Category Archives: US Policy

US police violence: the Israeli connection

Anyone questioning the horrific instances of police shootings in the U.S. (most recently in Dallas when a white police officer shot and killed a black man in his own apartment), must be asking themselves “why?”  Why is law enforcement trigger happy, especially with people of color? Why is law enforcement often dressed in military garb, brandishing military-style weapons, and using excessive force with peaceful protesters?

APD police

Albuquerque Police Department officers 2011

If you don’t know what I’m talking about —- you are undoubtedly white and living in an upscale neighborhood.

Mapping police violence in the U.S. provides a startling visual, but the numbers alone are nauseating. The Washington Post’s searchable database shows that as of August 30, 2018, the police have killed 707 people. And the stats clearly demonstrate that U.S. law enforcement has a much higher number of police shootings compared to their peers in other countries.  Much higher.  Off the charts.

The reasons behind this police violence are numerous and complicated, but one factor may certainly be the training that U.S. law enforcement agencies receive in Israel.

A new report released in September 2018 (Deadly Exchange -The Dangerous Consequences of American Law Enforcement Trainings in Israel) highlights the old and well-established practice of joint law enforcement training between the US and Israel.

September 12, 2018 – From the acting Deputy Director of ICE to the current Chief of Police in Washington DC, from San Diego to Chicago to Atlanta, since 2002 thousands of American law enforcement officials have trained in Israel with Israeli police, military and the Shin Bet. And thousands more have participated in security conferences and workshops with Israeli military, law enforcement and security officials held in the U.S. But despite their branding as top-tier counter-terrorism experts, Israeli police and security agents regularly violate civil rights, and implement racist and deadly policies.

This is not new.

In 2016, I wrote about LEEP (Law Enforcement Exchange Program) (see earlier blog post here).  I had asked the Albuquerque Police Oversight Commission whether any of the APD officers were receiving joint training with their counterparts in Israel. As expected, I didn’t get an answer, and I never followed up with the promised FOIA request.

Now I have the answer.

Deadly-Exchange-Front-Cover-Mockup

In April 2011, the city of Albuquerque sent APD officers to Israel to learn from counter-terrorism experts. (See here.)

The intensive program incorporated formal presentations and briefings with site visits around the country to areas that have borne witness to terror attacks. They learned how Israel has prevented and responded to suicide bombings and terrorist attacks and how the nation protects its airports, shopping malls, and public events.

This searchable database shows which US law enforcement agencies have trained with Israeli law enforcement. The New Mexico State Police have also trained in Israel.

The State Police of New Mexico is among the departments that have sent delegates to Israel. Carlos Maldonado served as Chief of New Mexico State Police between 2003 and 2006. Chief Maldonado attended a training in Israel with JINSA as a delegate of the LEEP program in 2005.

New Mexico State Police is also one of the departments that uses Israeli private-sector technology. Private Israeli security firms have contracts with both public and private security sectors. One of the private security companies that transfer technology to US police departments is the Israel-based Cellebrite. Cellebrite is a “mobile forensics” firm that manufactures data extraction, transfer and analysis devices for cellular phones and mobile devices for law enforcement, military and intelligence, and corporate customers.

The department spent $33,389.92 to crack into phones using Israeli tech firm Cellebrite, according to public record requests by Motherboard. New Mexico State Police uses Cellebrite’s technology to bypass phone passwords and security mechanisms to retrieve call logs, text messages, and in some cases even deleted data.

So if you thought the ongoing, daily violence perpetrated by the Israeli security and military on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza has no relevance to Americans who have never set foot outside of the U.S. — think again.

CASE STUDY: On a police training exchange in Israel, the Boston Police Commissioner visited Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, where he learned about Israel’s passenger screening process, including racial and ethnic profiling of passengers. Shortly after, Boston’s Logan airport became the first American airport to pioneer the Israeli inspired Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program. Years later, SPOT not only came under fire for being ineffective and wasteful, but also for facilitating discriminatory racial profiling at airports around the country.

Revealed: Deputy Director of ICE was sent for training with the Israeli military.

