In an interview with JerusalemOnline, Ryan Bellerose, a member of the Métis nation in Canada and an indigenous rights activist, spoke about the parallels he sees between Jewish and Native American history. He stresses both groups have a “shared history of oppression.”
Ryan Bellerose in Jerusalem, Israel Photo Credit: Stand With Us
The Palestinians always attempt to portray themselves as an indigenous people like the Native Americans and present Israelis as settler colonial oppressors. However, Ryan Bellerose, a member of the Métis nation in Canada and an indigenous rights activist, rejects such comparisons. He recently returned from a trip to Israel with Stand With Us, where he is now convinced more than ever that it is the Jews rather than the Palestinians who are an indigenous people.
In an interview with JerusalemOnline, Bellerose stressed, “It is because of a shared history of oppression and marginalization combined with a careful reading and studying of the history of our peoples that helped me understand how integral supporting indigenous rights of the Jewish people to the land of Israel is for my own struggle of recognizing my own peoples’ rights.”
“There are many parallels,” Bellerose stressed. “I see indigenous peoples struggling to protect our sacred sites being attacked for simply wanting to be able to live unmolested and in peace on our ancestral lands. In both communities, I see a lot of irrational hatred against us as well as a tendency to appropriate our cultures and sacred sites by the people who oppressed and colonized us.”
For example, the Palestinians have attempted to portray Rachel’s Tomb, the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the Western Wall, alongside other Jewish holy sites, as Islamic shrines. Indigenous peoples in North America frequently witness their holy sites being appropriated by the people that occupied their lands, who don’t show any respect for the holiness of the area for indigenous peoples. But Bellerose stresses the media is also guilty of harming indigenous peoples: “I see demonization against us by media outlets that have a vested agenda in delegitimizing us and our claims to our lands.”
For example, Bellerose noted that Haaretz claimed recently that a Palestinian olive grove was torched by Israeli settlers, who on Lag B’Omer burned Palestinian and Fatah flags, as well as attacking a Haaretz cameraman. These kinds of stories are promoted by media outlets like Haaretz in order to advance the narrative that the Palestinians are an indigenous people under attack by Israeli settler colonists. However, the story turned out to be fabricated. Bellerose was in Hebron at the time and witnessed the entire incident.
“The Haaretz article was not even remotely truthful,” Bellerose stressed. “They said it was in the heart of an olive grove, but it was up the hill from an olive grove, in a field (and I have pictures that prove this). There was no ‘gathering olive wood to burn.’ It was a pile of old scraps of wood and pallets! Pretty much nothing they said was true. I certainly didn’t see any photographer getting beaten up and I stayed until quite late. If anyone did get smacked, it must have happened in the blink of eye, because there were several Europeans there filming and I’m certain they would have loved to get that on tape. I am just thankful that I was there to witness it because the people in Hebron are wonderful people who have been demonized in the media.”
“Yes, there are some who are not always nice, but there are far more who are decent people,” Bellerose emphasized. Illustrative of the media bias related to the Hebron Jewish community is the fact that there was a firebomb on a bus full of Bat Mitzva-age girls near Hebron earlier this month. The girls were visiting the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron on a trip approved by the Israeli Ministry of Education when they were attacked by four Palestinian terrorists. While it ended without injuries even though the bus went up in flames, the girls were traumatized from the experience.
Only Arutz Sheva and this article in JerusalemOnline mentioned this incident. However, if the same incident had occurred on a Palestinian school bus rather than a Jewish school bus in Hebron, it would have made world headline news. It is critical to note that the Haaretz article, which unlike this incident was a fabricated story, has already been spread around the world by the anti-Israel crowd. It has been printed up by the Palestinian News Agency Ma’an and Mondoweiss.
Bellerose explained, “I feel the situation in Hebron is a microcosm of the Jewish experience and these things occur because we do not hold these media outlets accountable. They changed the title of the article in Haaretz but they didn’t admit anything else that they wrote was a lie. They should have to apologize and pay a fine, because frankly now the story is out there and will be believed by dummies and people ignorant of the truth.”
Bellerose is greatly disturbed how anti-Israel activists have highjacked the indigenous rights movement. His outspokenness on this issue has gotten him into trouble: “I often get attacked by anti Israel people who are involved in the native rights movement here, because I am destroying a false narrative that many people are emotionally invested in. For instance, I have had fellow activists receive emails telling them that I am a “government agent” and a “provocateur” even though I have been involved in this struggle for years and my family is well known.”
“I have received death threats and had my social media attacked and reported and even banned,” Bellerose explained. “Although my favorite story was when one old white lady who claimed to support indigenous rights, posted several things meant to discredit me on a native rights facebook group, but was foolish enough to leave a thread up on her wall where she asked some Arab activists how to “discredit” me. I don’t think most native people understood until that point that these people do not care about us or our struggle; we are just another tool to attack Jews with. It was an eye opener for many.”
Despite the threats, Bellerose is fully devoted to supporting Jewish indigenous rights in the Holy Land: “I am dedicating myself to fighting Palestinian propaganda and lies,. Anyone with Google and a third grade education can read about the Arab conquest of the Middle East. The history, the archaeology and even the land itself tells the truth, that Jews are from Israel, have generational and ancestral ties to the land and its sacred sites.”
“The fact that the Palestinians try so hard to appropriate Jewish history and sacred sites only shows how little of their history and culture they even know,” Bellerose stressed. “Its incredibly important for indigenous people to understand that if we allow the argument that conquerors can become indigenous through conquering us or that we can lose our indigenous status through displacement, we are attacking our own rights or allowing others to do so. Simply put, this is one struggle and it’s a struggle where we must take the time to educate ourselves before speaking up because it’s so very important to us as well as the Jewish people. The Palestinians have relied on our ignorance of history for over 40 years, but that time is over.”