RESPECTFUL SOLIDARITY: Standing Together Against Colonialism, on Colonized Lands

A collaborative piece between myself and Tameem Shaltoni a kiwi Palestinian, born in Jordan to a family of Palestinian Arab refugees.

In this reflective piece, edited by our respective Palestinian, Tangata Whenua and activist communities, Tameem and I consider what respectful solidarity with the Palestinian nation looks like within the context of Aotearoa.

Nau mai ra e Hina
Taiahoahotia tō tātou ara i te pō
Nau mai ra e Tāne-te-wānanga
Arahina mai i a mātou ki te ao mārama
Nau mai ra e Rongo
Kia tau mai te māramatanga
Kia tau ai te āio
Kia toi te kupu
Kia toi te mana
Kia toitū te whenua taketake huri noa i te ao
Whakairia ake ki runga kia tina, tina
Hui e, taiki e.

As we watch the acts of solidarity take place around the country, we note, respect and deeply appreciate the aroha and concern shown by so many in Aotearoa. Every week, more and more New Zealanders, across more communities, are coming together to decry the atrocities visited against Palestine. In the tens of thousands, New Zealanders are showing up to call for an end to the collective punishment, the indiscriminate killing, the unjust occupation, and to rightfully name these acts for what they are: crimes against humanity. To know that these crimes are seen, and that so many will not stand for them, but will take a stand against them, offers a sense of hope in humanity, during very dark times.

While Aotearoa has had shining moments in its history where it has stood against injustice – the Springbok tours, the nuclear free protests, and more recently Ihumātao and Black Lives Matter, we also recognise that for many, resistance and solidarity may be new. Across multiple cultures and communities in Aotearoa, the numbers of those who stand with Palestine are growing. With this growth comes complexity, and the ever present need to respect each other, while centering those most impacted and amplifying their voices. Questions arise on how to stand in solidarity in a way that is impactful, whilst also being respectful, and how to express our outrage without compounding the problem, or perpetuating colonial harm.

We offer these reflections not as a set of rules, but as observations based on our experiences, and that of our relative communities.

Cultural and religious diversity

Palestine’s history is rich, and it has one of the oldest human civilisations in the world. In Palestinian culture, elders have an anchor role at gatherings and events, and a special honour and respect are paid to them. Being situated at the middle of the old world, at the crossroad of trade routes and at the frontiers of ancient empires. Palestinians today as are culturally linguistically and religiously diverse, and it is important that solidarity organisers reflect this diversity in their events and showcase different Palestinian cultural and religious identities when applicable. Not all Palestinians are Muslim, Sunni, and Arabic-speakers (specially here in Aotearoa New Zealand). Reflecting on Palestinians’ cultural diversity, organisers are encouraged to maintain an atmosphere of inclusiveness of all cultures and religions.

Political views and affiliation
Palestinians, like any other nation, have varying political views internally (internal Palestinian politics) and abroad (New Zealand politics). Not all Palestinians are either conservative or progressive. Not all Palestinians agree on the best way forward, e.g. two-state solution vs one-state, party politics, forms of resistance, approach for liberation, and constitution.

Organisers and speakers are encouraged to consider cross-party support, to unite attendees around the event’s particular objectives, and to ensure events are inclusive of people with differing political positions.

Privacy and security
Palestinians are one of most surveillanced people on earth through the use of advanced spying technologies by Israel through its complex security apparatus. Israel leverages Palestinians’ private information to blackmail them, prevent them from visiting home, and to oppress their whānau in Palestine. Therefore it is paramount that every effort is taken to protect the privacy of Palestinian attendees, speakers, and organisers, and not to share their photos or any identifiable information without consent.

Flags, chants, and speeches
As the solidarity events are focused on Palestine, flags, chants and speeches should be aligned with the event’s kaupapa and pre-agreed with the local Palestinian community leaders. Material that is deemed offensive or detractor as flagged by a consensus of Palestinian attendees should be removed.

Other struggles
While each anti-colonial struggle is unique, the Palestinian struggle shares characteristics with many other anti-colonial struggles across the world and here in Aotearoa New Zealand. A close look at the powers that maintain Israel’s colonisation of Palestine shows that they are the same powers that enabled colonisation across the world and that makes all anti-colonial struggles interconnected. Solidarity with Palestine cannot be a utility in other people’s oppression or a bystander to it. We build bridges between Palestinians’ struggle and other people’s to free us all.

Respect and acknowledge Tangata Whenua
As we stand and live on Māori land, we respect and acknowledge tangata whenua and mana whenua where we gather. Palestinians’ freedom and self determination also are not complete without that of Māori, as global colonial powers are one. In the next section, Tina Ngata illustrates how Palestine solidarity respects tangata whenua.

Closing prayers for solidarity rally in Heretaunga (Hastings)

Tina Ngata
Tangata Whenua Solidarity with Palestine

Our solidarity with Palestine is informed by our own experience of colonization. In interviews of ethnic whānau for Ki Te Wheiao Ki Te Ao Mārama, they recognised in powerful terms that the racism they experience and the barriers they encounter are inextricably linked to Aotearoa-New Zealand being a colonised country. Those subjected to colonialism recognise it well, and this is a mutual relationship – as Māori we also recognise the experience of Palestine as one of colonial violence, from 1948 until now.

Our stand with Palestine is therefore one we make from one Indigenous people to another. Generations of Māori resistance throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90s have been inspired by Palestine, and we continue to stand by them as a nation with full human rights including political self-determination. Today we use the ability to stand on our own lands, and draw upon the strength from our own intergenerational struggle against colonialism to send aroha and strength to our Palestinian brothers and sisters, and challenge all governments to recognise and respond to this injustice.

The Indigenous movement is worldwide, because colonialism has also been a global project (one which arguably started in Palestine), and we know full well that while colonialism remains in force around the world, its dark threat will also hang over our own heads. Permitting colonialism here in Aotearoa allows for it in Palestine, and permitting it in Palestine allows for it here. For this reason, we call for colonialism to end, everywhere. For this same reason, solidarity against colonialism must be something we do within our resistance actions, not just with our resistance calls.

Solidarity action from Te Whare Tū Taua o Aotearoa full clip HERE

Respecting Māori Expressions of Solidarity
Māori-Palestinian solidarity is not just out of a sense of self-preservation, but a deep understanding of the injustice, and intergenerational mamae (pain and grief) caused by colonial violence, by our ability to remember what our ancestors were subjected to at the height of colonial violence, and the horror of seeing it happen again, today, that Māori stand. It is from our core tikanga of aroha-ki-te-tangata that we stand beside our Palestinian whānau. Our haka, our waiata, our karakia, are all spiritual and cultural calls for protection and resilience. When we open a rally with a karakia, we gather the strength of the lands, waters and ancestors of the place where we stand on that day, and focus it upon the purpose of those in attendance. It is the most appropriate way, most respectful way, and most powerful way to open a space for resistance and solidarity upon colonized lands, for colonized lands.

Anti-colonialism Within Colonized Lands
Understanding that Israeli oppression of Palestine is colonialism is imperative to conducting respectful solidarity for Palestine in Aotearoa. In the same way that Māori connect to Palestine as a nation subjected to colonialism, all acts of Palestinian solidarity in Aotearoa exist within a context of being on colonised lands. One of the common traps allies fall into is the need to be the one to “fix” injustice which, while noble, is borne of a combination of privilege and saviourism. Solidarity is not about “fixing” injustice on behalf of others, it is about centering those most impacted, and being present with them. This may look like:

● Checking in on what their needs are
● Amplifying their voices
● Echoing their calls
● Using your relative privilege to remove barriers that they have identified
● Standing beside them and offering protection when they are at risk
● Providing resource or supporting them to acquire necessary resource
● Getting out of their way

Be conscious of privilege
We’ve seen this happen over and over again, particularly in the climate movement. In Canada, for instance, white Extinction Rebellion protestors became provocateurs during protests, taking over megaphones and provoking the crowd towards anger in a way that resulted in violent clashes with police, and arrests. Without fail, when this happens, it is non-white people who are targeted, profiled by police and media, arrested, and carry the brunt of the consequences. Carrying out these actions with respect means understanding your relative privilege, and protecting those who will inevitably have to carry the consequences of your actions. This is a growing concern where particular NGOs/resistance groups take on names that incorporate Te Reo Māori – but the group itself is not Māori. Carrying our reo with responsibility in these spaces means being transparent in your identity and conducting yourself in a way that does not lead to Māori being targeted for your actions.