CASE STUDY: Developed by Israeli police and manufactured by the Israeli company Odortec, “Skunk” is a foul-smelling liquid designed to cause nausea and linger for days when sprayed at high pressure onto protesters at demonstrations. Based on its proven effectiveness against Palestinian protests – particularly in West Bank village demonstrations against the Apartheid Wall – the American company Mistral Security began selling Skunk to U.S. police departments, including the St. Louis Metropolitan Police, following the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

 

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Filed under IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Uncategorized, US Policy

Meeting with Representative Lujan-Grisham (D-NM)

On Monday I’m meeting with my Congresswoman from New Mexico, Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D-NM). This is quite an honor, and I’m especially thankful to be meeting her now because of her very busy schedule campaigning for Governor.

In April 2014, just a few months before Israel launched Operation Protective Edge against Gaza, Representative Lujan-Grisham met with friends of mine from Gaza who were on a book tour in the US at the time.  Israel killed Refaat’s brother in its military assault soon after our meeting.

RefaatandRawan

Refaat Alareer and Rawan Yaghi meet with Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham (D-NM)

Representative Lujan-Grisham and her staff have always been accessible, and I appreciate that because I’ve heard that some other members of Congress are not so easy to connect with, especially on the issue that is important to me: Israel-Palestine.

I have three simple “asks” when I meet with her on Monday.

#1    Please cosponsor Rep. Betty McCollum’s H.R. 4391 (Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act).

#2    Please support UNRWA and pushback against H.R. 6451 (UNRWA Reform and Refugee Support Act).

#3    Please do not support any future Anti-BDS legislation if it comes to her desk as Governor.

McCollum’s H.R. 4391 addresses a serious human rights problem. 

An estimated 10,000 Palestinian children have been detained by Israeli security forces and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system since 2000. Independent monitors such as Human Rights Watch have documented that these children are subject to abuse and, in some cases, torture — specifically citing the use of chokeholds, beatings, and coercive interrogation on children between the ages of 11 and 15.

In addition, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found that Palestinian children are frequently held for extended periods without access to either their parents or attorneys. The United States Department of State and the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child have also raised serious concerns about the mistreatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military custody.

Betty McCollum

Rep. Betty McCollum

In December 2017, Rep. McCollum wrote in The Nation:

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has persisted for decades, including 50 years of Israeli military occupation of Palestinian lands. To help sustain the occupation, Israel’s military and police forces have arrested, interrogated, and imprisoned thousands of Palestinian children, mostly for throwing stones. Israel’s military court and detention system is unique in the world in its systematic incarceration of children, in this case Palestinian children. It is a system that denies basic due-process rights and is cruel, inhumane, and degrading.

It should not require tremendous moral courage to stand up for the human rights of children. Sadly, the exception appears to be when those children are Palestinian. I firmly believe that Palestinian children deserve to be treated with the same humanity, dignity, and human rights as any child anywhere, including children in the United States or Israel.

For Israel, this means honoring its international commitments and ending the widespread and systematic cruel and inhumane treatment of Palestinian children. For the United States, it means prohibiting American funds from being used to support Israel’s abusive military detention of children and requiring the State Department to certify Israel’s compliance.

Rep. McCollum’s entire op-ed is here.  And she’s not alone in recognizing the damaging impacts that Israel’s military detention has on Palestinian children.

Representative McCollum provided a short explanation of H.R. 4391 in July 2018 on the Floor of the House.  See here.  As of September 2018, there are 29 cosponsors to H.R. 4391. I hope Rep. Lujan-Grisham will be #30.

UNRWA must be supported!

Trump’s assault on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is despicable and short-sighted. I wrote earlier about Trump’s decision to stop funding UNRWA here.  The New York Times’ Editorial Board agrees, noting that the “Trump administration’s decision to eliminate funding for the United Nations agency that aids Palestinian refugees is shortsighted.”

The Guardian noted that the impact [of Trump’s decision] will potentially be serious – and rapid – for the millions who rely on the agency. “Such a decision aims at closing schools, clinics, hospitals and starving people,” said Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator.

He said any vacuum in services could be exploited by extremists, and said the Palestinian Authority has been helping UNRWA fund camps in Syria and Lebanon for several years.

That spending, he said, was “in order not to allow terrorist organisations such as Isis to recruit our people there because of their needs. Now, with this cut, what does this mean? … Those elements that want to achieve peace based on a peaceful, two state solution, are being destroyed”.

I hope Representative Lujan-Grisham will voice her support for UNRWA by joining with her colleagues in the House who are pushing back against the Administration’s decision, and also oppose H.R. 6451 (UNRWA Reform and Refugee Support Act) which, like many bills in Congress, is cynically misnamed. H.R. 6451 purports to change the internationally-recognized definition of Palestinian refugee in order to magically erase millions of people who are refugees under international law and entitled to return to their homes and villages from which they were forcibly removed in 1948.

