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.
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.
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.
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 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.