Organisers – engage mana whenua
One of the very basic ABCs that is often missed (and that belies just how far we have to go as a nation in our own decolonial journey) is that people rarely contact the mana whenua of the place where they intend to carry out an action. In my experience, they rarely even know who the mana whenua is, because they’ve not ever had to engage with them (and one can therefore deduce that they have never stood in solidarity with them). When I say mana whenua, I do not mean tangata whenua (which refers to all Maori). I mean the specific iwi and/or hapū upon whose land you are standing. Those who have to maintain relationships after you are gone, those whose land may be vandalised, those who will be left behind and potentially targeted after the action is finished. They may not see the need to be there, but they can certainly be paid the respect of being advised. This will also enable your stand against colonial racism to be localised, and longstanding.

As leading Anti-racist and Pro-Palestinian stalwart Angela Davis says: Racism is a global phenomenon, which only a global movement can eradicate. This means confronting it in Palestine, in Aotearoa, in our own communities, and confronting it in ourselves. Through listening to and centering Palestinian voices and interests, and practising mindfulness of the colonial context within which we express our solidarity, we can galvanise our united efforts for a world free of colonial violence.

Islamophobia, Indigephobia, and Palestine.

Featured image: Palestinian Youth Aotearoa hold a cultural evening in Aotea Square, Tāmaki Makaurau, where they ‘built Gaza’. Photo: John Miller.

CW: The following includes references to genocide, extreme violence and Islamophobic violence including the Christchurch terrorist attacks.

If you have been to any of my workshops on the Doctrine of Discovery, you’ll know that I focus very deliberately on the text of the papal bull Dum Diversas, and talk about the collection of papal bulls as representing a point in history where a particular form of racism (ie white european supremacy) became codified as the basis for international law, and paved the way for white european supremacy to become an organising principle of the planet. I start the story here because it is a point in time where so many different factors around race, religion, economy and power converge. Understanding this period helps for us to understand how the world economy and global power structure grew around Europe’s presumed entitlement to Indigenous lands and bodies, first in Africa, and then around the world. It helps us to understand the historical (and enduring) connections between colonial economies of stolen land and colonial economies of enslavement, which underpin the global economy today. It helps us to understand how political economies grew around philosophies of empire, leading to global corporatocracies play-acting as democracies.

The Papal Bull Dum Diversas

But there is a pro-logue to this story, inferred by the text of Dum Diversas, which gave the following entitlements to King Afonso of Portugal:

“to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed”

Dum Diversas

Saracens was the word utilised at the time for Muslim groups – pagans were any groups that were not Christian, and was usually applied to native populations, and just to make it really clear, all of us were deemed “enemies of Christ”. Islam and Indigenous peoples have been the dual-targets of the colonial project since it started. This crusade logic, with all its entitlements, was then extended to the “New World”, that is, everywhere else that was “discovered” (invaded) by European explorers, including Aotearoa.

The Christian belief in “just wars” with divine mandates was manifest in crusade bulls, which declared the wars against Muslims in the “Holy Land” to be ordained by God.

If we, Indigenous peoples, are not conscious to this relationship, rooted in the crusades of the 11th-13th centuries, then white supremacists certainly are. The 2019 Christchurch terrorist specifically asked “What would Pope Urban II do?” in his manifesto, published online as he left to carry out his massacre of Muslim worshippers, with further crusade references daubed in white paint on his weapons (Pope Urban II is credited as the instigator of the crusades). His manifesto also went on to claim Aotearoa as “white man’s land”, and laid out hopes that his extremism would initiate a level of social disorder which would hasten the establishment of a white-supremacist state. Tarrant was a follower of Anders Brevik, the white supremacist who went on a murdering spree in Norway, who also fashioned himself as a crusader. The white supremacist chant “Deus Vult” or “God Wills It” is a direct lift from the Clermont speech of Pope Urban II which initiated the first of the Crusades. In the US, numerous white supremacist terrorists have made reference to the crusades, as a justification to violence not only against Muslim groups, but all non-white, non-European and non-Christian groups, including Jewish groups. It’s a sad truth that the Zionist extremism of the Israeli government and their supporters leverages off a power system which is absolutely ready to exact Christian supremacist violence against Jewish communities (so long as its broader agenda against Muslim and Indigenous rights is fulfilled).

Nowhere has the intersection of Islamophobia and Indigephobia been more pronounced than in Palestine, where the nation-state of Israel (formed in 1948) has carried out a sustained, drawn out genocide in front of the world, committing war crimes and crimes against humanity on a regular basis with little to no formal consequence from the global community. These crimes include:

  • Massive seizures of land and property
  • Unlawful killings of civilians, including children
  • Infliction of serious injuries upon civilians, including children
  • Forcible transfers
  • Imposition of an apartheid regime through arbitrary restrictions on freedom of movement for Palestinians combined with denial of basic services to Palestinian communities.
  • Denial of nationality – this includes the stripping of citizenship for people who are even distantly related to Palestinian fighters.

For Māori who have learnt about our history – these experiences should ring familiar. The history of our darkest days under colonial oppression, the days of Rangiaowhia, of Rangiriri, the days of imprisonment on Rerekohu, the days of mass land theft under the Suppression of Rebellion Act – these are not historical relics for Palestinians, they are every day real occurrences.
Israeli war-crimes are not just restricted to this current conflict, they are a regular occurrence and have been for a long time in Palestine. That said, in just the first week following the Hamas attacks upon Israel, Israel responded with 18 acts that are considered, under international law, as war-crimes, crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity . Israel’s continued genocidal assault has included the bombing of a Greek Orthodox Christian Church (where displaced Palestinians were sheltering) and multiple hospitals.

Palestinians inspect the site of the Greek Orthodox church, badly damaged following Israeli air strikes on Gaza City, October 19, 2023 [Abed Khaled/AP]
Original article:

In taking the brutal colonial history into consideration, however, it’s hard to escape the deduction that the Israeli government has simply taken this opportunity to press fast-forward on the colonial project that was already well underway.

The world’s colonial governments (and most vocally the US government) have not only looked on, but have supported the Israeli government with rhetoric bound in references to “shared values”. What is less-explicit in the rhetoric is that these shared values are the values of colonial entitlement to occupy, state violence against Indigenous groups, the legitimising of genocide and the colonial compulsion to restrict where Indigenous peoples can exist. So prolific is the expertise of the Israeli Defence Forces in colonial police violence against Indigenous groups, that colonial states from around the world have sent their forces to the IDF for training in the matter. Mexico received IDF training for their police forces in order to suppress the Zapatista movement, after concerns about Indigenous resistance in Chiapas were raised by the American Chase-Manhattan Bank as a part of negotiations for the North American Free Trade Agreement. Israel has provided helicopters, missile boats and weapons to Mexico for the specific purpose of Indigenous oppression. Israel further provided arms, training, and strategic to the Guatemalan and El Salvadorian governments in their scorched-earth policies against Indigenous groups – Israel is the “go-to” state for anti-Indigenous oppression, specifically because of their longstanding practices in oppressing and displacing Palestinian peoples.