I’m also going to ask her to support my #Gaza5K campaign to raise funds for UNRWA to provide critical mental health services to Palestinians in Gaza.  Tax deductible donations can be made online here.

Anti-BDS Legislation in the States is Bad News!

Twenty-five states have passed some form of anti-BDS legislation. New Mexico has not and I’m going to ask Rep. Lujan-Grisham to pledge that she will oppose any attempts to pass similar legislation when she is Governor.

These bills don’t directly prevent Americans from boycotting Israel, but they are just as sinister because they usually include one of the following three components:

1)      Blacklists. Some of the anti-BDS bills/laws require the creation of blacklists of activists, non-profit organizations, and/or companies that are engaged in boycotts of Israel (including, in some cases, “territories controlled by Israel”). It’s 21st century McCarthyism.

2)      Prohibition on government contracts. Some of the anti-BDS bills/laws aim to punish individuals, non-profit organizations, and/or companies that support BDS by prohibiting the state or local government from entering into contracts with them. So, for example, under some anti-BDS bills, the United Church of Christ or the Presbyterian Church (USA) could be prohibited from contracting with the state to run social services like soup kitchens, homeless shelters, or youth programs because of actions they have taken in support of BDS.

3)      Pension fund divestment. Many of the anti-BDS bills/laws require state pension funds to divest from companies that boycott Israel (including, in some cases, “territories controlled by Israel”).

Esther Koontz Kansas teacher

Esther Koontz, Kansas teacher, credit to ACLU

These anti-BDS bills/laws are unconstitutional. The ACLU is challenging the Kansas anti-BDS law in federal court on behalf of a teacher who was denied employment when she refused to certify that she would not boycott Israel. I wrote about it here.

I hope Lujan-Grisham agrees that New Mexico must not pass one of these anti-BDS bills.

 

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Filed under People, Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations, US Policy, Video

UNRWA’s flawed business model

Americans who have advocated for Palestinians’ human rights in Congress and elsewhere have experienced personal threats, intimidation and much worse over the years. James Zogby’s description of those battles filled me with gratitude that there were (are) Americans who have never given up fighting for justice for Palestinians. (The Struggle For Palestinian Rights: Then And Now, August 4, 2018)

In several significant ways the Palestinian reality, whether under occupation or in exile has worsened in recent years, taking a horrific toll on both Palestinian lives and aspirations. Although US politicians may now feel comfortable mouthing support for a “two-state solution,” it is difficult to imagine how such a solution can be implemented. It is even more unlikely that some of the same elected officials who say they support two states would consider taking the tough positions to force Israel to end the occupation in order to allow a viable Palestinian state to come into being. Their profession of support for two states, therefore, appears to be hollow and designed more to side-step their responsibility to address Israel’s abuse of Palestinian human rights and justice.

Nevertheless, I remain more optimistic than I was 40 years ago. The developments that have occurred have had a profound impact. The situation may be more difficult, but the movement for Palestinian rights is stronger, larger, more diverse, and more deeply committed to justice. There is new energy and new hope that we are turning a corner in our ability to secure justice for Palestinians. James J. Zogby is the president of the Arab American Institute.

I wish I could find hope in this political environment.  Last week, the Trump Administration announced it’s ending US support for UNRWA, the UN agency created to assist the Palestinian refugees when the State of Israel was created.

Great_March_of_Return_2016-

What this means is that overnight, UNRWA has lost 1/3 of its budget. What this means is that Palestinian children may not be attending UNRWA schools this year. What this means is that the Palestinian engineers, doctors and other professionals working for UNRWA may join the unemployment rolls and will not be able to provide services to refugees.

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the business model and fiscal practices of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) made it an “irredeemably flawed operation.”

“The administration has carefully reviewed the issue and determined that the United States will not make additional contributions to UNRWA,” she said in a statement.

Nauert added that the agency’s “endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years.”

Now the US considers human rights through the “business model” lens rather than through the lens of internationational human rights.

Let’s put this in perspective for Americans who don’t follow these things as closely as they should.

First, no one wants to be a refugee less than a Palestinian. 

