Recently, I was honored with a phone call from the leader of a native American tribal nation who was, perhaps as surprising to many as it was to me, on a visit to Israel.
He told me of his passionate support for Israel. He rightly saw the Jews as the indigenous people in the Land of Israel, something that appealed to his own tribal history.
He shocked me by what he told me next.
The Palestinians and the BDS Movement are conducting a well-orchestrated propaganda campaign to reach the hearts and minds of this ignored American community.
Their campaign is based on strategic disinformation. They try to tell Native Americans that both have suffered by having their land stolen from them by white colonial supremacists and are suffering centuries of oppression and occupation.
This may have truth in the history of native Americans and Canadians, but it is a lie when applied to Israel.
My hometown of Netanya hosted the World Lacrosse Championships in 2018. Competitors from around the world had first experience of Israel. They loved their visit and returned home inspired. Competitors from diverse countries such as Hong Kong, Poland, Uganda, Luxembourg, China, Turkey, Peru, South Korea, joined the major nations of the world in this important sporting event.
Also participating were players representing the Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team based in Canada. It was touch and go before they received their permits to come to Israel at the last minute. They were waiting at Toronto Pearson Airport as bureaucratic efforts were being made to allow them to travel to Israel on their native Haudenosaunee passports, rather than on Canadian passports. Their plane was delayed for three hours. They had also come under enormous pressure from the BDS Movement to boycott the event, but their passion for their sport and their desire to participate in the World Championships was a no-brainer for them. The bureaucratic impasse was solved thanks to the intervention of Irwin Cotler, a former Canadian Justice Minister, who pulled strings at top level both in Canada and in Israel. In the end they arrived and were met by VIPs including former Knesset Member, Dov Lipman, to welcome them to Israel.
In trying to dissuade the Iroquois not to come to Israel the BDS used the fraudulent Palestinian message that the famous Wingate Institute, which houses Israel’s sporting excellent projects and facilities and was one of the many venues for the lacrosse event, was once an Arab village named Khirbat al-Zababida which they claimed was “ethnically-cleansed” of its “Palestinian” inhabitants in 1948. The BDS with this, as with everything else they push, was wrong. They were referring to the nearby villages of Yakum and Gaash which, between 1944 and 1945 was predominantly Jewish owned, the Arab landlords having sold their barren land to the Palestinian Jews. The same Arab landlords ordered the Arab peasants to vacate the land to the new owners who intended to develop the land for largescale agricultural purposes which they did, employing many Arabs in its development.
These are Israeli facts, not fraudulent BDS narrative.
People should heed our story. A story of an ancient people returning to join our fellow Jews who never deserted the land for three thousand years when it was the Land of Israel. Today, it has become the only truly diverse nation in the Middle East where all are free to practice their faith, their cultures and traditions, and to be represented in our democracy and the Knesset, our national congress.
Native Americans and Canadians must get to hear our message, as should indigenous peoples everywhere. They have been ignored not only by the Israeli government but also by Jewish and Christian Zionist organizations as if they don’t exist and don’t have a voice.
Yet, these are precisely the type of communities that could and should spread the truth about our history, both ancient and contemporary, for our story resonates with them. Both they and the Jews, those indigenous to ancient lands, and those who are returning to take pride in the re-establishment of our national home, share a love of the land based on original ownership and possession.
Our message is a positive message of reclamation personified in the glorious success and example of Israel.
One simple truth comes out of this. Native Americans, native Canadians, indeed native people everywhere have one thing in common with the Jews of Israel. We are all stem from original indigenous people in our own lands. This is the simple truth that no BDS Palestinian propagandist can take away from us.
In an age of diversity and minority voices, instead of being BDS-trained enemies of Israel, native Americans and Canadians and others can become the most resonant ambassadors for Israel.
Anti-Israel haters, BDS among them, are teaching a false doctrine.
There can be no salvation or prophecy built on lies.
Let’s do something affirmative and positive instead. That’s why I have begun a new initiative.
The Global Coalition of Indigenous Peoples United with Israel comes down to a simple truth. That the genuine indigenous people in the ancient Land of Israel were the Jewish people.
We are gathering together peoples of differing cultures and ethnicities and when we achieve a global brotherhood and sisterhood on all continents we will hold the 1st International Convention of Indigenous Peoples in Jerusalem.
The outreach of indigenous people with the Jewish people will result in a unity in which the helping hand of the Jewish nation will reach into communities in need as Israel reaches into distant communities today with its innovation and assistance.
Love begets love as indigenous people everywhere recognize the Jewish people as the original people in the ancient Land of Israel.
Barry Shaw is the Senior Associate for Public Diplomacy at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.
He is the author of ‘Fighting Hamas, BDS, and Anti-Semitism’ and BDS for IDIOTS.’ Both available on Amazon.