Liberal website The Huffington Post last week published an attack on an indigenous rights activist who is on hunger strike in Canada, labeling her “the hungry chief mugging for the cameras on an island in the Ottawa River.”
Writing on the Canadian edition of the site, anti-Palestinian blogger Yoni Goldstein openly attacked Theresa Spence as a “problem” responsible for indigenous people’s woes in Canada and said he had “no sympathy” for her.
Goldstein once wrote an article in right-wing Canadian paper National Post lauding the work of Alan Dershowitz, the notorious anti-Palestinian lawyer and defender of Israeli war crimes, as “valuable and significant.” He’s also written for Israeli newspapers Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post.
More recently, he claimed former US presidential candidate Mitt Romney “got the Palestinians right” in racist comments against Palestinian culture that Romney made during last year’s election campaign.
In the disgustingly racist blog post on The Huffington Post Canada last year, Goldstein wrote that even should all the problems created by Israeli occupation be removed “the Palestinians [would] still have to deal with [the problem of] their own culture, the very thing Romney was alluding to.”
In another article, he used the racist terminology of the “Palestinian demographic problem [which] poses immediate difficulties” (i.e. the specter of too many Palestinian babies being born on territory controlled by Israel).
Chief Spence and Idle No More
Chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario, Theresa Spence launched a hunger strike last month in solidarity with Idle No More, an indigenous rights movement that has swept Canada since it was launched by four women in November.
The grassroots movement has been organizing teach-ins, flash mobs, demonstrations and blockades to draw attention to its demands. At the center of these is the call to revoke C-45, a new law activists say is “a legislative attack on First Nation people and the lands and waters across the country.”
Spence is demanding a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and has vowed to continue hunger striking to draw attention to C-45 and other items of legislation that threaten indigenous sovereignty and degrade environmental protection.
Blaming the victim
While expressing a few empty words ostensibly in favor of Idle No More, Goldstein lays blame on Spence and other First Nations Chiefs, rather than the Canadian federal government: “She and other native leaders are the biggest reason why native reserves are mostly hellholes, filled with poverty, addiction, lack of education and general misery.”
This hostile attitude puts him at odds with the Idle No More movement. While a statement on its web site calls for caution on the Canadian media’s focus on Spence, and that the leader of the movement is “the grassroots people,” it also emphasizes that activists are “very grateful for Theresa Spence’s honorable and courageous support.” Many demonstrators have have adopted Spence’s demand for a meeting with Harper as one of their own.
One of the movement’s founders warned on Tuesday that mainstream media outlets were trying to create divisions within the movement and expressed support for Spence: “We don’t have a separation between the grassroots and chiefs… I’d like to shift the conversation back to our federal government,” Sheelah McLean told a local Saskatchewan newspaper.
Goldstein’s attempt to sow divisions within the movement would seem to fall within this category.
Palestinian solidarity with Idle No More
In a short time, Idle No More seems to have inspired expressions of solidarity from indigenous peoples around the world – including Palestinians.
Palestinian and solidarity groups have signed a statement of solidarity. Signatories include resistance icon Leila Khalid, and Iltezam Morrar, the popular resistance leader who helped lead her village Budrus against the wall being built on its land (as documented in the film of the same name).
The statement reads:
As Palestinians, who struggle against settler colonialism, occupation and apartheid in our homeland and for the right of Palestinian refugees – the majority of our people – to return to our homeland, we stand in solidarity with the Idle No More movement of Indigenous peoples and its call for justice, dignity, decolonization and protection of the land, waters and resources.
We recognize the deep connections and similarities between the experiences of our peoples – settler colonialism, destruction and exploitation of our land and resources, denial of our identity and rights, genocide and attempted genocide
The Canadian government, reflecting its own settler colonial nature, was one of the earliest and strongest supporters of the establishment of Israel as a settler colony on Palestinian land and has since that time been a steadfast backer of Israeli wars, occupation, colonization, and oppression against our people.
The Canadian establishment’s pro-Zionist stance only seem to have increased in recent years, especially under the Conservative Harper government.
That colonial entities should express mutual support for each other will come as no surprise to indigenous peoples.