In the early days of the Siege of Kanehsatake, also known as the Oka Crisis, Kanehsata’kehró:non Ellen Gabriel didn’t realize that protests were erupting across Canada in support of Kanien’kehá:ka who were protecting the Pines. She said that solidarity movements for Palestinians resisting Israeli occupation remind her of that time, back in 1990.
“When I learned about the protests going on across Canada, it really lifted me up. It lifted everybody up to see that we were not alone, that people saw us as human beings,” she said. “That’s what we need to remember. There are Palestinians around the world, especially in Gaza and the West Bank, that need to hear our voices of support, so that we can lift them up.”
The fight for Palestinian liberation has grown increasingly urgent in recent weeks, after an unexpected incursion by armed Palestinian group Hamas on October 7, which saw 1,200 Israelis killed and 240 taken hostage. Since then, at least 15,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s counter-attacks.
The events that led to October 7 extend back more than 100 years, to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, a commitment of the British government to establish Palestine as a national home for Jewish people which sparked a military operation that killed and displaced tens of thousands of Palestinians.
In what is known as the 1948 Nakba, an estimated 15,000 Palestinians were killed and 750,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes. Seventy-eight percent of historic Palestine was captured and designated as Israel, with the remaining 22 percent of the land divided into the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which are occupied by Israel.
Kanehsata’kehró:non Clifton Ariwakehte Nicholas visited Palestine in 2016, and said it’s crucial that people understand the extent of the occupation. Palestinians face restriction of movement, imposed at Israeli checkpoints, and are not allowed to vote. Since October 7, Israel has repeatedly cut off access to communication via phone and internet, as well as cutting water, fuel, and electricity supply.
“If you remember the Oka Crisis, what we went through in 1990, that’s every day for Palestinians. The theft of lands and the erasure of history was glaring, and it reminded me again of how we as Indigenous people have our identities almost erased,” he said. “We need to start raising our voices, saying this is wrong, correcting people who need to be taught. There’s a lot of education that needs to be done on this subject, but it’s an important subject for people who were colonized to be aware of.”
One tool that has been used to target Palestinians is language. Dehumanizing language has been used as a weapon against Palestinians throughout the occupation. In 1983, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), Israel’s national military, stated that “When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.”
Online, Palestinians have been referred to as “cockroaches” and “pigs” with cartoons depicting Palestinians as animals reminiscent of antisemitic images proliferated by Nazis against Jews.
Language has also misrepresented Palestinians. Though Hamas is considered a terrorist group by many international countries, including Canada, non-Hamas-affiliated Palestinians and those standing in solidarity with them have been branded “terrorists” online and in the news, with the BBC recently publicly apologizing for branding pro-Palestine demonstrators as terrorists.
“I see a propaganda playbook being played out against Palestinians by not just Israel but by the United States, Canada, and the European Union. They’re making blanket statements that everybody is a terrorist, which they did to us too,” Gabriel said, adding that she still remembers receiving notices from the Cana- dian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) that she was suspected of terrorist activities during the Siege of Kanehsatake.
Jewish filmmaker and climate activist Avi Lewis said that another issue faced by Palestinians and those standing in solidarity with them is accusations of antisemitism.
These accusations arise because of an opposition to zionism, which is the nationalist movement to establish a Jewish state on Palestinian land. Lewis said the conflation of antisemitism with anti-zionism is dangerous.
“As a Jew, I’m opposed to the actions of the State of Israel, which don’t just include the war crimes right now in Gaza, but also include a system of apartheid in which Palestinians are second-class citizens within Israel and within the occupied territories,” he said. “Conflating criticism of Israel with antisemitism has been a major project for the state of Israel, but that is absolutely untrue. There are more and more Jewish people standing up today saying that we as Jews don’t accept what is being done in our name.”
Lewis said he stands opposed to genocide in Palestine because of his Jewish faith, not in spite of it.
“We’re watching genocide unfold in real time,” he said. “It’s our responsibility as Jews to criticize what Israel is doing. It’s the most Jewish thing that we can do. Palestinians must be free – we’re not free until they are free.”
International outlets in Palestine are only granted access if they hand over their footage to the IDF for review before publication, effectively meaning Israel is in control of what images come out of the region. Israel’s official social media channels have also been accused of posting fake news and doctored images to further a narrative that pegs Palestinians as criminals and terrorists.
Rawan Nabil, a member of the transnational organization Palestinian Youth Movement, said combatting online disinformation is an ongoing struggle.
“We’ve been tackling addressing misinformation and the media manufacturing consent for our people’s genocide for a very long time,” Nabil said. “A big way that we’ve been able to combat it is through popular education, so that’s a really critical part of raising the political consciousness of people on the question of Palestine.”
Nabil said that Indigenous people and Palestinians can understand one another through a history of colonization.
“In terms of organizing, through relationship building, we can inspire one another, we share that united front against our shared and respective oppressors,” she said. “Even when we’re engaging in joint struggle, there’s a fruitful and healthy drive to deeply engage each others’ struggle. We find ways to understand how US or Canadian imperialism intersects our struggles, and how those pieces are translated into our contexts.”
Gabriel emphasized the importance of Indigenous people taking a stand to support Palestinians, and underscored the need to educate one another on the history of the struggle.
“The similarities are blatant,” Gabriel said.
“We should recognize when a genocide is happening, because it’s been done to us.”
This article was originally published in print on Friday, December 1, in issue 32.48 of The Eastern Door.