Our own NZ Prime Ministers have held longstanding alliances with Zionists in Aotearoa which maintain political influence today. Numerous calls for New Zealand to recognise Palestinian rights and condemn the violent Israeli apartheid regime have been countered by New Zealand’s Zionist community, which is a very small but very vocal group with overlaps to the NZ alt-right community through the Free Speech Union and Tax Payers Union, and is more concerned with far-right politics than representing Jewish interests in New Zealand. As vocal as they are, they are certainly not representative of the broader New Zealand Jewish community, which includes many pro-Palestinian and Indigenous rights advocates. The Zionists have nevertheless managed to leverage off a long history of Zionist political activity in New Zealand. Palestinian communities in Aotearoa (like all Middle-East, African and Muslim communities) continue to experience racism and live at disproportionate levels of risk due to the New Zealand government’s inability to address white supremacy here (and it will continue to be ineffective in addressing white supremacy here, because the New Zealand government is founded upon it, and has still not reckoned with that fact).

The NZ Zionist Alliance source:

The New Zealand government explicitly supported the establishment of the nation-state of Israel through the 1947 UN partition resolution, has never officially recognised Palestinian sovereignty, and to date has only explicitly named Hamas in its condemnation of violence, in spite of Israel’s continued violence against innocent Palestinian civilians which far outweighs that of Hamas against Israel. New Zealand’s domestic Zionist political activity aside, the New Zealand government position (in which only the Green Party and Te Paati Māori have explicitly condemned the Israeli war-crimes) is undoubtedly influenced by its political-economic alliances with the US, UK, Australia and Canada, all of which operate upon a backdrop of colonial imperialism.

We may be on opposite sides of the planet from Palestine, but it would be foolish to think that this conflict has nothing to do with us. For over 500 years, the destinies of Muslim and Indigenous peoples around the world have been intertwined through the logic of crusades, which is manifest in the Israeli government’s colonial oppression of Palestinian peoples. The lands and people of Palestine have been subjected to colonial violence either as Muslim, or as Indigenous peoples, for nearly 1000 years. The Israeli occupation of Palestine and oppression of Palestinian peoples is racist, imperialist, Islamophobic and Indigephobic. The oppression of Palestinian communities is borne of the same logic that oppresses Māori, and all Indigenous peoples, and their liberation is very much connected to the liberation of Indigenous peoples everywhere.

From the river, to the sea, Palestine must be free.

From Palestine to Aotearoa, Tino Rangatiratanga


(Feaured image: Image: Palestine march, Tāmaki Makaurau. Photo: (with permission) billiebird_was_here

For the past two weeks we’ve watched in horror as Israel commits genocide against Palestinians, airstrikes killing over 4,500 including at least 1,873 children, and reducing entire neighbourhoods to rubble. Israel cut off food, water, and electricity to the region, and issued an evacuation order to 1 million people in the North, but proceeded to bombard Gaza indiscriminately.

Of course these are not the first war crimes committed by the state of Israel against Palestinians. Israel was founded in 1948 through events described by Palestinians as the Nakba – the ‘catastrophe’, what we might call a pāhua.

Two weeks ago, despite the overwhelming military superiority of the Israel Occupation Forces, Palestinian militants evaded Israeli intelligence, breaking the blockade and re-entering territory occupied by Israel for the first time since the Nakba 75 years ago. 1,200 Israeli soldiers and civilians were killed.

Since the 7th of October, Western leaders have ramped up reckless rhetoric, in an attempt to justify the collective punishment of all Palestinian people. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated his genocidal intentions openly: to reduce Gaza to rubble. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said, “We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly.”

US President Joe Biden condemned Hamas as a ‘terrorist’ organisation, and affirmed “Israel’s right to defend itself”. Here in New Zealand, in the lead up to our general election, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins’ and Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s reiterated Biden’s statements.

The only political candidate to speak strongly against these atrocities ahead of the election was Te Pati Māori’s Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, who stated, “We cannot be in denial and can’t expect peace while one extremely powerful force has, for the last 80 plus years, been colonising and blocking another who hasn’t been able to live… We cannot judge this in isolation… our role as Te Pāti Māori is understanding the bigger picture and what has been happening here in the last 80 years and the absolute genocide that has been going on that everyone pretends hasn’t.”

Since the election, we’ve watched the social media accounts of our politicians as they gleefully take their place in parliament, while remaining silent on the unfolding atrocities. Many of us campaigned to get our people out to vote for ‘progressive’ parties. And yet, despite thousands here taking to the streets in support of Palestine and to oppose Israel’s war crimes, it took Labour 10 days to announce a $5 million package to address humanitarian needs ‘in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank’ (emphasis added), and 11 days for Te Pati Māori and the Greens to break their social media silence, during which time 3,500 Palestinians were killed.

The statements issued by all of our political parties have condemned the actions of Hamas, implicitly or explicitly reaffirming the right of Israel to ‘defend itself’. Extreme acts of violence were committed by Hamas. Of this there is no doubt. But what right does Israel have to claim victimhood when there are libraries of accumulated evidence of Israel’s ongoing war crimes? What right do the guards of a concentration camp have to ‘defend’ themselves? And what right does any Western leader have to condemn the tactics of a people whose oppression the West is responsible for? The answer to these questions is: no right whatsoever.

The rallies held across Aotearoa in support of Palestinian liberation over the past two weeks have attracted little to no attention from our mainstream media, who have instead continued to reproduce Washington/Tel Aviv talking points and platformed pro-apartheid, pro-ethnic cleansing groups in the interests of presenting a ‘balanced story’. Not since Operation 8 have we felt such widespread rage at the media establishment, so blatantly presenting false narratives to condemn an Indigenous resistance movement as terrorists.

We must continue to expose Israel’s atrocities, to cut through mainstream media propaganda. We must mobilise and build power outside of parliament. We must demand the end to Israel’s illegal occupation, and be part of the international movement for the liberation of Palestine.

While the siegebreakers have been accused of causing an escalation in violence, in reality they have challenged the West to account for our complicity in the oppression of Palestinian people. As Western leaders double-down on their support for Israel despite the mass movement in support of Palestinian liberation, the siegebreakers have shattered whatever’s left of the illusion of Western democracy. They have destroyed any remaining legitimacy of the so-called ‘international rules based order’, and in doing so the siegebreakers have broadened the horizon of political possibility towards decolonisation for us all.

Racism and White People

One of the easiest traps for us to fall into when examining how racism operates, is the trap that racism = white people.

It’s an easy trap to fall into, because if you understand white supremacy as the dominant form of racism around the planet (by virtue of the European imperialism of the past few centuries) then it can sometimes lead to the mistaken belief that all white people are racist, by virtue of being white. The assumption in that belief is that racism is a character trait – and in falling for that, we miss the point that racism is a social force, a system that surrounds all of us.

The idea that personal characteristics are genetically determined alongside skin colour is the basis of racist hierarchies, and taking the position that all white people are racist because they’re white only reinforces the idea of racial hierarchies, rather than dismantling it.

So rather than seeing all white people as racist because they are white, we need to understand that the racist system operates through people with white skin in very specific ways. When the way you look, speak, act and perceive the world around you is normalised and validated by the society you live in, you are more likely to have blindspots towards your own racist ideas and actions. Your journey to becoming anti-racist will be very specific.

If you look, speak, act, and perceive the world around you in a way that is NOT European, then your anti-racist journey is different again, and that is not to say that you do not have one to take, but it will be different.

Racism is a social force that surrounds us, and that nobody (myself included) escapes. The worst thing you can do is try to give yourself a pass, or ignore its presence and impact on your world – it thrives in the dark, and if you are not white, but only ever focus on white people as vessels of racism, then you will miss the very important point that racist ideologies operate through non-white people every day.

Importantly, if you believe that white people can only ever be racist, because they are white, this logic also suggests that there is NO POINT to white people undertaking anti-racist education because they can never be anti-racist while being white. You are, in effect, condemning us all to permanent racism and ruling out the hopes of an anti-racist future.

Similarly, for white people reading this, it’s important to not perceive the caution non-white people may have towards you as being about your genetic composition. It shouldn’t be, and it might be, but that is not the important point.

