “savages” for attacking “peaceful settlements,” yet those outposts were simply predecessors to full occupation and genocide. Natives rightly saw farm settlements as a threat—especially as the government put bounties on the scalps of First Nations people, encouraging “peaceful settlers” to turn violent against their Native neighbors.
Massacre after massacre followed, until now the Native American population is a fraction of what it once was. Many Indigenous people have forgotten their language and their culture and become subsumed by the majority society. The alternative—remaining impoverished on the reservation—seems abhorrent at best. While Native violence against settlers was horrific, it is understandable because they could see the future that has now become their reality. Who wouldn’t resist such subjugation and tyranny?
The relationship between Israel and Palestinians is much the same as that between the US and Native Americans. In the wake of the Holocaust, many Jewish survivors decided that Palestine would be the best place for them to find safety. Where else could they find peace, but the Promised Land? After nearly two thousand years of diaspora, millions of Jews moved to the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to start a new life.
It isn’t in the scope of this article to give a comprehensive timeline for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Suffice it to say that the result of numerous wars led to the American backing of a colonizing Israel that modeled its policies on Palestinians after the US policies on Indians. After four hundred years of slavery in Egypt, and after the Holocaust, Israel should be the last nation on earth to want to subjugate others. Yet, it has pushed Palestinians into poverty conditions in ghettos, or concentration camps.
Israeli authorities must be held accountable for committing the crime of apartheid against Palestinians, Amnesty International said today in a damning new report. The investigation details how Israel enforces a system of oppression and domination against the Palestinian people wherever it has control over their rights. This includes Palestinians living in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), as well as displaced refugees in other countries.
The comprehensive report, Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime against Humanity, sets out how massive seizures of Palestinian land and property, unlawful killings, forcible transfer, drastic movement restrictions, and the denial of nationality and citizenship to Palestinians are all components of a system which amounts to apartheid under international law. This system is maintained by violations that Amnesty International found to constitute apartheid as a crime against humanity, as defined in the Rome Statute and Apartheid Convention.
Click here to read the entire 280-page document, “Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crimes Against Humanity.” It discusses apartheid in international law and Israel’s system of domination. The document outlines inhumane acts against Palestinians such as forcible transfer, administrative detention and torture, unlawful killings, serious injuries, denial of basic rights and freedoms, and persecution.
The United States followed the genocidal pattern of ancient Israel when it created its policies toward Native Americans. It seems that modern Israel has learned from the US how to subjugate its enemies, impoverish them, and subject them to the cruelties of apartheid.
The Current War Between Israel and Hamas
In the current war between Israel and Hamas, it’s evident that cruelty is present on both sides. Yet, if you look at the statistics of deaths and injuries on the Palestinian side versus the Jewish side, you’ll find it’s completely lopsided. When Palestinians strike against Israel, they do so out of desperation, from the perspective of trying to protect themselves and end a system of hatred and oppression. Invariably, they suffer exponentially more than their Israeli targets. When Israel responds, it does so with rage and fury, not seeking an eye for an eye, but striking their enemies at the throat. Again—while I do not condone violence on either side, it’s understandable that some Palestinians will do whatever is necessary to throw off the oppression of the Israeli state.
How are Gazans Counterparts to Native Americans?
When I was a child in an American Evangelical church, I was raised to believe that the Jewish people were God’s chosen people. Consequently, I was taught that the modern nation of Israel was also God’s special favorite. I was taught to support Israel because of the role it would one day play in End Times events. But when my dear Palestinian friend explained to me that the Israeli/Palestinian struggle paralleled that of the US and Native Americans, I began to see it in a different light. It was obvious to me that America was wrong in the way the nation dealt with the “Indian problem.” Therefore, I had to acknowledge that Israel was wrong in following America’s pattern of genocide.