Just recently, international news covered the Israeli attack on Palestinian protesters in Gaza that left no Israeli soldiers harmed and more than 100 Palestinian civilians dead. The attack has created a schism between the already tense sides of the conflict all around the world.
Palestinian supporters say the attack was unwarranted and nothing short of a massacre. Israeli supporters have claimed that the civilians were used as human shields as a part of a plan to increase the casualties and make the IDF look bad. It is hard to deny that from a PR standpoint, Palestine has had the upper hand in its communication with the media; the disparities between the number dead on each side alone does not make Israel look good.
However, despite this distinct lean towards empathy for the Palestinian side from an international standpoint, the United States continues to show its support for Israel through and through. In fact, the New York Times article about the attack highlights that the very minute the attacks were occurring in Gaza, the United States was celebrating with Israeli leaders over the opening of the new American Embassy in Jerusalem.
Even beyond the typical right-wing, Evangelical Christian support base of Donald Trump — who has continually backed Israel in the Israel/Palestine conflict — the majority of Americans support Israel in their proclaimed right to exist as a nation. Much of the claim is rooted in the idea that the Jewish people were the original owners of the land and that they hold not only a political right to the land but a God-given right.
And the fact that the majority of the American population has accepted this as truth could normally be something that I could accept as a simple difference in opinion — maybe as an atheist I fundamentally understand arguments made on the basis of religion, or maybe I just don’t think the idea of white people trying to invade a non-white county is anything other than imperialism disguised as religious liberty — except for the fact that if you are going to accept that a group of people has a right to whatever land that originally belonged to them, then you also have to accept that Native Americans have more of a right to America than we, the colonizers, do.
And we know how well that argument has worked for the Native Americans.
Israel continually claims that the Jews were the original people of the area, that the land was granted to them by God and that because they were there first, they are still the rightful owners. Similarly, Native Americans have continued to claim that they were the original owners of the land and that they were here long before we came and invaded — except those who express the idea that we all should leave and let the Native Americans have their land back are dismissed as insane, while those who support Israelis claiming the same thing are supported or at least have their opinion respected.
What’s more, the Israelis left Israel for an extended period of time and spread out to create the Jewish diaspora. The Native Americans have never left the land that they originally held. The Israelis have launched violent (no matter if you consider them justified or not) attacks on Palestinians. In all the history of America both in its colonized and independent state, never once has the toll of colonizers killed reached the total number of Palestinians killed over the past 20 years.
But we continue to give a voice to the Israelis and silence the Native Americans. There are a couple of reasons I can think of why we have allied ourselves so closely with Israel and yet remain so opposed to Native Americans. Racism comes to mind first. One of the clear distinctions between Native Americans and Israelis is that Israelis as a whole are white and the Jewish diaspora as a whole is a white one, while Native Americans are decidedly people of color.
Another distinction is that the fact that that the Israelis are returning to a land they left and demanding ownership is strikingly similar to all of the United States’s imperial conquests and imperialism in general. If we admit that what Israel is doing is wrong, we have to finally face the fact that our imperialism was wrong, too, and that is something that we aren’t prepared to face.
Any way you put it, America is going to be forced to confront its awful past soon: Are we going to ally ourselves with Israel and admit that the Native Americans have been right to resent what we’ve done to them all along, or are we going to ally ourselves with Palestine and admit that our culture of Imperialism and Islamophobia is destructive and nothing more than racism by another name?