The important point is that white supremacy, as a social force, generally guides white people away from critical self-reflection, and consequently white people are less likely to have done the hard work on themselves to understand, and counter, how white supremacy flows through them. White supremacist programming surrounds us from the moment we are born, and in this country – that is not countered by equal access to anti-racist education, or anti-racist media – in fact quite the opposite, attempts to make anti-racist education and media available are generally attacked and strictly regulated- so why would anyone automatically assume that you have, as a white person, undertaken anti-racist de-programming? It is in fact a much more rational, logical conclusion that the average white person in front of me has not done that work than to assume that they have.

Furthermore, if you have done inner work on becoming anti-racist – then you will not respond to rational non-white caution by hotly declaring “not all white people”. The irony is, that while it may not be every single white person, it is most certainly the white person that feels compelled to declare that.

So how would I know that you have done that work? Here are a few of the indicators, for me:

  • You will know how to decenter yourself
  • You won’t feel the need to present yourself as the white-hat protagonist
  • You will comfortably perceive the situation as a consequence of the system we live in rather than the fault of the people in front of you
  • You will be aware that this same system creates far worse consequences than white discomfort, and its these consequences which you are more committed to addressing
  • You are ok with antiracist language (including terms like whiteness, colonialism, racism)
  • You don’t feel entitled to immediate trust
  • You will be comfortable in letting your anti-racist actions, your humility, and your demonstrated willingness to learn better and do better, be the basis of trust-making rather than simply asserting yourself.

So no, white people are not automatically racist by virtue of being white – but rather, all people live in a racist system, and that operates through white people in specific ways, and through non-white people in specific ways, and the sooner we move away from focusing on racism as a character flaw rather than a social force, the closer we will all be to an anti-racist future.

What David Seymour Teaches Us

A few days ago, David Seymour made a comment that was chilling for a number of reasons.  

Seymour has long stated his intention to abolish the Ministry of Pacific Peoples, alongside the Ministry for Māori Development, the Ministry for Women, the Ministry for Ethnic Communities and the Human Rights Commission – and in an interview when asked further about getting rid of the Minisry of Pacific Peoples, he stated that he fantasized about “sending a guy called Guy Fawkes in there and it would be all over”.

Firstly, we need to acknowledge the harm this speech ALREADY visits upon Pasifika peoples. David Seymour has no other plan to look after the interests of those who are often forced here by economic colonialism, including colonialism BY the New Zealand government, only to arrive here to a system that visits racist harm against them every day – because he doesn’t care. He simply wants the ministry removed. Moreover, his preferred method of removal is by bombing. If you know the history (and enduring reality) of bombs in the Pacific, then you should appreciate how deeply offensive and hurtful these words already are.

When pressed on the matter, Seymour stated that it was “just a joke” and tried to direct attention elsewhere. In fact, it’s vitally important we do exactly the opposite of that. We need to dwell on, and examine what David Seymour said, because it provides us with a number of important lessons.

The first lesson for us is the lesson of harmful humour. Bigoted bullies will often try to dismiss their harm by saying “it’s a joke”. Calling it a joke does not make it any less white-supremacist. What it does, is point to the fact that in David Seymour’s mind, violence against Pacific peoples is so normalised, that he can make a joke out of it. Now that is chilling enough in and of itself, from any person – but he’s not any person is he. He is a politician, a leader of a political party, with a significant platform and the means and opportunities to advance that normalized violence into policy and legislation. 

What’s worse, is that David Seymour has a demonstrated capacity to abuse his power and break rules to get what he wants. We saw this when he took it upon himself to leak the code designed to provide vaccine equity for Māori and Pasifika. This is so important – he did not LOBBY against it, as politicians have the ability to do. He did not use his political status to work within the system. He took matters into his own hands, and BROKE the code by leaking it online. While we are used to seeing politicians saying and lobbying for harmful, racist policies and laws, this was in a different realm altogether. When someone is willing to step outside of the system and abuse their power to visit population-level harm against particular groups – we need to be very, very concerned about what they will do when they have even more power.

Here we have two very chilling demonstrations of David Seymour’s lack of regard for marginalized groups. It doesn’t stop there, though. Remember, he has also advocated to shut down the Human Rights Commission, as well as the Ministries for Māori Development, Women, and Ethnic Communities. Again, he has not provided any plan for how these interests will be protected, he simply wants them gone, presumably because they are in his way.

So let’s summarize: Here, we have a senior politician who has normalized violence against Māori and Pasifika, and has a demonstrated capacity to abuse power and break rules to place Māori and Pasifika at direct risk, and has an expressed intent to eliminate the NZ human rights watchdog and Ministries there to support Māori, Pasifika, Ethnic Communities and Women. I really don’t know how much more proof people need that he is advancing a misogynist, white supremacist agenda, when it’s clear who he wants out of the scene.

But the final, important lesson for us here is, ironically, David Seymour’s whakapapa. Because this senior politician IS a mokopuna Māori, and in that, we have a valuable lesson on how white supremacy is a SYSTEM that can operate through anyone, and in fact, that is its long term aim. As numerous scholars of racism and colonialism have contested – the end-goal of white supremacy is that it is self-perpetuating, and requires minimal effort BY white supremacists to uphold their privelege and power. To meet these ends, they need non-white people to believe the hate, to partake in the hate, and to operationalise the hate towards non-white people. If David Seymour, as a mokopuna Māori, can exhibit white supremacist genocidal intent towards Māori and Pasifika, then all of us (Māori, pākehā, tauiwi too) need to explore how white supremacy flows through us, and that is probably the most valuable lesson for us all to take from this.

Landback and Political Reform – The Base Standards of Tiriti Justice

One of the important points I always try to impress upon people, is that racism is an economic project. It has always been, from the very beginning, about extraction of labour, resources, and land from non-white people. The idea that one group has a right to claim domination over another – based upon supremacy of genes, skin colour, ethnicity or similar characteristics – was not a mere intellectual exercise, it existed to justify the taking of land, resources and people. It was this same racist premise of the right to dominate that underpins the establishment of colonial governments, which was necessary in order to protect their ill-gotten privilege and maintain their ownership of what was stolen. In 1944-45, these same governments then established the Bretton-Woods system (today consisting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF); International Finance Corporation (IFC); Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA); The World Bank; and the The World Trade Organization (WTO)), and they have done their job very effectively – with a few exceptions, wealth has largely been retained exclusively by European nations, and those they have colonized – and within the colonized nations, it is largely retained by European settlers.

Ethnic wealth disparity in USA

Ethnic wealth disparity in Aotearoa

It’s these economic underpinnings of racism, combined with the fact that most nations are now run through a form of “market democracy” dominated by economic interests, which makes racism very difficult to effectively unpick – the nations and ethnicities who stand to materially lose the most from an anti-racist future, are the nations that hold the bulk of power to effect that change. If you want to learn more about how corporations exploit market democracy to purchase power and influence, I’d recommend this paper by Daniel Nyberg on CPA (Corporate Political Activity) as a form of political corruption.

In Aotearoa – what this means is that the government who established itself as a means to grabbing power over land and resources – has managed to protect its privilege by writing the laws and legislation about how we will be governed, how we will interact with the global economy, how land will be managed, developed, and transferred.

It is these laws over the land, over the resources and minerals held in the belly of that land, the laws over the waters that nourish our land, and the waters that surround our land, and the seabed beneath those waters – which prop up the New Zealand economy, and therefore also prop up those who benefit the most from the New Zealand economy. It’s been argued by many that the laws and legislation which continue to oppress Māori in the justice, welfare, health and education sector also function to “contain” us so that the colonial exploitation of our lands and waters can continue with minimal interference.

The landtheft that looks like this:

Is directly related to this:

Which is, in turn related to Māori dominating the statistics in housing-related illness. This of course means that “fixing Māori health” (or indeed most other issues relating to Māori) must also necessarily include economic justice, and political justice, particularly over Māori land. Tiriti justice cannot happen in silos, it must take place from the very top, and must be across all-of-government.

Which is a problem, because we are in effect waiting for the fox to voluntarily give the henhouse back.

