Palestinians urge Iroquois lacrosse team to withdraw from Israel tournament

Palestinians are urging a Native American team to pull out of the 2018 World Lacrosse Championships in Israel.

This comes on the day Israel is escalating its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian Bedouin communities of Khan al-Ahmar and Abu Nuwwar to make way for colonial settlements, as the video above from Khan al-Ahmar shows.

The Iroquois Nationals team represents the Iroquois Confederacy, a group of Indigenous nations whose territory extends across parts of what is now the northeastern United States and eastern Canada.

They are credited with inventing the sport of lacrosse.

“As Indigenous peoples, we have both seen our traditional lands colonized, our people ethnically cleansed and massacred by colonial settlers,” PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, said in a letter to the Iroquois Nationals published on Wednesday.

“This year marks 70 years of Israeli dispossession of Palestinians, which began with what we call the Nakba, or catastrophe.”

“Like the Iroquois Confederacy and the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island, we struggle daily for self-determination and against ongoing dispossession and colonization,” the letter adds, using a traditional term for the North American continent.

Israel often attempts to use international sporting events to burnish its image, and tries to market its violent colonial project in Palestine as “Indigenous,” particularly through appropriating and then erasing the origins of local culture.

At the same time, PACBI noted, “Israel has also attacked, imprisoned and killed Palestinian athletes and bombed and destroyed Palestinian stadiums.”

Struggle for recognition

The Iroquois Confederacy, also known as the Haudenosaunee, have stood up to constant challenges to their sovereignty and identity. They issue their own passports, for example, which some countries recognize, but whose validity has been challenged by the US, Canada and Britain.

“If we get Canadian and American passports, we’re basically agreeing to be Canadian or American citizens. And by doing that, we are undermining our treaties that we have with those governments,” Kathy Smith, chair of the Haudenosaunee women’s lacrosse board, explained last year. “We can’t have treaties with ourselves.”

Indigenous activists say they have been told their passports are “fantasy documents” despite how citizens of the Iroquois Confederacy have used them for international travel to some countries for decades.

In 2010, the Iroquois Nationals forfeited the world championships rather than travel on US passports, after the UK refused to recognize the Haudenosaunee travel documents.

In 2017, the women’s lacrosse team succeeded in entering the UK on Haudenosaunee passports.

It is unclear if Israel would recognize the passports but if it did so it would be the height of cynicism given that Israel has stolen the land of millions of Palestinians who now live stateless under military occupation or in refugee camps in surrounding countries, denied the right to return to their homes solely because they are not Jewish.

Israel is hosting the 2018 World Lacrosse Championships in Netanya this month, with the sponsorship of the government and the Wingate Institute.

Built on the ethnically cleansed lands of the village of Khirbet al-Zababida, the Wingate Institute is named in honor of Orde Wingate, a British colonial officer notorious for his sadistic violence against Palestinians resisting the colonization of their land in the 1930s.

Destruction of villages

The appeal to the Iroquois Nationals not to go to Israel was issued on the same day that Israel began what may be the final and complete destruction of Khan al-Ahmar and destroyed homes in Abu Nuwwar.

These are two among a number of Palestinian Bedouin communities in the occupied West Bank near Jerusalem that are targeted for forced removal in order to make way for Jewish settlements.

The videos above and at the top of this article show Israeli forces armed with bulldozers invading Khan al-Ahmar on Wednesday, assaulting residents and preparing to destroy the whole village.

Israel moved forces into the village earlier this week, brushing aside appeals from UN officials, and raising fears among the 200 residents that the destruction of their homes is imminent.

And on Wednesday, Israeli forces raided the village of Abu Nuwwar and destroyed several homes.

“According to local sources, Israeli forces stormed the village and began evicting residents from their homes, threw their personal belongings outside and then proceeded to demolish the homes,” the Ma’an News Agency reported.

“We are asking you to respect our nonviolent picket line by withdrawing from the 2018 World Lacrosse Championships, denying Israel the opportunity to use the national sport of the Iroquois to cover up its escalating, violent ethnic cleansing of Palestinians throughout our ancestral lands,” PACBI is urging the Iroquois Nationals.

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This is a great deal to ask the Iroquois people to give up and also an opportunity for them to again stand up to colonial oppression and genocide, thereby keeping oh so much more.

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