(MENAFN- Jordan Times)
The BBC recently broadcast an hour-long programme about the struggle of US natives to secure their legal rights in the state of Oklahoma where they claim nearly half the land belongs to indigenous tribes. A Supreme Court ruling last summer narrowed a 2020 judgement which had given the tribes control over legal affairs in their territory.
One distressed interviewee observed that since white settlers arrived in the territories which became the US, native Americans have been treated as 'people who live on the land but do not own the land...Like animals'. This has been true in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the countries of Latin America and South Africa, where Europeans settled, took power and imposed various forms of apartheid on the natives. Britain invaded and occupied Ireland in the 12th century, imported its own people, seized land and imposed apartheid centuries before the term was invented by the South Africans of European background.
In this region, the prime example is Palestine which has been colonised by largely European Jews who claim God-given title to the land and deny native Palestinians their centuries-old rights to the land. Despite Zionist-Israeli denial of their rights, Palestinians, like the natives in all the colonised countries, have not disappeared. Instead, like the Palestinians, indigenous peoples are clamouring for attention and demanding their rights. During the last century, Palestinian leaders, including Yasser Arafat, forged firm ties with key personalities of other indigenous communities. These connections seem to have faded this century, unfortunately, although the fight for indigenous rights continues.
This is most acute in Palestine where Israeli colonists continue to ethnically cleanse Palestinians, expropriate their land, demolish their homes, conduct armed raids into their cities, towns and villages, and kill and wound Palestinians who resist as well as bystanders and householders in targeted areas. In the case of Palestine, the Western powers which dominate the world do nothing to secure Palestinian rights or alleviate Palestinian suffering.
Israelis are not alone in claiming divine sanction for their colonisation of Palestine. Britons claimed they created their vast empire at 'heavens' command' and 19th century US colonists argued they were motivated by 'Manifest Destiny', a notion that God had destined their conquests from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. The Spanish empire was driven by 'God, Gold and Glory”, while Christianity played a key role in the colonisation of Africa. Many colonisers regarded the natives as 'savages' who had to be converted to Christianity while Israelis are increasingly labelling Palestinians 'terrorists' when they actively resist the occupation.
As in Palestine in the 20th and 21st centuries, colonisation elsewhere has involved conquest of the land, ethnic cleansing of native populations, and their relegation to marginal lands and enclaves, reservations and, in the case of South Africa, Bantustans. Apartheid, or separation from the colonisers, has been practiced. Exploitation of the natives as cheap labour has been common and education skewed to serve the interests of the colonial powers. In North America, indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in boarding schools, often run by Catholic nuns and priests, where they were abused, banned from speaking their own languages, and alienated from tribal cultures ito force them to assimilate. Israel has repeatedly attempted to impose an Israeli designed Arabic curriculum on private schools in occupied East Jerusalem as textbooks have contained material distorting Palestinian history and extolling the emergence of Israel.
'Settler colonialism' has taken a huge toll in the lives of indigenous peoples in the Americas. Researchers at University College, London, estimate that European colonists killed 56 million natives over a century. Ninety per cent died from imported diseases they had not encountered before. In 1800, only about 600,000 indigenous people remained in the US, by 1900, that number had shrunk to 237,000. In Australia, the number of native Aborigines went from 1-1.5 million to less than 100,000 by the early 1900s, due to state-sponsored massacres.
The conflict between Palestinians and Israelis began 120 years ago at a time low level warfare against indigenous peoples continued in many European colonised countries. While the current phase of the struggle of many indigenous peoples has become a human rights campaign, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has grown in intensity due to the expansion of Israeli colonies in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza after their conquest in 1967.
During Israel's 1948 war of establishment, 750,000 out of 1.3 million Palestinians were driven from their homes, villages, towns, cities and homeland. Today there are 5.7 million Palestinian refugees registered with the UN. They live in the Israeli-occupied territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Of the 14 million global Palestinian population, more than half lives outside Palestine.
From the establishment of Israel in 1948 until 2019, quora.com estimates 5.1 million Palestinian men, women and children died. But it has been difficult to learn the number killed in warfare before 2008 when the UN began counting fatalities: between that year and 2020, 5,600 Palestinians were killed by Israel, the world's remaining European-majority colonising state.