The implications of a political-economic system built upon colonial racism are multiple, (and they all require action):

1Market democracy and corporate interests will continue to rule supreme over planetary and Indigenous rightsWe need to re-envision a new approach to politics that centers Te Tiriti and doesn’t see-saw advancements every 4-8 years because of a change in party.
2Colonial empathy runs out at (or well before) material sacrifice or political reform and it will do everything in its power to evade a full reckoning with its own malfeasance (huge timewaster)Prioritise anti-racist/Indigenous critical analysis training so that we can identify and shut down colonial rhetorical tools used to evade these bottomlines
3Colonial racism against Indigenous peoples is the last form of racism to be addressedBe uncompromising on the standards of economic justice – landback, reparation, economic reform, restorative investment – make these the BASE standards of anti-racist progress and highlight every instance where these standards are failed
4Colonial governments, with their in-built blinders towards white supremacy (and certainly their own white supremacy) are ineffective at protecting Indigenous defenders from white supremacist violenceAs much as we like to tell governments and white people that racism is theirs to solve, we cannot leave it up to them. They are not inclined to see it, or cannot see it, or even when they do see it, have normalised it and are thus not inclined to do anything about it. We have to get involved
5Colonial racism will rely upon its global colonial allies/system to prop itself upContinue to challenge transnational institutions and whatever righteousness they believe they have, through Indigenous and other global alliances

If you have not yet read Matike Mai Aotearoa: HERE. Download it and read it today.

When we take all of this into consideration its quite unsurprising that the “Stop Co-governance” roadshow was initiated by a property dispute between an old, white male evangelist who decided he would use his considerable privilege to reframe Tiriti justice progress as a “Māori takeover”. When you are used to extreme privilege, you see, anything less than that feels like oppression.

Here’s the irony though – while we are hearing time and time again (even from our own government) that “co-governance is nothing to be afraid of”, the same government is also refusing to acknowledge that the current proposals of “co-governance” fall well short of Tiriti justice, and also lacks the courage and temerity to step into the overdue discussion of a Tiriti-centered constitution for Aotearoa.

Noam Chomsky once said:

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum….”

And that is exactly what is being done in the realm of political reform in Aotearoa.

The debate of “To co-govern or not co-govern” is eclipsing the point that co-governance is not necessarily a Tiriti standard. This has already been deliberated over by the Crown appointed judicial body on the matter, after hearing years of evidence from all angles, including qualified experts (not social media opinion-erts). The conclusion was: Māori never ceded sovereignty. They agreed, in 1840, to allow for a governor to maintain control over settlers – this did not extend to land-rights, it did not extend to ultimate political authority, even shared, or even with guaranteed Māori influence within that ultimate authority.

From Te Paparahi o Te Raki Stage 2 Report pg: xxxiv

What was envisioned in the signing was that Māori would retain ultimate authority over our lands, waters, people and treasured matters (including our cultural expressions and language). If you read Matike Mai Aotearoa, it’s also recognised that there will need to be some areas where we convene with the Crown to navigate shared interests – but that is a far cry from the models of “co-governance” currently being promoted by the Crown.

Colonial oppressors have responded to Indigenous rights advancements in two ways:

  1. They have ramped up threats, harassment and fear based propoganda towards Indigenous rights defenders, which has crossed over into real-life harassment and violence (relying upon the racist bias of government systems to allow them to do so with impunity)
  2. They have become more sophisticated at co-opting our terms and concepts for their own ends, limiting the parameters of the debate, making justice appear unreasonable and derailing our pathway towards an anti-racist, just Aotearoa

While many have pinned their hopes on the date of 2040 for political reform – I fear we don’t have that much time up our sleeve. Here and overseas we are seeing supremacist violence gather speed and support in both online and offline spaces. We are unravelling as a society, at a critical time in our history when we most need to come together for the future of our planet and humankind.

It’s imperative that we educate ourselves broadly on Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and reject the racist and completely false fear-based rhetoric surrounding Tiriti justice – both from the likes of Batchelor and from our own government. It’s imperative that we familiarise ourselves with Matike Mai Aotearoa and embrace the promise that political reform will bring our nation – not in 2040, not in 2030, but now.

Guest Blog – How to Spot a Nazi

By Arama Rata

Last month, a dozen white boys saluted Hitler while marching the streets of Melbourne. A week later, a highly-organised, well-financed group, who believe themselves a holy nation within a nation and plan to install their leader as the head of a new religious order, gathered in their hundreds in the middle of Auckland. The term ‘Nazi’ or ‘Fascist’ was used by mainstream media in relation to only one of these groups. With Far Right extremism on the rise, Arama Rata draws on the work anti-fascist intellectuals to dispel common misconceptions, and provide tools to identify and fight fascism.

In recent decades, colloquial usage of the terms ‘Nazi’ and ‘fascist’ has become common and imprecise. Anyone considered bossy or even obstinate could have these labels hurled at them. Indeed, as online vitriol escalated in the mid-1990s, ‘Godwin’s Law’ was created to describe how as online arguments persist – whether it is feminism at issue, school parking etiquette, or My Little Pony canon – the probability that someone will be compared to Hitler approaches certainty.

At the same time, openly fascist movements operating today may avoid recognition as such, because those using the term fascist precisely often work from definitions focused on the specific ideology and aesthetic of movements that arose in Italy and Germany in the interwar period, when the term fascism was first coined. According to such definitions, fascism and Nazism are synonymous with anti-Semitism, white supremacy, nationalism and authoritarianism, and with symbols such as the black sun, rising sun, and swastika. Without minimising the abhorrence of these ideologies and symbols, this limited conception of fascism misses the point entirely when it comes to identifying the forces that give rise to fascism, and its larger objectives.

Why do fascist movements arise?
The rise of fascism is often attributed to hateful Far Right ideologies that spread through social networks, without due consideration given to the political-economic factors that produce fascism. George Jackson astutely identified the core attributes of fascism as its ‘capitalist orientation’ and reactionary agenda. During times of economic crises, people lose faith in the economic system and seek the radical redistribution of wealth and power. Socialists seek the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, and push for the collective ownership of property and resources. Fascists, on the other hand, seek to re-entrench exploitative, capitalist social relations, but with themselves at the top, through more violent forms of class repression.

The class composition of fascist movements, along with their populist, ‘anti-elite’ rhetoric can conceal the pro-capital agenda of fascism. Fascism serves the interests of capital, in that it is a Far Right reactionary movement against the socialist alternative, that re-entrenches capitalist social relations. Yet membership of fascist movements tends to comprise, for the most part, lower-middle class people (such as small business owners), as well as the ‘unclassed’ (e.g. long-term unemployed people, and those living in extreme poverty). The lower-middle class are attracted to fascist movements as the small privileges offered to them under capitalism begin to slip away, and they seek the re-entrenchment of their relative privileges. The unclassed, on the other hand, suffer the worst impacts of economic recession. As their interests are not served by ruling elites, they are attracted to the ‘anti-Government’ and ‘anti-elite’ agenda of Far Right movements. Their relative deprivation means they are also easily incentivised and enlisted to the front lines of fascist movements by those with more resources.

A core feature of fascism is para-state violence, which can take forms such as insurrections, pogroms, militias, and vigilantism. Contemporary Far Right violence will tend toward different forms depending on whether the ruling regime is viewed as advancing their Far Right agenda. Far Right violence will be predominantly ‘system-loyal’ (e.g. citizen-deputies) when they perceive their agenda can be advanced through state institutions, but will be predominantly insurrectionary (e.g. the January 6th storming of the US Capitol) when they perceive their agenda will not be advanced through state institutions.

Who is this para-state violence directed at? Despite ideologies that implicate shadowy elites in the downfall of society, Nazis and fascists tend to ‘punch down’. In addition to occasional insurrectionary violence, they scapegoat groups who are already the most marginalised and exploited. In this way fascist ideologies will flexibly adapt to a given context. In Nazi Germany, among those targeted were communists, Trans, Queer people, Jewish and Gypsie peoples. In the global north today, migrant, Muslim, Jewish, Indigenous, and Queer and Trans communities are among those targeted.