I’ve heard many Zionists argue that Palestinian refugees are just beggars who don’t know anything besides living on handouts from the international community. Those same Zionists have never met or talked with a Palestinian, as I have, and so they’re uninformed (to put it mildly). Using their same logic, one might argue that Israelis are just beggars who don’t know how to survive without the largesse of US aid to the tune of over $38 billion over the next 10 years.  U.S. taxpayers have given much, much more $$ to Israel since its creation 70 years ago than it has given to the Palestinians who were involuntarily and forcibly removed from their homes, businesses and villages to make way for the new state of Israel.  The “refugee” status is not one of their own making.

From a business model perspective, the state of Israel is a “flawed operation.”

Second, the State of Israel (not UNRWA) is responsible for the growth in the number of Palestinian refugees.

The Trump Administration argues that UNRWA has an unsustainable business model because the growth of the number of refugees is unsustainable.  Now Trump wants to change the definition of who qualifies as a refugee. The UN and international community count those Palestinians who were displaced from the region in the 1948 and 1967 wars, as well as their descendants—even if they possess the citizenship of the Arab country to which their ancestors fled—as refugees.

In fact, no one wants to go out of business and become obsolete more than the folks at UNRWA. Just ask them, as I have. The failure of the State of Israel to reach an agreement with the Palestinians and end the occupation has resulted in the growing refugee crisis. Rather than use carrots and sticks to force Israel to come to terms with reality and end its occupation, thereby resolving the refugee crisis, the U.S. government has enabled this “unsustainable business model” to grow and flourish. Shame on Congress. Shame on President Trump and all of his predecessors.

Third, the newly created State of Israel supported the creation of UNRWA to focus on the needs of Palestinian refugees.

Jonathan Cook, a British writer and freelance journalist living in Nazareth, Israel spells out the history of UNRWA succinctly:

UNRWA was created to prevent the Palestinians falling under the charge of UNHCR’s forerunner, the International Refugee Organisation. Israel was afraid that the IRO, formed in the immediate wake of the Second World War, would give Palestinian refugees the same prominence as European Jews fleeing Nazi atrocities.

Israel did not want the two cases compared, especially as they were so intimately connected. It was the rise of Nazism that bolstered the Zionist case for a Jewish state in Palestine, and Jewish refugees who were settled on lands from which Palestinians had just been expelled by Israel.

Also, Israel was concerned that the IRO’s commitment to the principle of repatriation might force it to accept back the Palestinian refugees.

Israel’s hope then was precisely that UNRWA would not solve the Palestinian refugee problem; rather, it would resolve itself. The idea was encapsulated in a Zionist adage: “The old will die and the young forget.”

President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu will not make the “problem” disappear by changing the definition of “refugee” or by blaming UNRWA for failing to solve the “problem” or by reframing the refugee crisis as an “unsustainable business model.”

Human rights are not grounded in business practices. Security is not won or maintained with weapons and armaments. Refugees are not numbers, they’re our neighbors.

Please donate to my UNRWA fundraising campaign. Donations are tax-deductible and will be used to support critical mental health services for Palestinians in Gaza.

Gaza boys flag beach

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Filed under Gaza, People, Politics, US Policy

Magical thinking

Donald (you know which Donald) wants to make the “deal of the century” in the Middle East and he’s assigned that task to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Here’s what we know about the “deal” thus far.

  • Make the issue of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future State of Palestine disappear by moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and declaring Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel. (See here.) No capital for Palestine, no problem.
  • Strip the more than 2 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan of their status as refugees, and pay Jordan to absorb them as new citizens of Jordan. That would solve the ‘right of return’ problem, at least for those 2 million Palestinians. (See here.)  No refugees in Jordan, no problem.
  • Dissolve the U.N. agency (UNRWA) that was created in 1949 to provide relief to the Palestinians displaced by the creation of the State of Israel. (See here.) No UN agency requiring funding to sustain the refugees, no problem.
  • Redefine who qualifies as a refugee to include only those individuals who were displaced 70 years ago, not their descendants. Of course, this would drastically reduce the refugee population which is around 5 million, nearly one-third of whom live in camps across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza. (See here.) No descendants of Palestinian refugees to be concerned about, no problem. JUST WAIT THEM OUT AND THOSE PESKY REFUGEES FROM 70 YEARS AGO WILL DIE.
  • Provide aid to the Palestinians in a way that makes clear that the international community does not recognize the vast majority of Palestinians who are currently registered as refugees are deserving of refugee status. (See here.) Again, no refugees, no problem.

