Friday, February 6, 2009

decolonizing

Just as many Canadians have never met nor talked on a friendly or neighbourly level with a First Nations person, so too many Israelis have never met nor talked on a friendly or neighbourly level with a Palestinian. Many Canadians only know ABOUT First Nations peoples from newspapers, documentaries, classrooms, and occasionally, passing by someone on the street. I know many Finnish-Canadians in town who have never talked with an Anishnaabe person and who know nothing about Anishnaabe culture except for the most superficial, stereotypical things, but boy! do they have some mean things to say about the Anishnaabek.

In Israel, as Cynthia Enloe notes in The Space Between Us, in her chapter on working with Israeli and Palestinian women, many Israelis have never met nor talked with a Palestinian. Now, it's not easy for an Israeli to met a Palestinian because the state is apartheid: military checkpoints to keep Palestinians out, highways where only Israelis and tourists who do not have passports stamped with an Arab country can drive on; the Apartheid Wall, the wall/fence around Gaza, to name a few. So an Israeli person who truly seeks to understand Palestinians and their call for right-of-return, restitution and reparations, and land, needs to really work hard to move out of the straightjacket his/her state has created from him/her.

As others have written, and Enloe concurs, those who are the occupied, the colonized, the enslaved, the abused, or the policed know much more about the "Master" than he/she knows about the people they and their "lifestyles" subject. So, as Enloe explains, many Israelis know very little about Palestinians having never met one.

Indeed, Enloe states that for those few Israelis who have actually spoken to a Palestinian (we're not talking here about soldiers at the military checkpoints or the guards at the Israeli prisons and detention centres (where Palestinians are held without charge or trial) overwhelmingly populated with Palestinians, but average, everyday folks), it is the case that it is a male Palestinian who is doing some day labour or other low-level work in Israel. Israelis have even less direct contact with Palestinian women.

Like in Canada, it is the role of the colonizer and the privileged to move out of their comfortable spaces and step out, risk, and reach out to those who our state, with our compliant, sometimes silent--but not always so-- permission, has repressed and oppressed: the First Nations. It is not the job of the oppressed to reach out, to teach, or to assuage the feelings of those whose status is confirmed in everyday life, those whose lives are predominant in the media over and over again; those who "won" because of colonial power-over. It is not the job of First Nations peoples to convince Canadians that their (FN's) concerns are valid.

No, it is the job of those who reap the fruits of colonization to enter the decolonizing process and listen to what those who have been subjected have to say. It is their responsible to interrogate how history has been constructed to exclude and disparage FN peoples as well as create romantic fossilized notions of them. It is their responsibility to do the work to see how their benefits and progress in society is BECAUSE of continuing unequal relations and the continuing denial of the human rights of First Nations people in Canada.

Just as many Canadians only get their information about First Nations peoples from the mainstream media, government representatives, and from state-produced and education institutions and academic documents and narratives, so too the Israelis use similar channels to tell themselves about the Palestinians, to tell themselves their own made-up stories about the Palestinians.

It is no wonder many, many Israelis, like many, many Canadians, are confused and defend the dominant myths, stereotypes and lies, especially the ones that might ask them to look at their own lives, their own lifestyles, their own privileges, their own exclusions, their own practices.

One example of how distortions emerge that inhibit one's access to a more comprehensive knowledge of the ground beneath one's feet and the people who live on it, or who have been expelled from it--which happened in Canada (and is not over because of resource extraction, massive toxic dumping on FN lands and refusal to settle land claims, to name a few) and continues to happen in Israel--is history books.

And by history books, I mean websites and other media where dominant history is CONSTRUCTED, that is, made.

The victor, the colonizer, writes the history books that are told in school and the histories that we find on websites that purport to tell us the "history of this land." This is true in Canada, as it was true in Finland (only since about 20yrs ago did Finns start to bring in the red history to the "real" history of Finland, which was only version of the whites, with the reds as the add-on), and this is true in Israel.

In Canada you can still find people--I met someone just yesterday--who have never heard about Residential Schools until just last year or so when our Prime Minister had to make an official public apology about this abuse of First Nations human rights. How is it that many Canadians had their head in the snowbank about this?

Those who colonize write "the history" and conveniently leave out the ugly, brutal parts of their creating of that history, and when it is brought in, use euphemistic language to whitewash that violence (one ex. using "immigrant" instead of "settler", using "nation-building" instead of "colonization"). The ugly history of the Canadian government's and Canadian churches' residential school system, which was an institutionalized means of "killing the Indian" of each FN child they snatched into its system and attempting genocide through "education" (they did not succeed), was a hidden history for many, many years. It still is not resolved, and many people in Canada still live inside of its ugly legacy.

To speak of decolonization means that everyone in society, not just the First Nations, acknowledge the violence of colonization, the lies used to cover it up, and the continuing impact and effects of that distortion of history FOR ALL CANADIANS, First Nations and non-native. De-colonization is not just for the oppressed; it is also a requirement--an obligation--of each person from the dominant groups and those groups who benefit in society because of silencing, misrepresentations, and the unequal benefits some have received at the cost of the continuing oppression of peoples, in the case of Canada, First Nations.

The school where I am teaching in Fort Frances used to be one of those residential schools. One of those state institutions that cleansed the ugly work it was doing through the language and practices of everyday bureaucracy.

4 comments:

Merche Pallarés said...

Dear Taina, I haven't had much time these days to read your very informative posts but I wanted to let you know (so that you can post it and pass it on to your bloggers) a very interesting Open Letter from THE INTERNATIONAL JEWISH ANTI-ZIONIST WEB. I read it in Spanish in my blogger: http://fernandomaneromg.blogspot.com/ but I'm sure somewhere it must be written in English. You know, I'm still a cyber-illiterate and I don't know how to find it. I think this is a very valuable document that should be printed everywhere. Hugs, M.

violeta said...

This entire site just creates a sense of divide and conquer. It does not inspire me to find a way to peace. Love is more powerful than hate. Your writing will not have the effect of helping as Hate will never bind us together.
PEACE....

northshorewoman said...

thank you, Merche, yes, I have the Int'l Jewish Anti-Zionist Network linked under websites on my blog. I visited the site and found much interesting reading, and composed a new post to talk about their important work.

Violeta, thank you for reading my "entire site". That must of taken you some time! Weeks, I would think as I am prolific.

Are you in the process of decolonizing? Is that why you are reading the post on decolonization? Or are you against decolonizing? Or do you even know what that means? Do not visit my "hateful" site since you do not see your confusion and narrow mind mirrored in it. Go to Zionist sites. There are plenty of them. Or just open a mainstream newspaper. You have lots of company.

But if you are brave and if you are loving and if you are willing to risk stepping out of your safe space then you will open your heart and ask yourself why you fear to look critically at Zionism. If you are brave and if you are compassionate and if you are loving, you will join the many Jewish and non-Jewish people who have already done that.

spirithands said...

Taina

This post has brought some clarity to my mind about what is happening "over there". I do read your posts with regularity but please forgive, that I do not comment.