Nothing to see here
We may like the version of history that reassures us fascism arose in Europe and was defeated in WWII by the allies. In truth, however, as Hitler himself noted in Mein Kampf, the white-supremacist imperial project of Nazi Germany was directly ‘inspired’ by the racist statecraft and genocidal expansion of the US into native territories . Nazism was the violence of colonialism ‘coming home to roost’, as Aimé Césaire made clear. There was no need to establish new fascistic movements in the US, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand in the interwar period because, as J Sakai noted, “white settler-colonialism and fascism occupy the same ecological niche.”

How to spot a Nazi
To summarise, key identifying features of fascism (including Nazism) are that they:
● arise when capitalism is in crisis (e.g. during economic recession)
● are pro-capitalist (anti-worker, anti-socialist)
● are anti-elite (anti-bourgeois, anti-transnational capitalist class)
● tend to comprise the lower-middle class (or petite bourgeoisie, including small business owners) and the unclassed (or lumpenproletariat, e.g. long-term unemployed)
● ‘punch down’, seeking to re-entrench social hierarchies (along the lines, for example, of race, religion, nationality or migration status, gender, sexuality, ability, etc)
● engage in, or prepare for the use of para-state violence

Having a precise definition helps us understand and use the terms ‘Nazi’ and ‘fascist’ correctly. Focusing on fascism’s core features (i.e. that it is a pro-capitalist, anti-elite, reactionary movement that seeks to re-entrench social hierarchies through the use of para-state violence) avoids fixation on arbitrary features of its historical presentations. This helps us avoid using the term inappropriately when it doesn’t apply (e.g. to groups such as the Mongrel Mob whose symbology included the swastika from their founding as a youth gang ). It also helps us assess groups whose ideologies and symbology differ from those of Hitler and Mussolini, but who meet many or all of the criteria of fascism. For example, Destiny Church and Hindutva nationalists in New Zealand should be assessed against these criteria to determine whether these terms reasonably apply. As J Sakai highlights, the common misconception that only white racists can be fascists means that fascist forms based on “cooked up religious ideology” might walk right by, undetected.

Indigenous, Fascist
In recent decades, the class composition of Māori society has undergone significant changes. The working class has contracted with the emergence of a Māori middle class, and with many ‘unskilled’ jobs either being moved offshore, or being filled by temporary migrants who themselves are racialised and exploited. Changes in the way Māori self-identify have also occured, with the group label ‘Māori’ becoming more popular over time. These factors contribute to the diverse class politics evident in Māori society, as in all nations.

The presence of Far Right and fascist ideologies within Māori society is not, however, coincidental. Some of the policies and political rhetoric most harmful to racialised groups in recent decades has been pushed by Māori politicians such as Winston Peters, Paula Bennett, and David Seymour (to say nothing of the Destiny Church’s political wing, Vision NZ). Political parties may rely on their Māori members to push such agendas, on the assumption they will receive less criticism from anti-racists. Similarly, fascist groups often recruit members of communities they are hostile to, and put those individuals forward as spokespersons as ‘evidence’ of the fascist group’s inclusivity.

Finally, nationalism is concommittent with fascism. While the national liberation movements of colonised peoples do not typically take fascist forms, as J Sakai notes, “all nationalist movements have inherently both liberating and repressive possibilities.” Fascists may coopt the language of national liberation movements to recruit from among the oppressed. Anti-racist and Indigenous sovereignty movements must therefore vigilantly and strongly oppose Indigenous fascists.

Resisting fascism
If fascism is not opposed, it will continue to intensify as the economic recession deepens. Fascists’ anti-democratic agenda to further marginalise already exploited communities, coupled with their propensity for violence means they pose an unacceptable risk to society. So how can these movements be resisted?

Firstly, we must refuse to be drawn into debates on their terms. The Far Right do not enter into debate in good faith. Their ideologies uphold social hierarchies: they seek to re-entrench divisions between an oppressor class and the oppressed. When an oppressed group asserts their rights, the Far Right responds to those demands as an encroachment on their own ‘rights’ – in this way the Far Right presumes the ‘right’ to oppress others.

Far Right appeals to ‘rights’ and ‘free speech’ are insincere. They have no genuine interest in social justice, and these terms are deployed only to advance their anti-democratic agenda. By presenting conflict between oppressors and the oppressed as simply an issue of competing ‘interests’, debates with the Far Right only serve to normalise their ideologies, and to distract us from the point at which our focus must remain: on identifying and challenging unequal, exploitative power relationships.

Effective strategies to oppose fascism are those that: disrupt fascists’ attempts to recruit; that show solidarity and support for targetted communities; and that rehabilitate former members of fascist groups. Tactics to oppose fascism include: creating educational resources that identify fascist actors and organisations (such as those produced by Understanding NZ Far Right) ; no-platforming fascist speakers (often through social media campaigns and appeals to venue owners); doxing (i.e. publicly identifying individuals involved in fascist groups); disrupting financial operations (e.g. appealing to banks to close fascists’ accounts, or having their charity status revoked on the grounds of discrimination); and rehabilitating former members of fascist groups by providing social support.

Finally, to eliminate fascism, we must end the conditions that give rise to fascism. As noted earlier, the foundations of fascism in New Zealand include racial capitalism and settler-colonialism. These structures created antagonistic, unequal power relations that intensify during economic recessions. Broad-based coalitions to end these structures are required, and in the interim, there is urgent need for progressive social reform (including livable incomes for all; debt relief; social housing; and free healthcare that includes mental health, violence prevention, and addiction services).

As J Sakai observed, Nazism arose as, “a movement for failed men… failed not because of themselves, but because bourgeois society had failed them in a dishonorable way.” Humiliated, dislocated classes, “feel they have nowhere to turn to restore their status… except towards fascism.” To resist rising fascism we must provide for the needs of the people. For those desperate to escape poor prospects, becoming a Nazi must be the least attractive of a range of social and political options.

Arama Rata (Ngāruahine, Taranaki, Ngāti Maniapoto) is an independent researcher. Her current projects include WERO (Working to End Racial Oppression), and RIRI (Research to Interrupt Racism and (In)equity). She is steering committee member of Te Kuaka.

This is an edited version of a piece first published in the WERO blog.

The Vatican’s Repudiation is Not Enough

CONTENT WARNING: This blogpiece deals with sexual and physical assault of children.

In case you missed it, the Vatican thought it did a thing on Thursday. After an embarrassing confrontation with its own legacy in Canada, followed by a bungled interview that demonstrated the Pope clearly had no idea about the Doctrine of Discovery and its enduring role in rights abuses, and an admission that the Pope was “not briefed” for that interview, they evidently went away and did some homework, and then came back with a formal repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery.

The response to this move is mixed. To be fair, many Indigenous Peoples were asking the Pope to repudiate the Doctrine. Still, it falls well short of what the Vatican could and should do, however, for a couple of reasons.

First of those reasons, is that the Vatican were the ones that codified the racist harm in the first place. Repudiation is a moral rejection, but it does not hold the systemic force that a rescindment does. The set of papal laws, (most notably Dum Diversas, Romanus Pontifex, Inter Caetera, Eximiae Devotionis and Dudum siquidem) that constitute the Doctrine of Discovery as an international legal concept have never been conclusively rescinded, and the system they shaped continues to bear dark outcomes for Non-European, Non-Christian folks around the world to this day. What is required is systemic change, and that comes in the form of rescindment and reparation (we will talk more on the reparation soon). As Doctrine of Discovery scholar Steve Newcombe point out, the papal bulls must be ceremonially and formally revoked in order to systemically undercut the very basis of the arguments of domination which remain to be used against us to this day.

While repudiating such a repugnant set of laws is certainly something any reasonable person or institution can and should do – that’s also not really what the Vatican did.