Lest you think this is all magical thinking, H.R. 6451 – UNRWA Reform and Refugee Act of 2018 was introduced in July and would accomplish many of these points pushed by Jared Kushner.

By any objective measure, this is a war between the U.S. Congress and Palestinians with a clear goal to erase the impediments to the “deal of the century”. No refugees, no UNRWA, no capital in Jerusalem, no ‘right of return’ – such a headache for Israelis to contemplate – this deal will certainly fall right into place.

And Congress wants to ensure that the State of Israel maintains a military advantage which translates on the ground to Israeli snipers shooting and killing Palestinian journalists, nurses, doctors, women and children (some in the back, others who were merely standing and observing) — a total of 156 since the weekly protest marches at the Gaza fence began in March this year.

iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

America and Israel flags

My delegation from New Mexico (Heinrich, Lujan-Grisham, Lujan and Pearce) have signed on as cosponsors to H.R. 5141 and S.2497 – United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018 which states in part:

It is the policy of the United States to ensure that Israel maintains its ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military or emerging threat from any individual state or possible coalition of states or from non-state actors, while sustaining minimal damages and casualties, through the use of superior military means, possessed in sufficient quantity, including weapons, command, control, communication, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that in their technical characteristics are superior in capability to those of such other individual or possible coalition states or non-state actors.

(1) The quantity and type of precision guided munitions that are necessary for Israel to combat Hezbollah in the event of a sustained armed confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah.

(2) The quantity and type of precision guided munitions that are necessary for Israel in the event of a sustained armed confrontation with other armed groups and terrorist organizations such as Hamas.

(3) The resources the Government of Israel can plan to dedicate to acquire such precision guided munitions.

(4) United States planning to assist Israel to prepare for the sustained armed confrontations described in paragraphs (1) and (2) as well as the ability of the United States to resupply Israel in the event of such confrontations described in paragraphs (1) and (2), if any.

Read this language carefully and it’s clear that the U.S. Congress wishes to re-write the rules of war, and international humanitarian law, by authorizing the State of Israel to preemptively strike anyone (civilians included) who, in their sole discretion, poses a threat.

I suspect that many members of Congress don’t understand what they’ve signed onto, and they trust AIPAC’s propaganda. But the words speak for themselves, and anyone who values the rule of law must remove their name as a cosponsor.

That’s the message I’m sending to my delegation from New Mexico.

Palestinian President Abbas condemned the ‘deal of the century’ as the ‘slap of the century’.

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Filed under Israel, People, Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations, US Policy, Video

Ammar Campa-Najjar

Can a “tall, skinny brown kid” unseat a five-term Republican Congressional incumbent in San Diego? “Si, se puede!”  Getting young Democrats to the polls in November will be the key.

Campa Najjar

Ammar Campa-Najjar (Democrat running for Congress in San Diego County)

Ammar Campa-Najjar (check out his website) is the son of a Mexican-American mother and a Middle Eastern immigrant father who was born and raised in San Diego. What caught my attention is the fact that he and his family lived in Gaza for four years until war broke out, and his mother brought her two sons back to the U.S.

Ammar never had anything handed to him on a silver platter (unlike Rep. Duncan Hunter whose father, Duncan Hunter Sr, bestowed his seat in Congress to his son in grand dynastic fashion).

Duncan Hunter, Jr. needs to go quietly into the sunset, just ask the FBI agents investigating him and his wife. Duncan has already spent more than half a million dollars on legal fees trying to avoid an indictment. (Read more here.) Duncan is vunerable and Ammar is just the person to unseat him.

Campa veterans

Look who’s endorsed Ammar — Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Justice Democrats, Our Revolution, Democracy for America, J Street, Progressive Caucus, Move On, National Nurses United, Working Families, labor groups and a ton of others. (The full list of endorsements is here.)

Campa endorsements

No surprise why Ammar has racked up these great endorsements. His platform and positions reflect the needs of working families, students, the elderly, the disenfranchised, and those who haven’t had a voice in Congress from CD-50 in San Diego County for decades. Read his positions on jobs, immigration reform, healthcare reform, environmental protection, election reform, and education.

Campa-Najjar is not accepting any corporate money for his campaign. He needs our contributions, small and large, to get his important message out.  Please contribute here.

