Commentary Magazine


Topic: Native American Studies and Indigenous Peoples Studies Association

Indigenous? Native American Studies and Big Lies About Israel

We’ve reported about the decision of the American Studies Association to join the boycott of Israel. Supporters of the economic war against the Jewish state calling for institutions to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel have failed to gain much traction even in academia, let alone mainstream sectors of American society. As Jonathan Marks noted here the national council of the ASA that endorse the BDS resolution is largely compose of radicals. But they are not alone. The latest group of academic outliers to back the boycott is the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association. As the Jerusalem Post reports:

Ohio State English professor Chadwick Allen, the president of the association and coordinator of American Indian Studies at Ohio State, wrote on the association’s website that the move followed a “member-generated” petition asking that the group “formally support the Boycott of Israeli Academic and Cultural Institutions that was initiated by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.”

Over the course of several months, Allen wrote, the NAISA council reached a consensus to support the boycott, and wrote their own declaration of support for the boycott. The document reads that the NAISA Council “protests the infringement of the academic freedom of Indigenous Palestinian academics and intellectuals in the Occupied Territories and Israel who are denied fundamental freedoms of movement, expression, and assembly, which we uphold.”

That another group of campus radicals with doctorates in subjects that are geared toward furthering left-wing theories would join the boycott of Israel is no surprise. That they don’t boycott China in sympathy with Tibet or any number of Arab and Muslim countries for their oppression of minorities is just the usual hypocrisy to be found on campus these days. But there are two points in their rant worth responding to.

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We’ve reported about the decision of the American Studies Association to join the boycott of Israel. Supporters of the economic war against the Jewish state calling for institutions to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel have failed to gain much traction even in academia, let alone mainstream sectors of American society. As Jonathan Marks noted here the national council of the ASA that endorse the BDS resolution is largely compose of radicals. But they are not alone. The latest group of academic outliers to back the boycott is the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association. As the Jerusalem Post reports:

Ohio State English professor Chadwick Allen, the president of the association and coordinator of American Indian Studies at Ohio State, wrote on the association’s website that the move followed a “member-generated” petition asking that the group “formally support the Boycott of Israeli Academic and Cultural Institutions that was initiated by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.”

Over the course of several months, Allen wrote, the NAISA council reached a consensus to support the boycott, and wrote their own declaration of support for the boycott. The document reads that the NAISA Council “protests the infringement of the academic freedom of Indigenous Palestinian academics and intellectuals in the Occupied Territories and Israel who are denied fundamental freedoms of movement, expression, and assembly, which we uphold.”

That another group of campus radicals with doctorates in subjects that are geared toward furthering left-wing theories would join the boycott of Israel is no surprise. That they don’t boycott China in sympathy with Tibet or any number of Arab and Muslim countries for their oppression of minorities is just the usual hypocrisy to be found on campus these days. But there are two points in their rant worth responding to.

One is the notion that Palestinians in the territories and Israel are denied “fundamental freedoms of movement, expression, and assembly.” This is simply false.

Academics in the West Bank are not suppressed. Quite the contrary, they work, publish, and pontificate in public while working in the many Palestinian institutions of higher education that were all founded after Israel took control of the area in 1967. Far from censoring activity at those schools, Israel has no input or ability to influence them whatsoever. All Palestinian colleges exist as hotbeds of support for terror and the delegitimization of Israel. The Palestinian media, especially that run by the Palestinian Authority which governs the daily lives of Palestinians in almost all of the West Bank, is similarly unrestrained by Israel and, as Palestine Media Watch reports on a regular basis, is a steady source of incitement to hatred against Israel and Jews. Nor are there any restrictions on the right of assembly for academics as the kerfuffle over the student body-supported Islamic Jihad fascist-style military parade at Al Quds University in Jerusalem proved. As for freedom of movement, it is true that Palestinians must deal with some Israeli army checkpoints that make travel difficult at times. But that doesn’t prevent them from moving about as they please.

It is also interesting that the Native American Studies Association include Arabs living in the State of Israel in their rant. This is entirely risible as Israeli Arabs have the same full rights that Jewish Israelis enjoy including the right to call for Israel’s destruction. The irony is that the institutions that these allege scholars want to boycott are the places in Israel that are friendliest to anti-Zionist incitement.

But there is a broader, more important point to make about their ridiculous manifesto. They say:

As the elected council of an international community of Indigenous and allied non-Indigenous scholars, students, and public intellectuals who have studied and resisted the colonization and domination of Indigenous lands via settler state structures throughout the world, we strongly protest the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and the legal structures of the Israeli state that systematically discriminate against Palestinians and other Indigenous peoples.

By attempting to portray the Palestinians as the “indigenous people” of the territory on which the State of Israel and the administered territories exist and the Jews as the colonial settlers, they are perpetrating the big lie of Palestinian history. Jews are not foreigners in Israel as Europeans were in Africa. They happen to be the indigenous people of their ancient homeland and efforts to deny this isn’t scholarship. Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people and those who would deny them the same rights accorded other peoples are practicing bias, not scholarship. As with Palestinian attempts to deny the Jewish connection with the country or with Jerusalem and ancient Jewish holy sites such as the Temple Mount or the Western Wall, attempts to cast the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one between foreign occupiers and natives is revisionist myth recast as left-wing politicized scholarship.

There can be honest disagreement and debate about Israel’s policies in the territories, settlements, and borders. But by extending their argument to all of pre-1967 Israel as well as by smearing the Jews as colonists in their own country, the Native American studies group forfeits its credibility. Rather than being seen as the cutting edge of enlightened opinion, their support for BDS should mark them as a pack of incorrigible haters who should be treated with the same disdain and isolation that they would like to dish out to Israelis.

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