Here are the first three paragraphs of the Vatican’s statement:

  1. In fidelity to the mandate received from Christ, the Catholic Church strives to promote universal fraternity and respect for the dignity of every human being.
  2. For this reason, in the course of history the Popes have condemned acts of violence, oppression, social injustice and slavery, including those committed against indigenous peoples. There have also been numerous examples of bishops, priests, women and men religious and lay faithful who gave their lives in defense of the dignity of those peoples.
  3. At the same time, respect for the facts of history demands an acknowledgement of the human weakness and failings of Christ’s disciples in every generation. Many Christians have committed evil acts against indigenous peoples for which recent Popes have asked forgiveness on numerous occasions.

As you can see, there is NO clear accountability here for the role the Vatican have played in this issue. There is, in paragraph 1 an assertion of what they strive to do, in paragraph 2 an assertion of all the good things the Popes and Catholic folks have done for Indigenous peoples (gee thanks?), and in paragraph 3 an acknowledgement that “many Christians” have committed evil acts.

The evasion of accountability isn’t really surprising, after all they’ve evaded it for 500 years or so, it’s just slightly more audacious that they’re still evading it even within their repudiation. Nobody is arguing that Christians haven’t committed evil acts before, we are all aware of that. There’s committing an evil act, and then there’s drafting laws which set in train mass human rights abuses around the world for hundreds of years including genocide, and leading to the planet becoming uninhabitable. It’s not the same, obviously, but we are barely a third of the way through the document, and already it’s not clear exactly what the Pope wants us to forgive him for, because according to them, this is all the fault of colonial governments and apparently equitable to what many other Christians do. For the highest Catholic authority, they’re pretty crud at confession.

It doesn’t stop there though – the statement then, in paragraph 6 goes all in on the “wasn’t me” vibe:

The “doctrine of discovery” is not part of the teaching of the Catholic Church. Historical research clearly demonstrates that the papal documents in question, written in a specific historical period and linked to political questions, have never been considered expressions of the Catholic faith. At the same time, the Church acknowledges that these papal bulls did not adequately reflect the equal dignity and rights of indigenous peoples. The Church is also aware that the contents of these documents were manipulated for political purposes by competing colonial powers in order to justify immoral acts against indigenous peoples that were carried out, at times, without opposition from ecclesiastical authorities. It is only just to recognize these errors, acknowledge the terrible effects of the assimilation policies and the pain experienced by indigenous peoples, and ask for pardon.

Hooooo poi. Ok let’s start with the obvious. The papal bulls WERE DELIVERED BY THE POPE. The “political question” posed by King Afonso, answered by Pope Nicholas V was “Can I go and invade North-West Africa and enslave and kill people, and take their lands and everything they own?” and Pope Nicholas’ answer to that “political question” was “YES, YOU CAN”.

The expression of the Pope IS the expression of the Catholic faith, and the expression of Pope Nicholas V in Dum Diversas was that it was acceptable to:

to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ…and to lead their persons in perpetual servitude, and to apply and appropriate realms, duchies, royal palaces, principalities and other dominions, possessions and goods of this kind to you and your use and your successors the Kings of Portugal.

He then doubled down on it with Romanus Pontifex, extending that entitlement out to all monarchs of Europe, and then numerous Popes, with numerous subsequent edicts, communiques and laws, supported and upheld that entitlement. So I’m not clear on what the “manipulation” is that the current Pope is referring to here because all of those things are a neat checklist of exactly what was done.

The statement by the Vatican tries to separate itself from “colonial powers” as if the Church was not, itself, a colonial power. The strongest clue is in the full name: The Doctrine of Christian Discovery. The conversion of Indigenous peoples to Christianity has always been a functional process of colonization. The domination of Indigenous concepts of sacredness by European concepts of sacredness is a powerful tool of oppression that preys upon the inherent, devout spirituality of Indigenous peoples. Spiritual domination provided the basis for the stripping of our native sacredness, as a precursor to stripping us of our humanity, and human rights – and that has always been at the heart of the Doctrine of Christian Discovery. If you look to the proclamations of discovery, read out by the invading forces, often accompanied by representatives of the Church, these proclamations all reference the role of the church, such as El Requieremiento which compelled native inhabitants to “submit to the yoke of the Cross and the Crown”.

Of course, no Catholic defence is complete without a reference to the old chestnut of Sublimis Deus, which makes an entry in paragraph 8:

Numerous and repeated statements by the Church and the Popes uphold the rights of indigenous peoples. For example, in the 1537 Bull Sublimis Deus, Pope Paul III wrote, “We define and declare [ … ] that [, .. ] the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the Christian faith; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect”.

I’ve already written to the matter of Sublimis Deus, the long and short of which is that Sublimis Deus never forbade Indigenous oppression, and never forbade the colonial project, it only forbade those acts *as tools of conversion*. Ironically, it was also effectively annulled a year later by Non Indecens Videtur – literally “Let it not be seen as indecent” – meaning that the violent craft of colonization is permissable in the eyes of the Lord – why? Because the most important task is that of conversion. Most certainly (of course) colonial governments are accountable here, but that does not in any way erase the culpability of the Church as well, and it’s bemusing to watch the Cross blame the Crown, while governments also continually frame the Doctrine of Discovery as a “Christian” matter – they are both culpable in this story. The Church developed the laws which granted entitlement to the various Crown governments to establish themselves on native lands, and to exert dominance over Indigenous peoples. Those papal laws were the foundational blocks upon which colonial structures were built. It is imperative that the Church formally and ceremonially rescind those laws.

In 2012 the United Nations issued recommendations for all member states to formally repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery and 11 years later, not one member state has responded to that recommendation. Possibly the greatest value I can see in what the Holy See has done, is that it has started a ball rolling which will hopefully be picked up by other UN member states, who most certainly can and should repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, and where appropriate (ie for colonial member states) also rescind laws, legislation and policy based upon the Doctrine of Discovery.

But let’s not stop there – because 500 years of genocide and dispossession does not just warrant a statement of contrition. The Vatican did not just draw native converts from this project – it also acquired mass wealth through the application of the Doctrine of Discovery, which it retains today. The Catholic Church is one of the world’s largest landowners, with over 144 million acres of land. According to NASDAQ, it manages $64billion in assets, owns $764million in equity, and keeps gold reserves worth over $20million with the U.S. Federal Reserve, in addition to the massive amounts of precious metals that can be found in Catholic artifacts and buildings around the world. According to a 2018 investigation, the Catholic Church in Australia alone is worth around $30billion. Any reckoning that the Church purports to have over its history with the Doctrine of Discovery must come with financial restitution.

While the Canadian government has paid out a “settlement” figure of some $2billion this could easily be matched by the Catholic church in both Canada and the USA, and would still not “settle” the matter, especially given recent investigations that have exposed the catholic church’s role in siphoning away some $30million in trust funds paid to Indigenous families for stolen land – money that was siphoned to pay for the brutal assimilative residential schooling of their stolen children. Here in Aotearoa the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children in State and Faith-based case is methodically exposing the horrors of generations exposed to the sick practices of church leaders, places like the Marylands Residential School of Ōtautahi, run by the catholic order the Hospitaller Brothers of St John of God, where 21 of the 23 Catholic brothers who worked there faced sexual and physical abuse allegations, including forcing Māori children to carry out cultural performances before sexually abusing them. The victims of that abuse have in many cases gone on to live extremely troubled lives. It has led to suicide, poverty, and lives of crime and further institutionalisation. Meanwhile – the New Zealand Catholic church owns  $169m in property and $40m in financial assets – and in their recent statement of intent in response to the inquiry was that they committed to “Work towards consistency in redress responses between Catholic Church entities”.

The harbouring of abusers by the church, and the concealment of their abuse, is such a longstanding practice around the world, that one could argue the church, too, has set the standard for denial of human rights of Indigenous victims of physical and sexual abuse, a standard that has carried through to colonial legal, economic and political systems shaped by the very notion of “In God We Trust”.