 

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Filed under People, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy, Video

The Occupation of the American Mind

“Over the past few years, Israel’s ongoing military occupation of Palestinian territory and repeated invasions of the Gaza strip have triggered a fierce backlash against Israeli policies virtually everywhere in the world — except the United States. The Occupation of the American Mind takes an eye-opening look at this critical exception, zeroing in on pro-Israel public relations efforts within the U.S.”

“Narrated by Roger Waters and featuring leading observers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and U.S. media culture, the film explores how the Israeli government, the U.S. government, and the pro-Israel lobby have joined forces, often with very different motives, to shape American media coverage of the conflict in Israel’s favor. From the U.S.-based public relations campaigns that emerged in the 1980s to today, the film provides a sweeping analysis of Israel’s decades-long battle for the hearts, minds, and tax dollars of the American people in the face of widening international condemnation of its increasingly right-wing policies.”

Narrated by Roger Waters / Featuring Amira Hass, M.J. Rosenberg, Stephen M. Walt, Noam Chomsky, Rula Jebreal, Henry Siegman, Rashid Khalidi, Rami Khouri, Yousef Munayyer, Norman Finkelstein, Max Blumenthal, Phyllis Bennis, Norman Solomon, Mark Crispin Miller, Peter Hart, and Sut Jhally.

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Filed under Media, People, Uncategorized, US Policy, Video

Blue Lake

A few years ago, a Palestinian man from Gaza visited me in New Mexico. In addition to the typical tourist sites, I wanted him to see the indigenous people in Taos Pueblo, thinking he might draw some connections, or simpatico as we say in New Mexico.

Quite by accident, we happened to visit Taos Pueblo on a Feast Day, and we witnessed the music, dancing and solemn ceremonies involved in the tradition of these people. My Palestinian friend didn’t say much, and I’m not sure if he felt any kinship or connection with Taos Pueblo. Maybe I had assumed too much.

I wish I had told him the story about Blue Lake.

Blue Lake

Taos Pueblo members believe that their tribe was created from the sacred waters of the Blue Lake, or Ba Whyea. From the 1600s, the Spanish and Mexican authorities recognized the Taos Pueblo land rights. And when the U.S. government took control of the Southwest, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) also recognized the Pueblo’s sovereignty over their land and Blue Lake.

Then in 1906, by Executive Order President Theodore Roosevelt placed Blue Lake and the surrounding watershed into the hands of the Forest Service as part of the Carson National Forest.  For the next 64 years, Taos Pueblo leaders struggled to regain their sacred land and waters. They traveled to Washington, DC many times to try and convince Congress to return Blue Lake to them.

In testimony before Congress in 1969, Paul Bernal explained, “In all of its programs the Forest Service proclaims the supremacy of man over nature; we find this viewpoint contradictory to the realities of the natural world and to the nature of conservation. Our tradition and our religion require people to adapt their lives and activities to our natural surroundings so that men and nature mutually support the life common to both. The idea that man must subdue nature and bend its processes to his purposes is repugnant to our people.”

A good history of the Blue Lake controversy can be found here. Finally, in 1970, President Nixon approved a bill that returned full sovereignty of Blue Lake and its watershed to Taos Pueblo.

In speaking of the Bill’s significance, President Nixon stated, “This is a bill that represents justice, because in 1906 an injustice was done in which land involved in this bill, 48,000 acres, was taken from the Indians involved, the Taos Pueblo Indians. The Congress of the United States now returns that land to whom it belongs … I can’t think of anything more appropriate or any action that could make me more proud as President of the United States.”

The Palestinians have been struggling since 1948 to regain sovereignty over their lands, by negotiation, by violence, and most often by nonviolent Sumud, or steadfastness. There are certainly big differences between the struggle for Blue Lake and the occupation of Palestine, but I also see some similarities.

  • Both indigenous peoples have a spiritual connection to the lands that were taken from them.
  • Both cases involved Anglo settlers moving in and pushing out the indigenous people with an arrogance and sense of entitlement that makes me cringe.
  • Both Palestine and Taos have generations of younger people who learned the stories and lessons passed down from their elders about the injustices perpetrated years ago; and memories don’t die.

The Israeli occupation of Palestine will have to end before there is justice in the Middle East, but I have no doubt that the Palestinians will find their justice, as Taos Pueblo did in 1970.

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Filed under Israel, Occupation, Peaceful, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized, US Policy