Insofar as the imperial expansion facilitated by the papal bulls also set the standard for corporate imperial misconduct from the industrial period onwards, resulting in climate change there is most definitely a case to be argued that the Church should contribute to the loss and damage fund agreed upon by COP27. And this, dear reader, is the most likely reason that the Vatican is reluctant to step into its responsibility in the first place, because the pathway to Indigenous justice has always been, and continues to be confounded by the fact that Indigenous dispossession underwrites the global economy.

That does not change the truth, which we must speak clearly and repeatedly, for our future descendants and all to hear- the Vatican must RESCIND the Doctrine of Christian Discovery.

Transphobia is Settler-Colonialism

First of all, a bow to my irawhiti/trans-whānau – you who have called us together, you who have braved so much, and continue to brave so much, to you and to all who showed up in Tamaki today, to send another fascist packing from our shores – he mihi. The voices of gender diversity who hold the line today, like Shaneel Lal:

And the legacy of those who have held this line before, like the inimitable Georgina Beyer:

And of course, going back even further to the strength and leadership of trans-activist Carmen Rupe:

Although I’ve long held the trans-rights movement in complete awe – I have never had to struggle with not-feeling-right in my body, I have never had to deal with the incessant messaging that I don’t belong anywhere, that I am inherently wrong, broken, or deviant. I can’t even pretend what it’s like for irawhiti whānau who face multiple layers of oppression. For that same reason, though, it’s important that I do stand in support of my irawhiti, trans-gender, and broader rainbow whānau in whatever ways I can, and even though today was a victory for trans-rights, it was also plain to see why solidarity with the trans-rights movement will still be important tomorrow, and every day until trans-rights are fully recognised:

This tweet illustrates why it’s so important to show up when you can.

The stand made today was powerful, first and foremost for the rights of trans-whānau on our whenua, and secondly, to call down the thinly veiled white-supremacy of these events. and while we have sent this particular fascista home – trans-oppression continues here in her absence, in various guises – and continues to require our attention. She may be gone, but the folks she attracted, and those who are referred to in the tweet above, they remain.

I’ve seen some people try to insist that trans-rights are an import, and an affront to our rights as New Zealanders, and even as Māori – so let’s start there. Obviously, looking back at the likes of Georgina Beyer, the world’s first transgender Minister of Parliament, and Carmen Rupe, who, in 1966 (three years before the Stonewall Riots), was standing for trans-rights in a courthouse in Wellington, it’s clear that Aotearoa has our own, proud history of trans-rights leadership that holds weight even on the world stage.

And in their day too, they were treated as if they did not belong, and were un-natural. As I’ve mentioned numerous times now, our own whakapapa, and the whakapapa of this whenua, and the moana around us, includes non-gendered ancestors and relations. The most senior levels of our ancestry are non-gendered.

The Māori world is one of whakapapa. Whakapapa, as a genealogy, connects us to sky, to the seas, to the land and all creature and natural phenomena within these spaces, including our many intersex, non-gendered and trans-gendered relations. The repository of whakapapa are our wharenui – and if you look to them, around the motu, they are replete with references to plant and creature species in an acknowledgement that they are our relations within the broad expanse of whakapapa. The vast majority of our plant species are hermaphrodite. Numerous creatures like the mata (pink maomao) change gender as they age. Native species such as our pūpūrangi (native kauri snail) don’t even need binary genders to reproduce. They all have a place in our wharenui, because they all have a place in our whakapapa. Gender diversity, gender fluidity are a part of the māori (natural) world.

So to say that gender diversity is un-natural, and to suggest that nature exists within a gender-binary is factually wrong from a western and Indigenous scientific perspective.

Now we have dismissed the suggestion that nature occurs in gender binaries, let us look to Te Ao Tangata – the human context. The suggestion that it is unnatural for humans to shift gender is also flawed, colonial and patently false. Within Te Ao Māori there are numerous cases around our motu of ancestors who shifted form, and shifted gender. Anyone who suggests that gender binaries are innate and universal, is further ignoring generations of social science findings that culture shapes gender. The very idea of what it is to be “masculine” or “feminine” is a cultural construct. Around the world, Indigenous cultures express being male, or female, differently. The behaviour ascribed to being male in one culture is how people might expect females to behave in another. We also know that right across Te Moananui a Kiwa, multiple gender expressions existed as a part of pre-colonial culture and were not only accepted and normal, but in many cases also revered.

The fires of colonization robbed us of so much. Thirty years ago, our understanding of Atua Wahine was minimal, it had been robbed through a process of cultural genocide, written by old white misogynist anthropologists who refused to see, or accept, the sanctity of wahine and their role in the Māori pantheon. A process which convinced us that Rangi and Papa only had seven male children. Through decades of work by the likes of Aroha Yates-Smith, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Leonie Pihama, Jessica Hutchings, and Ngahuia Murphy we have slowly but surely reclaimed the gems that have been held close and safe by hapu, and retained in carvings, in waiata, in karakia, to restore our understanding of the tapu of wāhine. This journey alone teaches us that decolonization is an ongoing cycle of revelation, and revolution.

In another form of ethnic-cleansing, colonialism also erased our histories of gender-diversity, replacing it with the Christian cis-hetero norms that are toxic in so many ways. In the recently released “Ki te Whaiao, ki te Ao Marama” Report by the Human Rights Commission, it was noted how both Māori and Pasifika experience bigotry as a from of colonial oppression, and voiced their vision for a future Aotearoa:

”Some participants noted the importance of education being intersectional. They spoke about living in a future society which embraced different cultural understandings of gender, and male and female roles, without the fear of being judged or discriminated against, which led to people being “double marginalised in society”.

One participant commented:

“The Western understanding of gender is only one way of understanding what gender can be. But if you look to the Pacific, and of course in te ao Māori as well where historically gender has been a very differently understood concept, much more fluid. There is a lot of mana in that, learning about those kinds of histories. Fa’afafine is one example of many in the Pacific that we can draw from to say there are so many other ways of expressing gender. This idea of “either or”, you know either male or female, as introduced through colonisation is very unhelpful. I’d like to see where histories like that are taught to see we have this bigger whakapapa with the rest of the Pacific. Our ideas of gender and our ideas of sexuality are not confined to just within Te Ao Māori, but we have cousins within the Pacific region.”

Some participants believed the concept of colonial masculine and feminine roles were often enforced in conservative New Zealand:

“If I think back to primary school, because I grew up partly in the South Island, there was lots of heavy conservatism there. From a young age those ideals of masculinity, particularly colonial masculinity in terms of what a man should do, and what a man should be, and equally so what a woman should be.”

As much as TERFs might try to deny it, their racist dimensions are evident in the support they receive from neo-nazi groups, white supremacist media organisations and other far-right conspiracist groups. Their conspiracy theories operate upon the same themes of manufactured threats to women and children, scaremongering around a “takeover” and a general idea of a degrading society. They use the same tactics, spread through the same channels and networks, because it is the same phenomena. If you attend the “Stop Co-governance” roadshow events, or listen to a Destiny Church sermon. you’ll hear many of the same themes.

It’s not by chance that the rise of the far-right is coinciding with the rise of TERFs. It’s not by chance that nazi groups feel comfortable enough to brazenly display themselves at TERF rallies. Nor is it by chance that a Christian evangelist is attempting a national Anti-Māori roadshow at the same time as a colonielle attempted her own 2-stop tour. Fundamentally, these are manifestations of the same issue – white, colonial opposition to human rights progress.

Whereas diverse genders have a home and a history here, on and from this whenua and in this region of the globe – transphobia does not. It was brought here on a boat, along with white supremacy, and is rallying now, alongside its sibling of white supremacy, for its survival.

Today, those who showed up to oppose these forces demonstrated that transphobia and white supremacy are losing, and for as long as we continue to stand in solidarity against transphobia and colonial hate – it will have no place in our future. Because Trans rights are human rights, Indigenous rights are human rights, and transphobic settler colonialism is dying.